Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Presbyterians Profit from Israeli Occupation

This is a well-written and accurate letter in the Layman by Will McGarvey regarding Alan Wisdom's attack on the stated clerk of the PC(USA). 
I see that Alan Wisdom is up to his old tricks again (“GA set to tangle again over Israel divestment” 12-15-11). For anyone who has followed church discussions and policies on our hope for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians for any amount of time, to read Wisdom’s latest piece, is an insult to our faith and intelligence.

Since 1967, when Israel invaded and occupied the West Bank and Gaza and began colonizing those territories with permanent settlements and economic controls against international law, it has been the policy of the PCUSA’s predecessor bodies and our church today to stand by our Christian partners in the region who were displaced and forced off their land. Wisdom doesn’t use the term “occupation” once in his own narrative, but only includes the term so crucial to understanding what is going on in the quotations of those he is attacking. The corporations that MRTI has finally voted to divest from are profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. Their products are being used to destroy Palestinian homes, olive orchards, roads and build walls between these same peoples and their farmlands and orchards, while allowing an occupying army to regularly invade Palestinian controlled areas and detain or jail Palestinians without habeus corpus rights. The whole point of a “phased-selective divestment” process was to study who was profiting from the dispossession of those in the West Bank and Gaza so as not to do so any longer. It took less than 12 months for the PCUSA to divest from Talisman Oil in Sudan when they were profiting from the selling of oil futures to the government of Sudan to buy armaments to be used against their own people. Why is it so hard for us to stop profiting from the occupation of Palestine? MRTI has resisted taking a stand since 2004, and now that corporate engagement has proven ineffectual in between four General Assemblies, they cannot pretend that another chance exists that appealing to these corporations will change their behavior. They have proven that we need to add them to the list of those we would rather not invest in – or be in open contempt of our own policies of socially responsible investment.

We are a denomination whose Scriptures call us to the ways of Jesus of Nazareth, who resisted the Roman occupation of Jewish lands in his own day. Our own confessions compel us to be reconcilers, not appeasers, to the injustice we see in our own day. And yet Wisdom, and others have succumbed to a form of Christian Zionism that doesn’t know how to question the harmful actions that the state of Israel continues to enact against the Christians and Muslims in Palestine. There is not an “anti-Israel alliance” in the PCUSA. Pretending that the stated clerk does anything but express the policies of the General Assembly is more than an ad hominem attack, it is slander. To me, Wisdom owes Parsons a public apology.

What this article points out is that there is a growing pro-peace, justice movement of members, ruling elders and teaching elders who have studied this issue, and who hold to our constitutional forms of mission, action and solidarity – even with that slim minority of Palestinian Christians who continue to live out their faith in the cradle of Christianity. That Wisdom and his organization is so quick to work against their survival is its own testament to his position and work.

Rev. Will McGarvey, pastor currently serving Community Presbyterian Church of Pittsburg, Calif.


  1. John,
    I liked McGarvey's letter to the Layman, and agree with you that it is accurate, but I think your reference to the IRD may be (I hate to say it) misplaced here. As far as I know, Alan Wisdom has been off staff at the IRD since some time last year.

  2. Kattie,

    Thanks for that. I will change it.