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"Is divestment anti-Semitism?
No, the charge is rubbish."

MIDDLEEAST.ORG - MER - Washington - 4 December: A few months ago the establishment American Presbyterian Church took the official decision to "divest from Israel". The Israelis and some of the American Jewish organizations they rely on in the U.S. won't admit it, but they are feeling a little heat.

Taking their cues from some of the academic discussions and university divestment campaigns that have been largely silenced, the Presbyterian Church after so many years finally stepped forward and took a formal decision to divest its funds from Israel and major Israeli-connected companies.

Now what's going on with the Presbyterians is not at all "anti-semitism" as that term has been known over the years. It is anti-Israel, and many of the American Jewish Zionist organizations will insist it is anti-Jewish -- which in a sense is true if the positions these Jewish organizations take are fair game for protest, which indeed they are.

But politically and financially exploiting the memory of the Holocaust, and charging any and all who speak up against Israel with anti-semitism, have always been the trump cards the Israelis and their largely controlled American Jewish organizations have tried to play. And they have done so for years and years now wrongly and unfairly against so many in public life, especially politicians, academics, and writers.

The Presbyterians deserve not only a great deal of credit for taking the courageous positions they have this year with regard to divestment from Israel, but for standing up strongly against the false charges of anti-semitism and beginning to focus on the accusers -- their affiliations, their motives, and their extraordinarily compromised relationships. And Mortimer B. Zuckerman is certainly near the top of that list.

This "guest column" published Wednesday in an Indiana daily misses so many things that could and should be said. But even so it is an illustration from the American heartland that there are new winds blowing now with regard to Israel, U.S. funding of Israel, "embedded" journalists (many American Jews) working for and with the Israelis, and the whole canard of charging "anti-semitism" to intimidate people of good will and real moral values from facing the realities both of today's Middle East and today's Washington.

Saying no to Israel is not anti-Semitism
by B J Paschal*

DOES AN AMERICAN religious denomination such as the Presbyterian Church have the right to divest an $8 billion portfolio from Israel? Apparently not, according to the U.S. News & World Report, headed by Editor-in-Chief Mortimer B. Zuckerman and other pro-Israel embedded “journalists” such as John Leo.

How could this magazine, which claims to be “America’s most credible print news source,” attempt to vilify the Presbyterian Church General Assembly’s decision to selectively divest from companies that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories? Answer: The “free press” clause in the First Amendment. But don’t the “religion clauses” in the First Amendment give Presbyterians the right to do what they believe is right? Don’t Presbyterians have the right to demand of companies that, before they buy their shares, they want them to share their values?

John Leo says “No!” These “leftists” simply “pummel Israel whenever possible.” Their “fixation on Israel” is a “one-sided expression of ideology.” Why not criticize “China, Libya, Syria or North Korea”? asked Leo. The answer is simple. We taxpayers give Israel more wrong money than any nation on planet Earth, and we demand very little of Israel. It’s time for a change.

The U.S. News (Oct. 19) used a report from the right-wing ideologues at the Institute on Religion and Democracy to call the General Assembly a bunch of “fringe leftists.” Rubbish!

Why didn’t Leo point out that 14 members of the House of Representatives (including three of 52 Presbyterians in Congress) have implored the Presbyterian Church to rescind its decision? That’s government interfering with people of faith. But the 14 representatives justify their “messing with religion” by pointing out that the church’s action is causing “terrible distress.” To whom? I hope to the government of Israel.

We Presbyterians have criticized the Republican-controlled Congress for failing to be a balanced arbiter for peace in the Middle East. Why did Leo fail to mention that fact? While Congress, the New Yorker and U.S. News have repeatedly denounced the Palestinian authority, they have never condemned Israel’s continuous illegal construction of settlements on the West Bank. Why?

The Anglican Church has announced its intention to adopt a corporate divestment strategy similar to that of the Presbyterian Church. What about the evangelicals? They believe they stand for high moral purpose in politics. They don’t. Therefore, don’t hold your breath for them to suddenly find Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Is divestment anti-Semitism? No, the charge is rubbish.

* A guest column by B J Paschal in the News-Sentinel published in Fort Wayne, Indiana

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