Tuesday, May 27, 2014

OGA: A document with a lie about divestment

If you tell a lie often enough, well, you know ... I came very close to calling someone a liar in the Middle East Committee in 2012, when some one suggested I give some advice about the trajectory of the divestment movement during General Assemblies through 2004 to 2012. I was surprised that I was asked and so perhaps I did not place my words carefully enough. But the truth is, a long line of dishonesty has developed around the denomination's quest for divestment from some companies that do business with Israel.

And now the Office of the General Assembly is telling the lie. The OGA, through the Presbyterian News Service, has pointed to two documents they have prepared for commissioners and others, meant to answer basic questions about the PC (U.S.A.) and the controversies surrounding the Middle East and marriage. 

The scenario concerning divestment began with the 20o4 GA when commissioners voted to divest from several companies doing business with Israel. There was, of course, an outcry from both Presbyterians and the Jewish community. Then came the 2006 General Assembly.

In the 2006 General Assembly commissioners worked very carefully to right the wrong, They even apologized to the Jewish Community for the wrong committed by the 2004 GA. In the 2012 General Assembly Brian Ellison spoke for the Mission Responsibilities Through Investment; he referred to a PNS article and insisted that the PCUSA's policy on divestment had not changed. I remembered the article and remembered that it did not tell the truth. I told the committee to go to the minutes of the 2004 GA and the 2006 GA and they did.

Now the Office of the General Assembly is telling the same story. They write in their paper "Frequently Asked Questions: Middle East Issues":

"Divestment was first considered at the 2004 General Assembly (GA), which instructed the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to begin a process of “phased, selective divestment” related to corporations doing business in Israel. Since 2004, GAs have directed MRTI to use the church’s customary corporate engagement process to ensure that church investments are made only in companies engaged in peaceful pursuits in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

In 2012, the GA approved a boycott of all Israeli products produced illegally in the Palestinian Territories. This is not a cultural or academic boycott, or a boycott against any product made in Israel. Instead, it is a call to recognize that factories in illegal settlements prevent a just peace between Israel and Palestine."

They go on, but notice the 2006 General Assembly is not mentioned at all. I have already quoted from the 2006 General Assembly in another posting. But for truth's sake I will do it again:

The heading of the action is "On Rescinding and Modifying Certain Actions of the 216th General Assembly (2004) Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"

The action was:
On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:

The Assembly rejected two attempts to amend the recommendation and then adopted the Committee’s recommendation to answer this item with the following alternate resolution and with comment (by a vote of 483/28/1).

Committee Recommendation

On this Item, the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee, acted as follows:
Approve Alternate Resolution
The committee hereby recommends in response to this recommendation, that the 217th General Assembly (2006) approve the following alternate reslution and comment:
After careful consideration of the overtures brought before the Assembly Committee on Peacemaking and International Issues of the 217th General Assembly (2006), we offer the following recommendations.

1. We acknowledge that the actions of the 216th General Assembly (2004) caused hurt and misunderstanding among many members of the Jewish community and within our Presbyterian communion. We are grieved by the pain that this has caused, accept responsibility for the flaws in our process, and ask for a new season of mutual understanding and dialogue.

To these ends, we replace the instructions expressed in Item 12-01 (Minutes, 2004 Part I, pp. 64–66) Recommendation 7, which reads

“7. Refers to Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) with instructions to initiate a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel, in accordance to General Assembly policy on social investing, and to make appropriate recommendations to the General Assembly Council for action.”

with the following:

7. To urge that financial investments of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as they pertain to Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, be invested in only peaceful pursuits, and affirm that the customary corporate engagement process of the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investments of our denomination is the proper vehicle for achieving this goal.


There is more but that is the gist of the action. They rescinded the action of the 2004 GA Assembly. When I wrote about this in another posting, three witnesses confirmed what I stated. Two were members of the committee at the 2006 GA. One was a reporter and is a Presbyterian teaching elder. Here is what they wrote in the comment section of my blog.

The teaching elder reporter:"I was there at that assembly and sat through the entire committee deliberation, as well as the floor consideration and a press conference afterward. I can attest to Viola Larson's accuracy in her report here.

From the start, the 2006 action, which was in reaction to the previous Assembly's debacle, was intended to be fair, even-handed, and nonpoliticized. But from the start, beginning with a press conference immediately after the 2006 action was taken by the General Assembly, the moderate and reasonable new action was spun as if it were a continuation of the 2004 resolution, not a repudiation of it.

It was egregious at the time, and now that some of the same biased sources are trying to do the same again, it is repugnant. They should not be allowed to rewrite history to suit their partisan purposes, and so I thank Viola for blowing the whistle.

Jim Berkley
Roslyn, WA

Another Commissioner: Ken Robbins said... I served with Bruce on that Committee as well as the sub-committee team that wrote the final action. Viola is absolutely right! August 1, 2012 at 4:03 PM


Tom Taggart said...

Welcome to the triumph of the sixties radicals (and their acolytes).

Government agencies lie--and no-one cares. The President lies, and no-one cares. Because their motives are "correct." The ends justifies the means.

Viola Larson said...

But this isn't a government. It is suppose to be a Christian denomination. Doesn't that make it worse?