A friend suggested that I write about Israel in the lion’s den, as in Daniel in the lion’s den. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt it should be commissioners in the lion’s den. Today forty chairs were set up for resource people such as Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment and the Presbyterian Foundation. The back side of the room was filled with people from Jewish Voices for Peace, the people who made personal calls to commissioners. And everywhere one looked were resource people moving about the room.The committee voted to put aside 04-08 and to take up 04-04, an item which reinforces the Presbyterian policy of a two state solution for Israel and Palestine, and speaks of positive investment, disallowing divestment. Immediately after voting to do this a commissioner made a motion that number two in item 04-04 be changed from saying, “Reject any proposed divestment and economic sanctions against the state of Israel or any application of the PC(USA)’s corporate engagement policies toward such end” to a call for divestment.
And just after this happened, which of course moved the committee toward the coming big debate on divestment, past moderator Rick Ufford-Chase entered the room and with a few nods and conversations with various people controlling the committee, as well as using the rights of a moderator, spoke at length about the importance of divestment. And then again the various organizations which are controlling this committee asked a pastor from South Africa to speak; it was almost a sermon on divestment. Since there was some protest about the speaker from South Africa, the committee voted for him after he was announced.In a sense the commissioners are not debating this at all, instead an army of resource people are giving a monologue to the committee.
However one commissioner complained that they were not hearing the other side. And after a break another commissioner asked if John Wimberly of Presbyterians For Middle East Peace could speak. Again the committee voted and it was allowed. But he was only given three minutes.The committee’s business for the day ended and they will vote on divestment tomorrow morning, the 17th. Hopefully their debate will not be interrupted again by more resource people. So the commissioners are in the midst of lions, only these lions are not like Daniel’s lions whose mouths God shut. And they are not like the lions of Africa who roar with their might. No these are cunning lions who under the pretense of helping are controlling the situation.
On another item in the Middle East Committee the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns writes this advice: “Presbyterians have a time-honored tradition of study and dialogue and we value looking at difficult issues of our times from all sides and through different lenses. We have a longstanding tradition of not running away from difficult conversations, accepting that there are people of faith on both sides of any issue who deserve to be heard.”
Perhaps those overpowering the Middle East Committee should take the ACREC’s advice.