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Letter from American Rabbis to Our Christian Neighbors Regarding Divestment Proposals

I joined more than 1150 rabbis from 49 states who signed a letter addressed particularly to the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches efforts to consider divestment from certain companies whose products are used by Israel. These churches will take up the issue at their upcoming conferences.

If you agree, please share the letter with your Presbyterian and Methodist friends:

We, the undersigned Rabbis, reach out in hope to our
Christian friends and neighbors. We have close relationships, deeply treasured
and shaped over many years. We are partners on many social issues including
fostering peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We ask you to stand shoulder
to shoulder with us in rejecting the counterproductive proposal to selectively
divest from certain companies whose products are used by Israel.

Any place in which a single human being suffers, we all
suffer. We know that your concern for the Palestinian people, some of whom are
your Christian sisters and brothers, comes from a deep commitment to the
alleviation of human pain. There is suffering enough in the land of our common
inheritance on both sides of the conflict. A just solution demands peace and
security for Israelis and Palestinians. We share goals of a just and lasting
peace, an end to affliction, a two-state solution, and the protection of the
dignity and security of all in the Holy Land. We must marshal our efforts
together to bring about this peace.

We understand and respect your calling to invest in a
morally responsible manner. A policy of divestment to pressure Israel runs
counter to these goals. Such a one-sided approach damages the relationship
between Jews and Christians that has been nurtured for decades. It promotes a
lopsided assessment of the causes of and solutions to the conflict,
disregarding the complex history and geopolitics. Furthermore, it shamefully
paints Israel as a pariah nation, solely responsible for frustrating peace.

For Jews, the use of economic leverages against the Jewish
state is fraught with inescapable associations. They resonate in the Jewish
consciousness with historic boycotts against Jewish companies and the State of
Israel. They are experienced by Jews as part of a pattern of singling out Jews
for attack. To determine and continue policies that knowingly tap into the
deepest fears and pain of another is, in our tradition, a serious failure of
relationship.

Divestment, and the specious Apartheid terminology that
frequently accompanies it, polarizes people and communities so that the policy
of divestment, and not peace, becomes the central issue. Divestment will
undermine the ability of many Israelis to imagine peace. Decades of terrorism
and rejection have left Israelis feeling threatened and isolated. Many of the
major proponents of divestment do not support Israel’s right to exist – thus
deepening this fear. Divestment as a policy is more likely to encourage those
with more extreme aims than to foster reconciliation. Simply put, the bitter
debate over divestment drowns out the real conversation about how to end the
conflict.

At a time when politics in general have become so divisive,
here and abroad, our efforts should be aimed toward reconciliation. Together
and independently, Christians, Jews, and Muslims must give the parties to the
conflict the confidence they need to move toward peace. There are many
meaningful coexistence programs that are necessary to foster a generation of
Israelis and Palestinians that will work and live side-by-side – moving past
the teaching of hate and the resort to violence. As leaders of the Jewish and
Protestant communities we need to deepen our understandings of the multiple
narratives in the region.  

We recognize the urgency of these efforts and the
frustration on all sides with achieving our lofty goals. Our collective voices
can play an instrumental role, working with the American government and others,
to help Israeli, Palestinian, and other Middle Eastern leaders to prevent
violence and attacks on civilians, support Palestinian state-building and
economic development, promote positive investment opportunities, provide
humanitarian aid through appropriate channels, protect existing agreements
between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and, most importantly, encourage a
resumption of negotiations among the parties toward a two-state agreement that
will help bring about peace, which is at the core of our traditions. We
recommit to such efforts, independent of any other matter.

Yet quite honestly, were American Christian denominations to
indict only Jews and Israel for the conflict with the Palestinians, they would
justify the violence perpetrated against Israeli civilians – including children
– as the unfortunate result of Israel’s unilateral guilt. In other words,
Israeli victims would be responsible for their own suffering. Frankly, such a
representation is anything but an expression of friendship and common purpose,
and it would replace the closeness and comfort the Jewish community feels in
existing relationships with distance, distrust, and disappointment.

The Scriptures that bind us reveal that G-d created all of
us in the divine image — human dignity and equality is a core value of Jewish
and Christian traditions. Further, our traditions call upon us to be
peacemakers. In Hebrew, the word Shalom doesn’t just mean “peace” but
wholeness and completeness. Peace comes about by our labors to complete the
work of creation. We must work towards the day when every human is granted the
dignity, security, and beneficence that is the promise of the created universe.

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