Why I support B.D.S. and the divestment resolutions of the Presbyterian and Methodist Church
Posted by rabbibrian on April 3, 2012
A few weeks ago I was engaged in an email conversation with some rabbinic colleagues about the Presbyterian Church and B.D.S. The questions was asked: “Why does the Presbyterian church care about B.D.S. against Israel? Why not China?”
I wrote the following response:
There are many reasons why the Presbyterian church supports the Palestinian call for B.D.S. some of which have been eloquently articulated in the email conversation today. What I need to remember is that B.D.S. is not a Presbyterian initiative, it is a nonviolent Palestinian initiative to end the Occupation. It is the Palestinians who have singled out Israel for B.D.S, very appropriately, as Israel is the occupying power for the past four decades. It is also incredibly inspiring that their strategy to achieve justice is nonviolent and that they have appealed for support from others. We all understand why the Palestinians have not focussed on terrible and unjust human rights violations in China, or in the U.S. for that matter! They have a very pressing issue much closer to home: the Occupation.
Now the question is why we, or the Presbyterians, would choose to join the Palestinian call.
I support their call because I support the struggle of oppressed peoples for justice. As a person of privilege, I regard it is a religious obligation to be in solidarity with those struggling for justice. It is my responsibility to support those who are struggling for justice and to support their efforts.
So why here and not China, or Tibet, or Sudan, or America?
Why I choose to focus my energies here is that I feel a direct responsibility as an American and as a Jew for the oppression of the Palestinian people. I identify as a Jew and I live in America. As a Jew, it is a state that claims to be acting in my name that has oppressed the Palestinians for decades. As an American, it is my country that is funding, arming, supporting, defending Israeli oppression. As a rabbi, it is my community and it’s rabbinic and lay leadership that is a (the?) major player in ensuring the unquestioning support of the American government for Israeli policy. For all these reasons I have a direct responsibility to challenge those who support the oppression of the Palestinian people. Silence is complicity with those committing the injustice.
No people with privilege and power, starting with Pharaoh, and probably even before Pharaoh, have given up power without facing some cost. B.D.S., hopefully will inflict a cost to Israel for continuing the Occupation. Without anything to lose, there is no reason in the world why the Israeli government will end the Occupation. The support of the American Jewish community (including, maybe especially, liberal Jews) and the American government ensures that there is no cost to the homes that are demolished, to the suffering of the thousands of administrative detainees, to the stealing of land, the daily humiliation and many other scandalous injustices that happen everyday. B.D.S. offers some counter force to the overwhelming power of the State of Israel.
Many of you know me and of my experience growing up in South Africa. The international campaign against Apartheid played a very important role in ending Apartheid. As a kid it was painful to live in a country that was a pariah in the world. Yet, as a person who abhorred Apartheid, I supported the international campaign against Apartheid wholeheartedly. I was grateful that there were people in the world who were standing up for a just South Africa as it was only with justice that there would be security for me as a white child. I also knew that there was no chance that the powerful Apartheid government with its army would voluntarily end the oppression of Black South Africans. I would like to believe that Israel will voluntarily begin to dismantle the systemic discrimination against Palestinians, but I know there is no chance that it will be the first entity in human history to relinquish unjust power voluntarily.
Lastly, it is difficult for me as a Jew who has many Israeli friends and many positive connections to Israel and to Jewish culture to support B.D.S. I choose to be in solidarity with the Palestinian call despite these feelings, as it is the only effective nonviolent way to end the horror that is unfolding in Israel/Palestine. I see nothing else that in any way empowers me as an American and a Jew to challenge the injustice in Israel. When I was a kid I thought I would be more secure in a democratic, just South Africa. I think this is true here as well. In the long run, I will be more secure as a Jew and as human being when there is justice for the Palestinians.
As regards why the Presbyterians have taken this on others have already pointed to several compelling reasons: Palestinian Christians, their connection to Israel and I am sure there are many others. I attended the launch of the Kairos document calling for B..D.S. which took place in a Presbyterian Church in Bethlehem! While the reasons of the Presbyterians are interesting, much more interesting is why we feel compelled to take this on.
And in regard to China, America and other countries where there are injustices, I feel compelled to act as well but I must say that this struggle feels like mine in a deeper way.