I agree with much of what the “leaders” said in their ad. They claim a “deep commitment to a just and lasting peace between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.” I certainly agree with that. They review the atrocities of this past summer and “long for justice for both peoples.” They hope to find the “true path” to a just and lasting peace for both sides.” Then, they denounce divestment as polarizing and declare that we can do better than that.
I agree. We can do better than divestment, but I doubt that we have in mind the same “better.” Their better is:
To reaffirm boldly the church’s commitment to a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace, each with secure borders, territorial integrity and a fair share of natural resources. We also restate our profound condemnation of the threats to a two-state solution, including: violence and terrorism, the Israeli settlements, and any denial of the legitimate aspirations of either party – including their rights to a viable and secure homeland. All of that sounds wonderful. However it ignores the history, the facts on the ground and 66 years of Israel’s oppression.
The state of Israel in 1948 came into being through acts of terror, murder of unarmed Palestinians and the expulsion of 750,000 from their homes, creating the largest and longest refugee problem in history. Arnold J. Toynbee said, “The treatment of the Palestinian Arabs in 1947 and 1948 was as morally indefensible as the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis...though not comparable in quantity to the crimes of the Nazis, it was comparable in quality.” 
These refugees, many of whom have lived in camps their entire lives, yearn to return home. I hear nothing in the leaders aspirations for a “deep and relational work that models peace and reconciliation with justice and compassion,” that even hints at including the millions of Palestinian refugees. All Israel hopes for is that the church in the US will join them in pushing the refugees into miserable little separated camps where they can be forgotten.
Since 1967, when Israel invaded Egypt and the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, Israel has consistently squeezed Palestinians into smaller and smaller isolated bantustans. Palestine has been over run by settlements, Jewish only roads and an apartheid wall which leaves little possibility of a state living side by side with Israel. Right now, West Bank has no side. It is split up into little enclaves surrounded by Israeli military while Netanyahu does everything possible to make sure Israel’s permanent domination will never change. He is delighted to have American church leaders parrot his “peace talk.” as long as our leaders don’t create any real opposition to his program. Even to make public his actions through such nonviolent gestures as divestment, would be labeled “polarizing.”
Consider the history:
So, again, I agree. We can do better than divestment, But, the “better” I have in mind is that in addition to divestment the church could do a better job of speaking out for justice and speaking up for the oppressed.
These kind of things seem quite Christ like. In his first sermon, Jesus defined his mission as freedom to the oppressed and release to the captives. In his last sermon he said, “I was hungry and you did not feed me, thirsty and you did not give me water, in prison and you did not see me. When, Lord did we see you in need and fail to minister to you?” Remember what he said, “When you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me.”
I can’t think of any people who are presently among the “least of these” more than the Palestinians. Israel destroys their crops until they are hungry. Israel steals their water. Their children are sick because Israel bombed their hospitals and clinics and blockades the import of medicines. Palestinians are not occupied because they are “the least,” they are the least because they are occupied.
The two state solution to which the Presbyterian “leaders” commit themselves is no more than a cover up for continuing the theft of more Palestinian land and shutting Palestinians up in little enclaves, isolated from each other. It is a massive movement to ghettorize millions of people so that Israel might prevail as a nation for Jews with privileges for Jews only, such as Jewish only roads, buses and schools. The question which never seems to be addressed is, what would a two state solution look like for a Palestinian state?
I would challenge my fellow Presbyterians to name just one policy or military action carried out by Israel, in the 66 years of its existence, which took seriously steps toward a viable two state solution, with secure borders. I wish the leaders would ask themselves why Israel, to this day, has never declared its borders nor adopted a constitution granting liberty and justice for all.
The leaders talk about “shared resources” while Israel pumps 80% of the water out of Palestine for Israeli use and builds a wall around Qulqiliya, which sits on the largest aquifer in the West Bank.
Israel is yet to show good faith, respect or acceptance of Palestinian human rights and promises no indication of doing so in the future.
I would challenge the 121 signers of the NYT ad to go to Palestine and see for themselves. If that is not feasible, at least read about what is happening there before making commitments to a centralist position based on the assumption that both sides are equally guilty, vulnerable, or able to defend themselves. As Desmond Tutu says, “When you are neutral in a situation of oppression, you have taken the side of the oppressor.”
The “leaders” may be Presbyterians. I am also Presbyterian, but they are not my leaders. When it comes to working for peace with justice for the Palestinians, those who support divestment are way ahead of them.
November 26, 2014
 Ndew York Times, November 20, 2014
 .Na’im Ateek, Justice and Only Justice, Orbis Press, Maryknoll, New York, 1989.) p.32.