Monday, April 23, 2012

Jewish Voice for Peace: Stacking the Deck

Sydney Levy of "Jewish" Voice for Peace just sent out this email:

"I'm on my way to Tampa. I'm going in support of our allies in the United Methodist church who are pushing for divestment from Israel's Occupation. But I'm not going alone. I'm taking the strong letter of support from members of Jewish Voice for Peace's rabbinical council and other Jewish clergy.

I'd like to take you with me too, or at least your name. I hope you'll go to right now and add your name in support of divestment. The United Methodists are considering divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorla—all companies we have identified as profiting from the violation of Palestinians' human rights.

The struggle to stop these companies has been a long one. But we don't have much time left—the conference starts this week, and we will deliver our names Tuesday morning, in less than 24 hours, so please add your name now. You don't have to be a rabbi to sign, but you do need to sign now if we are going to bring you with us. And to keep you connected, we will be updating throughout the week with all the latest developments in this historic push for divestment."

Why is JVP "Stacking the deck"? Why are they filling up a "rabbis" letter with signatures, of Jews and non-Jews alike?

Maybe its because after weeks of searching for signatures, the signatories on their own letter are few and far between. As of now, the current signators are

Rabbi Margaret Holub
Rabbi Brant Rosen
Rabbi Alissa Wise
Rabbi Julie Greenberg
Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Cantor Michael Davis
Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt
Rabbi Lynn Gottleib
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert
Rabbi Joseph Berman
Rabbi David Mivasair
Rabbi Brian Walt
Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom
David Basior, Rabbinical Student
Alana Alpert, Rabbinical Student
Ari Lev Fornari, Rabbinical Student
Rabbi Borukh Goldberg
Rabbi Meryl Crean
Rabbi Howard A Cohen
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling
Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton
Rabbi Everett Gendler
Rabbi Michael Lerner

Contrast that extremely limited group with the 1200 rabbis from across the religious and cultural spectrum who have formally expressed their concern about the Methodist divestment referendum. Orthodox, Conservative, reform- religious leaders from across the Jewish spectrum have signed a "Letter from American Rabbis to Our Christian Neighbors Regarding Divestment Proposals" . If your rabbi hasn't already signed, its not too late.

From the Jewish Council for Public Affairs:

“A letter signed by so many Rabbis demonstrates the breadth and depth of the American Rabbinate’s commitment to the finding a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; something which cannot be achieved through divestment,” said Gutow. “I am privileged to join my colleagues from all fifty states, leaders from the Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Orthodox movements, rabbinic groups and seminaries, and some of the most influential Jewish thinkers and theologians of our time. There is a clear rabbinic consensus - divestment efforts will tear the fabric of our interfaith relationships and undermine ongoing efforts for peace.”

The Rabbinic letter spells out the profound concern of the signatories about the one-sided nature of the divestment proposals, which "shamefully" paint Israel as a pariah nation. "For Jews, the use of economic leverages against the Jewish state is fraught with inescapable associations,” the letter states. “They resonate in the Jewish consciousness with historic boycotts against Jewish companies and the State of Israel…policies that knowingly tap into the deepest fears and pain of another is, in our tradition, a serious failure of relationship."

It also spells out a commitment to a negotiated two-state solution, which includes Palestinian state building and economic development, programs of reconciliation, understanding of multiple narratives, humanitarian aid and other areas where collective action is needed to help foster peace. Divestment, the note explains, runs in opposition to these goals and "is more likely to encourage those with extreme aims” - and is so contentious that it "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,” the letter continues. “Together and independently, Christians, Jews, and Muslims must give the parties to the conflict the confidence they need to move toward peace.”

Oh yes, the reality challenged bloggers at Mondoweiss (no, i'm not going to link there- you can find it your self) characterized the heart-felt plea for mutual respect and cooperation as "1200 rabbis threaten an end to interfaith harmony if Methodists support divestment"

The Methodist General Conference is being held in Tampa, Florida over the next week. If you have any friends or family attending, remind them of the words of our own community leaders:

"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. "


Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

oh what a shock our favorite kapo michael lerner is on that list.

Anonymous said...

Several of the "rabbis" arent. The one that sticks out to me is Ari Lev Fornari, "Rabbinical Student".
Ari (then going by Amy Fornari- before the transition) was arrested with several others for disrupting a celebration at the San francisco Jewish Community Center several years ago. It wasn't as much a political statement as it was a very public and very embarrassing temper tantrum. Its hard to imagine someone capable of such an act as a spiritual leader of anything or anyone.

Anonymous said...

The deep associations for Jews of boycotts is actually a two-sided memory. Jews worldwide organized a boycott of Germany in 1933-34, large meetings in NYC, etc. The boycott was effective enough to force some moderation in racist policies by the new German regime.