The Right Coast

September 23, 2004
Anti-Israel or Antisemitic?
By Mike Rappaport

The Presbyterian Church's decision to divest its funds from companies that do business with Israel is clearly an anti-Israel action. But is it also antisemitic?

Consider the following:

The divestment action manifests a singular animosity towards Israel. The Presbyterians have not divested their funds from any of the cruel regimes of the world: not from China for its ethnic cleansing of Tibetans, and its repression of Muslems and Falun Gong; and not even from Sudan, currently engaged in the extermination of Africans in Darfur.

One would expect the Presbyterian Church to use its economic clout with an eye to punishing the many regimes around the world that oppress their fellow Christians, and call attention to their plight. However, the church has not taken action against such nations as Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, or North Korea (whose government has reportedly murdered 300,000 Christians), where anti-Christian persecution has been detailed by Christian human-rights groups.
It is hard to know what is in the hearts and minds of the Presbyterian leadership. But they should explain their actions: Even if they think Israel has behaved badly, why do they single out Israel when so many others who have done such horrible things are ignored?

Update: If it is not antisemitism, then what might it be? Two possibilities come to mind, neither too attractive. First, it could be an element of piling on. Many left wing groups attack Israel, so the Presbyterian leadership feels this is acceptable as well. Second, it could be that in certain circles attacks on Israel confer an enhancement of status, and the leadership desires that. In both of these cases, the question then becomes what accounts for the desire of these other groups to criticize Israel -- being antisemitic or anti-Israel? Moreover, in both of these cases, the actions of the Presbyterian leadership, while not antisemitic, are still not attractive.

Update II: Gail has responded to this post, claiming that the Presbyterian leadership is not antisemitic, just against Israel because they view it as a western imperialist nation. (A variant of the Little Satan view, I guess.) I find this to be a very plausible. Of course, as Gail implies, this is also an outrageous view, but for different reasons than antisemitism is. Still, I would like to hear how the leadership would defend itself, but I am not holding my breath.