Archbishop Desmond Tutu Urges Presbyterians to Adopt Divestment
|This button is the symbol of the interfaith coalition that has come together to support Presbyterian divestment.|
The American Muslims for Palestine has been working with a large interfaith coalition to support the efforts of Presbyterians who are asking the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly this week to divest from companies that conduct business in Israel. Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlitt Packard all are complicit in Israel's occupation of Palestine and its abuses of Palestinian human rights. AMP National Director of Media and Communications Kristin Szremski gave a lecture Friday night at the Islamic Center of Detroit to discuss how and why she converted to Islam and began working for the Palestinian cause. Earlier in the day, community leader Rafeeq Jaber delivered the sermon at two Friday prayers, also with the goal of stressing the importance of legitimate interfaith work and why Muslims should be supporting Presbyterians working for justice in Palestine. More than 50 volunteers from AMP-Detroit signed up to volunteer with the interfaith coalition.
The Presbyterian Church USA is one of the largest Protestant denominations, with 3 million members, in the United States. A successful divestment vote would be an historical event that could forever change the boycott, divestment and sacntions movement here. Two years ago, the Presbyterian General Assembly narrowly defeated the divestmenet effort by a vote of 333-331, with two abstentions. On Monday, AMP, long with other coalition volunteers, engaged with Presbyterian delegates after they left a lobbying breakfast arranged by pro-Israel lobby groups, who are working to stop the divestment vote.
AMP joins several interfaith groups including the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church, Friends of Sabeel - North American, The Middle East Task Force of the Chicago Presbytery and Jewish Voice for Peace. Other groups supporting the effort include the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, of which AMP is a leading member. Szremski sits on the Campaign's Steering Committee.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has added his support as well. His letter is below.
Archibishop Desmond Tutu urges Presbyterian Church to support divestment
As the Presbyterian General Assembly gathers for its biennial meeting I reach out in prayer and solidarity that the Assembly will make a strong witness for reconciliation, justice and peace. I am aware that the Assembly will consider eight overtures on the confounding and intractable conflict in Israel and Palestine, however I am especially urging the Assembly to adopt the overture naming Israel as an apartheid state through its domestic policies and maintenance of the occupation, and the overture calling for divestment of certain companies that contribute to the occupation of the Palestinian people. Both are worthy of adoption, by speaking truth in the first instance, and owning up to the Church’s complicity in maintaining the occupation through its investments in the second.
The sustainability of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people has always been dependent on its ability to deliver justice to the Palestinians. I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed. Realistic Israeli leaders have acknowledged that Israel will either end its occupation through a one or two state solution, or live in an apartheid state in perpetuity. The latter option is unsustainable and an offense to justice. We learned in South Africa that the only way to end apartheid peacefully was to force the powerful to the table through economic pressure.
The overtures proposed at the General Assembly are not about delegitimizing the State of Israel, but about ending its suppression of 4,000,000 Palestinian sisters and brothers. It’s about naming an unjust system and refusing to participate in it. The stubbornness of Israel’s leaders in wanting to hold onto and settling land that is not theirs can only lead to tragedy for both peoples. For the sake of them both as God’s cherished, the strong witness of the two overtures is the only peaceful route left in the cause of justice and ultimate reconciliation. My prayers today are with the members of the General Assembly and with all the peoples of the Holy Land in Israel and Palestine.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
June 10, 2014