Baker Academic

Monday, June 23, 2014

So What is Divestment and Why are All the Kids Talking about It?

If you've (a) been following the news this week and (b) have time for topics other than the World Cup, you might have seen that leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to withdraw funds from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions. This vote continues a series of moves (becoming more pronounced in recent years) to protest Israeli occupation in Palestine by Presbyterian leadership.

If you're interested in a thoughtful Jewish reflection on this and its impact on Jewish-Christian relations, check out this article by Larry Behrendt. Here is just a taste:
Jews have been the targets of organized Christian economic pressure for most of our shared history. Time permits only a brief discussion. ... 
In more recent history, Christians sought to harm Jews economically by means of boycotts. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, various “Christian” campaigns were organized in Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe to boycott Jewish businesses. These campaigns adopted slogans such as “Don’t Buy Jewish,” “Buy Christian Only” and “Each to His Own.” Some of these campaigns worked at apparent cross-purposes. For example, shortly before World War I Ukrainians organized to boycott Jewish businesses because of alleged Jewish collaboration with Poles, while Poles organized their own anti-Jewish boycotts as a defense against alleged Jewish exploitation. 
The first Nazi action taken against Jews was a nationwide boycott of German Jewish businesses that took place on April 1, 1933. On the day of the boycott, Nazi Stormtroopers painted yellow and black Jewish stars on the windows and doors of Jewish businesses, then stood menacingly in front of these businesses, daring customers to enter. The Nazis planned and supported this boycott, posting signs in Jewish neighborhoods saying “Don’t Buy from Jews” and “The Jews Are Our Misfortune.” A week later, the Nazis barred Jews from the civil service (including the practice of law) and fired all Jewish government workers, including teachers in public schools and universities. Historians now understand these actions as the beginning of the Holocaust.
Why have I bothered to recall all of this ancient history? I am not trying to suggest that last week’s vote by the Presbyterians can be equated with boycotts enforced by Nazi Stormtroopers, or medieval efforts to ghettoize Jews and Judaism. I am saying that Presbyterian divestment will be seen by most Jews as part of a long, unfriendly and determined effort by outsiders (primarily Christians) to coerce Jews, hinder Jewish aspirations, and injure and destroy the Jewish people. Jews know their history too well to be fooled into believing that anti-Jewish economic sanctions sprang into existence in 1967, and will magically disappear when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is finally resolved.
I highly recommend reading the entire article. For what its worth, Behrendt is deeply invested in the wellbeing of Christians and Christianity and is among the more fair-minded people I know.


1 comment:

  1. Larry has written a very good and thoughtful article.