Israel and Palestine: Pursue Positive Investment

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I write in prayerful and cautious opposition to Resolution C017 “A Just Peace in the Holy Land”— and I do so as a person who is concerned about protecting and supporting Palestinians. It is my opinion that this resolution will have the unintentional consequence of further harming the very Palestinians it aims to protect.

My objections to this resolution are twofold:

First, having made several trips to the Holy Land, I am convinced that the economic realities of both Israel and Palestine are intrinsically linked. Not only do many Palestinians currently rely on jobs that the Israeli economy provides (a reality that could be positively impacted by voting to increase our impact investment directly in Palestine itself), but there is a larger symbiotic nature to the two national economies. For example, on one of my visits to the Palestinian territories, I met Palestinians who are intentionally crafting their economic industrial efforts to work in tandem with the Israeli technological infrastructure. These Palestinian business owners evaluate the Israeli production markets and then seek to manufacture products that will complement or fill a void in the system. Both countries’ economies benefit from this endeavor, and this kind of forward thinking — possible only if both states work with some measure of economic cooperation and coordination — cannot exist if policies of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel are in place. Any efforts to tear down or isolate the Israeli economy, in a territory that is so small, will untimely have a hugely negative effect on the Palestinian economy as well.

Second, resolutions of this nature negatively impact the kinds of ecumenical dialogue in which the Episcopal Church could have its largest global impact as an ecclesial entity. The explanation section of this resolution cites “enhance[ing] the reputation of the Episcopal Church” as a reason to support BDS. Actually, our reputation has been built on our ability to strive for the middle way — the so-called via media. Indeed, since the Middle East peace process is deeply complex, and not a simplistic model where one side is all right and the other all wrong, our ability to sit in the midst of conflicts and find middle ground could be a very important and uniquely Episcopal way of making an impact.

However, BDS resolutions of this nature do not allow for the moderate dialogue that a middle way approach calls for. Indeed, the extreme nature of BDS debates have left those of us who are looking for the Episcopal “via media” feeling as though we cannot even enter the conversation. If we are actually going to play a role in this peace process, then we will need to stay in relationship with all sides.

Thus, if we take any action to boycott or to divest our funds, even if there were no significant economic impact that the Israelis would notice, such actions will severely damage any actual diplomatic and ecumenical leverage we might have in the region. This would be true not only with regard to the Israelis, but also with those who would unintentionally be most negatively affected by such actions, the Palestinian workers themselves. We would lose what small influence we have economically and trade it for the loss of major relational ties. Resolutions like this one will only serve to break down the possibility of civil engagement and make our role as a hopeful reconciler impossible.

Finally, in the explanation of C017, the crafters of this divestment resolution cite the 2005 “Call from Palestinian Civic Society” as part of their source material — a document that calls for BDS as part of a goal of “respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.” While this issue, often referred to as the “right-of-return” for Palestinians, is still a very hotly contested element in this debate, it is often used in support of dismantling the Israeli state all together.

Since the Episcopal Church has long held, the position of promoting dialogue and supporting a two-state solution — one Palestinian state, one Jewish state living side by side in brotherhood, cooperation and peace — this resolution in its very crafting, would have us vote for an action that would counteract our stance on this issue. Therefore, I cannot support it.

If the Episcopal Church truly wishes to make an impact in this complex and painful issue, we have to stay engaged, both economically and ecumenically, with all people in the Holy Land. I cannot vote for a resolution that would ask our church to remove itself from the dialogue and any hope of reconciliation.

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