A clash between evangelicals and mainstream Protestants on divestment from Israel marks what appears to be the groups' first direct confrontation over the Jewish state.
Following the lead of several Protestant churches who are considering dropping their holdings in companies that do business with Israel, the United Church of Christ will debate divestment at its July 1-5 synod in Atlanta.
In response, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which is primarily supported by evangelical Christians, launched a petition drive Monday urging the UCC to reject the anti-Israel resolutions: two considering divestment and one condemning Israel's West Bank security barrier.
...We need to let the UCC know that Israel-bashing won’t be tolerated. We need to let Israel know that real Christians stand for Israel.
The fellowship’s Stand for Israel project also launched a more general anti-divestment media campaign Monday, aiming to run full-page ads in newspapers around the country opposing calls within churches, universities and local governments to divest from Israel.
The evangelical push against divestment highlights a new level of pro-Israel activism, along with the growing rift between evangelical churches and mainstream Protestants.
It also exposes the complex relationships between Jews and Christians, and among Christians about Jews.
...To combat the challenge, the JCPA, American Jewish Committe, ADL, American Jewish Congress and American Jewish Committee have joined the Reform, Orthodox and Conservative movements to promote interfaith outreach on local levels, where Protestant communities have seemed more open than at the national leadership.
The approach has borne fruit.
- In St. Louis, for example, the Jewish Community Relations Council worked closely with the Eden Theological Seminary, which is producing an anti-divestment video that it will send to all the Protestant conferences.
- Regional UCC groups from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine came together to submit an alternative to the divestment resolution, calling for “selective investment in those initiatives that firmly reject violence as a means to resolving religious and political disputes.
The business of community relations is that of strategy and relationships, and in about 120 communities around the country those meetings have had significant impact where people from the Jewish community were well-trained and well-coordinated,” Felson said.
...Our hope is to educate the folks who are taking this foolish path and to motivate the evangelical Christian who is kind of a latent supporter of Israel and get him to be a blatant supporter of Israel,” and urge Christian groups to respond to divestment by investing in Israel, Mamo said.
...The group will run a full-page ad opposing the UCC resolutions in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the start and close of the group’s conference.
With 70 million evangelicals, “we think we can outweigh any damage that’s done,” Mamo said.
Whether they are effective or not, when the battle on divestment subsides it will leave deep marks on interfaith relations.
“There will be a memory here on this issue of divestment who was prepared to support divestment against the State of Israel, and who supported Israel in this debate,” said David Elcott, U.S. director of interreligious affairs for the AJCommittee, who will address the UCC synod. “There will be a memory, and it will have an impact.”