I’m occasionally asked about divestment activities that take place in Europe, such as the Norwegian government’s recent decision to divest a state pension fund from a specific Israeli company. I must admit that the focus of my work has been primary North America (with an occasional foray into Great Britain), although I have noted in a piece on another subject that people often dress up decisions European firms make to take advantage of the large Arab market vs. the smaller Israeli one as some form of moral political choice. And politically, Muslim (and increasingly Islamist) politics is playing as big or bigger a role on the continent than Jewish politics plays in the US, especially now that Europeans have chosen to stop reproducing, creating demographic trends that should concern us all.
But that’s not the point of today’s posting. For every time some institution announces something that can be construed as a divestment success, we are once again told that divestment has the “Big Mo,” that the BDS crowd has the wind at its back, and we must all hail this latest victory (even if it’s a hoax, like Hampshire) as the wave of the future.
But there is a corollary to such an approach that almost never gets asked. In the last month alone, two of the remaining Protestant denominations (the UCC in Canada and the Lutherans in the US) have joined their colleagues in the Presbyterian and Methodist churches to give divestment the heave ho. If a Norwegian pension fund choosing to divest a few kroner from one Israeli firm is to be considered a victory for the other side, shouldn’t the rejection of divestment by virtually the entire Mainline Protestant community be considered a massive triumph for our’s?
It’s sometimes too easy to let the BDS-ers set the terms of victory since, after all, they are seeking victory, whereas the ultimate goal for most of us is not winning but reconciliation and peace. But given that the divest-niks have chosen the battlefield, I think it’s only fair that the rules they have created apply to both sides. And given the unending string of defeats divestment has faced in schools, unions, municipalities and now churches (to a point where they have to rely on obscure artists choosing to not attend little-known arts festivals alongside Israelis as their latest “win”), doesn’t that say something about these institutions’ positive attitudes towards Israel (or at least their negative attitudes towards seeing it punished economically, just because the BDS crowd says it must).
If that’s the case, then every college, union, city, town and church in the country has voted YES on Israel, even if the other side has a Norwegian pension fund on its side (for now). Call me crazy, but I’ll take that as a win any day.