As the PCUSA divestment debate winds to a conclusion, I’ve been surprised how difficult it’s been to gin up the emotions (anticipation, gloom, excitement) that usually come to the surface in the run-up to a big BDS vote.
Perhaps I am simply suffering from a sense of false optimism, hoping that the divestment measures that have passed the vote of a stacked and/or largely uninformed committee will be voted down in the plenary (the same dynamic that played out during previous Presbyterian votes on the subject). But given that, even on good days, I figured BDS stood a better than 50:50 chance of passing this week, optimism cannot explain this atypical lack of anticipation.
It’s possible I’m simply protecting myself (both emotionally and politically) in case the church does decide to rejoin the BDS movement by convincing my mind and heart to be indifferent to the results. But given the level of enthusiasm I recently felt during a far more important BDS battle (the Methodists) and a far less important one (Park Slope Food Coop) – two votes with outcomes just as uncertain as the Presbyterians – this doesn’t feel like either an intentional or subconscious game of managing expectations.
Perhaps I have been hanging around BDSers so long that some of their lessons have rubbed off on me.
After all, the boycotters never let their repeated failures get to them – or even acknowledge to themselves or others that they have suffered a setback. Have they ever responded to questions as to why, if their “movement” has been so successful, that investment in Israel has skyrocketed during the BDS decade? Have they ever been willing to acknowledge the fact that their “victories” (such as the Olympia Food Coop and even PCUSA in 2004) are exceptions that prove the rule (since no other food coop or church has shown the slightest interest in buying their snake oil)?
Given that divestment champions will never acknowledge the endless victories of their opponents, or even respond when caught trying to pass off lies (such as the recent TIAA-CREF hoax), it’s not entirely clear why Israel’s supporters need to respond to every one of their baits, just because a hundred BDS Twitter feeds insist we must.
Digging a little deeper, however, there are some emotions I’d rather not confront that might be short-circuiting the usual feelings of anticipation accompanying a major BDS battle: disappointment laced with a fair amount of disgust.
We’ve already talked about what this week’s vote is really about: the right of the BDSers to speak in the name of every man, woman and child in the Presbyterian Church in declaring Israel an “Apartheid State” (i.e., a nation of racist murderers), and to blanket the world in propaganda encouraging others to follow the PCUSA’s lead in boycotting “Apartheid Israel.”
The fact that there is nothing approaching consensus on this political opinion within the church means nothing to the boycotters and their enablers, an indifference matched only by the belief that the Jewish community’s patience with being kicked in the teeth on a bi-annual basis is endless. And if this vote might lead to more hardening of positions on both sides, leading to more suffering and greater chances for conflict, what do the divestment-volk care? All they want is the right to be able to brag that they brought PCUSA back into their fold, regardless of the cost to anyone else inside or outside the church.
In the past, I’ve been able to pin blame on this bi-annual misbehavior on radicals inside and outside the church who have made it their life’s work to drag the organization under their umbrella. But looking at the behavior of too many Presbyterians this time around, I can’t help but fear that the cancer represented by BDS attitudes has spread beyond a core group of fanatics.
We’ve all grown used to the manipulative arguments, the truncated versions of history, the silencing of dissenting voices that have accompanied PCUSA divestment debates in the past. But the level of dishonesty accompanying this year’s debate seems to indicate that the church’s readiness to bear false witness is climbing close to the same level as the one practiced by the BDS “movement” as a whole.
Why else would long-ago debunked fake Nelson Mandela quotes not get called out when they were brought up before not one, not two but EIGHT church forums dealing with the divestment issue? Why would committee members contort the language of their resolutions and discussions to claim that divestment was something other than divestment and a boycott something other than a boycott? And why would they pretend that this entire debate was a continuation of an ongoing discussion of corporate engagement, rather than the recycling of divestment resolutions rejected three times before?
Having gotten to know many kind and thoughtful Presbyterians over the years, I suspect my current emotional state has something to do with the sympathy I feel for their pain as they watch a church they have dedicated their lives to become a place best characterized for its dishonesty, hypocrisy and impotence.
Israel and its friends certainly have nothing to fear if an organization like PCUSA decides to embrace these three characteristics by ignoring its members, ignoring its friends, and ignoring its mission to make joining the BDS “movement” its top priority (leaving just enough time to simultaneously manage a vanishing membership and internal civil war).
No doubt I’ll be watching video feeds of the final debates and votes (unless the kids want to do something outside while those debates are going on), but I shall do so with an air of melancholy as a church with a 400 year old history demonstrates its readiness to join other organizations (such as the Green Party – remember them? I thought not.) that have clutched BDS to their breast as they sunk beneath the waves for the third time.