Well the PCUSA drama is pretty much playing out as predicated.
The General Assembly’s Committee 4 was tasked to look at Middle East issues. Actually, that’s not quite right since, as far as I can tell, all of the dozen or so Overtures the committee discussed have to do with just one country in the region (guess which one), which I suppose makes sense given that the rest of the Middle East has become such a sea of tranquility in the two years since the last Presbyterian conclave.
As usual, the BDSers began the work of packing all relevant committees the day they lost the last General Assembly vote in 2012 and – as expected – divestment is now back on the organization’s agenda, ready to be voted on by the wider Assembly later this week.
I suppose we should be thankful that Committee 4 also voted No on a measure to declare Israel an Apartheid State and Yes on an Overture that would distance the church from the odious Zionism Unsettled (ZU) document that PCUSA has been happily distributing to congregations for months. (Will Spotts wonders if it was David Duke’s endorsement of this document that caused this move, rather than the contents of Zionism Unsettled and the outrage it caused among Jews and Presbyterians alike. Personally, I’m guessing that the BDSers driving this week’s agenda within the church simply needed to create some space between themselves and embarrassment over ZU for another 24 hours in order to get divestment through the General Assembly.)
And while I’m still gathering data, apparently there has also been a decision to begin a re-evaluation of the church’s historic commitment to a Two-State solution, opening the door for the One-State/No-Israel policy envisioned in the Zionism Unsettled document the church is supposed to be distancing itself from. Oh, and I’m unsure of the status of another set of measures that would call on the church to change its liturgy to make it clear that the Jews mentioned in the Old Testament have nothing to do with Jews dwelling in the Holy Land today.
If all of this strikes you confusing (if not barking mad), you might sympathize with my growing inability to monitor what’s been going on in Detroit on an hour-by-hour basis. I spent a little time checking out the Twitter feed of #GA221 and #churchdivest when votes were being taken by Committee 4 and, as expected, the BDSers who dominate those hastags have stayed on message, endlessly repeating their endorsement by Desmond Tutu, throwing up photos of broken children with associated accusations and never – under any circumstances – addressing or replying to questions that challenge their world view. In fact, the only thing novel about yesterday’s hearings was that the Overture they used to hang divestment on this year started out as an anti-divestment measure which the BDSers reconfigured to meet their needs (no doubt to present their foregone conclusion as the result of a compromise).
All along, the BDS strategy has been to circumscribe the choices the General Assembly would be allowed to vote on since straight up-or-down votes on divestment taken in the light of day always go badly for divestment champions. And so the GA will be presented with the majority report of the committee that supposedly has the expertise most General Assembly delegates lack and has done the preparation delegates not on the committee have not had time to do.
The fact that such a majority report is the result of a thoroughly corrupt process and does not reflect the will of church members who have voted divestment down time and time again is the reason delegates rejected a similar majority statement in 2012, voting to replace it with a minority report that did not include divestment. Which is why, this time around, the boycotters have thrown everything they’ve got into working the floor at the General Assembly in hope that their intense lobbying can swing just enough voters to return the Presbyterian Church to the dark days of 2004 when divestment was briefly church policy before members rescinded that decision in 2006 (a choice the Israel haters have ignored ever since).
If this kind of hardball politics were playing out in Chicago City Hall, it would probably deserve some grudging respect. But what are we to make of a process this dirty and this manipulative, one designed to subvert the political process in order to allow a group of single-issue partisans to speak in the name of millions of people who have been deliberately kept in the dark about what is being decided for them? Say what you like about big city politics, but at least they don’t wrap their ugly behavior in the language of love and sanctimony you’ll be seeing if you tune into the General Assembly debate later today.
Regarding watching that debate, I’ll do what I can in between a funeral (for a man who quietly embodied all of the virtues that will be lovingly praised at the General Assembly, even as those pushing the church over the divestment cliff work to subvert each and every one of them) and driving my kids from place to place (an activity I’ve never looked forward to more than I do today).
If we win, that’s great and I’ll be happy to not think about this matter again for another couple of years (not a great strategy, given that the boycotters will start work on the 2016 assembly this weekend, but necessary for my mental health). And even if we lose, who can possibly look at such an outcome as anything other than the result of the corrupt politics of a dying organization whose leadership has decided to grasp tight to their Israel hatred as the world burns and the church moves ever closer to oblivion.