At the Presbyterian Church’s 223rd General Assembly in June 2018, commissioners passed an overture calling on Real Estate Maximums (REMAX), an American international real estate company, to end the sale and rental of homes and apartments in the all of Judea and Samaria.
Presbyterian Council Letter: Pure Racism
This initiative was finally acted upon when Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the Office of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), sent a letter to RE/MAX asking that the company stop operating in Judea, Samaria, and sections of eastern Jerusalem. The letter cited “reputational risks” the company would face should they continue to operate in these areas.
The Jerusalemite Initiative, a nonprofit organization to empower Arabic speaking Israeli Jerusalemites Christians, wrote a letter Rev. Nelson, protesting the move, describing it as “a display of complete ignorance.”
“I’m writing to you as an Arabic-speaking Israeli Christian from the GreekOrthodox Church. I was born and raised in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and studied at Christian schools in Beit Jala and Bethlehem,” Elias Zarina, the Christian Arab co-founder of the Jerusalemite Initiative, wrote. “As a non-Jewish Israeli, I can assure you that any call to boycott any company working in Israel affects and harms also Christians, Muslims and other minorities who live in Israel and are part of the economy, labor market and Israeli society.
Moreover, many Palestinians prefer to work in Israelis companies in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem due to the fact that wages are more than three times the average salary under the Palestinian Authority. Working in Israeli companies also provides all the social benefits which you can’t find under the Palestinian Authority. All of this is exactly the same as with any Israeli-Jew,
there is no discrimination.
“East Jerusalem”, “settlements”, and “West Bank” are political terms. The right biblical, historical term is simply Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria where the Jewish community and neighborhoods existed in ancient Jewish biblical sites. It is quite embarrassing for me to write to a Reverend and explain him simple biblical facts. One can not colonize a land he belongs too, a land where his
roots are in, where his forefathers lived. Similarly to other Christians (of different denominations) born in the Holy Land, we are the descendants of indigenous Jews and Aramean tribes who lived in the area. We are the descendants of the first followers of Jesus and the first Christians who spread Christianity to the world. We are here to keep the cradle of Christianity.
We are strengthening the ties with our Jewish brothers and with the State of Israel who provided us with security, freedom of religion, worship and speech and equal democratic rights, all of which are possible because of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state! Your step is anti-Christian and contradicts efforts that lead to coexistence, interfaith understanding, and good relationships. Your actions are harming all of us in Israel: Christians, Jews, Druze, Arabs, Muslims and others. Stop your ignorance and remove your hands from the Holy Land – Israel.
Amit Barak, the co-founder of the Jerusalemite Initiative, notes that this initiative from the Presbyterian Church is blatantly racist and serves no political purpose or benefit for Palestinians.
“Palestinians would not be using Remax to sell or rent property to Jews,” Barak noted, citing a Palestinian Authority law that punishes such sales with torture and death. “This initiative calls for Remax to stop facilitating sales or rentals between two Jewish parties. The Presbyterian Church objects to Jews doing business even if it does not involve Palestinians or non-Jews.”
Ironically, the Presbyterian Council’s resolution last year also called for “support for all efforts to bring Palestinians and Israelis together peacefully” and for Israel to “stop discriminatory practices,” things their initiative diametrically opposes.
“This would also prevent Christians from buying or selling properties,” Barak noted. “In some respects, the Presbyterian Church is not discriminating. They are preventing Jewish property owners from selling or renting to Palestinians. And this is certainly causing distress to the employees of Remax, whether they are Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. In their rush to be anti-Israel, the Presbyterian Church does not discriminate in who suffers from their actions.”
BDS focuses on boycotting businesses in Judea, Samaria, eastern Jerusalem, and the Golan. As Barak correctly noted, the Presbyterian initiative goes beyond that, targeting businesses that deal with Jewish businesses in Israel and even working to prevent Jews from doing business with each other. In this respect, the Presbyterian initiative is similar to the Nuremberg Laws of Germany of 1933 which boycotted all Jewish-owned businesses.
“The Presbyterian Church claims that their support of BDS is intended to bring Jews and Palestinians together, to bring a peaceful solution,” Barak said. “But their actions clearly do not do so. They are working to prevent co-existence before it can even begin. They achieve this at the expense of Palestinian suffering.”
Zarina objected to the Presbyterian initiative on religious grounds.
“This contradicts the Christian value of being kind to other men,” Zarina told Breaking Israel News. “BDS is not a Christian value and certainly not something the Arab Christians want. BDS comes from outsiders, people who don’t understand how it affects the actual people. Canceling out a man’s trade is the worst thing you can do. Many of the Arabs work in construction and related industries. Coexistence comes from the ground up, from people working together and living together.”
“This is even truer concerning BDS which targets Jews in Israel,” Zarina said. “Christianity is based on Judaism and began in Israel.”
“I object to any form of racism and this is racism, plain and simple,” Zarina said. “Israel is the only country in the region that I can work and raise my family as a Christian.”
Worse Than BDS
The Presbyterian commitment to BDS goes beyond simply boycotting companies from all areas of Israel (including large corporations within the “green line” like Elbit and Ahava). The Presbyterian Church also boycotts multinational companies that sell to Israel. In 2014, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA voted in favor of divesting from Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard.
The anti-Israel movement within the Presbyterian Church is led by its Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN). It should be noted that NGO Monitor, a watchdog site for non-governmental organizations, uncovered overtly anti-semitic posts on IPMN social media, calling its Facebook page “a hate site operating under the protective wings of the Presbyterian Church.”
“None of the antisemitic postings were repudiated by the IPMN leadership or other members of this Facebook group,” wrote Yitzhak Santis, NGO Monitor’s Chief Programs Officer. “Several Presbyterian Church senior staff members are also members of this group, and they remained silent.”
The Presbyterian Church has been accused of institutional anti-Semitism in the past. In 2014, they published “Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide.” The Anti-Defamation League released a statement saying the book “may be the most anti-Semitic document to come out of a mainline American church in recent memory.”