Commentary: Presbyterian divestment vote a blow to mutual respect

israelBy Arnold M. Eisen

(RNS) The vote by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three U.S. companies doing business in Israel came exactly a week after news broke of the kidnapping of three yeshiva students (may their memory be a blessing) and at the same time that an Islamic terrorist faction was sweeping through Iraq.

Eyes open to the world, nerves on edge, our hearts open to those teenagers and the suffering on so many sides, my feelings are a mixture of sadness, pain, and acute worry for Israel, the Middle East, and the world.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) vote is but a minor addition to that mix. In the big picture, I can understand why people who care about peace between Israelis and Palestinians are frustrated by a peace process that seems to go nowhere, and may feel driven to drastic action. However, we must not ever let hope die.

That’s why I am prepared to assume that the majority of the Presbyterians who voted for divestment did so without malice. It is worth noting that the decision was made by a narrow margin of 310–303; the Presbyterian community is clearly passionately divided on this issue.