On June 20, delegates to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U. S. A.), meeting in Detroit, Michigan, voted to divest the church’s holdings in three American companies that are said to be profiting from their business with Israel: Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and Motorola. The purpose of the move was to protest what the PCUSA members apparently perceived to be egregious actions on the part of the Israeli government against Palestinians. The pastoral staff and Session of the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, the oldest Presbyterian Church in Lee County, vehemently oppose this action by the denomination. We unanimously stand in full support of Israel’s rights as a sovereign nation, its right to protect its citizens, and the right of all American companies to engage in honest free enterprise.

The actions of the denomination are at best misguided, at worst represent outright racism, and certainly give every appearance of intentionally promoting anti-Semitism. Every individual and every nation is far from perfect. But one must question the motives of anyone who vilifies Israel with greater fervor than any other nation, especially when we consider the numerous places in which violence is being reported continuously. Israel is democracy extending human rights that far exceed those of most, perhaps all, of its neighbors. Indeed, rarely in history has one side held so much power and yet used that power with such restraint as Israel is doing in our day. 

As Christians, we at First Presbyterian consider the Bible to be the Word of God, inerrant in its original text. Within that Bible we read, in reference to those people we now call Jews, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you…” (Genesis 12:3).  And we read of Israel itself: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you…” (Psalm 122:6).  Furthermore, we take our spiritual identity from our relationship to the children of Israel. Romans 11 describes the gentile Church as branches “grafted” into the Jewish “olive tree,” and we are instructed to remember that “you do not support the root, but the root supports you” (Romans 11:8).  Being anti-Semitic is anathema to the core of Christianity. It is a sad truth that throughout the preceding centuries numerous people who claimed to be Christians wrongly spoke and acted against Jewish people, and unfortunately such wrongdoing did not disappear in the ashes of the Second World War.  Such actions were wrong then and they remain wrong now. We refuse to repeat the mistakes of the past and remain silent in the midst of such wrongdoing.

As Christians we are commanded to “do justly” (Micah 6:8).  We are to seek justice and peace for all, including Palestinians.  But there is no defense for anti-Semitism in the guise of peace-making. We find this action by the PCUSA to be indefensible, and we wish to differentiate ourselves from all who would single out for condemnation either Israel as a nation or Jewish people as a race. We offer our full support for all individuals, corporations, and other entities engaged in peaceful relations with the Israeli people. In so doing, we affirm the authority of the Scriptures we hold to be true and the God we serve.

 

Rev. Paul de Jong

Senior Pastor

 

Rev. Roger Peterson

Minister of Music and Congregational Care

 

Session Members:

John Poole, Clerk of Session

JoAnn Beaumont

Richard Chappelle

Pat Furbringer

Lalai Hamric

Frank Shannon

Joe Spielman