|Divestment in Israel: a complex issue|
|Written by Ann Lewis|
Regarding the Israeli divestment issue, I urge the following reflection:
In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, was unjustly accused of treason, mainly because of the prevailing anti-Semitic atmosphere. The assimilated Jew, journalist Theodor Herzl, witnessed mobs shouting “Death to the Jews” in France, the birthplace of “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality,” and determined that the Jew would never be safe, and that there was only one solution: the mass immigration of Jews to a land that they could call their own. Thus, the Dreyfus Case became one of the determinants in the genesis of political Zionism. Herzl concluded that anti-Semitism was a stable and immutable factor in human society, which assimilation did not solve. Thus he advocated for a Jewish state where Jews could be safe.
The ensuing development of the formation of Israel and the resulting relationship with the Palestinians is extremely complex. I would not pretend to know enough to comment on it, except to ask this of my fellow Presbyterians: to what extent were we also historically and are we still responsible for the need for Israel? We can say technically, it was the French, or it was the times. But what was and is the effect of the ongoing contrast of law versus gospel, of the concept of works versus faith, (works being ascribed to Judaism and faith to Christianity), of the subtle seeds planted by Luther’s “ the Jews and their lies,” and the recurring suggestion that Jesus treated outsiders radically different from the way the (other) religion taught they were to be treated, by healing on the Sabbath and breaking purity laws. And in the Lenten season, what about the St. John’s Passion, consistently performed without contextual program notes with its easy suggestion that it is the Jews who issued the plea “Crucify Him!”
Do these realities continue to make Jews feel that they can never be safe? A local Jewish rabbi states that Israel is about survival to the Jew. Can we understand the passion for this? And more importantly, do we have an ongoing role in perpetuating it?
Does it behoove us to not only think about divestment of funds but of divestment of polemic in our Scriptures, which has such dangerous ongoing negative impact, and backlash, in our situation today?
Ann Lewis is a ruling elder, having served as clerk of session, confirmation teacher and a longtime student of Christian origins in a lay capacity.