The National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel (NCLCI) is a coalition of Protestants, Catholics and other Christians who are pastors, priests, professors, writers, broadcasters and community leaders. The coalition exists to encourage and develop understanding and support for the people, land and state of Israel in the North American Christian community.
We, Executive Committee members of the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel, express our profound disagreement with recent national and international Protestant Church resolutions that call for selected divestment from certain companies doing business in Israel. These statements treat Israel as the major barrier to peace while ignoring the significant risks for peace that Israel is taking in withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. They also do not address the substantial support for terrorism provided by Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and radical elements in the Palestinian society. This approach demonstrates a double standard that is unfair and inimical to Israel and the Jewish people.
Since Vatican II, mainline Protestant denominations have issued documents that acknowledge and repent of theologies that denied God's ongoing covenant with the Jewish people and fostered antisemitism. Following the official adoption of these statements by the appropriate church bodies, Christians and Jews engaged in years of constructive dialogue that profoundly altered the Christian-Jewish relationship – from antagonism to one of growing understanding and respect.
Recent myopic actions taken by several of these denominations include endorsing the idea of selected divestment from certain companies doing business in Israel, condemning the security fence between Israel and the Palestinian territories, and condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people, with minimal reference to the reality of terrorism. These actions threaten to undermine authentic dialogue and mutual Christian-Jewish understanding. If implemented, these resolutions pose a real threat to the security and integrity of Israel and Jewish peoplehood.
Recent resolutions on divestment, Israel’s security fence, and other Israel-related issues are often out of touch with the realities that we have seen for ourselves in the land. Apparently only one side of the debate is being heard:
- The misleading references to a “wall” being built by Israel ignore the reality that 95% of the barrier is a high-tech chain-link type fence. Only where the barrier runs through populated areas and along major highways is there a concrete wall (about 5% of the total length of the barrier).
- The misleading insinuation that the security fence is meant to surround and isolate the Palestinians ignores the reality that the only purpose of a security barrier is to keep terrorists out of Israel and protect the lives of everyone in Israel – Jews, Christians, Muslims and all others. Statistics indicate that the security barrier does exactly that: Where a continuous fence has been constructed, the number of terrorist attacks has decreased by more than 90 percent, the number of murdered Israelis has dropped more than 70 percent and the number of Israelis wounded, more than 85 percent.
- Neglecting to mention that a serious divestment program will devastate Palestinians ignores the fact that the Israeli and Palestinian economies are closely intertwined. In the late 1990s, due to the relatively easy movement of Israeli goods to the Palestinian territories and Palestinian labor to Israel, the territories enjoyed positive economic growth and unemployment fell from about 26 percent to 12 percent. It is one of the tragedies of recent history that this brief period of peace did not last because increased terrorism demanded tighter border control. A declining Israeli economy, should divestment succeed, would significantly hinder the ability of Israel to maintain the cross-border traffic that still exists and would further decimate the struggling Palestinian economy. Christian churches should be exploring constructive investment in Israel and Palestine, not divestment.
The Israeli-Palestinian dilemma is complex. The church must carefully listen to both sides and critically examine the validity of the claims made on each side. For that reason we call on all Christians to repudiate the calls for divestment and return, in a spirit of humility, to an honest and open dialogue with Jews. That dialogue should include the issue of land, security and ways in which together we can help fashion meaningful avenues for peace.