SWC To Presbyterian Church: "Give Mideast Peace A Chance-Drop Divestment Plan"

February 16, 2005

WIESENTHAL CENTER TO PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH:  "GIVE MIDEAST PEACE A CHANCE - DROP DIVESTMENT PLAN"

Against the backdrop of major positive developments in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, the Simon Wiesenthal Center today urged the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) to suspend its proposed plan to divest from American companies doing business with Israel.

In a letter to Reverend Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Church's General Assembly, officials of the leading Jewish human rights group said in part: "We write to you as Israel has committed to dismantle all of its settlements in Gaza; when it has released 500 Palestinian prisoners detained for their activities related to the terrorist-marred Intifada; when the Israeli Prime Minister, the Palestinian Authority President meet under the sponsorship of Egypt to hasten the road to a two-state peaceful solution…. . With these new and positive facts on the ground we call upon the PCUSA to add its voice of encouragement by suspending its plans for selective divestment against those who do business with the Jewish State."

The letter went on to note the deep crisis the divestment plan has created in relations with Jewish community and the divisiveness it has created within the Church it has generated. Indeed, a recent poll showed that only 25% of Presbyterians backed the controversial move. The plea, signed by Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of  the Center and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein  of the Center's Project Next Step went on to say: "PCUSA is on record as favoring divestment not as a means of punishing Israel, but of pushing her to the negotiating table.  Now that Israel has not only sat down at that table on her own, but made moves that have led Palestinian Authority President to declare that the war with Israel is effectively over, pursuit of the divestment policy at this time could only be viewed as counterproductive and mean spirited and unmistakably one-sided."

We urge you to seize this moment of unprecedented promise for peace in the Middle East to further the forces of peace abroad and the restoration of calm closer to home.  By shelving its divestment plans, PCUSA' will create a peace dividend on both sides of the Atlantic."

 The Wiesenthal Center is one of the Jewish organizations that has been at the forefront in resolving this controversial issue. For the last several months, it has worked with speaking with leaders within the Presbyterian community -ministers and lay leaders-who have opposed this issue from the outset.

 For more information, please contact the Center's Public Relations Department, 310-553-9036, or visit www.wiesenthal.com.