Dovish pro-Israel lobby J Street joined a growing chorus of voices Monday castigating the decision of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three companies that provide supplies to Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank.
In a statement released Monday, the group said the move by the Presbyterians would not be helpful in the cause of peace.
“J Street does not believe that boycotts or divestment will bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to a two-state solution to their conflict, nor are they, for us, appropriate tools in pushing toward resolution of the conflict,” the left-wing organization said in a statement. “We do not support the decision of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three North American companies doing business in the Palestinian territory.”
On Friday, a group of church elders and ministers voted 310-303 to pull financial investments from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions — a total of about $21 million, according to reports.
The move drew widespread condemnation from Jewish and Israeli groups. on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the “disgraceful” decision by the US Presbyterian Church.
J Street, known for often opposing official Israeli policies, welcomed the church’s decision to distance itself from the controversial “Zionism: Unsettled” study guide, created by the Israel Palestine Mission Network, a PC(USA) working group established in 2011 to explore the history and doctrine of Zionism.
The organization also called on the church to remove the book from its website at once.
J Street rejected the idea that the vote was a victory for the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, calling it an “explicit repudiation.”
In a statement ahead of the vote, Presbyterian Church USA had said it was considering divestment in Caterpillar because the company provides bulldozers “used in the destruction of Palestinian homes” to make way for Israeli settlements.
Hewlett-Packard, it said, “provides electronic systems at checkpoints, logistics and communications systems to support the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, and has business relationships with illegal settlements in the West Bank.”
And Motorola Solutions “provides military communications and surveillance systems in the illegal Israeli settlements.”
The 1.8 million-member church became the most prominent religious group in the US to endorse divestment in a sign of protest against Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. It rejected a similar proposal two years ago.
The three companies said they regretted the Presbyterian move and reaffirmed their belief in human rights and a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Presbyterians who advocated for divestment insisted their action was not part of a broader movement known as BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
AP and AFP contributed to this report.