The following is a joint statement by Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC),International Messianic Jewish Alliance(IMJA) and the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS).
As the major organizations representing the international Messianic Jewish community, we are greatly alarmed that the United Methodist Church (UMC) appears close to adopting a policy of selective divestment concerning Israel. Such a move, being proposed to the UMC General Conference, which begins April 24, 2012 would place the UMC not only in direct opposition to the prophetic purposes of God for Israel, but also in opposition to biblical justice.
The prophet Ezekiel foretells that in latter days God would breathe on the dry bones of Israel, restoring us physically to the land of Israel and spiritually to God (Ezek. 36:24-28; 37:1–14). The historically unprecedented, miraculous and prophetic re-gathering of the Jewish people to our ancient homeland, starting in the nineteenth century, reached a climax in 1948 with the establishment of the modern State of Israel, and the physical process of national restoration continues to this day. Since the pivotal year of 1967, when Jerusalem was reunited under Jewish rule, the number of Messianic Jewish individuals and congregations throughout the world, including Israel, has mushroomed, growing at a rate far greater than any other Jewish religious movement in existence today. The modern re-emergence of the Messianic Jewish community is in the process of fulfilling biblical prophecy (Deut. 30:1–10; Isa. 44:1–5; Jer. 31:7–13; cf. Rom 11:25–29).
The International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA), Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues(IAMCS), and Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) constitute the major organizations representing this community. As Messianic Jews who stand in the place of our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the prophets and apostles, we are deeply disturbed that the UMC is considering an agenda that would actually work against God’s purposes of physical and spiritual restoration for the land and people of Israel and the promotion of peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Our forefathers, Peter, Paul, John and the Biblical prophets of Israel, would be outraged to see people that call themselves followers of the Messiah Jesus advocating a policy that is so far out of sync with God’s purposes and plans. The divestment proposal could even be seen as persecuting and oppressing the tiny, God-restored and democratic state of Israel.
Israel’s claim to legitimacy as a Jewish state rests not only on the words of the Hebrew prophets, but also on broadly accepted standards of human rights and international law. The Jewish people have maintained a presence in the land of Israel throughout history, and have constituted the majority population in Jerusalem since the mid-nineteenth century. The state of Israel was born in response to the homelessness and suffering of the Jewish people in exile, which reached its horrible climax during World War II. Israel has had to fight several wars for its very survival as a state. Israel has made numerous efforts to pursue a plan for peace. Israel’s continued military presence in the West Bank represents a failure of the peace process for which Palestinians as well as Israelis must be held responsible.
The UMC proposal objects to specific Israeli policies, such as “illegal settlements, segregated roads, checkpoints, the separation wall, home demolitions and other realities of occupation,” which in many particulars represent security measures in response to past terror attacks. But the proposal goes beyond specific policies and expressly “calls on the United Methodist Church to end its financial involvement in Israel’s occupation by divesting from companies that sustain the occupation” as a whole (Proposal 21071-FA-Non-Dis, “Aligning UMC Investments with Resolutions on Israel/Palestine,” http://calms.umc.org/2012/Text.aspx?mode=Petition&Number=1071). To demand a unilateral Israeli withdrawal ignores recent history and realities on the ground today. In a sad irony, this pressure on Israel comes at a time when it is suffering continual rocket attacks from the Gaza strip, from which Israel unilaterally withdrew in 2005. Pushing for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria indicates either an ignorance of Israel’s purposes in maintaining a presence there, or a reckless disregard of Israeli lives and security.
Failure to curtail terrorist violence undermines the credibility of the Palestinian Authority as a partner for peace. The PLO, with its axiomatic rejection of any Jewish state, came into existence in 1964, three years before Israel controlled the territories in question. Its legacy has been transferred to the Palestinian Authority, which has historically envisioned a Middle East without the State of Israel. Surely, this systemic hatred must be recognized as a root of conflict and terror. Hope for an end to this tragic conflict requires that Palestinian leadership unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. To ignore this imperative, as the divestment movement does, makes a mockery of its call for justice. Likewise it is unjust to ignore the history of hostility and aggression by Israel’s neighbors, which outnumber the seven million citizens of the Jewish state with a combined population of 350 million within the 22 states of the Arab League. Nearly all of these states have failed to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state or to renounce their desire for its destruction. Efforts to moralize over today’s tragic situation without reference to its historical and political roots cannot produce lasting results.
Selective divestment from companies doing business with Israel promotes a one-sided and highly politicized view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which can only lead to further polarization of all concerned. In addition, it unfairly applies a double standard singling out the democratic and free state of Israel with a potent and rarely used form of protest, while ignoring the horrific humanrights violations in the Palestinian Authority and the countries surrounding Israel.
As Jewish followers of Yeshua (Jesus), we appreciate the attempts of Christian denominations since the Holocaust to promote understanding and good will. Divestment from Israel, however, only serves to diminish the possibility of genuine negotiations for peace, encourage violence and extremism, and undermine the relationship between the church and the Jewish community. Divestment efforts insert partisanship into an enterprise best governed by this word from Moses, “You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15). Most of all, the UMC divestment initiative ignores the words of Scripture that foretell a Jewish return to the land of Israel after centuries of exile: “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezek. 36:24; see also Jer. 16:14–15, 33:10–14, etc.).
The United Methodist Church places a premium on justice, but ironically threatens to perpetrate an injustice. A decision to divest resources from Israel will do more to hurt the UMC than Israel. Therefore, we call upon the United Methodist Church to heed the words of the Jewish prophets and the standards of justice established in Scripture, and to reject the use of divestment as a weapon against Israel.
Instead, we call on the UMC to pray for and support the people of Israel in their struggle against those that would seek to destroy the Jewish state and oppose God’s purposes as revealed in Scripture.
John Fischer, President Joel Liberman, Executive Director International Messianic Jewish Alliancehttp://www.imja.org
Paul Liberman, President Joel Chernoff, General Secretary Messianic Jewish Alliance of Americahttp://www.mjaa.org
Jeff Forman, Chairman International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues
Howard Silverman, President Russell Resnik, Executive Director Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations http://www.umjc.org
Contact: Joel Chernoff, firstname.lastname@example.org, 610-304-2237
Russ Resnik, email@example.com, 505-440-2265