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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/8/12

Pro-Divestment Presbyterians Win By Losing

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Cross-posted from Wallwritings

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Do you really want to know what happened at the just-concluded 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian U.S.A. denomination?

As a veteran watcher of Protestant church political struggles, I urge you to remember that neither the cross nor the crown are free of an eagerness to grasp deliberate obfuscation in struggling to win each political battle.

The winner of the obfuscation battle in Pittsburgh was, hands down, the anti-divestment crowd. The pro-divestment crowd, on the other hand, won by losing a key vote in the Assembly.

The presumed "winners," the anti-divestment forces, operated with a strategy that set up a "stalking horse" to enter the field of battle.

Faced with the huge problem of how to persuade delegates to vote against basic human rights for Palestinians living under occupation, the anti-diivesment forces created a "stalking horse" of "investments that will benefit Palestinians."

Seriously, that is what they put forward. Bring American money into the prisons that are the West Bank and Gaza. This will make life a little easier for the prisoners, extra deserts for lunch, you know, that sort of thing.

So it was that the battle was joined; investment, a positive sounding action for those who worship the market, versus divestment, a negative sounding word because it is a non-violent action that goes to the heart of the sin of occupation.

The anti-divestment leaders at Pittsburgh had to avoid letting three U.S. corporations -- Caterpillar, Motorola Systems and Hewlett-Packard -- become targets of church censure through church divestment.

The church leaders who have great respect for corporate America are motivated in part, by the wisdom of Willie Sutton, who once said, "I rob banks because that's where the money is."

Maintaining harmony with local rabbis is one of those motherhood and apple pie certainties.

The violation of the human rights of an entire population, versus harmony with one's neighbors, is not a case you want to have to make. Turns out, however, a factor working for the pro-harmony forces at Pittsburgh was the mindset of American voters, religious and secular.

Harmony promoters had a huge advantage. They were dealing with voters who are conditioned to believe what they see in the movies. What the American movie-going public has seen of Arabs since the movies were born, is a steady stream of anti-Arab propaganda, from the mysterious wealthy sheiks to the more recent linking of "terrorists" with Muslims.

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Jack Shaheen (pictured here) has documented this phenomenon is a remarkable series of books, the best known of which is his marvelously titled, Reel Bad Arabs.

Shaheen's influence extends beyond his lectures and books. He was a consultant on two Hollywood films which broke from the anti-Arab pattern which Shaheen has documented in most Hollywood fare.

Check out two of the films on which Shaheen consulted, Syriana and Three Kings,  both of which show Arabs as fully human.

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James Wall served as a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois, from 1999 through 2017. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced (more...)

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