LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Presbyterian Church (USA) has stepped up security at its headquarters and advised its churches to be on alert after receiving a letter threatening arson attacks on its churches because of its policies in the Middle East.
The handwritten letter was received Wednesday at the church's Louisville headquarters, Jerry L. Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian news service, said Saturday. It had no return address, but it was postmarked from Queens, NY, Van Marter said. [I'll give you one guess about who's behind this...]
The letter threatened to set churches on fire while people were inside in retaliation for "anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes," Van Marter said.
Van Marter said the church has received thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls since the church's General Assembly decided in June to begin the process of selective divestment from corporations supporting the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
Although many letters have been angry, Van Marter said this was the first to threaten violence. Twice, the letter gave a Nov. 15 deadline for the church to reverse its Middle East policies, Van Marter said.
RICHMOND, July 2 - The 216th General Assembly approved several measures opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine Friday, including a call for the corporate witness office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to begin gathering data to support a selective divestment of holdings in multinational corporations doing business in Israel/Palestine. Divestment is one of the strategies that U.S. churches used in the 1970s and '80s in a successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.
When a handful of commissioners expressed reservations about the action, the Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor from Bethlehem, an ecumenical guest at the Assembly, said divestment is important because it is a way for the churches to take direct action. For too long, he said, the churches have simply issued statements - and that is not enough.
"We have to send strong messages to such companies," Raheb said, referring specifically to Caterpillar Inc, the American builder of the armored tractors and bulldozers the Israeli army uses to demolish Palestinian homes.
With friends like these...
From the American Jewish Congress...
July 2, 2004
The American Jewish Congress today announced its support for Caterpillar, Inc. for its strong stand against the attempt by the Arab Office for the Boycott of Israel to intimidate the American company to stop selling bulldozers to the Israeli military.
"We applaud the management and shareholders of Caterpillar for their rejection of a proposal to stop doing business with Israel and commend the company on its resolute stance," said AJCongress President Paul Miller. "The threats leveled against Caterpillar raise the specter of an illegal boycott. Moreover, they are based on unfounded conclusions about international law."
According to the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC), the shareholder resolution in Caterpillar on its sale of bulldozers to the Israeli military is the first of its kind.
This is the first time in US history that shareholders in a US company have filed a resolution to examine their company's relationship with violating human rights in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
- The shareholder resolution on Israel-Palestine in the Caterpillar Corporation calls on Caterpillar, Inc. to investigate whether the sale of bulldozers to the Israeli Defense Forces meets the terms of the Caterpillar Code of Worldwide Business Conduct.
The resolution does not call on Caterpillar to stop its sale of bulldozers to the Israeli military but to investigate their use by the Israeli military.
was run over and killed by a Caterpiller armored bulldozer on March 16, 2003.
According to Haaretz:
"The killing of an American woman peace protester Sunday by an IDF bulldozer, which ran her over during the demolition of a house at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, was a "regrettable accident," a spokesman for the the IDF said.
Rachel Corey, 23, from Olympia, Washington, was killed when she ran in front of the bulldozer to try to prevent it from destroying a house, doctors in Gaza said. Another activist was wounded in the incident.
Corey was killed in the al-Salam neighbourhood when an Israeli bulldozer covered her with sand as she stood in front of a bulldozer," said Dr Ali Musa, a doctor from the al-Najar hospital in the southern Gaza Strip. He said she died from skull and chest fractures."
The contention by Haaretz that she "ran in front" of a IDF bulldozer is hotly disputed by numerous eyewitnesses however.
According to Tom Dale "We'd been monitoring and occasionally obstructing the 2 bulldozers for about 2 hours when 1 of them turned toward a house we knew to be theatened with demolition.
Rachel knelt down in its way. She was 10-20 metres in front of the bulldozer, clearly visible, the only object for many metres, directly in it's view. They were in Radio contact with a tank that had a profile view of the situation. There is no way she could not have been seen by them in their elevated cabin. They knew where she was, there is no doubt.
Greg Schnabel, 28, from Chicago, said the protesters were in the house of Dr. Samir Masri.
Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop," he said. "She waved for bulldozer to stop and waved.
She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. We yelled 'stop, stop,' and the bulldozer didn't stop at all. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her."
Since the start of the Intifada, groups of international protesters have gathered in several locations in territories, setting themselves up as "human shields" to try to stop IDF operations.
Corey was the first member of the groups, called "International Solidarity Movement," to be killed in the conflict. Schnabel said Corey was a student at Evergreen College and was to graduate this year.
The "divest from Israel campaign" says:
Concerned citizens and governments all over the world must organize a comprehensive campaign of economic disinvestment and divestment from Israel along the same lines of what they did to the former criminal apartheid regime in South Africa.
This original worldwide...campaign played a critical role in dismantling the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa. For much the same reasons, a worldwide disinvestment/divestment campaign against Israel will play a critical role in dismantling its criminal apartheid regime against the Palestinian people living in occupied Palestine as well as in Israelitself."
Francis Boyle, Professor International Law, University of Illinois describing Israel's treatment of Palestinians as like white apartheid in South Africa, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu who won the Nobel Prize by inspiring a non-violent uprising that led to the dismantling of the racist white regime in South Africa urged a similar movement in the US. "We are free today in South Africa because people like yourselves," he told a group of demonstrators in Boston.