We, the undersigned members of the interfaith community are extremely troubled by the national BDS conference (Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel) that will be held in Philadelphia, this February, at the University of Pennsylvania. We believe that this conference brings together academics and professional activists who are pursuing an agenda that does not advance the goals of peace, even though some participants may sincerely believe it does.
The BDS movement does not seriously engage Israeli perspectives. It does not explicitly support the internationally recognized goal of two states, Israeli and Palestinian, living side by side in peace and security — and therein rests an implicit rejection of the right of self-determination of the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland. Without a clear recognition of both Palestinian and Israeli narratives, there can be no real progress toward stability in the region.
We, the undersigned, reject the BDS movement's rhetoric that:
- Singles out Israel for international sanction, while virtually ignoring, for example, the abuses of neighboring states like Syria, which is currently brutally attacking its own citizens looking to exercise democratic rights.
- Holds Israel to standards not demanded of others, for example, by failing to criticize Hamas and Hezbollah for firing rockets at Israel's general population on a regular basis.
- Stresses the rights, not responsibilities, of the Palestinians and the responsibilities, not rights, of the people of Israel, for example by failing to acknowledge that the Palestinian leadership shares in the responsibility for the failure of past negotiations.
- Uses the language of South African apartheid to characterize the radically dissimilar Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Apartheid was based on a racist ideology that considered others to be genetically inferior, while Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and legally guarantees rights and protections for minorities.
We appreciate that the University of Pennsylvania has the responsibility to thoroughly explore different perspectives and multiple dimensions of intractable controversies. We also appreciate University President Amy Gutmann's statement that the University does not support sanctions or boycotts against Israel. However, we also believe that the single-focused approach of this BDS conference lacks academic integrity.
We, the undersigned join with our many community partners who work with us daily in honest pursuit of peace who believe that authentic dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires:
- The recognition of the rights, aspirations and obligations of both peoples to two sovereign states.
- An appreciation of the internal and external challenges that both Palestinians and Israelis face.
- Open dialogue about the actions or policies of all parties to the conflict.
- Recognition that peace will come only when both Palestinians and Israelis can come to agreement between themselves.
We will continue to support and work with all who seek true dialogue, genuine understanding, and peace and justice for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
The Rt. Reverend Charles E. Bennison, Jr.
Rev. William Borror
Sr. Pastor, Media Presbyterian Church
Rev. David W. Brown
Rev. David A. Canan
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church
Dr. Philip Cunningham
Institute for Jewish Catholic Relations,
Saint Joseph's University
Rev. Cynthia Jarvis
Minister and Head of Staff,
Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill
Rev. Ronald G. Lutz
Rector, Retired Pastor, Ambler Church of the Brethren
William Madges, Ph.D.
Rev. Dr. Nancy Muth
Minister, First Presbyterian Church in Germantown
Rev. James Pollard
Pastor, Zion Baptist Church of Ardmore
Rev. Dr. William T. Reinhold
Associate Executive Presbyter for Mission Partnerships and Urban Ministry,
Presbytery of Philadelphia, PC (USA)
Rev. Dr. Lucille K. Rupe
Interim Executive Presbyter,
Presbytery of Philadelphia
The Very Rev. Judith Sullivan
Dr. Victoria Yancey
Positions listed are for identification purposes only and do not necessarily indicate organizational endorsement.