This is the first of a three-post series from Jewish Voice for Peace volunteer youth activist members on the ground at the United Methodist general conference leading up to the divestment vote. The first post is from Ariel Vegosen. -ed.
As a young Jewish person the words “Tampa, Florida” immediately make me think of bubbes and zadies, clear water, manatees, and a lack of good bagels. This week Tampa is taking on a whole new meaning for me as I join United Methodists at their General Conference in Tampa. You might be wondering what’s a nice Jewish girl like me doing at the United Methodist General Conference?
For many years United Methodist resolutions have called for an end to the Israeli occupation and a sharing of the city of Jerusalem, which along with being a holy city to Jews, is also a holy city to Christians and Muslims. Despite these resolutions, the United Methodist boards and agencies hold stock in companies sustaining the occupation including Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard. At the 2012 10-day conference in Tampa the United Methodists are voting on a resolution that would divest the church from these companies. I am here as a Jewish ally to support divestment and to support my Methodist brothers and sisters as they make this important and historic decision.
I was raised in a household committed to social justice and Tikkun Olam.(and great New York bagels). I believe in the Jewish value and Torah commandment “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” (Deuteronomy 16:20) As a Jew, I cannot stand by silently while the Israeli military bulldozes Palestinian homes, harasses and harms Palestinians at checkpoints, and creates a system of segregation and oppression. The Torah teaches me to speak out, to be nonviolent, and to stand up when I see injustice. I am obligated by my faith and proud to stand in solidarity with all those working to end oppression and to end the occupation of Palestine.
Divestment is a nonviolent moral action to change unjust practices. If the United Methodist Church passes divestment it will be the moment that their words become action. I hope to see this community and many other faith-based communities, including my own, divest from companies that are profiting from the occupation. Both Judaism and Christianity teach that we are not allowed to profit from our neighbor’s blood. Caterpillar, Motorola, and HP are providing Israel with products such as unmanned, weaponized bulldozers, surveillance systems for Israeli military bases, and electronic data systems which provide biometric monitoring at checkpoints in the West Bank. These products are specifically designed for the continuation of the oppression of Palestinians and to maintain segregation between Jewish and Palestinian communities. Why should anyone get to profit off another people’s suffering?
Divestment from the Israeli occupation is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Jewish. In fact nonviolent resistance to oppression is a Jewish value. As Jews, many of us carry a lot of fear from all the oppression we have faced and often Jews and Christians do not work together because of past hurts. I think the time is now to transform this fear into love and action. I am very thankful and honored to be working with United Methodists for social change and an end to the injustices happening to Palestinian people right now. I look forward to the United Methodists divesting from injustice and I hope this act serves as a beacon of light to other communities to follow. I also am excited to continue the bonds that are being formed between my Jewish community and the United Methodist community. I look forward to more inter-faith work as we pursue justice and love.
Ariel Vegosen is a professional dialogue facilitator, Jewish educator, and inter-faith community organizer. She is a member of Young Jewish and Proud – the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace. She works with the Community of Living Traditions – a Jewish, Christian, and Muslim community committed to nonviolence – and serves on the board of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Ariel has spent time working in Israel and Palestine and is proud to be Jewish and against the occupation of Palestine. She has lead programs for Jewish Funds for Justice, the Teva Learning Center, Hillel, American Jewish World Service, and has spoken at synagogues throughout the country.