Israeli Lawyer Blasts Hypocrisy in Presbyterian Divestment

Sunday, July 06, 2014 |  Yossi Aloni

The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) voted last month to divest from companies that supply equipment to Israel. The decision means pulling church investments in Caterpillar, Motorola and HP to the tune of $21 million.

But, as it turns out, this very same church and its related organizations receives benefits and tax breaks from Israel totaling millions of dollars, and presumably would be none too pleased to lose those perks.

Israeli human rights lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, founder of Shurat HaDin Israeli Law Center, demanded that Interior Minister Gideon Saar immediately cancel all benefits enjoyed by the PCUSA in Israel.

“The church’s decision was made under the influence of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, despite its claims to the contrary,” insisted Darshan-Leitner. “An entity that adopts such policies is a political body,” and as such cannot enjoy the tax-free benefits afforded to religious institutions.

An examination of the case revealed that in Israel the PCUSA enjoys tax exemption on property and buildings owned by the church and on imported “religious articles.” It also is able to obtain clergy visas and entry permits for employees and invited guests, and to open non-profit bank accounts.

Darshan-Leitner said these benefits must be cancelled forthwith, and Israel must cease providing to the PCUSA all assistance that it would normally provide to a legitimate religious institution.

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