Guest contribution by Ghassan Rafeedie
Divestment of funds from companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine was brought to a vote recently at the Presbyterian Church’s biennial General Assembly. Rather than divesting from the occupation, the Presbyterian Church decided to invoke the concept of “positive investment.” In many ways, positive investing is Wall Street profiteering for liberals who need to sleep well at night. It certainly isn’t going to solve any political crises, or give Palestinians equal rights. But, it sounds nice and that makes it an excellent political tool. Positive investment! What’s wrong with being positive?
With positive investing, the church intends to invest in projects that can help the Palestinians. Of course, the only way this makes any sense is when you deal with the vague language of being “positive” and ignore what Palestinians tell you they want help with. The definition of positive can essentially become whatever the investor wants it to be, as long as you ignore the definition given by the people you’re supposed to be helping. No investment is going to tear down the apartheid wall. No investment is going to eliminate administrative detention. No investment is going to allow Palestinians the right to return to their homeland.
In this instance, positive investing can do virtually nothing beyond making Palestinians well-fed prisoners in a foreign military occupation. The perfect example of this is the KFC/Pizza Hut that has been built in Ramallah. If we haven’t made it clear enough to world, allow me to inform you: We don’t care about being well-fed, we care about being free. The fact that the wonders of profit are being invoked to “help” people who are demanding that the world eliminate profit from the occupation speaks volumes about Western liberalism and its desire to prioritize money over people.
I’m even willing to give those who voted against divestment and for positive investment the benefit of the doubt and say that they’re truly trying to help Palestinians develop their economy. However, the best way to help Palestinians is to eliminate the obstructions created by the Israeli occupation that limit Palestinian economic development in the first place. What “positive investment” are you going to make in Gaza? The church here seems guilty of making the West Bank the whole of the Palestinian struggle. Even with pure intentions, how would one even get “investments” into Gaza through the crippling Israeli siege? The fact of the matter is that Palestine needs the ability to export goods created, not another foreign company to come in and try to take away what little profit there is to be made already.
Now, this isn’t to say that all of the members of the Presbyterian Church support an anti-Palestinian agenda. The vote was very close: 333 voted to consider positive investment, 331 voted for divesment, and two abstained. But the facts are the facts. The Presbyterian Church has now become complicit in the occupation of Palestine.
Ghassan Rafeedie is a graduate assistant who focuses on cultural anthropology at Kent State University.