Presbyterians debate Israel divestment (AP) Associated Press) By RACHEL ZOLL 07/05/12 6:08 pm ET)
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The largest Presbyterian group in the United States is considering
divesting from three companies over the Israeli military use of their
products in the Palestinian territories.
The proposal before the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has outraged
many Jewish groups who sent representatives to the church´s national
assembly in Pittsburgh this week to lobby against the measure.
Divestment supporters say the targeted companies — Caterpillar Inc.,
Hewlett-Packard Co. and Motorola — are profiting from Palestinian
suffering. The American Jewish Committee, a public policy group, has
said the proposal demonizes Israel and threatens Christian-Jewish
Debate and vote were scheduled for late Thursday.
Pro-Palestinian Presbyterians have been trying for years to persuade
the denomination to divest. But the church has been dissuaded by U.S.
Jewish groups and other Christians who argue that withdrawing
investments will not contribute to peace in the region. At this
year´s Presbyterian General Assembly, pro-divestment activists
believe momentum is on their side.
Pension funds in Norway and Sweden have divested themselves of
holdings in some firms involved in building in settlements or helping
to erect Israel´s contentious West Bank separation barrier. European
activists have stepped up pressure on companies by exposing their
West Bank ties and picketing stores that sell goods produced in
Last week, the U.S. investment firm MSCI Inc. announced that it had
removed Caterpillar from three of its popular indexes that track
socially responsible investments, citing concerns about the Israeli
military´s use of company bulldozers in the Palestinian territories.
The MSCI decision led mutual fund giant TIAA-CREF to divest $72
million in Caterpillar stock.
Caterpillar has come under scrutiny because of the Israeli military´s
use of armored-plated Caterpillar bulldozers. Caterpillar says it
does not equip tractors with armor or sell directly to the Israeli
military. Instead, equipment is first sold to the U.S. government and
then resold to Israel and outfitted for military use.
Other major American Protestant denominations, including the United
Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church, have rejected past
The exact amount of money involved in the Presbyterian divestment is
unclear. The funds are divided between the church Board of Pensions
and the Presbyterian Foundation. The board investments are estimated
to be around $16 million. However negligible the economic impact, pro-
Palestinian activists consider the withdrawal of funds an act of
The Rev. Walt Davis, of the Israel Palestine Mission Network, a pro-
Palestinian Presbyterian group, argued that the denomination would
have divested years ago from the companies under church´s own
socially responsible investment guidelines "were it not for the
"They said first that it´s anti-Semitic, then that it´s anti-Israel,
then that it delegitimizes Israel. It´s none of those," Davis
said. "It´s us being true to our values."
But the liberal-leaning Americans for Peace Now, which calls for the
evacuation of Jewish settlements in the territories and supports a
Palestinian state, said the Presbyterian effort was "misguided and
"Divestment campaigns such as this therefore raise very real and
understandable worries about global anti-Semitism and the perception
that the campaigns are not truly (or only) about Israeli policies but
rather reflect a deep-seated hatred for and rejection of Israel," the
group said in a statement ahead of the vote. (© 2012 The Associated
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