Presbyterian Church in U.S. rejects divestment of global companies in Israel (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Natasha Mozgovaya 07/06/12)
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Deeply divided General Assembly votes down proposal that sought to
divest three major companies that ´profit from Israel´s occupation of
the Palestinian territories.´
The largest Presbyterian group in the United States narrowly defeated
a proposal to divest from three companies that do business with
Israel. After an hours-long debate that took place late Thursday, the
Presbyterian General Assembly voted 333-331, with two abstentions, to
reject the divestment plan..
The debate was long and nerve-racking, as those attending the debate
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania were deeply divided on the matter.
Divestment supporters said the targeted companies - Caterpillar Inc.,
Hewlett-Packard Co. and Motorola - were profiting from Palestinian
suffering. The American Jewish Committee, a public policy group, said
the proposal demonizes Israel and threatens Christian-Jewish
In an announcement, one student said the reasoning behind the
divestment proposal was not a motion against Israel or the Jews, but
rather against investment in "non-peaceful products." "Many of us
can´t sleep at night knowing our pension money comes from this
oppression," he said.
A Palestinian told the assembly that his house "was demolished in
1968 by a CAT bulldozer," adding that "occupation is the worst form
A Caterpillar employee from Illinois complained that commissioners
were only being presented one side of the story. "I´ve been an
employee of Caterpillar for 37 years. You are being shown the very
narrow side of CAT. CAT is the first responder around the world," he
said, noting the company´s work at the Twin Towers after the
September 11 attacks. "I am proud to wear this Caterpillar shirt, no
matter what happens at this GA."
Another commissioner said she feared the motion was "missing the
target." "Different companies in Israel militarize the bulldozers.
Caterpillar can´t stop building at the West Bank", she said.
There were also those who expressed concern that a vote in favor of
divestment would only "alienate our Jewish friends." Matthew Miller
from Iowa said, "I believe an unintended consequence of the
divestment will alienate our interfaith Jewish partners in this
country. Taking one side over another will privilege Palestinian
suffering, not Israelis that are terrorized by their neighbors that
seek to eliminate them. This course of action will not have its
intended effect; it will achieve nothing but alienation." His comment
stirred angry responses that the Presbyterian community has
been "doing what Rabbis told us to do" for years, and the "number of
settlers is over 500,000 today," adding that it would be a shame "to
be bullied out" of the divestment and to "ignore the suffering of our
Some harsh words were thrown around the room. "Investment will never
relieve our conscience from ethnic cleansing and apartheid," said one
debater. "There is plenty of investment in Israel – billions of
dollars are invested in illegal colonies, a separation wall. We have
had enough with investments that bring hatred."
The Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) expressed its disappointment with the decision, as they did
after a similar initiative failed to pass the Methodist Church vote
earlier this year.
“It appears that church commissioners were swayed by a fear that
divestment would cause irreparable harm to Jewish-Christian
relations,” said Rev. Katherine Cunningham, IPMN Vice-Moderator. “In
reality, the divestment motion was supported by a broad alliance of
Jews, Christians and others who believe that nonviolent means such as
divestment are an effective way to pressure the Israeli government
into abiding by international law and respecting Palestinian human
In a subsequent vote of 369-290 the assembly decided to support a
minority report that called for a positive course of action with
respect to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and proposed to invest in
companies that promote peace.
Pro-Palestinian Presbyterians have been trying for years to persuade
the denomination to divest. The church, however, has been dissuaded
by U.S. Jewish groups and other Christians who argue that withdrawing
investments will not contribute to peace in the region.
Pension funds in Norway and Sweden have divested themselves of
holdings in some firms involved in building settlements or helping to
erect the 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 Israeli settlements.
While Thursday´s vote may have resulted in the General Assembly
voting down the divestment, members vowed to reignite the debate next
year, saying that if progress is not made between Israel and the
Palestinians, the result of the next vote might be very different. (©
Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 07/06/12)
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