blog-BDS-WISSAM-NASSAR-MaanImages.jpg

(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

Divestment vote fails, but Presbyterian Church (USA) resolves to boycott Israeli settlement products

Following the ultimate failure — by two votes — of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s measure to divest from three major US companies profiting from Israel’s occupation in the General Assembly vote on Thursday evening, the Church overwhelmingly passed a separate resolution this morning calling for the boycott of products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The Church’s assembly also voted to accept a recommendation by the Board of Pensions to create a “choice of consciousness” option for pension holders “troubled by investments in Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard, to be voted on at the next General Assembly in 2014,” according to a statement sent out hours ago by Jewish Voice for Peace, one of the groups at the forefront of the divestment movement.

Mondoweiss has been doing an excellent job at compiling the details of each recent resolution and vote outcome, including Twitter updates. You can read more here.

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) stated on Friday morning:

Following last night’s vote by the plenary of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on a motion to divest from three companies whose products are used in non-peaceful pursuits in the occupied Palestinian territories, the plenary has voted in favor of a separate resolution to boycott products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including Ahava Dead Sea beauty products and dates grown by Israeli cooperative Hadiklaim.

Although the plenary failed to pass the divestment motion, its approval of the boycott resolution sends a strong signal nonetheless that the Presbyterian Church (USA) supports those Palestinians who are using peaceful means to secure their freedom and human rights in the face of Israel’s 45-year-old military occupation and colonization of their lands. The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) believes this is a positive step and hopes the church will continue to support Palestinians who are struggling nonviolently to achieve freedom and self-determination.

The razor thin margin of last night’s vote on divestment, which was defeated by just two votes, demonstrates that the General Assembly remains divided on both divestment and investment, and has failed to provide a clear mandate on these issues. Sadly, it is the millions of Palestinians living under occupation who will pay the price for this lack of a moral directive.

Along similar lines, Jewish Voice for Peace’s press release states, in full:

Jewish Voice for Peace is heartened by the strong show of opposition to the Israeli Occupation by the Presbyterian Church (USA). This morning, the General Assembly passed a resolution to boycott settlement goods with 71% of the vote, while last evening divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli Occupation was defeated by a razor thin margin of two votes.

This afternoon, the assembly voted to accept a recommendation by the Board of Pensions to create a “choice of conscience” option for Pension holders troubled by investments in Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett Packard, to be voted on at the next General Assembly in 2014, signaling a deep crisis of conscience within the church regarding their investments in companies that profit from the Israeli occupation.

Sydney Levy, Jewish Voice for Peace Director of Advocacy said, “I congratulate the Presbyterian Church (USA) for their decision today to boycott all goods made in Israeli settlements, just as the United Methodist Church did last month. This vote signifies the mainstreaming of boycott as a way to oppose illegal Israeli settlements, and the Israeli occupation overall. Clearly, the movement for justice for Israelis and Palestinians is growing.”

JVP is very proud to have been part of the broad coalition supporting Presbyterian efforts to boycott settlement products and divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation since 2004. We are especially proud of the members of our youth branch — Young, Jewish, and Proud (YJP) — and of our Rabbinical Council who were in Pittsburgh this year at the General Assembly meeting in support of the resolutions.

Despite being overwhelmingly out-resourced by large Jewish institutions with ties to the Israel lobby, our members succeeded in galvanizing a nearly identical amount of support for divestment as the opposition, and overwhelming support for boycott. This accomplishment is despite heavy-handed fear-mongering by the Jewish establishment that included threatening the future of interfaith cooperation and raising the specter of anti-semitism.

The truth is, growing numbers of Jewish groups and individual Jews of conscience support some form of boycott and/or divestment as a strategic tactic to pressure Israel to end the human rights abuses of the 45-year-old occupation of Palestinian people and land. This support is at least in part a response to over 20 years of U.S.-brokered negotiations that have not simply failed, but worse, have entrenched the Occupation by keeping pressure off of Israel while it has continued to massively expand illegal settlements and evict Palestinians from their homes.

Rabbi Alissa Wise, Jewish Voice for Peace Director of Campaigns, who was at the committee vote on divestment and boycott said: “I was moved to tears in Pittsburgh, as I saw deep recognition of Palestinian experience and deep commitment to justice for all people by the Presbyterian Church (USA). This was a historic moment in the struggle for dignity and justice, and I commend the Church for passing the boycott resolution and for getting this close to holding corporations accountable for profiting from the occupation.”

A near majority of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has shown the courage of true friendship, which sometimes requires facing difficult truths, and for that we are deeply grateful. We know that decades of working closely with Jewish communities in the U.S., engagement with Israel, and an ongoing commitment to understanding the Christian role in historical anti-Semitism, will continue and deepen. Jewish Voice for Peace members in communities across the United States certainly look forward to deepening those relationships, grounded in our joint understanding that Israel’s ongoing occupation makes a peaceful future for both Jews and Palestinians impossible.

Jewish Voice for Peace believes that this very close divestment vote and the successful boycott vote, along with several other recent watershed victories, makes clear that Israel can no longer count on being singled out for special treatment. Depending on major institutions to selectively ignore Israel’s human rights record year after year is no longer a viable strategy.

These recent watershed victories are:

  • Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), a leading US investment firm, removed Caterpillar, Inc. from its socially responsible investment indexes, saying Caterpillar’s role in Israeli human rights violations were one of the “key factors” in the decision.
  • Shortly thereafter, retirement giant TIAA-CREF dropped $72 million in Caterpillar, Inc stock from their socially responsible funds.
  • Friends Fiduciary Corporation, which handles investments for over 250 Quaker meetings, schools, organizations, trusts, and endowments around the US, divested from Caterpillar.
  • The United Methodist Church resolved to boycott “products made by Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories.” The church called on all nations “to prohibit any financial support by individuals or organizations for the construction and maintenance of settlements and the import of products made [in settlements.]”

The power behind the idea that Palestinians deserve full civil and democratic rights, just as Jewish Israelis do, grows exponentially each day.

New pro-divestment resolutions are already being proposed for the next Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in Detroit in 2014. We look forward to standing beside our Presbyterian friends as they take additional steps toward a just peace based on security, freedom and equal rights for all the people of Israel and Palestine.

Comments

At the end of the day the return on the 'profits' from Caterpillar, HP and Motorola were more important.

And where does the money come from that buys the shares? The poor fools are being conned out of their money so some rich guys can get richer at the expense of the weak, poor and dispossessed. Modern Christianity in one sentence.

The crucifixion - an absolute commitment to the truth and justice. Administration has so taken over the Christian message that compromise of the Presbyterian Church Assembly in such obvious injustices and a softening in fear of the onslaught of responses have taken away Good Friday. You have chosen to keep everyone in the pews. We read where many could not accept the message and left him. A few grains of incense allow all to continue another day.