Highly contested Methodist divestment initiative fails, but supporters see partial victory

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church today failed to pass a measure to divest from companies profiting from Israeli occupation and human rights abuses of Palestinians.

United Methodist Kairos Response, the group pushing for divestment, issued this statement shortly after the highly contested and watched vote:

United Methodist Church Fails to Align its Words with its Actions

Today, United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR) did not get the decision that we had hoped for, as the General Conference plenary voted against a motion calling for divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, companies that profit from Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and denial of Palestinian freedom. The conference faced a choice between standing with the oppressed as Jesus did, or yielding to fear. It appears that they yielded to fear as a result of misinformation spread about the consequences of supporting divestment.

However, we have achieved a great victory nonetheless. We have succeeded in raising awareness amongst the general public and in our churches about the suffering of Palestinians, including Palestinian Christians, living under Israel’s nearly 45-year-old military occupation, and the colonization of their lands. The brutal reality of the Israeli occupation can no longer be hidden, and the myth that Christians are leaving the Holy Land because of Muslim pressure has been exposed as false. Palestinian Christians who traveled 6,000 miles to share their reality told delegates that they suffer alongside their Muslim neighbors from Israel’s occupation.

Though the Pension Board has chosen to keep church funds in companies that profit from the occupation, a number of annual (regional) conferences within the church have already divested. Individual United Methodists will also do so. Friends Fiduciary, the large Quaker financial services corporation, voted last month to divest from Caterpillar. Other churches will soon follow the Quakers.

This issue has brought together conservative, moderate and liberal leaders in our own denomination, as well as others, who support justice and human rights for all, and we believe our shared experience in advocating for this issue will result in closer working relationships on other issues as well. The quest for justice unites people in ways that go far beyond theology, ethnicity, or politics. Deep and lasting interfaith friendships have been forged through this initiative. We have been humbled by the rabbis and other Jewish supporters who traveled to Tampa to stand with us.

Despite this disappointment, our efforts to inform and educate United Methodists and others about the plight of the Palestinians, and the ways in which church investments further their suffering, will continue, as will the global struggle for peace and justice for all the peoples of the Holy Land.

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Your going to slander the Methodist church now? They did what was right. No where in Scripture does God commission the Church to punish the apple of His eye. I'm grateful for their vote.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.