Mennonites latest US church to dump Israel-linked investments

Members of the Mennonite Church USA voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution condemning Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. (Mennonite Palestine-Israel Network)

Members of the Mennonite Church USA voted overwhelmingly to condemn Israel’s military occupation and to support divestment from companies that profit from violations of Palestinian rights.

The resolution was approved by 98 percent of delegates at the church’s convention in Florida on Thursday.

The Christian denomination has about 95,000 members in 875 congregations across the United States.

Everence, the denomination’s asset manager, will be directed to screen its investment and dump holdings in companies that profit from Israel’s occupation.

The Mennonites pointed to precedents when the church barred investing in companies that profit from military production and the alcohol industry.

In response to a previous resolution about human trafficking and child slavery, the Mennonites say, “Everence served as a primary force in leading American chocolate companies to shift towards child labor-free cocoa-sourcing, which especially impacts communities in West Africa.”

In addition to supporting divestment, the Mennonites encourage their members to work with elected US officials to advocate to end military aid and arms sales to Israel as well as to pressure Israel to freeze settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

The resolution calls on the faithful to urge US lawmakers to “respect the civil rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the rights of refugees, end the occupation, and work for a just peace in accordance with international law.”

Members are also being urged to critically “engage” with Christian Zionism within their own church and the broader Christian community, condemn anti-Semitism, strengthen ties between Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Palestinian groups and to study the 2009 Kairos Palestine document.

That document challenges churches to take action for Palestinian rights, including support for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

“This resolution is a long overdue response to the Palestinian Christian call to the global church,” said Joy Lapp, professor at Iowa Wesleyan University and one of the founders of the Mennonite Palestine-Israel Network.

“Today we stand in solidarity with their courageous and nonviolent efforts for justice and equality,” Lapp added.

A similar resolution failed to pass at the last Mennonite convention in 2015, where members failed to reach a consensus on the BDS movement.

The overwhelming vote this week indicates that lingering concerns have been overcome.

The Mennonite Church USA joins a growing number of Christian denominations that have taken action to support Palestinian human rights in the last few years, including the United Church of Christ – which last week demanded Israel end its systematic abuses of Palestinian children in military detention – as well as the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Quakers, the Unitarian Universalists and the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

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Courageous move but very much in keeping with your peace commitments. I saw you in Hebron.

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It is so encouraging and heartening that Christian sects, like the Mennonites, and United Church of Christ, et al, are now condemning Israel's Illegal military occupation of Palestine and supports the divestment from companies that profit from the violation of Palestinian human rights.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).