A US-based religious group may formally decide to avoid buying shares in firms deemed complicit in Israel’s abuse of Palestinian rights during the next few months.
When the Unitarian Universalist Association holds its yearly general assembly in Columbus, Ohio, this coming June, it will consider calls to support divestment from several firms with strong Israeli connections.
A resolution prepared for the gathering urges that the group should not have any shares in Caterpillar, Motorola, HP and G4S. All of those companies have been doing business in recent years with the Israeli military.
If approved, the resolution will follow initiatives already taken by the UUA in solidarity with the Palestinians.
The UUA, which has more than 1,000 congregations, owned shares in HP, Caterpillar and Motorola until recently. The association stated in March, however, that it would finish disposing of such shares by the end of that month.
Last year, the association’s committee on “socially responsible investing” introduced guidelines for screening investments to ensure that they do not contribute to abuses of Palestinian rights.
On the record
The discussion on divestment at the June assembly could, therefore, be seen as a formality. Larry Cooper, president of Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, has nonetheless argued that a vote on divestment should go ahead.
“We still want to be on record that the UUA is not to buy shares as long as these companies are complicit in the occupation,” Cooper said, according to a Unitarian website.
The Unitarian measures come in the wake of several other divestment actions by religious groups.
Earlier this year, the United Methodist Church’s pension fund divested from two Israeli banks and barred five others from future investments. The action by the $20-billion fund was similarly guided by an ethical investment policy which identified Israel as a “high risk” country due to its lengthy record of human rights abuses.
The UMC’s 2016 general conference — scheduled to take place in Portland, Oregon, next month — will hear calls for further action. Among the proposals to be made at the event are that the church’s pension fund stops investing in Caterpillar, Motorola and HP.
In the past two years, the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Church of Christ passed divestment resolutions despite stiff and well-organized opposition by Israel lobby groups. Quaker bodies have taken a number of divestment decisions in recent years, too.