Days before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is due to meet and vote on Resolution 15-11, which calls for divestment of church funds from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, Committee 15 of the General Assembly voted overhwelmingly in favor of the divestment resolution at a meeting on Monday night.
This recommendation for divestment will now head to the plenary session at the General Assembly meeting for a final vote sometime in the next few days.
Representing nearly 2 million members across the country, divestment by the Presbyterian Church (USA) of the three US corporations which profit from Israel’s illegal occupation and human rights violations would be a historic and valuable victory for the growing global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. And Monday’s approval of divestment by the Committee 15 ahead of the GA’s vote is being lauded by BDS activists and human rights campaigners as a victory in itself.
In an emailed press release, Rev. Dr. Walt Davis, Education Co-Chair of PCUSA’s Israel-Palestine Mission Network, stated that this was “an encouraging step. We hope plenary voters will follow the lead of Committee 15 and the recommendations of the Mission Responsibility Through Investing committee and support divestment from these companies that are profiting from Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. It’s been a long and thorough process and it’s finally time for the church to stop profiting from the suffering the peoples of the Holy Land.”
The press release added that in addition to recommending to the General Assembly that the church divest from the companies, it also called for the church “to ‘lift up’ its investments in companies engaged in peaceful pursuits in Israel and Palestine.”
The PCUSA’s GA vote is being carefully monitored by anti-Palestinian activists and Zionist organizations who have been lobbying Presbyterian leaders and delegate voters to reject the divestment initiative.
Several months ago, a similar divestment resolution was brought before the United Methodist Church, and the church voted it down, but not before church members were targeted by groups such as the American Jewish Committee.
Bekah Wolf of the Palestine Solidarity Project, which is based in the West Bank village of Beit Ommar, publicly spoke in favor of divestment at the Presbyterian committee meeting on Monday evening. So did Cindy Corrie, the mother of Rachel Corrie, an American solidarity activist who was crushed by a Caterpillar bulldozer and killed in Gaza in 2003, and many other Palestine solidarity activists and human rights advocates.
“I was there because I watched what happened with the Methodists and I wanted to see if i could contribute to a different outcome,” Wolf told The Electronic Intifada today. “What we see in the Presbyterian Church USA case is that the opposition has really thrown everything they’ve got into this thing — they’ve called in rabbis from the Simon Weisenthal Center [a powerful Zionist organization that is behind, for example, the destruction of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem to make way for a cynically-titled “Museum of Tolerance”], they’ve paid for Presbyterian [leaders] to take trips to Israel, and they’ve testified at these divestment hearings. But we still won — it wasn’t even a close contest.”
Wolf added that “more than anything, [the committee’s pro-divestment vote] shows that Christians and the churches and religious people are not going to be afraid of the threat of losing their Jewish friends, or being seen as ‘anti-Semitic’ — they’re looking at what is just. More than the substance of divestment is the idea that people voted in spite of fierce opposition; they voted to support divestment because it was the right thing to do.”
The full plenary vote on divestment is scheduled for later this week. Meanwhile, Jewish Voice for Peace has set up an online petition, asking for thousands of signatures in favor of PCUSA’s divestment to be delivered by voting time.
The Electronic Intifada will provide updates.