The Church of England’s most senior decision-making body, the General Synod, voted to disinvest from “companies profiting from the illegal occupation [of Palestine]”. Caterpillar manufactures D9 bulldozers used by the Israeli armed forces for house demolitions.
The decision follows examination by the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) of whether the shares currently held in Caterpillar were consistent with the Church’s ethical investment policy, which prohibits investment in arms companies or companies making “weapons platforms” such as naval vessels or tanks.
The church currently invests about £2.5m of its £900m share portfolio in Caterpillar, controlled by the Church Commissioners, whose board includes Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Home Secretary. The church had been engaged in negotiations with the company about its activities.
On the first day of its meeting in London, the general synod, the church’s parliament, heard denunciations of Israel’s use of the machines from one of its own bishops and from the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem whose letter was read out.
In September 2005, EIAG postponed a decision to disinvest at that time. The Church of England established the EIAG in 1994 to offer advice and guidance, and to co-ordinate policy on ethical investment issues for the Church’s central investment bodies: the Church Commissioners, the Central Board of Finance, and the Church of England Pensions Board. The EIAG is also responsible for keeping the policy under review to ensure its continued relevance.
ETHICAL INVESTMENT: REPORT BY THE ETHICAL INVESTMENT ADVISORY GROUP (GS 1604)
At the invitation of the Presidents, Mr John Reynolds (Chair of the EIAG) addressed the Synod. The Bishop of Worcester moved the Report. The Synod voted to take note of the Report.
Mr Keith Malcouronne (Guildford) moved:
That this Synod:
(a) heed the call from our sister church, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, for morally responsible investment in the Palestinian occupied territories and, in particular, to disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc, until they change their policies;
(b) encourage the Ethical Investment Advisory Group to follow up the consultation referred to in its Report (GS 1604) with intensive discussions with Caterpillar Inc, with a view to its withdrawing from supplying or maintaining either equipment or parts for use by the state of Israel in demolishing Palestinian homes &c;
(c) in the light of the urgency of the situation, and the increased support needed by Palestinian Christians, urge members of the EIAG to actively engage with monitoring the effects of Caterpillar Inc’s machinery in the Palestinian occupied territories through visiting the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East to learn of their concerns first hand, and to see recent house demolitions;
(d) urge the EIAG to give weight to the illegality under international law of the activities in which Caterpillar Inc’s equipment is involved; and
(e) urge the EIAG to respond to the monitoring visit and the further discussions with Caterpillar Inc by updating its recommendations in the light of these.’
Following debate, the Synod carried the motion.
Synod voted against extending the time available for this debate.