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Thursday July 12, 2012

Presbyterian Church Votes For Boycott, Against Divestment

Posted by Guest at 4:21 pm

By Dan Korey

2012 Summer Intern

Last week the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted on two motions relating to divestment and boycott of Israel. The first motion was to divest church holdings from Caterpillar Inc., which was recently removed from three MSCI indexes for social responsibility leading to divestment by TIAA-CREF, as well as Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions, who profit from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The vote went into hours of debate last Thursday, but ultimately the motion was narrowly defeated by a vote of 333-331 with two abstentions. However, a measure to encourage positive investment in the occupied Palestinian territories passed by a wide margin. Advocates for divestment called for another vote the following day due to the narrow margin, but the idea was rejected. It is believed that the Presbyterians voted against divestment for a number of reasons including fear of damaging relations with Jewish groups, speeches to the assembly by Rabbis and pro-Israel advocates, and free trips to Israel that were extended from an anti-divestment group and accepted by 12 PC(USA) members.

The following day, the PC(USA) voted in favor of another motion to boycott products made in Israeli settlements. This is a small positive step that sends a signal to Palestinians that the Presbyterian Church (USA) supports them in the struggle for freedom and human rights under occupation and colonization of their land. “We have disagreed on strategy and tactics,” said Rev. Jack Baca, chair of the Committee on Middle East Peacemaking Issues. “We have not disagreed on our goal of Middle East peace.”

On Wednesday, the Episcopal Church overwhelmingly rejected divestment and is attempting to distance itself from BDS in general, but encouraged positive investment in Palestine. Their reasoning was that divestment is not a path to peacemaking.

The discussion and vote on both divestment and boycott in the PC(USA) and the Episcopal Church is indicative of the struggle and considerations of several American churches, many of whom have Arab American Christian members and clergy. The United Methodist Church (UMC) and Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) have both voted on divestment and boycott in the past six months. While the UMC had similar results to the PC(USA) decision, the FFC successfully divested from Caterpillar.  

Tagged as Issues, Palestine, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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