Coauthored by Michael Zigmond and Naftali Kaminski
Last week we attended the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) at the Pittsburgh Convention Center to listen to presentations and discussions of two resolutions of great relevance to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: namely, the boycott of products produced in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the divestment from corporations whose products are used to suppress the legitimate rights of Palestinians in that area.
We were impressed with the care with which the resolutions were formulated and the responsible discussion on both sides of the issue. A committee charged with ensuring that PCUSA investments are socially responsible had engaged for many years with corporations whose products are used to support the occupation. The committee sought commitments to change those practices. Despite some successes, the committee failed to reach an accord with three corporations, Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, and therefore recommended that the PCUSA divest those stocks, while continuing to invest in many other companies that do business in Israel and the occupied territories but do not directly support non-peaceful aspects of the occupation. In the case of a boycott, the Committee echoed a recent decision by the United Methodist Church and recommended a call on all nations to prohibit import of all Israeli products coming from the occupied territories, including popular AHAVA cosmetic products.
The Jewish establishment of Pittsburgh attempted to influence the Presbyterians’ ethical financial decisions, dedicating many months to defeating these resolutions. They claimed that the resolutions did not recognize the complexity of the situation, were too one-sided, and did not take into consideration the misdeeds of some Palestinians. They threatened that approving such resolutions would hurt Jewish-Presbyterian relationships. Sadly, even Jewish center-left organizations such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now published statements at the last minute that represented the resolutions were part of the larger boycott, divestment, and sanction movement directed towards Israel as a whole and labeled it “a distraction” reminiscent of “global anti-Semitism.”
Let us set the record straight regarding these arguments. First, the issues are not complicated. Israel occupied a large amount of territory in June 1967 as a consequence of a military conflict. The international laws regarding such occupation are clear: An occupying government must maintain law and order and ensure basic services. It is not allowed to annex any of the land, move its own citizens into the territories, or take any of the natural resources (e.g., water). The Israeli government has followed none of these legal requirements. Instead, it has continued to build settlements and roads off-limits to West Bank Palestinians, construct portions of a separation wall on occupied Palestinian land, annex a large portion of the occupied land surrounding Jerusalem, accelerate the destruction of Palestinian homes, and divert water from Palestinians to the Jewish settlements and to Israel. Each of these actions is illegal, and we have not heard anyone present evidence to the contrary.
Second, the claim that such actions are one-sided is misleading. The U.S. administration has strong legal measures in place that prohibit U.S. companies from supporting violence by Palestinians. And if there were such companies, the PCUSA would undoubtedly divest from them.
Third, although some in this world are indeed anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic, the movement in favor of targeted divestment requires no such sentiments and over the last several days of the PCUSA General Assembly we never heard a single word against the Israeli people, let alone Jews in general. Instead, the commissioners consistently emphasized the overriding importance of alleviating suffering through the establishment of a just, peaceful solution to the conflict — a profoundly pro-Israeli position.
On our visits to the General Assembly we met with Jewish supporters of the resolutions: young and old volunteers, including a Holocaust survivor; rabbis from Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization with a staff of only seven, that is rapidly becoming the largest Jewish grassroots organization in the U.S.; and local Jewish activists, some even from groups that officially oppose the resolutions. In contrast, there was a complete absence of any visible grassroots group opposing boycott or divestment. Despite the campaign of hyperbole and misinformation about the resolutions, Jews in Pittsburgh remained largely indifferent. Like their Christian neighbors, they seemed more interested in the recent success of the Pirates, the rising temperatures, and the economy.
At the General Assembly, the resolution to boycott settlement products passed with an overwhelming majority of 71 percent. The recommendation to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions was defeated by two votes out of 664, although a resolution to create a personal divestment option for pension holders, to be voted upon in two years, passed by 57 percent, suggesting to us that whereas the Presbyterians were split on a church-wide decision to divest from companies that support the occupation, they clearly saw the moral imperative of allowing individuals to do so. Later, however, it was overturned on a procedural technicality.
Despite the defeat of the divestment resolution, the Assembly’s approval of a boycott on settlement products represents a major victory to those of us who oppose the occupation. For years, many have said that if only Palestinians engaged in non-violent resistance they would win their freedom. Yet, the emergence of such resistance has not slowed Israeli settlement construction and has not brought Palestinians any closer to real statehood.
Supporting those who promote the end of the occupation by non-violent measures is in the best interests of Israel; targeted boycotts and divestments are precisely such measures. Concrete action may prevent deterioration into another bloody cycle of violence and eventually bring us closer to a just and equitable peace in the Middle East. We pray that the pro-peace, anti-occupation momentum we witnessed here in Pittsburgh will ultimately triumph, for the sake of Israelis, for the sake of Palestinians, for the sake of all of us.
Michael Zigmond is an American scientist and long-time member of the Pittsburgh Jewish community with strong ties to Israel. Naftali Kaminski is an Israeli Physician-Scientist now living in Pittsburgh. Both are members of the Middle East Peace Forum of Pittsburgh and blog at the Pittsburgh Middle-East Blog www.pittmep.com.
by: Rae Abileah on July 11th, 2012
From Two Jewish Social Justice Advocates
Dear Reverends and Church-goers,
Interfaith delegation including young Jews and rabbis with Jewish Voice for Peace who advocated for boycott and divestment at the Presbyterian General Assembly.
We are writing to you as two young American Jews who have just seen something extraordinary. Last week we were guests at the 220th Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in Pittsburgh where we witnessed the historic plenary vote to boycott Israeli settlement products. We congratulate you as people of faith for aligning your practice with your values and taking a principled stand. Mazel tov!
At the General Assembly we watched Christian clergy and laypeople engaging in dialogue on a very difficult topic – the Israeli occupation of the West Bank – with respect, grace, and open hearts. It is a true blessing to walk the path of peace with you in solidarity. Both of us have spent years educating ourselves on the issues, traveling to Israel and Palestine, and researching companies complicit in the Occupation.
We hope and expect that you will guide your parishioners to make conscious consumer decisions. All of us can send a message with our pocketbooks and we can refuse to buy products complicit in human rights violations. Here are three specific products to avoid:
> Ahava Dead Sea Cosmetics: Ahava is an Israeli company that manufactures beauty products in an illegal Israeli settlement using mud pillaged from the Dead Sea’s shores in the Occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank. The company’s practices violate international law. Ahava products are labeled of “Israeli origin,” but according to international law, the West Bank cannot be considered to be part of the State of Israel. The Hebrew word “Ahava” means love, but there is nothing loving about what this company is doing. Over a dozen rabbis wrote a letter to Presbyterian Church clergy supporting the boycott of Ahava in advance of the General Assembly. Ahava is sold at small beauty stores and many chain stores such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, Macy’s, ULTA, Amazon.com, and Zappos.com.
> Hadiklaim Dates: Hadiklaim is an Israel date growers cooperative that deals with several major supermarkets internationally and sells its products in the US primarily on the East Coast. Hadiklaim exports under the “King Solomon Dates” and “Jordan River” brand names by the Israeli company Almog Tradex Ltd, which claims to export 10,000 tons of Israeli fruits annually. Hadiklaim dates are packaged in settlement houses in Beit Ha’Arava and Tomer, close to the Palestinian village of Fasayil.
Further, date picking in the Jordan Valley is a hazardous business. Workers are hoisted into the trees with a cherry picker and are often left to work on a platform high above the ground for the duration of the working day without meal or toilet breaks. The majority of workers are Palestinian or Thai migrants – who are uniformly paid below the minimum wage.
> SodaStream: SodaStream markets itself as an environmentally friendly home carbonation appliance to “Turn Water Into Fresh Sparkling Water And Soda” but there is nothing friendly about the destruction of Palestinian life, land and water resources. SodaStream is an Israeli corporation that produces all of its carbonation devices in an illegal settlement in the West Bank. Like Ahava, this settlement company obscures its true illegal origin by marking its products “Made in Israel”. SodaStream is sold at stores such as Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, Kohl’s, William-Sonoma, local hardware shops, and other home improvement retailers.
Here are a few other ways you can support the boycott of settlement goods:
1. Urge your members to inform clerks and managers at stores that sell these products about the wrongful nature of these companies, asking them to de-shelve these products. Make sure that if your congregation has a gift shop, you don’t carry any of these products.
2. Preach about this boycott in the great tradition of faith-based organizing, extending from Dr. King’s work and the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, to Cesar Chavez’s grape boycott in Delano, California. Distribute this flyer from the Presbyterian Israel Palestine Mission Network.
3. Have an open discussion in your church about the reality of the Israeli Occupation and how this boycott aligns church words with action.
4. Work in solidarity with your Jewish friends to highlight that settlement boycott is finding increasing support globally, including within the Jewish and Israeli communities. Many rabbis, including Tikkun founder Rabbi Lerner, signed onto a letter urging the Presbyterian Church to boycott Ahava. During the past few months, several prominent Israelis and Jews have endorsed settlement boycott, including former Speaker of the Israeli Parliament and World Zionist Organization leader Avraham Burg, former Israeli Foreign Ministry director Alon Liel, and Jewish-American political pundit Peter Beinart.And let’s remind ourselves that it is possible to acknowledge the suffering of both Palestinians and Jews while clearly focusing on the urgency of ending the human rights violations Palestinians face daily under Occupation.
American historian Howard Zinn was fond of saying, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” Indeed, by continuing to invest in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and HP, the church remains complicit in supporting the occupation. We hope and trust that in another two years, when the Presbyterian Church again convenes for the 221st GA, divestment from companies that do not meet the Mission Responsibility Through Investment standard for socially responsible investing will pass easily.
Young Jews made a strong statement in support of boycott and divestment at the GA. The Presbyterian Young Adult Advisory Delegates overwhelmingly spoke in support of divestment. If we are to engage and retain the membership of the next generation of Jews and Christians, we will need to become more open-minded, more attentive to equal rights for all people, and more willing to embrace diversity and human rights. Our young generation seeks to align words with actions in prophetic tradition.
Please contact us if you would like more support for the settlement boycott in your church. We’d be glad to speak at your church, connect you with speakers in your area, or discuss this with you by phone.
Rae Abileah and Ariel Vegosen
Two young Jewish social justice advocates
from New York City and San Francisco
Rae Abileah and Ariel Vegosen can be contacted at rae[at]codepink.org and arielmintwood[at]gmail.com.
For more info on settlement boycotts please visit www.stolenbeauty.org,www.codepink.org/boycottsodastream, and www.whoprofits.org.
Here is a partial list of press media hits regarding the Presbyterian GA’s overtures on Israel-Palestine (thanks to the St Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee who helped gathered most of this information).
- Huffington Post features Israel lobby propaganda in slander against the Presbyterian Church, Mondoweiss, July 17, 2012
- Why did progressive U.S. Jewish groups oppose divestment?, +972, July 14, 2012
- Presbyterian Church to boycott settlement products, People to People, July 13, 2012
- The pendulum swings and a new era has begun: Presbyterian Church (USA) endorses boycott, splits on divestment, Jadaliyya, July 12, 2012
- J Street and Americans for Peace Now biggest losers in the Presbyterian Church (USA) battle for divestment, Jadaliyya, July 12, 2012
- Targeted Boycotts and Divestments Are Pro-Israel, Huffington Post, July 12, 2012
- BDS Isn’t About Winning or Losing, Open Zion, July 12, 2012
- An Open Letter to Presbyterian Clergy, Tikkun Daily, July 11, 2012
- Pro-Divestment Presbyterians Win By Losing, Salem News, July 10, 2012
- Presbyterian Church’s narrow rejection of divestment unlikely to slow anti-Israel push, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 10, 2012
- BDS Opponents’ Pyrrhic Victory, Open Zion, July 9, 2012
- The Divestment Vote: J Street & Peace Now’s Shame, MJ Rosenberg, July 9, 2012
- Church’s choice: Presbyterians choose a positive path to follow, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 9, 2012
- Presbyterian Church votes steer clear of controversies, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 8, 2012
- Message to Presbyterians: ‘If you truly want to help the Palestinian people, I urge you to listen to what they are asking for’, Mondoweiss, July 8, 2012
- Interview with IPMN’s Jeff DeYoe, Al-Jazeera English, July 7, 2012
- The Presbyterians debate Palestine, The Daily Star (Lebanon), July 7, 2012
- Presbyterians Pass Boycott Bill, but not Divestment, WAFA (Palestine News Info and Agency), July 7, 2012
- Palestinian civil society welcomes Presbyterian Church (USA) Israel boycott resolution, BNC, July 7, 2012
- Boycott added to Presbyterian tools for Middle East peace, GA220 Communication Center, July 7, 2012
- US Presbyterians Reject Israel Divestment, Associated Press, July 6, 2012
- Presbyterian Church in U.S. votes to boycott Israeli settlement goods, Haaretz, July 6, 2012
- Presbyterian Church in U.S. rejects divestment of global companies in Israel, Haaretz, July 6, 2012
- Presbyterian Assembly Rejects Israel Divestment Bid, Democracy Now, July 6, 2012
- Close Presbyterian Vote on Selective Divestment Shows Likudniks Losing Middle America, Huffington Post, July 6, 2012
- Presbyterians Reject Divestment Related To Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Huffington Post, July 6, 2012
- Assembly rejects efforts to revive divestment option, the Presbyterian Outlook, July 6, 2012
- Presbyterians overwhelmingly vote for boycott of settlement products; endorse ‘choice of conscience’ option for pension holders to screen CAT, Moto, and HP from portfolios, Mondoweiss, July 6, 2012
- Some ‘Peace Now’ faithful dispute its claim that divestment will stoke ‘global anti-Semitism’, Mondoweiss, July 6, 2012
- Divestment vote fails, but Presbyterian Church (USA) resolves to boycott Israeli settlement products, Electronic Intifada, July 6, 2012
- Israel Divestment Campaigns Gain Momentum in U.S., Inter Press Service, July 6, 2012
- Christians Conflicted About Israel, Souciant, July 6, 2012
- 220th General Assembly opts for ‘positive investment’ over divestment, GA220 Communication Center, July 6, 2012
- In Close Vote, Presbyterian Church Rejects Divesting in Firms That Aid Israeli Occupation, New York Times, July 5, 2012
- Assembly votes on freedom of conscience provisions in Presbyterian benefits plan, the Presbyterian Outlook, July 5, 2012
- General Assembly opts to explore West Bank investment, rather than divest, the Presbyterian Outlook, July 5, 2012
- Presbyterians reject divestment, endorse ‘positive investment’ by 369-290 vote; settlement product boycott vote tomorrow, Mondoweiss, July 5, 2012
- The occupation is extreme, Mondoweiss, July 5, 2012
- Americans for Peace Now: Right So Often, But Wrong on Presbyterian Divestment, The Third Way, July 5, 2012
- ‘Americans for Peace Now’ says Presbyterian measure could stoke ‘global anti-Semitism’, Mondoweiss, July 5, 2012
- ‘Promoting coexistence with an occupier rather than divestment is tragically misguided’ –Palestinian groups to Presbyterians, Mondoweiss, July 5, 2012
- Rabbi tells General Assembly that divestment would undercut interfaith efforts, the Presbyterian Outlook, July 5, 2012
- Divestment question before Presbyterians, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 4, 2012
- Denomination eyes ‘occupation’ profits, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 4, 2012
- Middle East Committee clears its agenda, the Presbyterian Outlook, July 4, 2012
- Assembly committee recommends divestment, GA220 Communication Center, July 4, 2012
- Bailey: ‘We can disagree without hate or fear’, GA220 Communication Center, July 4, 2012
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to vote on divestment measure at General Assembly (statement by PCUSA Stated Clerk Rev. Gradye Parsons), Washington Post, July 3, 2012
- Presbyterian divestment proposal spurs heated debate, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 3, 2012
- U.S. Presbyterian Church committee votes in favor of Israel divestment resolution, Haaretz, July 3, 2012
- Presbyterian committee passes call for divestment from occupation profiteers, Mondoweiss, July 3, 2012
- Committee of Presbyterian Church (USA) votes in favor of divestment; now heads for final vote, Electronic Intifada, July 3, 2012
- Ben-Ami says divestment will alienate Christians from ‘American Jewish community’, Mondoweiss, July 3, 2012
- Israeli Woman Says Divestment Is Part of Her Jewish Identity, Unbound, July 3, 2012
- Home is where the occupation is, Mondoweiss, July 3, 2012
- Breaking: Presbyterian Middle East and Peacemaking committee votes to divest from CAT, Motorola and HP; full plenary to vote later this week, Mondoweiss, July 3, 2012
- Jewish leader says Presbyterians risk unintended consequences, the Presbyterian Outlook, July 3, 2012
- Committee votes for divestment, the Presbyterian Outlook, July 3, 2012
- Middle East and Peacemaking Issues, GA220 Communication Center, July 4, 2012
- Roger Waters urges Presbyterians to divest, Mondoweiss, July 2, 2012
- Divest in Israel: Presbyterians should support Palestinian aspirations (op-ed by Roger Waters), Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 2, 2012
- Church Group Considers Israel Divestment, The Forward, July 2, 2012
- Funding the occupation is taking a side, Mondoweiss, July 2, 2012
- It’s not about Israel, it’s about freedom, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 30, 2012
July 9, 2012
At the close of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the church’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) wishes to reflect on the results of the GA and to thank all of our friends, supporters, and the hundreds of church commissioners who took a stand for human rights and justice in the Holy Land last week by voting according to their consciences, and not according to their fears.
While the resolution calling for targeted divestment from three companies that profit from Israeli violations of international law and abuses of Palestinian human rights was not adopted by the plenary, it was approved overwhelmingly by the church’s Committee on Middle East Peacemaking Issues (Committee 15), and the minority report that replaced it won by a mere two out of 666 votes, with two commissioners abstaining. In truth, a full plenary discussion on divestment never took place, pre-empted by the minority report’s adoption.
On the other hand, the resolution calling for a boycott of just two products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories was expanded and strengthened by Committee 15 to cover all Israeli products made in the occupied territories, before being approved by an overwhelming majority (457-180, or 71%) of the plenary in what was a very divided Assembly. The boycott vote puts the Presbyterian Church (USA) squarely into the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005 and officially endorsed by the Palestinian Christian community in 2009 with the Kairos Palestine document. “Presbyterians have heard the call for economic solidarity from Palestinians, including Palestinian Christians,” said Rev. Jeff DeYoe, IPMN Advocacy Chair. “The IPMN looks forward to assisting the church in determining which products will be included in the boycott.”
Despite the fact that they failed to pass divestment, afterwards 57% of church commissioners voted in favor of a resolution directing the church’s Board of Pensions “to create a program for relief of conscience for plan members who are troubled by the choice to continue holding Board of Pensions assets in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard.” Although this motion was later overturned on a procedural technicality by the GA’s Stated Clerk, it clearly reflected a desire on the part of a majority of commissioners to provide an option for individual Presbyterians who have moral qualms about profiting from these three companies, whose products are used to inflict so much hardship and suffering on Palestinians.
“A few short years ago, any one of these things would have been considered a significant victory for divestment and boycott supporters,” said Rev. Katherine Cunningham, IPMN Vice-Moderator. “At every General Assembly since these issues were first introduced in 2004, the church has moved slowly but steadily towards the positions advocated by the IPMN. In 2010, following our official endorsement of a boycott of Ahava Dead Sea beauty products and dates from the Hadiklaim Co-op, we were attacked by critics for being ‘ahead of the church.’ Last week, the rest of the church caught up with the IPMN on boycotting settlement products, and moved much further in the direction of divestment than anybody could have expected just a few years ago. We believe it’s only a matter of time before the church catches up on divestment too, and we look forward to the next GA in Detroit in 2014, and to the day when both Israelis and Palestinians are able to live in peace and freedom.”
More about JVP’s campaign for divestment here: http://bit.ly/JVPdivest4peace
Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on Presbyterian Church (USA) Vote on Boycott and Divestment from Companies Profiting from the Israeli Occupation
Contact: Sydney Levy, sydney AT jvp.org
Rabbi Alissa Wise, alissa AT jvp.org
NEW YORK- July 6th, 2012
Jewish Voice for Peace is heartened by the strong show of opposition to the Israeli Occupation by the Presbyterian Church (USA). This morning, the General Assembly passed a resolution to boycott settlement goods with 71% of the vote, while last evening divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli Occupation was defeated by a razor thin margin of two votes.
Sydney Levy, Jewish Voice for Peace Director of Advocacy said, “I congratulate the Presbyterian Church (USA) for their decision today to boycott all goods made in Israeli settlements, just as the United Methodist Church did last month. This vote signifies the mainstreaming of boycott as a way to oppose illegal Israeli settlements, and the Israeli occupation overall. Clearly, the movement for justice for Israelis and Palestinians is growing.”
JVP is very proud to have been part of the broad coalition supporting Presbyterian efforts to boycott settlement products and divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation since 2004. We are especially proud of the members of our youth branch — Young, Jewish, and Proud (YJP) — and of our Rabbinical Council who were in Pittsburgh this year at the General Assembly meeting in support of the resolutions.
Despite being overwhelmingly out-resourced by large Jewish institutions with ties to the Israel lobby, our members succeeded in galvanizing a nearly identical amount of support for divestment as the opposition, and overwhelming support for boycott. This accomplishment is despite heavy-handed fear-mongering by the Jewish establishment that included threatening the future of interfaith cooperation and raising the specter of anti-semitism.
The truth is, growing numbers of Jewish groups and individual Jews of conscience support some form of boycott and/or divestment as a strategic tactic to pressure Israel to end the human rights abuses of the 45-year-old occupation of Palestinian people and land. This support is at least in part a response to over 20 years of U.S.-brokered negotiations that have not simply failed, but worse, have entrenched the Occupation by keeping pressure off of Israel while it has continued to massively expand illegal settlements and evict Palestinians from their homes.
Rabbi Alissa Wise, Jewish Voice for Peace Director of Campaigns, who was at the committee vote on divestment and boycott said: “I was moved to tears in Pittsburgh, as I saw deep recognition of Palestinian experience and deep commitment to justice for all people by the Presbyterian Church (USA). This was a historic moment in the struggle for dignity and justice, and I commend the Church for passing the boycott resolution and for getting this close to holding corporations accountable for profiting from the occupation.”
A near majority of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has shown the courage of true friendship, which sometimes requires facing difficult truths, and for that we are deeply grateful. We know that decades of working closely with Jewish communities in the U.S., engagement with Israel, and an ongoing commitment to understanding the Christian role in historical anti-Semitism, will continue and deepen. Jewish Voice for Peace members in communities across the United States certainly look forward to deepening those relationships, grounded in our joint understanding that Israel’s ongoing occupation makes a peaceful future for both Jews and Palestinians impossible.
Jewish Voice for Peace believes that this very close divestment vote and the successful boycott vote, along with several other recent watershed victories, makes clear that Israel can no longer count on being singled out for special treatment. Depending on major institutions to selectively ignore Israel’s human rights record year after year is no longer a viable strategy.
These recent watershed victories are:
- Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), a leading US investment firm, removed Caterpillar, Inc. from its socially responsible investment indexes, saying Caterpillar’s role in Israeli human rights violations were one of the “key factors” in the decision.
- Shortly thereafter, retirement giant TIAA-CREF dropped $72 million in Caterpillar, Inc stock from their socially responsible funds.
- Friends Fiduciary Corporation, which handles investments for over 250 Quaker meetings, schools, organizations, trusts, and endowments around the US, divested from Caterpillar.
- The United Methodist Church resolved to boycott “products made by Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories.” The church called on all nations “to prohibit any financial support by individuals or organizations for the construction and maintenance of settlements and the import of products made [in settlements.]“
The power behind the idea that Palestinians deserve full civil and democratic rights, just as Jewish Israelis do, grows exponentially each day.
New pro-divestment resolutions are already being proposed for the next Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in Detroit in 2014. We look forward to standing beside our Presbyterian friends as they take additional steps toward a just peace based on security, freedom and equal rights for all the people of Israel and Palestine.
For the past couple of weeks I have been reading articles and letters written by leaders of Jewish organizations and activists urging the US Presbyterian Church not to vote to divest from three companies that profit off of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Tuesday, after a long debate, committee 15 of the Church’s General Assembly voted in favor of a motion calling for divestment from those companies. Today the entire plenary is expected to vote on the matter.
It is specifically when I read articles and letters that argue against using any form of boycotts, divestment campaigns or calls on our government for sanctions (i.e. BDS) from people who are opposed to Israel’s continued policy of growing settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, that I am perplexed. It is when I hear those who are genuinely concerned with Israel’s future and democratic character refer to the non violent BDS movement as a threat to resolving the conflict, I have to shake my head in wonder. I am sure they are aware of Israel’s Prime Minister recently announcing the building of hundreds of new homes in a Jewish only settlement in the West Bank. In my opinion, that is what should be labeled as a “Threat to Conflict Resolution,” not friends making decisions of conscience about where they invest their retirement funds.
When I see the Global BDS movement characterized as extreme or as using extreme rhetoric, it truly gives me pause. It does so because what I read from many who are opposed to the use of these non violent tools of political dissent is the characterization that those of us engaged in BDS are “anti-Israel,” “self hating Jews,” and trying to “delegitimize the state of Israel.”
In my opinion, THAT is extreme rhetoric.
I don’t consider those who choose not to purchase goods produced in Jewish only settlements built on Palestinian land which has been occupied by the Israeli military forces since 1967 in violation of international law to be extreme. Nor do I consider those who decide not to invest and profit from the gains of companies which willingly and defiantly choose to enrich themselves off of the demolition of people’s homes or other human suffering to be extreme.
Would you choose to make money off of an investment in a company which knowingly supplies the equipment used to violate the human rights of people by destroying the homes of over 24,000 Palestinian families? In my opinion, 24,000 homeless Palestinian families is extreme.
Let’s face it, in our modern global economy where we choose as individuals and communities to spend our money and where we choose NOT to are among our strongest political tools. Frankly, I think threatening people’s freedom to make those decisions based on personal values is extreme. Threatening a friendship or an alliance if someone makes a decision about what they buy (or don’t) or where they invest their money (or don’t) is extreme. It is not how I was taught true friends treat each other.
Yes, this week the Presbyterian Church is once again considering divesting from companies that directly profit off of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and people. After years of engaging with the those companies unsuccessfully, they will vote once again on whether or not to apply their stated values to their investments. As an activist, a proud Jewish American, the daughter of a proud Israeli father and one to whom the future of Israel and Palestine matters greatly, I am hoping they will follow their hearts and apply their values to their investment choices. But if they don’t, it won’t affect my friendships with Presbyterians one bit.
Estee Chandler is the Los Angeles Organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace
Long-simmering divestment issue may come to a boil at 220th GA
|Written by MICHAEL JENNINGS, Outlook staff writer
Among mainline churches, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has led the way in considering divestment as a means of defusing hostility and violence in Israel-Palestine.
For eight years, while some other denominations have brought divestment to an up-or-down vote, the PC(USA) has pondered it and prodded companies to prevent non-peaceful uses of their wares.
Now those charged with shaping proposals on the issue are asking the 220th General Assembly to take a momentous stand — one likely to elicit passionate responses within the church, in the Middle East and among the Jewish and Palestinian communities in the United States.
Based on a recommendation by the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) Committee, the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) voted in February to ask the General Assembly to withdraw church investments from three companies — Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions.
The GAMC report says that Caterpillar’s D-9 bulldozers were weaponized and deployed in the 2009 Gaza War and that Israeli forces use Hewlett Packard products in their naval blockade of Gaza and in scanning equipment that restricts Palestinians’ movement.
The report says Motorola Solutions’ involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory has “lessened in some important ways,” but still the company refuses to discuss “its involvement in non-peaceful pursuits.”
Brian Ellison, a pastor from Kansas City, Mo., who chairs the MRTI, has stressed the limited nature of the divestment proposal.
“We are not recommending a boycott of Israel” or any divestment step that goes beyond the three targeted companies, Ellison said in February.
Some Christian leaders have called for aggressive use of divestment against Israel. Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said divestment had a big impact on apartheid South Africa and could have a similar decisive effect in Israel-Palestine.
So far, the PC(USA)’s approach to divestment has remained cautious and incremental.
In 2004, the 216th General Assembly instructed MRTI to begin a process of “phased, selective divestment” from corporations doing business in Israel. MRTI first reviewed the assembly’s positions on obstacles to peace in Israel and Palestine, then tried to identify corporations that contributed to those obstacles.
MRTI chose five companies to engage — Caterpillar, Citigroup, ITT Industries, Motorola and United Technologies. In the years since, MRTI has met with officials of those companies and with the presbyteries where the companies are headquartered.
The Presbyterian initiative caught the attention of the World Council of Churches. In 2005, the council’s central committee urged its member churches to consider divesting from companies doing business in Israel.
In 2005, the United Church of Christ called for the use of economic leverage, including selective divestment, to promote peace in the Middle East.
Also in 2005, both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church USA considered but rejected divestment.
In 2006, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to end financial investments in companies supporting Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Caterpillar was one of the companies the synod targeted.
At the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, held in Tampa, Fla., in May of this year, the 1,000 delegates voted on two resolutions that called for divestment from companies accused of contributing to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Both were rejected by 2-1 margins.
The Methodists also rejected similar resolutions at their last General Conference in 2008.
Meanwhile, the PC(USA) has refrained from voting on divestment, though the church took a step in that direction at the 219th General Assembly, where commissioners voted to denounce Caterpillar for its “continued profit-making from non-peaceful uses of a number of its products.”
Finally, last September, MRTI recommended divestment from the three companies. Ellison called that the “logical conclusion” to what the General Assembly had asked his committee to do.
For Immediate Release: July 3rd, 2012
Contact: Rev. John Anderson and Rae Abileah, rae[at]codepink.org
Presbyterian Church (USA) Middle East and Peacekeeping Committee Votes to Boycott Israeli Settlement Products
Boycott Specifies Ahava Dead Sea Cosmetics and Hadiklaim Dates
On Tuesday, July 3, the Middle East and Peacekeeping Committee (Committee 15) of the 220th Presbyterian General Assembly voted to boycott all Israeli settlement products, including Ahava Dead Sea cosmetics and Hadiklaim dates. The vote is consistent with decades of Presbyterian opposition to Israeli settlements and the occupation of the West Bank.
Overture 15-02 “On Boycotting Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories and Hadiklaim (an Israeli Date Growers Cooperative)” (https://www.pc-biz.org/IOBView.aspx?m=ro&id=3775) was expanded to include all settlement products, and then passed in committee with 37 votes for, 6 against, and 2 abstentions. The overture now goes to the plenary session for a final vote, which will likely take place on Thursday or Friday of this week.
Earlier in the day, Committee 15 voted in favor of Overture 15-11, which calls for divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, three US companies that profit from the Israeli Occupation and violations of Palestinian human rights.
“We hope plenary voters will follow the lead of Committee 15 and the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Racial and Ethnic Concerns and support the boycott of Israeli settlement companies, which are in violations of international law,” said Rev. Dr. Walt Davis, Israel Palestine Mission Network Education Co-Chair. “No one should profit from the suffering of the peoples of the Holy Land.”
“Thank you Presbyterians for following G-d’s teaching ‘You shall not steal,’ in passing this overture. As a Jew, I support this interfaith work for peace and justice,” said Rae Abileah, member of Young Jewish Proud, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace, and co-director of CODEPINK.
Three years ago CODEPINK launched the Stolen Beauty boycott of Ahava cosmetics (www.stolenbeauty.org). Since then, Ahava has been targeted by human rights activists around the world, from Capetown to London to Los Angeles, because of the company’s flagrant violations of international law.Boycott of settlement goods, including Ahava cosmetics, has become an increasingly popular way for global citizens to help take the profit out of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Jewish support for settlement boycott is increasing. Over a dozen rabbis signed a letter to Presbyterian delegates explaining their support for the Ahava boycott overture. () During the past few months, several prominent Israelis and Jews have endorsed settlement boycott, including former Speaker of the Israeli Parliament and World Zionist Organization leader Avraham Burg, former Israeli Foreign Ministry director Alon Liel, and Jewish-American political pundit Peter Beinart.
The church boycott comes in response to the pleas of Palestinian Christians, as outlined in the Kairos Palestine document.
To the delegates of the Presbyterian church General Assembly,
We at the Coalition of Women for Peace, Israeli citizens who are Muslim, Christian and Jewish grassroots activists, would like to thank you for considering your investments in companies that are part of the Israeli occupation industry. We express our support for the recommendation of the committee for socially responsible investment (MRTI) to divest from three companies and hope that this recommendation will be adopted by the Presbyterian Church General Assembly.
CWP began researching the economy of the occupation in an effort to uncover less known economic mechanisms and interests that sustain it. Our findings confirm the involvement of companies and investors in illegal policies, including violations of international law and specifically human rights violations.
The vote today will send a strong message against investment in the settlement industry, the security apparatus and the exploitation of labor and natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. CWP and other Israeli organizations are determined to continue our work despite tremendous pressure from the government and the right wing to stop our activities. Your vote for divestment today is an important contribution to our struggle, and to the cause of peace and a just resolution of the conflict.
Coalition of Women for Peace
Dr. Hilla Dayan
International Relations Policy Advisor
Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel)