United Methodist gatherings urge selective divestment from Israel
July 14, 2005
By United Methodist News Service*
United Methodists in New England and Virginia have endorsed campaigns to divest
from companies that support Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
The action came as church members in those areas gathered for their annual
conferences this summer.
Meeting June 8-11, the New England Conference approved a resolution urging the
divesting of funds from companies that support the Israeli occupation of the
Palestinian territories. The approved resolution calls for voluntary, selective
divestment from companies that profit in a significant way from the Israeli
occupation of Palestinian lands.
also urges “our United Methodist funding agencies and our local churches to
support with our prayers, presence and money those Israeli, Palestinian and
international organizations, which bring Israelis and Palestinians together in
Virginia United Methodists, meeting June 12-15,
affirmed Israel’s right to exist within permanent, recognized and secure
borders, and Palestinians’ rights to self-determination and the formation of a
They also called upon the United Methodist Board of
Pensions to review its investments and undertake a process of phased, selective
divestment from any multinational corporations profiting from the illegal
demolition of Palestinian homes, destruction of the Palestinian economy and
confiscation of Palestinian land, following United Methodist guidelines which
require a period of information gathering and evaluation of alternative means of
intervention before undertaking a boycott.
In the United Methodist Church, the call for a
boycott is a decision that historically has been made by the United Methodist
General Conference, the only entity that speaks for the denomination as a
The denomination’s Board of Pension and Health Benefits has always been
concerned about human rights violations no matter where in the world they occur,
said Vidette Bullock Mixon director of the board’s corporate relations.
The board’s experience with constructive dialogue with corporate management,
investor partners, United Methodist boards, agencies, constituents, as well as
representatives of other denominations and faiths, has lead to mutually
agreeable understanding of solutions to complex problems and that shared
ownership provides the best opportunity for change, she said.
The New England and Virginia conferences join the Presbyterian Church (USA) and
the worldwide Anglican Communion as entities that have taken up the divestment
issue to protest what they say is unjust Israeli occupation of and expansion
into Palestinian territory.
The United Church of Christ considered joining the divesture movement, but
delegates at that denomination’s General Synod meeting July 5 decided not to
join the campaign to divest in companies operating in Israel but has promised to
use “economic leverage” in pursuit of Middle East peace, reported Religion News
Service. The news service reported that the United Church of Christ endorsed
corporate pressure against companies that profit from violence committed by
Israelis, Palestinians or neighboring Arab states.
Noting the United Methodist Church’s opposition to
“continued military occupation of the West
Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the confiscation of Palestinian land and water
resources, (and) the destruction of Palestinian homes,”
Virginia United Methodists passed a resolution called
“Act for Peace in the Middle East.”
The United Methodist General Conference, the church’s top legislative body,
adopted a resolution in 2004 called “Opposition to Israeli Settlements in
Palestinian Land.” In it, the church requested that the U.S. government, working
cooperatively with other countries and the United Nations, urge the state of
Israel to “cease the confiscation of Palestinian lands and water for any reason”
and “urge the Palestinian Authority and all Palestinian religious leaders to
continue to publicly condemn violence against Israeli civilization and to use
nonviolent acts of disobedience to resist the occupation and the illegal
According to Mixon, the board follows positions
established by the 2004 General Conference and works to support the “just and
lasting peace petition” that calls for the end of military occupation and
violence and for upholding human rights for all by calling on companies in which
the board invests to disclose their policies and practices related to operations
in countries that have a history of human-rights violations; and to support the
Church's terrorism petition, which condemns all acts of terror unequivocally.
An example of the board’s shareholder advocacy efforts
in countries engaged in conflict include working with other faith-based
investors to address the Caterpillar Corporation regarding the use of its
equipment to destroy churches, mosques and homes in Palestine. Through
negotiations thus far, Caterpillar has established a worldwide code of business
conduct and is being urged to develop a transparent monitoring and reporting
Representatives of United Methodist boards and
agencies are in consultation on ways to be responsive to the (paragraph 165 War
and Peace, 2004 Book of Discipline) and to support peaceful resolution of
conflicts, not only in Israel, but around the world as well, Mixon said.
“The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of
the United Methodist Church historically uses divestment as a last resort, as it
believes that on-going negotiation with companies is a more effective tool than
The Virginia conference resolution also calls
upon the United Methodist Board of Church and Society to study the feasibility
of advocating a wider form of phased, selective divestment from any
multinational corporations profiting from the illegal and violent activities.
The conference also requests the United Methodist
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns develop and promote
wider avenues of engagement among Christians, Muslims and Jewish communities
pursuing justice and peace.
A supporting document to the
New England resolution suggests the urgency of the
humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories cannot be
overstated. “Palestinians face soaring unemployment, malnutrition, restrictions
on movement, denial of medical care, denial of access to their agricultural
lands, humiliation at checkpoints and extended lockdowns called curfews. More
than 4 million Palestinian refugees live in poverty, while Israelis live in
their homes and farm their lands,” it says.
calling for divestiture, New England members passed the resolution requesting
creation of a committee to determine within six months which of the conference’s
investments “support Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories” and to
consider divesting from those companies.
The New England Conference said in its resolution that companies “should not
profit from the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land or the
destruction of Palestinian homes, orchards and lives.”
The goal of divestment, the
resolution said, is not to damage Israel’s economy or the U.S.-based companies
that do business there. Rather, it said, “the goal is to make all United
Methodists and other Americans aware of their relationship to companies that
benefit from the Israeli occupation and give them an opportunity to withdraw
from such relationships, so they are not participants in human rights violations
that violate Christian principles and international law.”
It also calls
on the U.S. government, the government of Israel, and
the newly elected Palestinian leadership to reject all acts of aggression and
violence, to respect the equality and dignity of all of the region’s people, and
to forge solutions based on the principles of international law and human
Other actions in the resolution encourage churches and conference
investment managers to examine their portfolios and consider divestment.
New England United Methodists
voted to affirm the right of Christians, Jews, and Muslims to freedom of
movement in the holy lands, and state that Jerusalem should be an open city for
people of all faiths.
* Some of the information in this report was provided by Mike
Hickcox, communication director of the New England Annual Conference of the
United Methodist Church.
News media contact: Linda Green,
(615) 742-5470 or