|United Methodists urged to divest from 20 companies|
A Caterpillar excavator uproots Palestinian olive trees to make way for
an Israeli settlement in the West Bank village of Jayyous. Caterpillar
is one of 20 companies identified by a United Methodist task force in
the New England Annual (regional) Conference as supporting Israel's
occupation of Palestinian land. A UMNS file photo courtesy of Christoph
By Alexx Wood*
Aug. 6, 2007 | LAWRENCE, Mass. (UMNS)
After two years of research, a United Methodist task force in the New
England Annual (regional) Conference is urging its members, churches
and investment managers to divest from 20 companies identified as
supporting Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.
The companies range from Lockheed Martin, identified as the single
biggest overseas supplier for the Israeli armaments industry, to movie
rental chain Blockbuster Inc., which the task force says operates kiosks
in illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land, contributing to
the appeal and growth of Israeli settlements.
The conference, which includes all or part of five states in New
England, created the study panel after passing a resolution in 2005 to
divest from companies that are significantly supporting the Israeli
occupation of Palestinian territories.
That resolution said the church "should not profit from the illegal
Israeli occupation of Palestinian land or the destruction of Palestinian
homes, orchards and lives." It was approved by the regional conference
after the 2004 General Conference, the denomination's top lawmaking
body, passed a resolution calling for an end to the Israeli occupation.
A number of U.S. and Israeli Jewish peace groups and religious
leaders have called for selective divestment from Israel as a means of
ending settlement expansion and illegal occupation.
"Selective divestment is consistent with the United Methodist
commitment to a just and sustainable peace for all the people of the
Middle East," said William P. Aldrich, chairman of the New England
Conference task force. "Resolution 204 and the work of the Divestment
Task Force in New England support the General Conference resolution and
offer a tangible way of working toward this goal."
Research and dialogue
Since 2005, the task force has researched and examined many companies
related to Israeli occupation. Each identified company was contacted in
writing with the concerns of the task force and given 60 days to
respond. Nine of the companies answered in writing, and their
correspondence are included in the report.
"The goal is to make all United Methodists
and other Americans aware of their relationship to companies that
benefit from the Israeli occupation, and to give them an opportunity to
withdraw from such relationships so they are not participants in human
rights violations that go against Christian principles and international
–William P. Aldrich
For instance, Jerry R Kircher III, vice president of investor
relations for Lockheed Martin, directed the task force to its primary
customer, the U.S. government, "as they are the decision makers on
product distribution and national policy matters."
Blockbuster responded that its operation in Israel is limited to one
franchisee that is not violating local laws, according to company
spokeswoman Karen J. Raskopf.
Besides Lockheed Martin and Blockbuster, other companies on the list
are Alliant Tech Systems (NYSE:ATK); Boeing (NYSE:BA); Caterpillar
(NYSE:CAT); Cement Roadstone Holdings (NYSE:CRH); General Dynamics
(NYSE:GD); General Electric (NYSE:GE); Globecomm Systems Inc.
(NASDAQ:GCOM); ITT Corp. (NYSE:ITT); Magal Security Systems
(NASDAQ:MAGS); Motorola (NYSE:MOT); Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC); Oshkosh
Truck Corp. (NYSE:OSK); Raytheon (NYSE:RTN); Silicon Graphics
(NASDAQ:SGIC); TEREX (NYSE:TEX); United Technologies (NYSE:UTX); Veolia
Environnement (NYSE:VE); and Volvo (NASDAQ:VOLV).
Aldrich does not expect United Methodist divestment activity to
significantly affect Israel’s economy or the bottom line of the
companies listed. "This is not the goal," he 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 to give them an
opportunity to withdraw from such relationships so they are not
participants in human rights violations that go against Christian
principles and international law."
Bishop Peter D. Weaver of the New England area said ending the
Israeli occupation is a stated goal of the entire denomination. "This
report provides concrete information that can be used by New England
Methodists in working toward that goal," he said.
The complete report, including details on each company identified and
the reasons for the divestment recommendation, can be found at www.neumc.org/divest.
The New England Conference, based in Lawrence, Mass., has
approximately 93,000 members in 550 United Methodist and federated
congregations in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island,
eastern Connecticut and Vermont.
*Wood is communications director of the New England Annual Conference.
News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Two United Methodist gatherings urge selective divestment from Israel
New England Conference
Companies Recommended for Divestment
Divestment Task Force Report and Recommendations
Book of Resolutions: Opposition to Israeli Settlement in Palestinian land
United Methodist Board of Church and Society