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UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey
Middle East Divestment DefeatedThe Rev. We Hyun Chang, a delegate from the New England Annual (regional) Conference, holds a map illustrating Israeli expansion into the West Bank during the May 2 session. Chang presented a motion favoring divestment from corporations profiting from the Israeli settlement of occupied Palestinian territories. The petition was defeated.
Middle East Divestment Defeated
Petition targeted Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions for role of their products in Israeli occupation
TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS) — Delegates to The United Methodist Church’s top lawmaking assembly approved a petition condemning Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, but overwhelmingly defeated a measure to divest from specific U.S. companies profiting from the occupation.
Delegates … overwhelmingly defeated a measure to divest from specific U.S. companies profiting from the occupation.
Delegates instead approved a report calling on the United Methodist General Board of Pension & Health Benefits (GBPHB) to explore “serious peace-making strategies in Israel and Palestine, including positive economic and financial investment in Palestine.”
Delegates were lobbied heavily on the divestment question. Advocates decked out in bright yellow T-shirts passed out literature and sponsored luncheons for delegates. Jewish Voice for Peace sent several organizers to help in the effort.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, Anglican archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, wrote an article in The Tampa Tribune that compared the Israeli occupation to apartheid. He said divestment could be effective in Israel just as it was in South Africa. His article was circulated by the divestment proponents.
Dominated May 2 plenary
On the other hand, over 1,200 rabbis mailed a letter to the delegates before the conference convened that urged a vote against divestment. The rabbis, who represented most of the mainstream Jewish faith groups, argued that divestment “shamefully” positions Israel as a pariah, solely responsible for thwarting peace efforts.
The rabbis’ letter warned that a vote for divestment would damage the relationship between Jews and Christians.
The Israeli-Palestinian issue dominated the May 2 afternoon plenary at General Conference, a gathering of 990 delegates from around the world held every four years.
The petition advocated divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions.
The divestment petition originally was submitted to General Conference from the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society, and was endorsed by the General Board of Global Ministries. The petition was combined with similar petitions from six annual conferences: Baltimore-Washington, California-Pacific, Minnesota, New England Northern Illinois and West Ohio.
The petition advocated divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions because they provide products used by the Israeli military in the occupation of Palestinian lands.
· Caterpillar supplies bulldozers and earth-moving equipment used by Israel Defense Forces to clear Palestinian homes and orchard.
· Hewlett-Packard biometric monitoring equipment is employed at checkpoints.
· Motorola Solutions supplies surveillance equipment to illegal settlements in the West Bank and communications equipment to the occupation forces.
Positive not punitive options
General Conference’s Finance & Administration Committee instead substituted language urging “positive, rather than punitive options,” said Jessica Vargo, East Ohio delegate and committee chairperson, who presented the committee’s report to the plenary.