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IPMN Responds to Christian Century on "Positive Investment"

To:  Christian Century
Re:  “Investing in Palestinians”

Anyone who hears the phrase “positive investment” very reasonably thinks:  “How can you be against that?”  But, as in many human situations and conflicts, the devil is in the details.

“Positive Investment” assumes that there is a context in which it can actually work.  So far, self-proclaimed proponents have found some possible inroads to this kind of investment in the IT field but not much beyond that.  That is wonderful and we hope this development continues.  Beyond the virtual, however, exactly how do olive farmers move actual products past walls and checkpoints and Israeli-only highways; that is, beyond the “Swiss cheese” of the Bantustans created by barriers that run deep into the Occupied Palestinian Territories cutting Palestinians off from each other?  Many farmers are separated from their ancestral lands and cannot even harvest their olives or tend their trees. They are dependent upon many Christians from the U.S. and elsewhere to come and do it for them.  The best “positive” investment would be to allow the owners and growers of those crops to actually get to them rather than have their land be confiscated by the Israeli government for lack of production.

Palestinians themselves know that the economics of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) will hit them hard. So what is the logic of them writing the Kairos Palestine Document signed by all Christian leaders and even endorsed by many Palestinian Muslim leaders calling for BDS? It comes out of the pain and struggle of living under occupation, which Bishop Tutu himself has said is in some ways worse than the apartheid he experienced in South Africa.  Divestment there helped change the course of history by non-violent means.  And like South Africa, the call for church divestment is from corporations profiting from human pain and suffering.

Presbyterians are already accustomed to not investing in companies that provide materiel used in conflict.  Divestment by our church has always been about aligning our finances with our faith and values.  At the very least, concerned Christians have every right to ask that their local congregational budgets and their pensions do not grow as a result of this kind of pain and suffering, whether anything changes on the ground or not. The call for Presbyterian divestment comes only after years of corporate engagement where the companies named have made it clear they will not cooperate with the church’s standards for positive investment. The truth is: there are dozens of companies operating in Israel from which our denomination need never divest because their products are for inherently peaceful pursuits.

Israel’s military occupation locks an entire people behind concrete walls, creates suffering and even death among the Palestinian people far outnumbering the terrible Israeli losses.  It prevents any realistic chance for effective positive “investment in Palestinians” and a viable free enterprise economy.

The first step is to actually go to Palestine and see how life is captive behind the walls and checkpoints; to see how actual goods (as opposed to virtual products) have no prayer of crossing lines and barriers; and to hear about the pain and suffering that comes with the collective punishment imposed for simply being Palestinian.

On behalf of
The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PC(USA)

Jeffrey DeYoe, Advocacy Chair
Ft. Myers, Florida
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