Frequently Asked Questions About Divestment
Did the PC(USA) divest from Israel?
No. The PC(USA) divested from three American companies that profit from the Israeli occupation and blockade of Palestinian territory. The Church continues to invest in several companies doing business in Israel. And the 221st General Assembly reaffirmed our support for a secure and sovereign state of Israel.
Had the PC(USA) ever divested from other companies?
Yes. The PC(USA) has a longstanding investment/divestment policy that prohibits the Church from investing in any company that contributes to “human harm.” The Church does not own stock in any company that is involved in military related products, human rights violations, tobacco, or alcohol. Accordingly, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has divested from more than six hundred companies over the past forty years, including those that were profiting from apartheid South Africa, human rights violations in Sudan, forced labor in Burma, and lack of mine safety in Kentucky.
Why did the PC(USA) divest from these three companies?
Hewlett Packard produces IT equipment to the Israeli Navy, which is used to enforce Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip. Hewlett Packard also produces the biometric scanners used at checkpoints within the occupied West Bank and on the border between the West Bank and Israel. Motorola Solutions produces fuses for Israeli bombs, ruggedized cell phones for Israeli soldiers, and surveillance equipment for Israeli settlements. Caterpillar bulldozers are used by the Israeli military to demolish Palestinian farmland in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Caterpillar also contributes to the construction of the Israeli separation barrier and Israeli settlements, both deemed illegal under international law.
How did the Church decide to divest from these companies?
Following a mandate from the 216th General Assembly, the Church’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) Committee embarked upon an extensive corporate engagement campaign with these three companies. MRTI met with representatives of the companies on numerous occasions to discuss the incongruities between the human rights abuses of their products and PC(USA)’s ethical investment policies. After it became clear that the companies were not going to change their practices in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, MRTI recommended in 2012 and again in 2014 that the Church divest its holdings. The 221st General Assembly then voted 310-303 to divest.
Is PC(USA) the only denomination to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation?
No. In early June 2014, the United Methodist Church divested its shares in G4S, a security company, over its involvement with the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. The American Friends Service Committee divested from Hewlett Packard in 2008 over its involvement with the Israeli military. The United Church of Christ is considering divestment and boycott at its General Synod next month. Divestment is also on the table among American Lutherans and Mennonites.
Has the PC(USA)’s decision to divest alienated our Jewish friends?
No. The American Jewish population is tremendously diverse. A range of opinions exist among American Jews on the nature of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the appropriate role of American Christians in the region, and the best ways to reach a just peace. And as Anna Baltzer, an American Jewish woman who works for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, said at the 220th GA, “You are being told that action against the occupation will estrange you from the Jewish people. But the occupation is fundamentally contrary to our shared values of equality and justice. There is nothing Jewish about racial profiling with Hewlett Packard bioscanners. There is nothing Jewish about protecting stolen land with Motorola technology. There is nothing Jewish about demolishing Palestinian homes with Caterpillar bulldozers. And to claim that ending cooperation with these human rights violations means ending cooperation with Judaism, or Jews, draws a very dangerous parallel. There is a sea change happening. Jews are divided on this issue. You have to follow your own conscience.”
What do Palestinians think about divestment?
The Kairos Palestine document, which was endorsed by every Palestinian Christian denomination, “call[s] on individuals, companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the [Israeli] occupation. We understand this to integrate the logic of peaceful resistance. These advocacy campaigns must be carried out with courage, openly and sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice.”
posted May 22, 2015