A young Jewish settler rides a bicycle in front of the West Bank settlement of Susiya June 24, 2012. Susiya the settlement enjoys well-watered lawns, humming electricity, and the protection of a mighty state. One rocky hill away, Susiya the Palestinian village is parched and doomed.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been involved in mission efforts in the Middle East for nearly two centuries. The denomination’s long-standing witness in Israel and Palestine has spanned a range of efforts: contributing to refugee relief and resettlement; combating hunger and poverty; promoting education, health and leadership development; vocational training programs and self-development projects; and programs supporting peace, justice and human rights movements.
The church has a strong commitment to the security of both Israelis and Palestinians. We believe the security of Israel and the Israeli people is absolutely dependent on making peace with their Palestinian neighbors by negotiating and reaching a just and equitable solution to the conflict that respects international law, human rights, the sanctity of life, the dignity of persons, land, and property, safety of home, freedom of movement, the rights of refugees to return to their homeland, and the right of a people to determine their political future and to live in peace and prosperity.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has consistently condemned violence by both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and since 1948 has called for a “two-state solution” with secure borders for both Israel and Palestine.
This week, the denomination is holding its 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh. The General Assembly will vote on a recommendation by its committee for socially responsible investment (MRTI) to divest of its stock in three companies “until they have ceased profiting from non-peaceful activities in Israel-Palestine.”
In 2006, the 217th General Assembly approved a statement urging the “…financial investments of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as they pertain to Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, be invested in only peaceful pursuits.” The assembly has identified specific practices that it deems to be roadblocks to a just peace in Israel-Palestine.
Companies are asked to “refrain from allowing their products or services to support:” violent acts by Israelis or Palestinians; construction and maintenance of settlements or Israeli-only roads in occupied Palestinian territory; the military occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel; and construction of the Separation Barrier beyond the 1967 “Green Line” to include Palestinian land.
After initially identifying five corporations involved in the above practices and six years of corporate engagement and dialogue, the MRTI has recommended divesting from three of the companies that we believe profit from non-peaceful activities – Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s investing agencies hold stock in companies that do business in Israel and Palestine, including for example Intel, Oracle, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, IBM, Microsoft, McDonald’s and American Express. The MRTI’s dialogue has been focused, as the General Assembly has repeatedly directed, on companies it feels are engaged, in particular, in roadblocks to peace, profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel-Palestine. Therefore, the General Assembly is not, nor has it ever been, asked to divest from all companies doing business in Israel and/or Palestine.
The recommendation to divest comes out of a strong faithfulness to the principles of socially responsible investing and a deep commitment to peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The Rev. Gradye Parsons is the stated clerk of the General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).