Presbyterians Dump Companies Tied To Occupation of Palestine


The United States Presbyterian Church decided to pull out millions of dollars worth investments from three American companies because they are allegedly tied to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. During a close vote at the church’s annual assembly in Detroit on June 20, members voted to divest $21 million from three multi-national corporations including Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar.

According to the church, Caterpillar sends products to Israel that have been used to destroy Palestinian homes, Motorola Solutions offers military and surveillance systems located in unlawful Israeli settlements and Hewlett-Packard provides logistics and technology to assist the naval blockade of Gaza.

Immediately after the vote, church leaders said their decision was not biased and the proposed divestment was related to the church’s longstanding commitment to initiating peace in the region. The church also said it will continue to support Israel and its vote had nothing to do with the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is an international movement aimed at punishing Israel for its occupation of Palestinian lands.

“We recognize the complexity of the issues, the decades-long struggle, the pain suffered and inflicted by policies and practices of both the Israeli government and the Palestinian entities,” said church leaders.

However, certain Jewish organizations, even those that are against the ongoing crisis in Israel, said the church’s decision was in fact a direct result of the BDS movement.

“It is a very sad day for Presbyterian-Jewish relations when church leaders from across the U.S. align with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement… This is an affront to all who are committed to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, American Jewish Community, who believes the decision undermines the peace process between Israel and Palestine.

In fact, certain Presbyterians too condemned the vote. For instance, Reverend Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of Auburn Seminary in New York, called on those Presbyterians who do not agree with the church’s decision to unite with their local Jewish communities and mend relationships following the controversial vote.

“The vote sets back the work toward a just and peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It hurts the Presbyterian place at the table for peacemaking, and creates barriers not just between Presbyterians and Jews, and Israelis and Palestinians, but also within the Presbyterian body," said Henderson.

On the other hand, those Palestinians who support the BDS movement said they were happy about the church’s decision to divest because it is a sign that the movement is growing more popular in the United States.

Omar Barghouti, founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said, “Presbyterian supporters of Palestinian rights have not only solidly introduced divestment from Israel's occupation to the U.S. mainstream, but they have given the Palestinian people real hope in the face of the relentless cruelty of Israel's regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.”

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