New York Times on the United Methodist divestment campaign
Methodists Vote Against Ending Investments Tied to Israel
By Laurie Goodstein. Published: May 2, 2012
The Methodist delegates in Tampa, primarily occupied with proposals for church reorganization plans, were lobbied heavily on the divestment question. Divestment advocates dressed in bright yellow T-shirts passed out literature and sponsored free luncheons for delegates. Jewish Voice for Peace, a liberal American Jewish group that supports divestment, sent several organizers.
Desmond Tutu, the Anglican archbishop emeritus of Cape Town and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, wrote an article in The Tampa Bay Times likening the Israeli occupation to apartheid and saying that divestment could be as effective in Israel as it was in South Africa.
The divestment resolution called specifically for pulling investments in the church’s pension funds out of three companies: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions.
Advocates for divestment say that Caterpillar supplies the bulldozers and earth-moving equipment used by the Israel Defense Forces to clear Palestinian homes and orchards; that Hewlett-Packard provides, sometimes through subsidiaries, biometric monitoring at checkpoints and information technology to the Israeli Navy; and that Motorola supplies surveillance equipment to illegal settlements in the West Bank and communications equipment to the occupation forces.
In two separate votes, divestment was defeated by a 2-to-1 ratio. Susanne Hoder, a Methodist from Rhode Island and a spokeswoman for a group for divestment, the United Methodist Kairos Response, said: “Though we did not get the decision we hoped for, we have succeeded in raising awareness about the persecution of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. We have awakened the conscience of the churches and pointed out the inconsistency between our words and our actions.”
Ms. Hoder said that four geographic regions, or “annual conferences,” of the Methodist Church — Northern Illinois, California Pacific, New York and West Ohio — had already voted to pull out their own investments. “We expect that more United Methodist conferences will do this,” she said.