Methodists affirm divestment as option to end Israel's occupation
- Hillary Clinton's United Methodist Church reaffirms opposition to Israeli occupation at General Conference
- Overwhelmingly affirms divestment as an option for pressuring for an end to Israel's occupation
- Creates task force to set human rights criteria for church investments/divestment in the Middle East, Darfur and China.
- Begins direct corporate engagement with Caterpillar, Inc to discuss role in the Palestinian Occupied Territories
JVP's Sydney Levy: "This is an important step forward for a major US church that has a longstanding history of opposition to the Israeli occupation." [San Francisco, May 2, 2008] Delegates at the United Methodist Church's General Conference in Fort Worth TX (April 23-May 2) did not get to directly consider a range of selective divestment proposals this week. Nonetheless, in a stunning rebuke to anti-divestment groups, Methodist delegates voted by 763-38 to keep divestment from Israel's occupation on the table as an option. Delegates also resoundingly rejected a petition to support Israeli settlements. Further, a proposal to divest from Caterpillar was shelved prior to the conference in favor of open talks with the company, marking the first time since JVP started our Caterpillar campaign that the company has agreed to talk directly with groups about their role in human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories.
Finally, Methodists voted to create a task force to consider global human rights issues in the Middle East, Sudan and China with the goal of "establishing, implementing and promoting a common standard for determining prohibited investments and positive investment principles that are consistent with The United Methodist Social Principles." It is expected that the committee will seriously examine further selective divestment initiatives as a way to bring about an end to the occupation.
The Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD), a conservative group critics charge with trying to split the church, created further controversy when they gave international delegates free cell phones which included directions for voting against a range of politically progressive proposals. It was their anti-divestment resolution called "Oppose Divestment from Israel" which was soundly defeated, thus illustrating how groups lobbying against selective divestment have won few hearts and minds.
"This is an important step forward for a major US church that has a longstanding history of opposition to the Israeli occupation, and is now moving towards one of the only nonviolent actions that can lead to real peace in the region. Each day Israel's occupation and settlement expansion continues unabated, the divestment and sanctions movement will grow," said Sydney Levy, Director of Campaigns for Jewish Voice for Peace, one of the country's largest Jewish peace organizations. Church leadership also reaffirmed condemnation of Israel's occupation. Jim Winkler, the General Secretary of the Methodist General Board of Church and Society said: "Israel's occupation of Palestinian land has continued for more than 40 years. Undeniable misery is experienced every day by Palestinian Christians and Muslims. Our church should not profit from it." At the last General Conference in 2004, this resolution passed: "The United Methodist Church opposes continued military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the conﬁscation of Palestinian land and water resources, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and any vision of a 'Greater Israel' that includes the occupied territories and the whole of Jerusalem and its surroundings." [Book of Resolutions, 2004, #312] Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is a member of the United Methodist Church and spoke at the General Conference in 1996. Jewish Voice for Peace launched a website, http://www.investinpeace.org/ where Jews and allies have sent messages of support to Methodists seeking to bring a lasting peace to the region by divesting from companies that profit from Israel's occupation. The United Methodist Church meets every four years. ______________________________ About Jewish Voice for Peace Founded in 1996, Jewish Voice for Peace is a national grassroots peace organization with over 20,000 supporters dedicated to promoting a US foreign policy in the Middle East based on peace, democracy, human rights and respect for international law. JVP's board of Jewish American and Israeli advisors includes Pulitzer and Tony award winner Tony Kushner, actor Ed Asner, poet Adrienne Rich as well as other respected rabbis, artists, scholars and activists. # # # #