Editor’s Note: United Methodist Kairos Response sent out a email today saying that the divestment resolution will be considered by the conference plenary tomorrow. You will be able to watch live here.
In 2004, the end of one of my first journeys to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, I endured a shocking experience at Ben-Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. I never imagined that Israeli security forces would abuse a 79-year-old Holocaust survivor, but they held me for five hours and strip-searched and cavity-searched every part of my naked body. The only shame these security officials expressed was to turn their badges around so that I could not know their names. The only conceivable purpose for this gross violation of my bodily integrity was to humiliate and terrify me. But it had just the opposite effect. It made me more determined to speak out against abuses by the Israeli government and military.
Yet my own experience, unpleasant as it was, is nothing compared to the indignities and abuses heaped on Palestinians day after day, year after year. Israel’s forty-four year occupation of the West Bank is based not on equal rights and fair play, but on what Human Rights Watch has termed a “two-tier” legal system — in other words,apartheid, with one set of laws for Jews and a harsh, oppressive set of laws for Palestinians.
This week the Methodists can make an historic decision to help end the suffering of the Palestinians under this Israeli occupation. The Resolution “Aligning United Methodist Investments with Resolutions on Israel/Palestine” which will be presented in plenary tomorrow as a Minority Report calls on the Church to divest from three companies, Hewlett Packard, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar.
Gaza is often described as the world’s largest open-air prison. Israel maintains a draconian and brutal blockade of Gaza, and its Navy enforces this humanitarian catastrophe with HP information technology. Caterpillar has long sold specially designed bulldozers to Israel for its on-going demolition of Palestinian homes. Motorola supplies Israel with surveillance equipment for use on illegal, Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land.
These companies are actively enabling and benefiting from Israel’s dispossession, control,and imprisonment of Palestinian civilians.
Some Methodists assert that divestment is punitive and the answer is investment in the besieged Palestinian economy. This is false. Divestment is a nonviolent action to urge these companies to quit selling technology and equipment that facilitate illegal policies and criminal actions against the Palestinian people.
Palestinians are not asking for charity or money. They are demanding freedom to be able to live and work in dignity and feed and provide for their children. Ending Israel’s occupation is the only way to truly invest in Palestine. Methodist divestment is a strong, humane and prophetic response to the injustice daily faced by the Palestinians.