Presbyterian committee passes call for divestment from occupation profiteers

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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Caterpillar tractor
Caterpillar bulldozer, occupied territories

The Presbyterian committee on the Middle East has voted overwhelmingly in favor of divesting from three companies whose products are used by the Israeli military.

The vote this morning, with 36 in favor, 11 against and 1 abstention, is a boon to divestment activists who hope that the full Presbyterian general assembly will vote to divest. It removes the last barrier to a full plenary vote, which is set for Thursday or Friday of this week.

Here’s the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian church statement on the vote:

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is pleased to announce that today Committee 15 of the 220th General Assembly voted in favor of Resolution 15-11, which calls for divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, over Israel’s use of their products in violations of Palestinian human rights. In voting to support divestment, committee members also recommended that the church reinvest divested funds into companies engaging in peaceful pursuits in Israel and Palestine.

“This is an encouraging step,” said Rev. Dr. Walt Davis, IPMN Education Co-Chair. “We hope plenary voters will follow the lead of Committee 15 and the recommendations of the Mission Responsibility Through Investing committee and support divestment from these companies that are profiting from Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. It’s been a long and thorough process and it’s finally time for the church to stop profiting from the suffering the peoples of the Holy Land.”

You can read the resolution here.

Caterpillar makes bulldozers that are outfitted by the Israeli military and used to destroy Palestinian homes. The corporation suffered a blow after the pension fund TIAA-CREF divested some holdings in the company last month following a decision by MSCI, a Wall Street investment service firm, to take Caterpillar off its index of “socially responsible” companies.

Hewlett-Packard and Motorola are also companies whose products are used to sustain Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank.

The vote came after a marathon session yesterday that featured heated debate over the measure.

The one abstention on the vote came from Ken Page, a Presbyterian commissioner from Florida who went on a Jewish Council for Public Affairs junket to Israel. He recused himself from all votes to avoid charges of bias.

Even before the vote, Israel lobbyists were fretting about the chances that the divestment resolution had. It appears their nervousness was justified.

Jewish Voice for Peace has a petition up encouraging Presbyterians to “vote your conscience on divestment from corporations profiting from the Occupation.” Sign it here.

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