Palestinian Christian organizers sent along the following letter calling on the U.S. Presbyterian church to take historic action and divest from three companies doing business in the occupation. Signatories are at the bottom.
Dear Members of the Presbyterian Church,
As Palestinian Christians we urge you to divest from American companies that directly profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Investments in companies like Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard (HP), and Motorola provide direct support for the illegal occupation and the ethnically segregated legal system it enforces. Choosing to withdraw such support will affirm the Presbyterian Church’s understanding that challenging oppression through just and peaceful means is the most genuine expression of compassion for the oppressor as well as the oppressed.
The Church does not invest in organizations that threaten the security of Israeli civilians. Likewise, it should not invest in organizations that profit from the oppression of the Palestinian people. The divestment measure before you is not an attack on Israelis; it is a refusal to be complicit in systematic structural violence against Palestinians. The Israeli military uses Caterpillar bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes, uproot Palestinian olive tries, and build illegal settlements. HP biometric systems and Motorola surveillance technology help Israel deny Palestinians their freedom of movement. As such, these companies help enforce the system that keeps Palestinians living under indefinite Israeli occupation– legally and politically inferior to Israeli citizens.
Christian Palestinians, like all other Palestinians living in our occupied country, remain vulnerable to the political and economic interests of Israel, while Israeli citizens enjoy full political and civil rights. When our children are arrested, usually in the middle of the night, they can be denied access to legal counsel for up to 90 days. Their Israeli counterparts can demand a lawyer within 48 hours. When Palestinians living in the 62 percent of the West Bank under direct Israeli control apply for a permit to build much needed shelter, they are denied 94 percent of the time. If they build anyway, the Israeli Military uses Caterpillar bulldozers to demolish their homes. When Israeli extremists attack our villages, burn our olive trees, shoot at our families, and desecrate our churches and mosques, they are rarely arrested, and even more rarely charged with a crime. We, Palestinians, by contrast, live under constant surveillance, aided by companies like Motorola and HP, and are often imprisoned for taking part in peaceful demonstrations.
Given this reality, we believe that promoting coexistence instead of divestment would be tragically misguided. Jesus’ rejection of the corrupt and oppressive polity of his day demonstrated that loving one’s enemy does not mean accepting political injustice and domination. Love, in this context, means engaging in righteous and peaceful resistance, of which divestment is a part, in order to establish equality. Such action serves not only to liberate the oppressed from political and economic subjugation, but also to free the oppressor from his or her fear of the oppressed.
The Palestinian Christian community supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement precisely because we see it as the most substantial challenge and peaceful resistance to Israel’s violent occupation, under which all Palestinians suffer.
We implore our Presbyterian brothers and sisters not to surrender to the comforts of the less controversial path. Palestinians and Israelis both know how difficult it is to uproot decades of entrenched injustice. It is a task that cannot be accomplished by half-measures and good will alone.
Please vote to divest from firms that profit from violence against Palestinians and join us in our pro-active struggle for peace.
1. Antonian Charitable Society – Bethlehem
2. MP Fayez Saqqa (Bethlehem seat)
3. Al Ibrahimi Society – Bethlehem
4. Orthodox Society – Bethlehem
5. Saint Afram Society – Bethlehem
6. The Union of Bethlehem Neighborhoods
7. Orthodox Club – Beit Jala
8. Orthodox Club – Beit Sahour
9. Orthodox Club – Bethlehem
10. Al Ihsan Arab Orthodox Society – Beit Jala.
11. Ain Karem Society – Bethlehem
12. Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies
13. Arab Orthodox Housing Society – Beit Sahour
14. Alternative Tourism Group – Beit Sahour
15. Sain Vincent Charitable Society – Beit Jala
16. Wi’am Center – Bethlehem
17. Committee for the Preservation of Cremisan – Beit Jala.