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United Methodist Church pension fund rules 5 top Israeli banks off-limits for investment

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We received the following press release today from United Methodist Kairos Response, a group of United Methodist Church members, with the headline, UMKR Welcomes Pension Fund Exclusion and Divestment of Israeli Banks. –Editor

January 7, 2016 – UM Kairos Response is pleased to announce that I. This is the first time a major church pension fund has acted to preclude investment in Israeli banks that sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

The information has been posted on the Pension Fund’s website under Evaluating companies in our investment funds that pose excessive human rights risks. The banks are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank, and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank. These banks are deeply involved in financing illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi were removed from the portfolios. The fund manager, known as Wespath, also divested from Shikun & Binui, an Israeli company involved with construction in the illegal settlements beyond Israel’s recognized borders. In addition, Wespath has placed Israel/Palestine on a list of regions where human rights violations occur.

UMKR is pleased to learn of these actions, while noting that Wespath still holds stock in ten companies located inside the illegal settlements and in several others that lend important support to Israel’s occupation. A list of those companies is available on the UMKR website.

According to UMKR Co-chair Rev. Michael Yoshii, “We commend the pension fund for taking this significant step in disassociating from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.  But as United Methodist policy opposes the occupation, this is only a first step towards ending our financial complicity in the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.”

Rev. John Wagner, a member of the UMKR Divestment Committee, added, “Since the church’s policy-making body, the General Conference, has called on all nations to boycott products produced in the illegal settlements, we urge our fund managers to maintain consistency and divest from all companies that profit from these same settlements.”

UMKR has submitted four proposals to the next General Conference, which will meet May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon. Three would require divesting from companies involved with the occupation and one would establish a screen to preclude investments in companies doing business in illegal settlements anywhere in the world.

United Methodist Kairos Response is a global grassroots group within the United Methodist Church seeking to respond to the urgent call of Palestinian Christians for actions that can end the Israeli occupation of their land. For more information, visit


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12 Responses

  1. Boomer on January 12, 2016, 4:55 pm

    A rare bit of good news. A small bit, more a moral victory than a practical one, but something to welcome. Congratulations to those responsible.

    • Froggy on January 13, 2016, 10:50 am

      It’s a start. A very important one.

      Methodists are good people. In matters of social justice non-Methodists tend to take them at their word because they have a good reputation.

  2. JWalters on January 12, 2016, 5:22 pm

    This is an important and welcome step on humanity’s road to Justice. My thanks to all who worked for this progress. It is a tragedy when ingnorance perverts religion into abandoning the Golden Rule.

  3. Philip Munger on January 12, 2016, 8:14 pm

    one would establish a screen to preclude investments in companies doing business in illegal settlements anywhere in the world.

    Do any human rights agencies already maintain such a list? One would hope so.

  4. Sycamores on January 13, 2016, 12:07 pm

    pro-Israeli lawfare against the BDS movement (or in the case of UMKR Selective Divestment) could be is heating up this year.

    here we have ‘UMKR Welcomes Pension Fund Exclusion and Divestment of Israeli Banks. ‘

    and then we have

    A law being proposed in New York would create an official blacklist of supporters of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

    Two New York bills — one introduced in the state senate and another in the assembly — would require the state government to “develop, using credible information available to the public, a list of persons it determines boycotts [sic] Israel.”

    Individuals or entities included on the state’s blacklist would be barred from partnering with state agencies unless they can demonstrate in a written statement that they are “not engaged in boycotting Israel.”

    State pension funds would also be prohibited from investing in institutions that have divested from Israel.

    so we have one of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States putting Israeli banks complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestinian land on a blacklist

    and the proposed law in New York if passed would create an official blacklist of supporters of the Palestinian-led BDS movement. i doubt the proposed law will differentiate from UMKR Selective Divestment and the BDS movement.

    the battle of the blacklists will probably begin this year which can only bring more attention to the Palestinians cause to the US public, in other words an own goal for the pro-Israeli lawfare.

    • lysias on January 13, 2016, 12:25 pm

      So the proposed New York law would prohibit investing in the Methodist Church? Seems to me there must be a court case there.

      • Sycamores on January 13, 2016, 5:00 pm

        good point lysias,

        it will be interesting to see how will the proposed law prohibit investing in the Methodist Church with a following of over 7 million.

        here are the proposed bills

        senate Bill S6086

        Relates to purchasing restrictions on persons boycotting Israel and the investment of certain public funds in companies boycotting Israel

        New York Assembly Bill 8220

        Bill Title: Relates to purchasing restrictions on persons boycotting Israel and the investment of certain public funds in companies boycotting Israel; requires the commissioner of general services to compile a list of companies boycotting Israel and establishes that such companies will be considered non-responsive bidders.

  5. amigo on January 13, 2016, 4:38 pm

    Good news from Ireland on the BDS front!!.

    “Huge BDS victory as CRH pulls out of toxic Israeli assets, ends complicity with Israeli crimes

    A report released today by Ireland’s largest multinational CRH confirmed the global cement giant has divested from its 25% stake in the Israeli cement market. The company has been a focus of a sustained campaign calling for such a divestment from the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) and other groups for over a decade, due to role its Israeli subsidiary Nesher Cement plays in supplying materials for the building of Israel’s illegal separation wall, checkpoints and settlements.

    In the report CRH stated that it had “completed 13 divestments in 2015, the largest of which was the disposal of CRH’s 25% equity stake in its Israeli operation.”

    That 25% stake was held in the Mashav group, the holding company for Nesher Cement, the sole producer of cement in Israel. Nesher is involved in the building of the separation wall in the West Bank which annexes Palestinian land to Israel, and has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. Nesher’s actions support and sustain the ongoing Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land. Nesher Cement is also used in the construction of illegal colonial settlements in the occupied territories, checkpoints that impede travel and commerce for Palestinians, and more than 700 kilometres of Israeli-only roads in the West Bank (See the Who Profits? website for details of Nesher’s involvement).”

  6. Kay24 on January 13, 2016, 7:23 pm

    The United Methodist Church has been quite active and bold when it comes to fighting for the powerless and suffering. Obviously it is not afraid of the zio backlash.

  7. rosross on January 13, 2016, 8:46 pm

    Good to see. BDS continues to grow. There is no place for apartheid in a civilized world and Israel is learning that.

  8. Kathleen on January 18, 2016, 12:40 pm

    Interesting way for a cultural arts center “The Dairy” in Boulder Colorado chose to celebrate Martin Luther King day…promoting a Jewish civil rights activist (Rosenwald). This center has a Jewish film festival but not a Muslim film festival.

  9. Kathleen on January 18, 2016, 12:42 pm

    Question…Is the disregard that Hillary, Obama, Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz and many Americans have for the hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslims killed, injured, and millions of refugees as a direct consequence of our foreign policy actions fundamentally racist? I think so.

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