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Episcopal Church officially bars investments in companies benefitting from the Israeli occupation

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This week, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church adopted a human rights investment screen related to Israel and Palestine and will sell its holdings in Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar, Inc., and the Israel Discount Bank.

This is the latest step in response to a July 2018 General Convention Resolution (B016) which committed the Episcopal Church to a similar process taken by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America two years earlier. The action also follows steps previously taken by the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ.

The human rights screen would bar Episcopal Church investments in “any corporation that supports or benefits from denial of human rights in or through the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Gaza Strip.”

The criteria for deciding if a corporation meets this threshold were reported in a media release from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network:

“1) Does a corporation have a record of any of the following: supplying or doing business or providing goods or services in or to illegal settlements (as defined in international law) or contributing to the construction or maintenance of housing or other facilities in such settlements or seeking otherwise to profit from human rights violations in the OPT, or

2) Does a corporation have a record of directly or indirectly supplying or doing business with or providing goods or services to, or otherwise contributing to, the Israeli Defense Forces as the IDF operates in the OPT.”

Acting on a recommendation of the Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (CCSR), shares in three companies, Caterpillar, Inc., Motorola Solutions and the Israel Discount Bank, will be removed from the Church’s investment portfolio and placed on its No Buy List.

In a posting summarizing the Executive Council meetings, the Episcopal News Service noted that the Church has engaged with those companies for years without persuading them to respond as requested to human rights violations in the Palestinian territories. Bishop Doug Fisher, chair of the CCSR noted, “we do take seriously the rights of human beings to live free of human rights violations. We have engaged companies about the occupation since we first filed a shareholder resolution with Motorola in 1994.”

The actions adopted by the Council passed with very little debate or disagreement, in sharp contrast with the tension surrounding the resolution at last year’s General Convention or even at the Spring 2019 Executive Council meeting when objections were raised to some of the proposal’s language. One amendment, which asked the CCSR to investigate an upcoming stock offering by Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company for possible church engagement, was passed.

Reaction to the Executive Council’s action has been positive thus far. The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, said, “I appreciate the hard work done for so many decades by so many to promote the Church’s commitment to justice for all the peoples of the Holy Land.”

In a statement, the Steering Committee of the Palestine Israel Network commended the entire Council for its work to address the Episcopal Church’s complicity, through its investment funds, in the Occupation. “This action is timely as prospects for a two-state solution have diminished since the 2018 General Convention. [We have] noted with alarm recent actions taken by the U.S. and Israeli governments, including the Trump Administration’s actions to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel… Israel’s sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights, [and] the Nation-State bill passed by Israel,” the statement reads in part.

While the total shares to be sold is small, about $1.2 million in Motorola, $125,000 in Caterpillar, Inc., and a smaller amount in the Israel Discount Bank, the symbolism is important. “This is a stewardship issue,” said the Rev. Canon C.K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church. “The Church does not want to make profits from companies that contribute to the suffering of others.”

According to their media release, the Council also directed the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, “to pursue continued engagement with Facebook,, and TripAdvisor, urging them to address human rights violations through complicity in the occupation of the OPT, and seeking to assure that the companies take all necessary steps to end their complicity in the occupation.”

Establishing a human rights investment screen for investments related to Israel and Palestine adds to the list of screens used by the Episcopal Church, including tobacco, fossil fuels and certain military contractors.

The 2018 General Convention also passed resolutions calling on its members to work to safeguard the rights of Palestinian children in detention, pursue justice in Gaza, reaffirm Jerusalem as the shared capital of Israel and a future Palestinian State, renew UNRWA aid to Palestinian refugees and support negotiations for a just peace.

Randall Heyn-Lamb

Randall Heyn-Lamb is a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship-Palestine Israel Network steering committee.

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5 Responses

  1. pabelmont on October 24, 2019, 10:10 am

    And the Babtists? The Evangelicals? The Catholics? All calling themselves “Christian” ? What would Jesus recommend on investments? Discussion?

  2. jaspeace2day on October 24, 2019, 2:38 pm

    Sorry, not sure where to post this but it is important and relevant. It is an article by Miko Peled and Milan University students overcoming a zionist plot to block him from speaking. The students won!

  3. Misterioso on October 25, 2019, 9:37 am

    “UN expert: Israeli occupation ‘longest’ in modern world” Middle East Monitor, Oct. 23/19

    “A UN human rights investigator on Wednesday called the Israeli occupation in Palestine ‘the longest occupation’ in the world, Anadolu reports.

    “’Israel has occupied the Palestinian territory for more than 52 years, the longest belligerent occupation in the modern world,’ Michael Lynk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, told the General Assembly.

    “He said the international community has been reluctant to take action against Israel for its permanent occupation and serious violations of international law.

    “’The status quo of Israel’s ‘occu-annexation’ is endlessly sustainable without decisive international intervention because of the grossly asymmetrical balance of power on the ground,’ said Lynk.

    “The rights expert said the ongoing blockade — land, sea and air — has severely restricted basic rights of the residents including healthcare, education and livelihood.

    “’The Gaza blockade is a denial of basic human rights and amounts to collective punishment,’ he said.

    “Turning to ongoing protests by Gazans and the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces, Lynk said Tel Aviv has not demonstrated accountability for their actions despite calls by the international community and civil society organizations.

    “The ‘Great March of Return’ and related protests have resulted in the deaths of 207 Palestinians and 33,828 have been injured, he said.

    West Bank:
    “The expert also raised concerns on the annexation of parts or all of the West Bank by Israeli government, saying the levels of settler violence have increased in the West Bank.

    “’Incidents of settler violence were recorded in a number of West Bank towns including in Hebron, Nablus, and Ramallah,’ he added.

    “Lynk said the Israeli security forces have intensified their raids into various parts of the West Bank and arrests and arbitrary detentions.

    East Jerusalem:
    “Lynk also said more than 100 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished in East Jerusalem since late April.

    “Demolitions and construction of settlements are aimed at changing the demographic balance by reducing Palestinian presence and strengthening the Jewish majority in East Jerusalem.

    “Israel occupied East Jerusalem — in which Al-Aqsa is located — during the 1967 Middle East War. It formally annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as its capital — a move never recognized by the international community.

    “He said the Israeli occupation is a ‘bitter illustration of the absence of international accountability in the face of the systemic violations of Palestinian rights under human rights and humanitarian law.’

    “’Accountability is the key to opening the titanium cage that is the permanent occupation, and its principled application is the best path to a just and durable settlement,’ he said.”

  4. Misterioso on October 25, 2019, 10:18 am

    “A UK university is trying to censor Jewish critics of Israel” The Canary, Oct. 22/19, by Fre’a Lockley

    “A world-class university is trying to silence academics with restrictions that Noam Chomsky called an ‘outrage.’ University College London (UCL) has insisted that leading academics, including Jackie Walker, must abide by chilling new guidelines. Ahead of a book launch, they feel these seriously stifle freedom of speech. UCL claims they are to prevent antisemitism. Yet, as Walker and others told The Canary, these guidelines also seem part of a right-wing Zionist attack on the left.”

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