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April 26, 2012 3

Divestment Effort at the Methodist General Conference in Tampa

Should the United Methodist Church divest from its invest­ments in “com­pa­nies that sus­tain the Israeli occu­pa­tion?”

The answer to that ques­tion will be decided in Tampa, Florida, at this year’s Gen­eral Con­fer­ence of the United Methodist Church (UMC). The con­fer­ence began on Tues­day and is sched­uled to take place through May 5, 2012.

The UMC includes on its agenda a list of “major issues” that will be addressed at the con­fer­ence, includ­ing the church’s stance and efforts regard­ing abor­tion, gay rights, bul­ly­ing and immi­gra­tion. Also included in the agenda is a res­o­lu­tion on divest­ment from three Amer­i­can com­pa­nies – Cater­pil­lar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard – until they “end their involve­ment in the Israeli occu­pa­tion of the Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries.” The res­o­lu­tion fur­ther calls on “the United Methodist Church boards and agen­cies, annual con­fer­ences, local churches and indi­vid­u­als to prayer­fully con­sider cor­po­rate involve­ment in Israel’s occu­pa­tion when mak­ing invest­ment decisions.”

The res­o­lu­tion is being pre­sented to the Gen­eral Con­fer­ence by the United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR), an anti-Israel con­tin­gent that was formed in 2010 fol­low­ing the release of the “Kairos Pales­tine Doc­u­ment.” That doc­u­ment, which calls for a global BDS cam­paign, denies Jew­ish con­nec­tion to the Holy Land and jus­ti­fies terrorism.

If the res­o­lu­tion is passed, UMC gen­eral boards will be required to present reports on their respec­tive progress at the church’s 2016 conference.

UMKR has a doc­u­ment on its web­site list­ing indi­vid­u­als and groups that sup­port the res­o­lu­tion and it takes care to specif­i­cally high­light the Jew­ish anti-Zionists who sup­port BDS. This is likely an attempt to obvi­ate alle­ga­tions of anti-Semitism. The res­o­lu­tion has received sup­port from Jew­ish Voice for Peace, a vari­ety of Israeli anti-occupation activists and two anti-Zionist Holo­caust sur­vivors, Hedy Epstein and Hajo Meyer. In his state­ment, Meyer claims that, as a sur­vivor of Auschwitz, he “[refuses] to belong to a group which is a per­pe­trator, and there­fore I do not agree to allow the state of Israel to com­mit its crimes in the name of Judaism.”

In addi­tion to the divest­ment res­o­lu­tion, par­tic­i­pants at the con­fer­ence may be asked to vote on other vir­u­lently anti-Israel res­o­lu­tions, includ­ing one regard­ing endors­ing the Kairos Pales­tine Document.

Efforts by Methodist anti-Israel activists to divest from Israel began in 2008. Then, the UMC voted to con­tinue to allow its agency staff to make com­par­isons of Israel to the apartheid regime that existed in South Africa and par­tic­i­pate in the US Cam­paign to End the Israeli Occu­pa­tion. The Gen­eral Coun­cil did not, how­ever, vote in favor of divest­ing from Israeli companies.

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