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June 5, 2012

US Campaign Holds Strategy Call to Discuss Anti-Israel Initiatives

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation held a conference call on May 31, 2012, to discuss strategies and tactics that could be used to end US military aid to Israel.
The call featured presentations by several grassroots anti-Israel activists who discussed their efforts to pass local divestment resolutions in their regions, as well as two speakers who spoke about the efficacy of anti-Israel bus and billboard ads calling for an end to aid for Israel. The call was led and moderated by Josh Ruebner, the National Advocacy Director for the US Campaign.
A rundown of the call:
  • Mark Davidson, a pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, spoke about his efforts locally to unveil a bus ad campaign focusing on ending aid to Israel. He claimed that the ad campaign is almost ready and is being sponsored by several groups such as the Coalition of Peace and Justice and the Muslim Affairs Political Action Council in Raleigh.
  • Joyce Guinn, an activist from a local Milwaukee group called Friends of Palestine, talked about her group’s recent efforts to divest from Israel on a city level. According to Guinn, Friends of Palestine is currently seeking to get a divestment resolution passed through the Milwaukee County Common Council.
  • Cindy Corrie, the mother of Rachel Corrie, an International Solidarity Movement activist who was killed while protesting Israeli military operations in Gaza, spoke about local efforts in Washington State to divest from Israel. Corrie claimed that a resolution has been passed in Okanogan County, but it was impossible to verify that information.
  • Elaine Kinch, an activist with the Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice in Wisconsin, spoke about her divestment efforts, including protesting outside a GE Shareholders Conference in late April. Kinch distributed anti-Israel pamphlets from If Americans Knewand collected signatures at the conference calling for an end to aid to Israel.
  • Natalia Cuadra, a coordinator for the United Methodist Kairos Response, talked about UMKR’s recent efforts to pressure the Methodist Church to divest from Israel at the United Methodist Church Conference in April. The divestment resolution failed to pass. 
While none of these efforts seem to have much legs, it is notable that local activists have the opportunity to brainstorm and collaborate with one another in the hopes of making their movement that much more successful.

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April 26, 2012

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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January 5, 2012

BDS Movement Gears Up for University of Pennsylvania Conference

The University of Pennsylvania is set to play host to a major strategy conference next month for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. A group called PennBDS announced that the conference will take place on campus over the first weekend in February and has invited many of the significant players in the domestic anti-Israel movement, including representatives from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Jewish Voice for Peace

Scheduled speakers advocate a variety of strategies used to delegitimize Israel, including “lawfare” initiatives, boycott campaigns against Israeli products, campus divestment resolutions and claims of “pink-washing,” which argue that Israel’s progressive attitudes on LGBT issues are an effort to whitewash its human rights policies regarding Palestinians.

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