Episcopal Church Mulling 2 Israeli Divestment Proposals at General Convention to Boycott US Companies That Do Business With Israel

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church speaks in a live webcast conversation, July 21, 2010.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church speaks in a live webcast conversation, July 21, 2010. | (Photo: The Episcopal Church via The Christian Post)

A mainline protestant denomination will consider adopting a resolution supporting divestment from companies that do business with Israel.

The Episcopal Church will consider several resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict at its 78th General Convention that's being held in Salt Lake City and began on Thursday.

Resolution D016, introduced by the Very Rev. Walter Brownridge of the Diocese of Hawaii, calls on the Church to compile a list of corporations profiting from the so-called "Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories" and divest from said companies.

The resolution reads in part: "... upon receiving the position of said companies to these shareholder resolutions, Executive Council, by its June meeting of 2017 [will] develop a process of divestment from those companies who have refused to disinvest."

An Israeli flag flies high in Tel Aviv, December 28, 2010.
An Israeli flag flies high in Tel Aviv, December 28, 2010. | (Photo: Reuters)

It continues: "That this General Convention directs the Executive Council to establish a work group to identify a list of products made or businesses present in West Bank settlements (including East Jerusalem) and publishing them within one year of adjournment of this Convention so that Church entities, including congregations and individual members can seek to boycott those products and/or businesses which are 'illegal under international law' …"

Resolution C003, also coming from the Diocese of Hawaii, calls on the denomination to adopt "a policy of selective divestment or a No Buy policy of any holdings in Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions until such time that the conflict is resolved through a just outcome for Palestinians and all Israelis or that these companies take action to disinvest from their involvement in the [so-called] 'occupation.'"

"That all Episcopalians be urged to pray and work for peace in the Holy Land, so that the Jewish and Palestinian people may come together in a spirit of reconciliation," continued Resolution C003.

"That a copy of this resolution be sent to these companies along with a conveying letter and that the Church's money managers be instructed to implement this policy and that this resolution also be sent to other church investors, including the Church Pension Fund, which are urged to follow this policy."

Debates over divesting from Israel or companies that do business with Israel have periodically erupted in mainline Protestant churches.

Proposals for some level of divestment against companies that do business with the Israeli military have had mixed results in denominations like the United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church (USA).

Back in March of 2012, Episcopal Church Presiding Katharine Jefferts Schori spoke out against divestment campaigns against Israel.

At the Middle East Peacemakers luncheon in Los Angeles that year, Bishop Jefferts Schori told the approximately 200 attendees that it was better to "invest in legitimate development in Palestine's West Bank and in Gaza" than boycott or divest from Israel.

"The Episcopal Church does not endorse divestment or boycott," stated Jefferts Schori, adding that such efforts "will only end in punishing Palestinians economically."

While supporters of divestment have oft compared Israel to Apartheid South Africa, Episcopal News Service noted Wednesday that a 2005 Episcopal Church report disagrees.

"In the case of South Africa, the entire system of apartheid was illegitimate, and no actions short of dismantling it could be countenanced by the world community. The goal was the end of that South African regime," read the report in part.

"The case of Israel is different. Church policies clearly support Israel's right to exist, and no companies should be involved, however inadvertently, in any way with organizations engaged in violence against Israelis. Companies can and should operate in Israel proper."

The aforementioned resolutions on divestment will be considered along with others by the General Convention attendees over the next week.

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