Presbyterian Church (USA) Mulling Divestment from Israeli Companies

A committee within the Presbyterian Church (USA) has recommended that the mainline protestant denomination divest from three companies that do business with Israel.

The Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) recently submitted a report calling for divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola Solutions.

In their report, MRTI argued that the recommendation stemmed from the companies being tied to non-peaceful activities in the Palestinian Territories.

MRTI's report will next go to the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board next month, which will vote on the merit of the recommendations.

William Somplatsky-Jarman, Social Witness Ministries coordinator with the Presbyterian Mission Agency, told The Christian Post that if approved the three companies would not be the only entities for which PC (USA) does not do business with for "moral reasons."

"It should be added that the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation/New Covenant Funds also proscribe investments in alcohol, gambling and manufacturers of hand guns," said Somplatsky-Jarman. "We are focused on companies involved in non-peaceful pursuits (roadblocks to a just peace) as defined by the General Assembly."

The debate over divestment from companies that do business with Israel has been a perennial issue within PC (USA). Motions to approve divestment from Israel over its policies towards the Palestinian Territories have seen mixed results when brought before the denomination's General Assembly.

In 2012, PC (USA) delegates narrowly voted down a measure for divestment, instead approving a lighter resolution meant to encourage "positive investment", reported the New York Times.

"Presbyterians in favor of divestment said that their church could not in good conscience hold stock in companies that they said perpetuate an unjust occupation and undermine the search for peace between Israel and the Palestinians," wrote Laurie Goodstein of the NYT. "But opponents said that divestment would unfairly vilify Israel, and accomplish little but further polarization."

Similar calls for divestment have been debated in other mainline denominations, including The Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church. They are often voted down.

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