Presbyterians Suggest Cutting Ties With US Companies Over Israeli 'Occupation'

In a similar move made by the United Methodist Church, a committee within the Louisville-based Presbyterian Church recommends in a new report that the denomination cut ties with Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions for allegedly aiding Israel in its occupation of Palestinian lands.

At its meeting on September 9, the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) submitted its report to the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA on its engagement with corporations doing business with Israel.

As part of its regular process of corporate engagement, and based on directives given to it by each General Assembly since 2004, the committee determined that three companies be placed on the General Assembly's divestment list: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions.

This divestment recommendation, however, will have to be approved by the church’s legislative General Assembly in 2012 in order for it to become policy.

As the Courier-Journal of Louisville reported, the committee pointed to seven years of effort to persuade these companies to cut back on supplying activities that it said violated international law, but it has been rebuffed.

The committee described Caterpillar as profiting from sales of its products to the Israeli military and civilian authorizes, including its D-9 bulldozers that are used to demolish Palestinian homes and construct settlements and Israeli-only roads on Palestinian land, acts MRTI deems illegal under international law.

Caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan told the Associated Press (AP) the bulldozers are provided to Israel through the U.S. government-run Foreign Military Sales program.

"These products are being provided to Israel as part of a broader U.S. government policy," he said.

MRTI claims in its assessment that Hewlett-Packard has profited from sales of specialized technology used in invasive and unjust biometric scanning processes at checkpoints in the separation wall constructed on Palestinian territory.

The Presbyterian group also charges Motorola Solutions with profiting from providing communications technology to the Israeli military used in operations in the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. In addition, Motorola Solutions has built and supported high-tech surveillance systems in the separation barrier and in Israeli settlements built illegally on Palestinian land, MRTI asserts.

MRTI is a committee of 12 members, ministers and laypeople from around the country, including representatives of church agencies responsible for investments, social witness and advocacy, and mission coordination.

The Presbyterian group promotes socially responsible investing and implements a policy of corporate engagement that, since 1971, has allowed the church to work alongside companies to promote environmental responsibility, global human rights, corporate accountability, consumer product safety, fair employment practices, and more.

The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society also suggested in 2010 that its group divest from Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, and Caterpillar.

In reports of its recommendation and stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the United Methodist Church compares Israel's so-called occupation of Palestinian land to Apartheid in South African.

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