Presbyterians set to vote on divestment

(JTA) — Leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) will vote next week on whether to divest from three companies that sell products and services that they say help maintain Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Meeting in Pittsburgh from June 30 to July 7, church leaders will vote on a proposal to divest their financial portfolio from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard. Those companies continue to resist calls for change, Brian Ellison, chair of the church’s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A 2011 church report found that Caterpillar supplies bulldozers for the demolition of Palestinian homes, Motorola provides cell phone technology to West Bank settlements and Hewlett-Packard manages information technology for the Israeli Navy.

The church cannot justify investing pension and charitable funds in companies that it says contribute to injustice, Ellison told the newspaper.

In 2004, the church asked his committee to approach companies that profited from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel and the West Bank and ask them to withdraw their business from Israel. 

Dealing with the issue of divestment in companies doing business in Israel has been a major effort for Jewish professionals in the interfaith arena ever since. The divestment push is part of what is known as the BDS – or boycott, divestment and sanctions – campaign aimed at Israel.

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