WASHINGTON (JTA) – Left-leaning pro-Israel groups have called on the country’s largest Presbyterian Church to abandon plans to divest from three companies that it says have resisted the request to stop providing services that aid Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
Americans for Peace Now and J Street have called on the Church’s plenary to vote against a committee recommendation made earlier this week calling for divestment.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly’s Middle East Committee voted 36 to 11 with one abstention in favor of divesting its portfolio from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. The committee said the company’s helped “Israel’s use of their products in violations of Palestinian human rights.” The group recommended the church put those funds instead into companies “engaging in peaceful pursuits in Israel and Palestine.”
The Church’s full convention, being held in Pittsburgh, is expected to vote either Thursday or Friday on the proposal.
“We believe that divestment campaigns such as this are misguided and counterproductive," said APN President and CEO Debra DeLee. “By targeting Israel rather than the occupation, this divestment campaign creates the impression that PC (USA) is making common cause with historically virulently anti-Israel organizations and individuals, who are often not interested in Israeli security concerns or Palestinian behavior but in Israel’s destruction. Divestment campaigns such as this therefore raise very real and understandable worries about global anti-Semitism and the perception that the campaigns are not truly (or only) about Israeli policies but rather reflect a deep-seated hatred for and rejection of Israel."
J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami called the possible divestment an "unproductive path."
"I would say to the Church’s leaders as they again consider joining forces with the BDS Movement, that the Movement’s rhetoric and tactics are not only a distraction, but a genuine threat to conflict resolution. Even the limited divestment approach under consideration by PCUSA falls under the rubric of larger BDS efforts to place blame entirely on one side of the conflict. Such an approach encourages not reconciliation, but polarization. Further, too many in and around the BDS movement refuse to acknowledge either the legitimacy of Israel or the right of the Jewish people as well as the Palestinian people to a state," he said.
Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, is at the convention and is speaking with Church leaders about toning down the resolution, according to a JCPA spokesman.
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.