Methodist General Conference Rejects Divestment

The United Methodist Church’s 2012 General Conference, held this month in Tampa, Florida, rejected a proposal to divest from three U.S. companies doing business with Israel (Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola Solutions).  Divestment was rejected by a more than 2 to 1 vote of the plenary. The Conference instead urged advancement of “serious peacemaking strategies in Israel and Palestine including positive economic and financial investment in Palestine”.

The divestment proposal put before the UMC General Conference was similar to a proposal for divestment in the same three companies that will be up for consideration at the 220th Presbyterian General Assembly this summer in Pittsburgh. Advocates of the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement are promoting divestment in an apparently collaborative campaign.

The UMC General Conference also struck language that would have affirmed the controversial Kairos Palestine document, opting instead for language that acknowledges the need to hear diverse voices. In a separate action, the Conference recognized the legitimate security concerns of the people of Israel with a statement that “Since its creation, Israel has faced armed resistance that refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist”.

The UMC statement regarding the threats faced by the people of Israel is particularly significant. Israel-targeted divestment proposals almost universally avoid discussion or recognition of Israel’s legitimate security concerns, the existence of armed groups actively pursuing Israel’s destruction, and the ongoing efforts of extremist Palestinian groups to attack and kill Israeli civilians. The Palestinian group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 following Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and Hezbollah, operating in Southern Lebanon, are the two most prominent opponents calling for Israel’s destruction and both are provided with weapons by Iran. The leaders of Iran, in turn, speak openly of “wiping Israel off the face of the Earth”.

Our group, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, strongly endorses the PC(USA)’s support for a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine that recognizes the rights, aspirations, and obligations of both Palestinians and Israelis. We oppose initiatives, such as divestment, that refuse to acknowledge the proven and legitimate security concerns of the people of Israel, and instead place demands on Israel without regard to the realities of violent groups committed to the destruction of the Jewish state. We strongly endorse Palestinian efforts aimed at discouraging violence, establishing the rule of law, embracing peaceful coexistence with neighbors, and building a liberal democracy for the Palestinian people. The success of such efforts is essential for peace to be realized and a Palestinian state to be established and recognized.

For more information on where we stand on Middle East peacemaking, we suggest reading the articles Two Essential Principles for Presbyterian Peacemaking in the Middle East and Goals for the 220th Presbyterian General Assembly. For a more in-depth discussion of the issues, we suggest our comprehensive paper Advancing a Just Peace. These and additional materials are available on our website at