Presbyterians Vote Against Israel Divestment

On February 11, 2012, the Presbytery of New Covenant voted to send an overture (proposal) to the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s 220th General Assembly (GA) which calls for the GA to “Disapprove the recommendation of the MRTI (Mission Responsibility through Investment) committee for divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions”.  The Presbytery of New Covenant is comprised of over 100 congregations in southeast Texas.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace welcomes and strongly endorses this new overture action being taken by the Presbytery of New Covenant.  We believe that a policy of Israel-targeted divestment is wrong, unjust, and will harden the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

In effect, Israel-targeted divestment would place the PCUSA firmly within the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel. Internationally, BDS activists are already trumpeting the MRTI recommendation as a huge victory. At the General Assembly, other attempts will be made to align the PCUSA with the BDS strategy such as overtures to approve the Kairos Palestine document, which explicitly endorses BDS. We believe that BDS must be rejected.

In its rationale, the presbytery cites the fact that after the Presbyterian General Assembly in 2004 voted to initiate a policy of divestment of certain companies doing business with Israel, this policy was reversed by the General Assembly in 2006. Proposals for divestment have been rejected by wide margins at all subsequent Presbyterian general assemblies. The overture also argues that a proposal as important as divestment must be thoroughly discussed and debated, with all viewpoints given fair consideration, and cannot be delegated to a committee such as the MRTI.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace concurs with the need for discussion, debate, and discernment on any proposal as important as an Israel-targeted divestment action.  As a matter of simple due process, PFMEP requested an opportunity for representatives of the three companies to speak directly to the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) when the divestment recommendation from MRTI was being considered. The request was denied. PFMEP was told that the GAMC would be considering whether the recommendation was “responsive” to the directions of the General Assembly, not the merit of the divestment proposal itself. However, despite the lack of due process, the GAMC went ahead and endorsed the MRTI recommendation.