UCC May Follow Presbyterians in Divestment From Israel

From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)

CELESTE KENNEL-SHANK | Religion Journal | 26 May 2005

(RNS) The United Church of Christ will vote in July on whether to pull church money from U.S. companies involved in constructing Israeli settlements and security measures in Palestinian territories.
If approved, the 1.4 million-member church (with a $3 billion investment portfolio) would become the second U.S. Protestant body to pull investments from Israel in protest of what they call Israel’s harsh treatment of the Palestinians.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted last year to begin divesting from U.S. companies profiting from Israeli construction in the West Bank and Gaza. The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterians have used shareholder actions to protest use of the Illinois-based Caterpillar’s bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes.
The UCC will also consider two related resolutions, one calling on Israel to tear down its separation wall in the West Bank, and a second that proposes further study of divestment. Church delegates will vote on the resolutions at the General Synod conference in July.
The resolution urging divestment was drafted by the church’s Penn West Conference, based outside Pittsburgh.
The resolution says economic pressure was used successfully to end apartheid in South Africa — a comparison that angers Jewish leaders. It also states the church’s continued support of the existence of Israel as a nation, and opposition to anti-Semitism, noting “both the ancient Jewish people and Palestinian people are known as Semitic.”
Mark Pelavin, director of interreligious affairs for the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest U.S. Jewish denomination at 1.5 million members, called the UCC resolutions “counterproductive.”
“They’re cast in terms of helping the peace process,” Pelavin said. “I think they would have the opposite effect. Such one-sided approaches undermine rather than support the peace process.”
Pelavin said representatives of his organization would be talking to UCC ministers and congregations nationwide about other ways to use their financial resources to make an impact.
A model of selective investing in Israeli and Palestinian products through companies seen as socially responsible — like ones being explored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — is more positive than selective divesting, he said.