The targeted companies include: Caterpillar, maker of bulldozers used to raze Palestinian homes; Motorola Solutions, provider of surveillance equipment for Israeli forces and Jewish-only settlements within the occupied territories; and Hewlett-Packard, which provides, sometimes through subsidiaries, the biometric monitoring system for Israeli checkpoints and information technology for the Israeli Navy.
A nonviolent form of economic protest, divestment is used to encourage companies to end their unjust practices. Methodists have applied the tactic to push for social change in the United States and abroad. In 1988, the UMC divested $77 million from companies supporting apartheid in South Africa and in the 1990s dropped $800,000 of Kmart stock for the selling of adult books.
The UMC General Conference, the church’s national body, has been issuing statements condemning the Israeli occupation and settlement construction in the Palestinian Territories since the mid-1990s. In 2004, it passed a strongly worded resolution that not only opposed the continued occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, but “the confiscation of Palestinian lands and water resources, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and any vision of a ‘Greater Israel’ that includes the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the whole of Jerusalem and its surrounding.”
Additionally, church representatives have engaged in shareholder activism for many years but have failed, so far, to persuade companies like Caterpillar from prohibiting the use of their products for human rights violations against Palestinians.
Yet persuading the UMC to shift from statements of condemnation to economic action has proved to be an uphill battle. The divestment strategy is hotly contested among Protestant denominations and vigorously opposed by a number of Jewish organizations who regard calls to withhold funds from companies involved in the occupation as an attempt to delegitimize Israel.
Last spring, amid vigorous debate, the UMC’s General Conference rejected 2-to-1 two divestment resolutions. Delegates voted instead to support positive investment in the Palestinian economy. They also endorsed a statement that denounced the occupation and settlements and called on all “nations to prohibit the import of Israeli products made on Palestinian land.”
If passed, the resolutions would have affected the investment practices of the church’s national pension fund, considered to be one of the largest religious pension funds in the country. Since their loss last spring, divestment activists have focused their attention on the investments of the regional conferences, which convene annually.
The UMC in the United States is made of 63 conferences. To have nine opt for divestment means one-seventh of all the regional bodies — representing thousands of churches — support withholding money from companies facilitating the Israeli occupation. An additional five more conferences have asked UMC’s national pension fund to divest millions of dollars in holdings from occupation-profiting companies.
The Methodists are not alone in pressuring companies to clean up their act in Israel/Palestine. Last year, the giant U.S. pension fund TIAA-CREF divested $72 million of Caterpillar stocks after a corporate ratings agency dumped the manufacturer from its list of socially responsible companies. The use of Caterpillar bulldozers in the razing of Palestinian homes was among the reasons given for the downgrade. The Friends Fiduciary committee, an investment firm serving more than 300 Quaker institutions, also nixed Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Veolia Environment from their portfolio. The latter company provides segregated water and transportation systems to Israeli settlers living in the West Bank.
United Methodist Kairos Response reports the Mennonite church and American Friends Service Committee recently identified 29 companies, including the three mentioned earlier, as ineligible for investment because of their involvement in the Israeli occupation.
Hope is never a constant in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Israeli seizing of Palestinian lands outpaces the passage of divestment resolutions, and the announcement of these divestment victories comes amid news the Israeli Knesset has approved a plan that could result in the forcible relocation of 40,000 Bedouins (Israeli-Palestinians) from their villages in southern Israel. Nonetheless, it is heartening to learn of these divestment initiatives, to realize that the dollars funding this occupation are dwindling little and by little.
Americans support the Iran deal overwhelmingly. But US public opinion is not the ball game. As Chris Matthews said last night, the people who care most about this deal don’t support it, and they’re out in force– in a word, the Israel lobby. So the politics of the Iran deal often sound like a strictly-Jewish conversation. Here’s the lay of the land.
The US press is paying a lot of attention to Jewish groups that are against the Iran deal. “Jewish groups gird for ‘epic’ battle over Iran deal,” Steve Mufson in the Washington Post reports; AIPAC, the leading Israel lobby group, is expected to spend as much as $40 million to try and nullify Obama’s policy.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is funding a new 501(c)4 group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, that is expected to spend $20 million to $40 million on advertising and campaigns in 30 to 40 states to mobilize opponents of the deal to write or call their members of Congress, say people familiar with the plan who sought anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it…
AIPAC seems to regard its own brand as toxic, and maybe Israel’s brand too. Here’s the ad that “Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran” ran on national television last night. Notice that the ad says not a word about Israel, which is deceptive, and that it has only 1040 or so hits on youtube.
The Anti Defamation League is leaning against the deal, the Washington Post reports, though the liberal Zionist group J Street is going to spend $2-3 million in favor of it. The Israel Project is also hard at work against it, spending tons of money on its own brand that doesn’t mention Israel:
The White House is highly cognizant of the Jewish groups. A thinktank started by AIPAC is central to the White House’s messaging, Mufson reports:
The White House had a list ready Tuesday, the day the agreement was announced, of benchmark concerns issued while talks were still underway by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
JTA’s Ron Kampeas reports that the White House is making special appeals to Jewish politicians and Jewish groups to support the deal:
[Last] Thursday morning, Ben Rhodes, a deputy US national security adviser, convened a meeting at the White House of Jewish lawmakers in the House of Representatives. About 15 of the 18 attended, and some were uncharacteristically silent about how it went.
Jewish sources close to the White House say the Obama administration is “on fire” and ready for the battle. Tony Blinken, the deputy secretary of state, led a call with Jewish organizations on Tuesday just six hours after the deal was announced. There have been more intimate calls with Jewish supporters of the president.
Also within hours of the deal, the White House distributed talking points arguing that the deal hews to and even improves upon five markers laid down by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an influential think tank that has historic ties to the Jewish community.
(By the way, Blinken may well be the adviser maligned in Michael Oren’s new book as a bacon-eating assimilating Jew. Watch out for continuing invective from Israelis who are prideful of their Jewish national identities aimed at US Jews who support the deal.)
The Boston Globe is lobbying Jews for the deal. It has an op-ed saying, “The deal deserves the support of American Jews,” penned by two big Jews, Geoffrey Lewis, an attorney active in a number of Jewish organizations both in Boston and nationally, and Gideon Aronoff, CEO of Ameinu, the liberal Zionist group. They explain why the ante is up for Jews:
Indeed, for American Jews, this issue is becoming a litmus test for one’s support for Israel. This is regrettable. We believe such opposition is misplaced, mired in the past, and is missing an opportunity to shape a more hopeful future.
So the deal is widely seen as an inside game for American Jews. And with my parochial hat on, I reject that litmus test of supporting Israel. So does Jewish Voice for Peace, which supports the Iran deal along with a very diverse coalition assembled by the National Iranian American Council. But gosh, how much do non Jewish Americans matter in all this?
Not that much, evidently. Everyone’s playing the inside-Jewish game. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter just went to Israel, to promise Israelis that the military option is still on the table:
“One of the reasons this deal is a good one is that it does nothing to prevent the military option — the U.S. military option, which I’m responsible for.”
The NY Times has an op-ed by Chuck Freilich, a former national security official in Israel, saying the deal is a “good deal for Israel.” And Wolf Blitzer interviewed our National Security Adviser Susan Rice defending the Iran deal, followed by Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer attacking it. Think of the weirdness of that, that this seems a natural thing to do: what is the Israeli ambassador doing first in line to comment? What about the Russian ambassador, the French or the Chinese?
Chris Matthews did an excellent piece last night that was frank about the pressure from the Israel lobby on Democrats. Senator Bill Nelson in Florida “is under pressure from Israeli supporters to vote against the agreement,” Matthews said, and Chuck Schumer won’t be afraid to vote against the deal. Schumer cites his love of Israel:
“So, I’m going to spend a lot of time thinking about it, learning about it, and then I’ll just do the right thing. And I’m not going to let party or pressure, or anything else. What’s good for America, first and foremost, and what’s good for Israel, which, of course, I care a lot about. There are times when I’ve broken with the president before.”
Matthews mentioned Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s rival, Isaac Herzog of Labour, coming to the U.S. to oppose the deal and asked:
If both sides of the political argument in Israel are opposed to the deal, doesn’t that sort of croak the deal here?
Maybe not. But it’s a tough fight, Matthews said:
AIPAC, the American Israel Political Affairs committee is going to drop a ton of money. A lot of people in the Jewish community and elsewhere are nervous about an existential threat coming from Obama at the hands of Iran….
Here’s a number that’s going to mean something, but not a lot. By a margin, a large margin, a majority of the American people approve the Iran nuclear deal. 56 percent support it, only 37 percent oppose it. 56 to 37 is a rare amount of fire power. But it’s not among people that care a lot. Right? It’s general, and it’s very skeptical out there, will it actually work…. There’s been an all-out lobbying assault by pro Israeli groups on both sides of the Iran deal…. The fight is for Democrats.
Jonathan Allen of Vox said most Democrats don’t want to have to vote for the deal.
Even a very liberal Democrat in the House, who’s going to vote for it, told me it would be much easier to vote against it.
I think the ones up for reelection next year will be the ones least likely to vote with the president.
Neocon Bill Kristol turns the screw, saying that the Democrats in Congress have to make Israel part of the deal:
Could Democrats in Congress say this: Given how bad Iran deal is anyway, could only vote for it if Iran first accepts legitimacy of Israel?
And here’s more lobbying from the hardliners. The Jewish Federations in Boston and Miami have come out against the deal. The Times of Israel reports that they’re lobbying US Jews to get them lobby Congress, and to suppress dissent:
“We encourage members of the community to reach out to their elected representatives in the House and the Senate to express their deep concern, and to urge them to vote against this deal,” the Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston said in a message Friday to Boston-area Jews.
The message the same day from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation appeared to call on community members who might not oppose the deal to suppress their dissents.
“We acknowledge that there are diverse views within our community, but ultimately this issue must remain above politics and reflect our collective determination to ensure moral clarity and absolute resolve in dealing with one of the world’s most dangerous regimes,” the message said.
You can help the State of Israel by contacting your congressman and senator and requesting that they reject this deal and override President Obama’s veto of their decision. Call their Washington offices and make your voice heard.
To learn more about the Iran Nuclear Program and the Negotiations, check out the great resources from AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
We are all called upon at this moment in history to help Israel. This is a moment for all Birthright Israel alumni to stand with Israel, take action and make your voices heard.
J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami’s comment on the fight in the Washington Post is very revealing:
“The foreign policy fight of a generation… It pits folks who brought us the Iraq war and whole neocon worldview versus the Obama worldview and the concept that we can confront enemies with diplomacy.”
Right: the neoconservative Jewish community, working with Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush, pushed the Iraq war out of concern for Israel.
Isn’t it time that more Americans got involved in these issues, and that the press gives them oxygen? That might chase the hardliners from the field at last, and it would be a great help to our foreign policy.
– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/07/americans-support-israel?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=f6ad2f26a8-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-f6ad2f26a8-398481365#sthash.LzZ06Jwy.dpuf
|“Capt. Paul K. Chappell has given us a crucial look at war and peace from the unique perspective of a soldier, and his new ideas show us why world peace is both necessary and possible in the 21st century. [He] can help people everywhere understand why war must end, and how together we can end it.” –Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Please join us at St. Francis Spirituality Center Nov. 7-8 for a stimulating overnight workshop on Peace Leadership dealing with the following topics:
In these first days of July, I am struck with the reality of my time here in Palestine juxtaposed to my family and fellow Americans celebrating Independence Day. While my native USA just had a weekend of festivities celebrating independence, with most celebrating the joy of freedom, abundance, liberty and the ongoing progress of expanding justice, dignity and human rights, my hosts here in Palestine continue to live under Israeli Military Occupation and subjugation.
Now more than half way through the month of Ramadan, the most holy time of the Muslim calendar, my hosts here in the village of Susiya continue with renewed hope and faith. Even as Military bulldozers arrived and appear to be part of the staging of equipment for the demolition of Susiya, one of the elders reflects, “With your presence here in Susiya and that of other solidarity workers throughout my land, when we raise our voices to speak of the violence and injustice perpetrated by Israeli Settlers and Military, the whole world hears. This is important. Back in 1947 and 1948, when my mother and my father raised their voices about losing land and freedom, no one listened; no one heard their cries for help. Throughout the subsequent decades, we cry, we die, and we lose land, water, family and freedom. But today, when we cry out, the world hears us, many around the world hear our struggle and though not physically here with us in Palestine, they stand in solidarity with us and our struggle.”
The Palestinians with whom I live and work hope that the world hears this cry of inhumanity and the plea to end the Israeli occupation and subjugation. And with the amplification of the lived Palestinian experience there is hope that the world will act. I have hope that my country will take a stand and demand an end to the ongoing violations of International Law. This year alone since January, in violation of International Law, Israeli authorities have already destroyed 281 civilian Palestinian structures. An average of 11 structures destroyed per week in the West Bank, compared to the already worrying average of 10 weekly destructions in 2014. (UNOCHA Protection of Civilians Weekly Report, 16-22 June 2015)
On July 7, a military transport carrying five soldiers accompanying the DCO (Israeli District Coordination Office) arrived in the center of Susiya and all walked through Susiya documenting and photographing various structures. As residents tried to engage with the soldiers and DCO, all communication attempts went ignored as if the village residents did not exist. All this is the precursor to what is believed to be an imminent demolition. The nearby bulldozers fired up their engines and were driven about by soldiers. Yet, no demolition has begun.
For the residents of Susiya, the elevated tension is palpable and the show of power by the Israeli Military is threatening and intimidating. This psychological dance amplifies the reality of living under Military Occupation and the psychological fear one has when the safety of family and home is never secure. This coupled with shortages of freedom, dignity and the most basic of human rights of water, electricity, sanitation, food, freedom of movement, and access to education demands that the Israeli Occupation of Palestine must end. Living with all things “Under Military Occupation” burdens ones heart, one’s soul, one’s life. My heart breaks, my heart cries for the struggle, the struggle for all here in this land, Palestinians and Israelis alike, Muslims, Jews and Christians all living in struggle in differing levels of intensity. I believe that this conflict, this occupation and subjection of another’s land and life is eroding the soul of all. The mistrust, the anger, the terror and aggression, all silently eat away at the moral and ethical nature of what it means to be human.
Here in this land, the light of hope is kept shining through public witness and presence on the ground and through the ongoing commitment to advocating for a just peace.
Rev. David Etherington is participating in a program with Church World Service as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal to him and do not necessarily reflect those of the sending organization, CWS, or the WCC.
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The newsletter begins with a story about this summer’s Peace Camp and these comments from young participants:
“I like the songs the bird sing. They bring love and peace for all to hear”
“Peace is God’s niceness spreading cheer through the earth so no one has fear. Peace is a feast for freedom.”
Our Peace Camp for children—”Pickles , Pie, Peace, and Me” concentrated on children being “in a pickle” and how to deal with such a small or large problem or conflict in their lives.