The United Methodist General Assembly convened in Tampa during the week of April 30, 2012. Among the many resolutions on which they voted were two to divest pension funds from three companies which profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, namely Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard. The body rejected the two divestment resolutions and instead passed one calling for “positive investment to encourage economic development in Palestine.” Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC) applauds the courageous individuals who brought forth and voted for the resolutions. They worked against overwhelming odds to bring awareness to the Christian community and to the world at large, and we believe their efforts have not been in vain.
The United Methodist Church has had a long history of supporting human rights causes, including speaking out clearly against slavery in the United States. They have a clear and ethical investment strategy, which spells out the importance of “investing in a socially responsible manner.”
MN BBC, which has signed on to the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel until it complies with international law, is disappointed in the outcome of the vote. Many of the people who spoke in favor of the divestment resolutions gave passionate speeches fully conveying the depth of the oppression which the Palestinians daily face. Those in favor of the divestment resolutions had read and understood the Kairos Palestinian Document of 2009 calling on people of faith all over the world to stand in solidarity with Christian and Muslim Palestinians and support the BDS movement.
MN BBC believes that the resolution that passed the assembly – that of positive investment in Palestine – is a misguided move that is actually destructive to the cause of liberty and equality. This is true for three main reasons. First, according to Khalil Nakhleh, a Palestinian economist, the majority of investments in “Palestine” go towards foreign-owned companies whose owners become wealthy while adding nothing to the Palestinian economyi. The Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza would not benefit significantly, if at all, from investments in those foreign-owned companies. Notably, Palestinian refugees in foreign countries would receive absolutely no benefit.
Second, several projects which have been financed by other countries or by the U.N. and which are meant to develop the Palestinian economy are undermined by Israeli policies. For example, the Spanish NGO Seba built a solar power plant for the Palestinian village of Imneizil. Israel is in the process of destroying it. The German development bank KfW and United States Aid for International Development (USAID) raised money to build 15 wastewater treatment plants in the West Bank. None of them were constructed because Israel denied permits for their construction.
Third, in order for the Palestinian Authority to have any credibility with the Israelis, they must act against the interests of their own people and only act in the interests of the occupying force (Israel). The projects which do get funded, like the training of the PA security forces, help Israel in continuing to oppress Palestinians. Needless to say, these projects do not benefit Palestinians.
MN BBC believes that the only way to directly confront oppression is by non-violent resistance, and that those of us who believe in human rights and justice have a duty to stand in solidarity with Palestinians. We must heed the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israel, until we achieve our goal. The struggle continues!
Endnote: i. Globalized Palestine: The National Sell-Out of a Homeland, by Khalil Nakhleh, The Red Sea Press, Trenton New Jersey, 2012