Monday, July 30, 2012

Divestment Debate Highlights Shift in Mainstream Opinion

Phyllis Bennis is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee. She will be on the opening panel of our National Organizers' Conference in St. Louis Friday, September 21 at 7:00pm discussing the Arab uprisings and how changes in the region affect our organizing to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. Register today

The mainstream U.S. press, paying unusual attention to U.S. corporate complicity in Israel's occupation, wrote quite extensively about last week's Presbyterian campaign for corporate social responsibility. Virtually all the headlines focused on the two million-strong Presbyterian Church (USA) decision not to divest from multi-national corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation and settlement policies. 


"In Close Vote, Presbyterian Church Rejects Divesting in Firms That Aid Israeli Occupation,"
said the New York Times. The Associated Press reported, "US Presbyterians Reject Israel Divestment." According to the Christian Science Monitor, "Presbyterians Reject Call to Divest over Israel's West Bank Occupation." 

It took Ha'aretz, the leading Israeli daily, to get it right: "
Presbyterian Church in U.S. votes to boycott Israeli settlement goods," their headline read. 

The voting at the Pittsburgh meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) -- PC (USA) -- was the latest step in an eight-year campaign to bring the Church's investment policies into line with its commitment to social justice. It had tried for those eight years to persuade the multinational corporations to stop enabling Israeli violations of international law -- an effort that Church leaders overwhelmingly agreed had failed. Presbyterian corporate responsibility activists, led by their Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee, had moved from studying, to attempting to engage with corporate leadership, to shareholder actions, all aimed at pressing for accountability in those corporations in which the Church had invested millions of dollars. 


The Assembly approved a call to boycott all Israeli settlement-made goods (stronger than the original proposal), and to urge all other countries to boycott such goods. The Church had earlier called for suspending U.S. military aid to Israel. The proposal calling for divestment from specific corporations profiting from occupation and militarism, was ultimately taken off the table when a razor-thin majority (333-331 with two abstentions) approved a substitute motion calling for a vote on investment in Palestinian enterprises instead. 


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