|May 19, 2005
UCC to consider Israeli divestment
Church with $3 billion worth of clout follows
by Celeste Kennel‑Shank
Religion News Service
WASHINGTON — The United Church of Christ (UCC) will vote in July whether to pull the church’s investment money from U.S. companies involved in building Israeli settlements and security activities in Palestinian territories.
If approved, the 1.4 million‑member church, whose investment portfolio is valued at about $3 billion, would become the second U.S. Protestant body to consider pulling investments out of Israel to protest what they call Israel’s harsh treatment of the Palestinians.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted last year to “initiate the process of selective phased divestment” from U.S. companies profiting from Israeli construction in the West Bank and Gaza. The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterians have both used shareholder actions to protest the use of Caterpillar Inc. bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes.
The UCC also will also consider two related resolutions, one calling on Israel to tear down its separation wall in the West Bank, the other proposing 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, whose headquarters is near Pittsburgh.
The resolution says economic pressure was used successfully to end apartheid in South Africa — a comparison that angers Jewish leaders. It also expresses the church’s continued support of Israel’s existence as a nation, and its opposition to anti‑Semitism, noting that “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 with 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 will be talking to UCC ministers and congregations about other ways to use their financial clout to make a difference. A model of selective investing in Israeli and Palestinian products through companies seen as socially responsible — like that being explored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — is more positive than selective divesting, Pelavin said.