The letter immediately below was written to United Methodists who were deliberating on the Resolution "Aligning United Methodist Investments with Resolutions on Israel/Palestine" in the California-Pacific Conference in 2011. That resolution was eventually adopted here and in six other annual conferences, as well as by the General Board of Church and Society. It will be submitted as a petition from each of those bodies to the UMC's General Conference 2012.
A Moral Choice: Divesting from the Israeli Occupation
Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on Selective Divestment
At JVP, we fully support efforts to divest from companies that profit
from Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
This includes American companies like Caterpillar who profit from the
wholesale destruction of Palestinian homes and orchards.
We are not advocating divestment from Israel. We absolutely reject the
accusation that general divestment or boycott campaigns are inherently
anti-Semitic. The Israeli government is a government like any other,
and condemning human rights abuse as many of its own citizens do quite
vigorously, is in no way the same as attacking the Jewish people.
Further, it is crucial not only to criticize the immoral and illegal
acts of the Israeli and U.S. government, but to back up that criticism
with action. When governments engage in oppressive policies, pressure
from outside is required to bring about positive change. Putting
economic pressure on U.S. companies has been and will be a successful
grassroots organizing strategy that brings that pressure to bear.
As the movement to divest from Israel's occupation grows, we hope that
the Israeli government will decide that there is nothing to be gained
from sustaining the oppression of four million Palestinians, who live
without equal protection under the law. We hope that this movement
makes clear also to American representatives in government that
American citizens will no longer fund the oppression of Palestinians,
and by extension the destruction of Israeli civil society, through our
GBCS and the United Methodist Church
April 22, 2008.
Jewish Voice for Peace welcomes the decision of the General Board of
Church and Society (GBCS) of the United Methodist Church to sit down at
the table with Caterpillar to discuss the use of the corporation's
armored bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes, uproot trees, and
build illegal settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
We are also encouraged by the words of Jim Winker, GBCS' General Secretary,
“Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land has continued for more than 40
years. Undeniable misery is experienced every day by Palestinian
Christians and Muslims. Our church should not profit from it.”
We encourage the delegates of the United Methodist Church, meeting at
its quadrennial convention in Fort Worth, TX, to divest from companies
that profit from the Israeli occupation.
In a letter from Caterpillar to Mr. Winkler, the corporation
acknowledged its responsibility "to encourage the constructive use of
its products." The corporation further declared that it does not
"condone the illegal or immoral use of any Caterpillar equipment."
In the same letter, Caterpillar hides behind a misleading
interpretation of U.S. anti-boycott laws. These laws apply only to
boycotts demanded by foreign countries. These laws pose no risk that
Caterpillar will violate them by responding appropriately to pressure
by U.S. churches, U.S. citizens, or U.S. pressure groups such as JVP or
the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Nor do the U.S.
anti-boycott laws prohibit or attempt to limit in any way the
endorsement or advocacy of such divestment policies by U.S.
organizations, individuals, or groups. Such advocacy is protected free
speech under the First Amendment.
The use of Caterpillar equipment to violate Palestinian human rights
has been extensively documented in human rights reports (by Human
Rights Watch, War on Want, Amnesty International and others) and has
been conveyed to Caterpillar in different ways over the years: 5 annual
shareholder resolutions, a letter from the Office of the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights, a lawsuit on behalf of the family of
activist Rachel Corrie and four Palestinian families whose homes were
demolished By Caterpillar bulldozers, and countless street protests
around the world.
Caterpillar itself has acknowledged that it sells bulldozers under the
U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program--in other words, it sells these
bulldozers as weapons.
It is time for caterpillar to show responsibility for its actions and
to stop selling bulldozers to Israel until these gross human right
Jewish Voice for Peace is a diverse and democratic community of
activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace,
social justice, and human rights. We support the aspirations of
Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.
• A U.S. foreign policy based on promoting peace, democracy, human rights, and respect
for international law
• An end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem
• A resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem consistent with international law and equity
• An end to all violence against civilians
• Peace among the peoples of the Middle East
We are among the many American Jews who say to the U.S. and Israeli governments: "Not in our names!"
JVP supports peace activists in Palestine and Israel, and works in
broad coalition with other Jewish, Arab-American, faith-based, peace
and social justice organizations.
FOR A CHANGE IN U.S. POLICY
Jewish Voice for Peace calls for a U.S. foreign policy that promotes
democracy and human rights. The United States must stop supporting
repressive policies in Israel and elsewhere. U.S. military aid to
countries in the Middle East must be based on rigorous enforcement of
the Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts, which mandate that
military aid may be used for only defensive purposes within the
recipient country's borders, and that aid may not be delivered to
countries that abuse human rights.
Under these guidelines, U.S. military aid to Israel must be suspended
until the occupation ends, since the occupation itself is in violation
of these guidelines. Military aid allows Israel to avoid making serious
efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as
conflicts with its other neighbors. It enables the occupation,
contributes to the devastation of Palestinian society and fosters the
increasing militarization of Israeli society.
JVP also calls for suspension of military aid to other human rights
abusers and occupiers in the Middle East. This aid helps prop up
autocratic and repressive regimes, promotes violations of human rights
and international law, obstructs democratic movements, prolongs the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and fosters militarism and violence at
home and abroad.
FOR PALESTINIAN-ISRAELI PEACE
Israelis and Palestinians have the right to security, sovereignty, and
self-determination within political entities of their own choosing.
Israel must end its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East
Jerusalem, completely withdraw from these Occupied Territories and
relinquish all its settlements, military outposts and by-pass roads.
Jerusalem has to be shared in a manner that reflects its spiritual,
economic, and political importance to both Israelis and Palestinians,
as well as to all Jews, Muslims and Christians.
The plight of Palestinian refugees needs to be resolved equitably and
in a manner that promotes peace and is consistent with international
law. Within the framework of an equitable agreement, the refugees
should have a role in determining their future, whether pursuing
return, resettlement, or financial compensation. Israel should
recognize its share of responsibility for the ongoing refugee crisis
and for its resolution.
The parties must equitably distribute water and other natural resources.
Diplomatic negotiations between the two parties must be held
unconditionally. Countries other than the U.S. should be involved in
peace negotiations. An international peacekeeping force should be
established to protect all civilians.
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
All people of the Middle East deserve the right to democratic
participation and equality within their societies, regardless of
religion, ethnicity, culture, national origin, language, race, sex,
gender, sexual orientation, or other status.
Israel must cease its use of military force against Palestinian
civilians, including attacks involving American-supplied F-16s and
Apache helicopters. Moreover, Israel must stop land seizures;
destruction of homes, infrastructure, orchards and farms; arbitrary
arrests and imprisonment; torture; assassinations; expulsions; curfews;
travel restrictions; abuse at checkpoints; raids; collective
punishment; and other violations of human rights.
Palestinians must stop suicide bombings and other attacks on Israeli civilians.
The international community must support Palestinian efforts to promote
democracy and human rights, while understanding that this aim cannot be
fully achieved under occupation.
Racism and bigotry cannot be tolerated, whether in the U.S. or abroad, whether against Arabs or against Jews.