We learned this morning that the United Methodist Church’s Board of Pensions declared the five largest Israeli banks off limits for investment and has divested from the two that it held in its portfolios, due to their deep involvement with financing illegal settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories.
This is a huge advance for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, especially because it acknowledges the deep connections between Israeli banks and the settlement enterprise. In effect, it is an acknowledgment that responsibility for ongoing abuses of Palestinian rights does not stop at the Green Line.
The Church is sure to face intense backlash for this decision – especially given that in just 5 months, the Church will consider divestment from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard at their General Conference.
So please, join me in signing an Open Letter to Barbara Boigegrain, General Secretary and CEO the United Methodist General Board of Pension and Health Benefit congratulating them on their principled courageous decision.
This decision is momentous on at least two other levels. First, it was made by the Church’s Pension and Health Benefits Fund (the body responsible for managing the Church’s investments) using their existing criteria for ensuring that the Church’s investments meet their own ethical threshold. And that’s huge because it shows that moving toward justice for all Palestinians and Israelis, while difficult, isn’t complicated: it’s about applying our political and spiritual values to Israeli policies just as we do to any other situation where human rights abuses occur.
And second, the United Methodist Church is a global institution, representing over 12 million people all over the world. So this decision also shows again that standing together for justice in Palestine and Israel builds unity across all kinds of differences, and offers people in every community an opportunity to stand together for justice.
I can also guarantee you that the backlash will be fierce. And in all likelihood, the pushback that comes behind closed doors will be more forceful and dangerous. So let’s make our voices heard, and show that we support this historic decision of our friends in the UMC.
And if we get 10,000 signatures, our Chicago chapter will hand-deliver our letter to their offices.
I want this decision to be just the beginning of the growth and change 2016 brings to our movement for justice. Through actions like this one, and similar actions in city councils, student governments, and academic associations nationwide, we will together bring Israeli human rights violations to an end. So as we roll up our sleeves as we head into 2016, let’s pause to celebrate and appreciate the victories along the way, which bring us one step closer to the equality, dignity and justice we are all working so tirelessly for.
The UMC has taken a brave step forward for justice, and we need to have their back. They need to know we’re standing with them — please sign our card!
Rabbi Alissa Wise