MRTI reports on engagement with companies doing business in Israel-Palestine
September 12, 2011
At its meeting on September 9, the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) approved its report to the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on its engagement with corporations doing business in Israel-Palestine. As part of its regular process of corporate engagement, and based on directives given to it by each General Assembly since 2004, the committee recommended that three companies be added to the General Assembly divestment list: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions.
“The General Assembly asked us to do everything we could to bring about change through dialogue, and we have done this, even asking the Assembly for more time over the years,” said committee chair the Rev. Brian Ellison, a pastor from Kansas City, Mo. “Today we are sadly reporting that these efforts have not produced any substantive change in company policies or practices, and that there is little reason for hope they will do so in the future. According to the Assembly’s prior directives and the church’s ordinary engagement process, we have little choice but to recommend divestment.”
The committee has been engaging several companies profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in the region, including activity connected with Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, since the 2004 General Assembly. MRTI’s recommendations will be presented in February 2012 to the General Assembly Mission Council and then, with the Council’s approval, to the General Assembly in July 2012.
“We have not made this decision lightly, but have undertaken it with prayer and great care,” Ellison said. “We have appreciated the witness of brothers and sisters around the church in our process, both from presbyteries where these corporations are located and from those who have called us to move more quickly in this direction. We continue to pray for employees of these companies and their congregations as they are affected by this decision. We also continue to pray that all companies and individuals in the region will redouble their efforts to seek a just peace and support for human rights for all Israeli and Palestinian people.”
Between now and next July’s General Assembly, MRTI will continue to engage these companies, together with ecumenical partners, and remains open to constructive conversation with all three companies. The committee will also continue work with other corporations in the region as part of its ongoing ministry of corporate engagement.
The committee’s full report, including recommendations, will be posted later this week on the MRTI website.
Background on Companies
Caterpillar has profited from sales of its products to Israeli military and civilian authorities, including its D-9 bulldozers which are used to demolish Palestinian homes and construct settlements and Israeli-only roads on Palestinian land, acts deemed illegal under international law. The company has never accepted responsibility for how its products are used and has not responded to requests for dialogue since 2009 from MRTI or other religious groups.
Hewlett-Packard has profited from sales of specialized technology used in invasive and unjust biometric scanning processes at checkpoints in the separation wall constructed on Palestinian territory. It has also provided hardware used by the Israeli Navy in its internationally condemned blockade of the Gaza Strip and in the municipal governments of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, deemed illegal under international law. Discussions with the company have been unproductive, and the company has been unwilling to address serious issues of concern.
Motorola Solutions, one of two companies to emerge from a corporate reorganization of Motorola at the start of 2011, has profited from providing communications technology to the Israeli military used in operations in the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza, and has built and supported high-tech surveillance systems in the separation barrier and Israeli settlements built illegally on Palestinian land. The company has consistently declined to have dialogue with religious investors.
The Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment is a committee of 12 members, ministers and laypeople from around the country including representatives of church agencies responsible for investments, social witness and advocacy, and mission coordination. The committee promotes socially responsible investing and implements a policy of corporate engagement that, since 1971, has allowed the church to work alongside companies to promote environmental responsibility, global human rights, corporate accountability, consumer product safety, fair employment practices and more.
The Rev. William Somplatsky-Jarman, staff, (502) 569-5809
The Rev. Brian Ellison, committee chair, (816) 741-1641