MRTI reports on engagement with companies doing business in Israel-Palestine

September 12, 2011

LOUISVILLE

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.

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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.

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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.

Media contacts:
The Rev. William Somplatsky-Jarman, staff, (502) 569-5809
The Rev. Brian Ellison, committee chair, (816) 741-1641

  1. Reading these comments I realize what it means to have prophetic witness. It reminds me of the scene from Dostoeyvsky's Brothers Karamazov, of the Grand Inquisitor encountering Christ and putting him to death, to 'keep the peace' and his own control of the message! PCUSA calls believers to witness and at great cost. This week we will celebrate the birth of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2/4/06) and we know this history as well, what he said and how he suffered to speak his truth. I can only imagine what the parents of Rachel Corrie will think when they see, at last, that Caterpillar is being called to account. She too gave her life in defense of the oppressed. I hold this document in prayer, that PCUSA will answer its call to speak up for the helpless and those lifted up in scripture (the Magnificat, Beatitudes). May it be so....May this voice not be silenced.

    by Lorraine nagy

    February 1, 2012

  2. Dear fellow Presbyterians, The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.'s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee's recently recommended (Sept. 9, 2011) that the church divest its holdings in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard because, as the report states, "(they) are profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in the region, including activity connected with Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank." I am very much opposed to this recommendation. I hope you will help to oppose this recommendation and defeat it when it is voted on by the upcoming General Assembly. Why? Here is a morally cloudy and complicated situation, in which both Israelis and Palestinians share blame, exhibit serious flaws and major fault. Here is a situation which ultimately requires that the 2 sides do what Jesus would do, that is, "love your enemies", meaning: Talk to your enemy to try to make peace, and keep trying to talk to your enemies to try to make peace. (This is one valid interpretation of what the author of the 23rd Psalm meant when praying to God: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." i.e. You give me the faith to persist in talking to my enemies.) And yet instead of enduring in an effort to do that hard, painful work of peacemaking, regardless of the obstacles and setbacks, the MRTI is urging the church to take sides. Some may argue that the divestment action is aimed at the three companies, not at Israel. I'm afraid this is a weak argument. The ultimate target is Israel, and divestment (ineffective tactic that it is) is a means to the end of making a moral judgment on Israel, instead of going a 2nd, 3rd and 4th mile in working for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Shame on us Christians who, because of our own centuries-long, disgraceful and violent history of anti-Semitism, ought to be very, very cautious about any actions we take against Jewish people anywhere. Our hands are not clean. And now they will be getting less and less clean as we pursue this policy. Also, if this divestment occurs (let's hope wiser heads prevail), it will do nothing to change the minds of Israeli leaders and will only lead to further deterioration of relations between Presbyterians and Jewish people in the U.S. and other places. I pray for self-giving love to cast out the fear that this recommendation represents and instead encourage a renewed effort to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis, no matter how hopeless that may seem. Once again, we are called to be Christian in an impossible situation. Let us persist in that calling. Let us not take sides here. Let us sustain our inner and outer balance. Let us keep learning to become peacemakers. Sincerely, Rev. Scott Myers, Pastor Westport Presbyterian Church Kansas City, Missouri

    by Rev. Scott Myers

    October 5, 2011

  3. I am sorry, Laurie, but your comments ignore that one country was attacked and in the course of defending itself took positions necessary to prevent future attacks. There is one side of this conflict that is interested in peace and it is NOT the Palestinians. The UN does not have any moral authority in this case with the anti-Jewish (more even than anti-Israel) contingent that dominates the membership. The UN Commission on Human Rights has had Libya as chair and China, Iran, Sudan and other dubious members for goodness sake. I did not choose to actively take sides in this matter the MRTI committee did.

    by Michael Spires

    September 26, 2011

  4. Similar to the related discussion on the Presbyterian News Service story on this topic, I pass along this note from another Laurie Anderson within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): "I celebrate, with a bit of surprise, the fact there are multiple "Laurie Anderson's" in the PCUSA; yet the one who chairs the Middle East Monitoring Group is not the same person who commented today on the MRTI site. Currently the Middle East Monitoring Group is working to collect narratives from both Palestinian and Israeli voices to fulfill the mandate of the 219th GA. Earlier this year we released the Kairos Palestine Study Guide. We look forward to presenting our report at the 220th GA(2012). by laurie anderson" September 20, 2011

    by Barry Creech

    September 23, 2011

  5. It is really sad that people, even on this site, divide up the world between "us" vs. "them". As Christians, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. Do those staunch defenders of Israel even care that that State is in blatant violation of international law, including multiple UN resolutions and the 4th Geneva Conference, formulated after WWII because of what happened to European Jews at the hand of the Nazis (with silent compliance from the State church)? Now that military powerhouse is 44 years into an Occupation that is annexing land, transferring their population into the illegally acquired land, dispossessing the ages old population from their homes, their livelihood and frequently, their lives, whether those "Arabs" are Christian or Muslim, all children of Abraham. These companies are making profits from an illegal occupation period. What would Jesus have us do?

    by Laurie Anderson

    September 22, 2011

  6. This defining stand by MRTI makes me very proud to be a Presbyterian! Now it's up to the General Assembly to heed this call for direct action that will further peacemaking based on justice for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

    by Bob Stoddard

    September 21, 2011

  7. I find it absolutely astounding that a so-called "Christian" church would support organizations that nurture terrorism and the annihilation of a people. Have the leaders of your church ever read the charter of either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority? Are they aware that they have vowed themselves to destroy Israel? Have they investigated the charges that Palestinian children are brainwashed into desiring to be suicide martyrs? Are they aware that suicide murderers are glorified within Palestinian society? Are these the values of this church? Is this what Christ called you to do and is it your calling in life to persecute the descendants of our early Church? You've taken the stance of Herod when he called for the murder of innocents: Matthew 2:16 The people you are supporting glorify the murder of innocents, as well.

    by Loretta

    September 20, 2011

  8. In the West Bank last February, I saw Volvo heavy equipment being used to build the apartheid barrier. Others such as Mistubishi also sell their equipment for the same purpose. Why are American companies alone included in the list?

    by Paul Talarico

    September 19, 2011

  9. Re the comment by Greg on Sept 12: It seems to me that the faithful position of the PCUSA is to not be on one side or another, but on the side of peace, following Jesus' teachngs. I wonder why Greg finds that very sad.

    by Karl Hess

    September 18, 2011

  10. Corporate America and the investments of mine or anybody else for that mater is NOT the business or mission of the church. Keep this "junk" out of the general assembly. I am watching carefully the actions the UN are staging; The Durban 3 Conference,

    by Margaret F. Williams

    September 18, 2011

  11. It is difficult to understand how the PC(USA)/MRTI can support, by inference and in general, a people whose leadership is classified as a terrorist organization; a leadership whose charter advocates the killing of all Jews.

    by Garry

    September 17, 2011

  12. Just another example of our wonderful denomination moving away from the truth and supporting a position that cannot be reconciled unequivocally to the will of Christ. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, with the possible exception of Iraq, but somehow that was an unjust war according to our leaders in the PCUSA, as well. Hamas has as its stated position the destruction of Israel. The PCUSA leadership is taking sides in a fight where one side (Israel) gives rights and status to the other side that none of the other governments in the region give to their own citizens and where the other side engages in terrorism with the explicit goal of destroying the state of Israel and all of its inhabitants. Which side would Christ ask us to support?

    by Michael Spires

    September 15, 2011

  13. This is a very appropriate and courageous stand for justice.

    by Liz Letzler

    September 14, 2011

  14. In a world of profit and big business at the expense of Palestinian suffering & injustice I applaud you for taking a public stand against such companies. As the world turns, most people are unaware of what is happening and the fact that it is all "Made in America!". Now is the time to wake people up.

    by Lynn Grassmeyer

    September 14, 2011

  15. Who are all the companies on the divestment list. Is Starbucks on the list?

    by Don Wolf

    September 14, 2011

  16. I am happy to see the church or at least this one finally making some very good decisions such as this. Why would I make this statement? Because I was one of the men in charge of the body recovery and identificaion of the 34 men who were murdered by the Israeli Government aboard the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967. No less then 15 officials of that era never believed the excuse that was given to our government for this attack that was meant to put the ship to the bottom. To this day the attack was not investigated by congress and you will find no record of it. I am a Christian man and I believe that God is very much a part of what made this nation great. We created Isreal, put the bounderies forth, and have supported them for many years. It has brought nothing but grief to this Godly nation. Need I say more. Stop the wars. We never needed them and they are not for us anyway.

    by Ron

    September 13, 2011

  17. Profiting from a business engaged in unethical, belligerent, illegal practices is not permitted in PCUSA practices. We are out of integrity with our own mission when these tainted profits are used. MRTI tried to "corporately engage." Time to sell stock.

    by Peg Griffiths

    September 13, 2011

  18. I go to the First Presbyterian Church in Durant OK and am quite pleased with your stand against the horrible treatment of Palestinians by Israel.

    by jerry hoyt

    September 13, 2011

  19. I have been there,seen the 2 road systems, the wall and met with Christians, Muslems and jews re: this continual occupation. Sabeel is a credible group and PCUSA is to be commended in even discusiing this issue let alone making a decision.

    by Beverly G. Henkel

    September 13, 2011

  20. I am glad that our assembly has finally recommended divestment from these corporations who are profiting from human suffering. Money talks louder than reason many times, and I hope that this action will begin to get the attention of companies who profit from Israel's illegal and immoral oppression of the Palestinian people. Thank you!

    by Ann Fontaine, First Presbyterian, Richland, MI

    September 13, 2011

  21. As a Presbyterian Elder, I applaud you for your very careful and balanced approach leading to a logical and godly solution.

    by Ted Shohfi

    September 13, 2011

  22. I commend MRTI for its action, and I hope that GAMC and the General Assembly support this action.

    by Linda Brebner (Rev. Dr.)

    September 13, 2011

  23. This is terrific news! The Church has been nothing but diligent, patient and thorough on its engagement with Caterpillar. Making the decision to divest speaks loudly and clearly that our church will not tolerate ongoing Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity. It really matters when the Church speaks through a committee, such as MRTI. This is how South African Apartheid was defeated and it will also work to address Israeli apartheid.

    by Jeff Story

    September 13, 2011

  24. It is very apparent that the PCUSA is not on the side of Isreal. Very sad really.

    by Greg

    September 12, 2011

  25. Thanks to you Bill and the entire committee for your careful, courageous, and prophetic decision-making process. Those of us who are proud of our church and this important decision need to stand with you as the pressure comes from the usual sources. My deepest gratitude goes to the entire Committee and all who have made this possible. Don

    by Don Wagner

    September 12, 2011

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