General Assembly backgrounder: the Middle East
Divestment from U.S. companies pursuing ‘non-peaceful pursuits’ again on agenda
The 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ― June 14-21 in Detroit ― will again debate whether to divest from some companies engaged in “non-peaceful pursuits” in Israel/Palestine. Four of the nine overtures before the Assembly Committee on Middle East Issues recommend divesting from some combination of Caterpillar, Inc.; Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. Three of these overtures come from the presbyteries of New Brunswick and San Francisco and the Synod of the Covenant. The Presbyterian Mission Agency recommends that the Assembly approve a resolution from the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) calling for divestment from the three companies. An overture from Mackinac Presbytery calls for PC(USA) to affirm investments in the West Bank that contribute to the welfare of Palestinian people and to encourage investments that “do not benefit financially from the work of occupation.” That overture also calls for the continued use of the PC(USA)’s corporate engagement process, which uses divestment as a final step. Two overtures — from New Covenant and San Francisco presbyteries — focus on the General Assembly policy supporting a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine. The overture from New Covenant urges the Assembly to declare its commitment to a two-state solution and calls for the rejection of divestment or economic sanctions in Israel. The overture from San Francisco calls for the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ASCWP) to provide a history of GA policy supporting a two-state solution and to compose a report and study guide for the 222nd Assembly (2016) outlining the current status of the conflict and evaluating previous GA statements. Two overtures focus on human rights for Israelis and Palestinians. ACSWP calls for the “establishment and protection of equal human rights for all inhabitants” of Israel and Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza as well as “free and fair elections” within the Palestinian territories. An overture from Grace Presbytery calls the Assembly to stand against racism and oppression, oppose anti-Semitism, recognize Israel’s noncompliance with international law, call on the United States to treat Israelis and Palestinians equally and direct Presbyterians to engage in nonviolent actions to bring about reconciliation. Matters related to the Middle East will be considered by Assembly Committee 4 — Middle East Issues. Bethany Daily of Presbyterian News Service will cover Assembly Committee 4 for the General Assembly Communication Center.