The validity and use of the so-called “boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)” tools as a way to bring peace dominated the work Tuesday of the committee on Middle East Issues of the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
In the end, the committee voted 51-25 to recommend that the full assembly reject an overture calling for a “boycott of all products manufactured and sold by HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise until the companies cease to profit from non-peaceful pursuits and violations of human rights in Israel/Palestine.”
Then after learning that realty company RE/MAX LLC had responded favorably to concerns that it was benefiting, through its franchisees, by selling property in West Bank settlements, the committee turned around a resolution calling on the company to sever ties with those franchisees, instead urging it to “do everything within its legal and moral power to stop facilitating the sale and rental of property in Israeli settlement colonies,” and commended RE/MAX for its favorable response after discussions with PC(USA) representatives.
The committee, after a lengthy debate, recommended the adoption of a recommendation of prayerful study of “the call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel.” It was adopted only after amendments were added to ensure that those who oppose the BDS movement were also involved in the study.
The amendment was in reaction to a commissioner’s resolution calling for the denomination to end outright any affiliation or support of BDS, which it called “this divisive coalition.”
“This item is about education,” said Jon Forbes, a Young Adult Advisory Delegate from the Presbytery of Northeast Georgia. “It does not take a stance on BDS, but instead seeks to help us gain greater understanding, so that we can make smarter and more educated decisions. I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as too much knowledge.”