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Presbyterian Church again talking divestment

JTA

September 14, 2011 | 11:40 am

A committee within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has reopened controversy by recommending that the church divest from three companies doing business with Israel.

The church’s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment released a report Sept. 9 arguing that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church divest from Motorola, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar.

The release provoked pushback from Presbyterian and Jewish groups, and the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League issued statements condemning the recommendation.

“This renewed effort by some within the Presbyterian Church to penalize Israel does not advance peace,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of intergroup and interreligious relations. “On the contrary, threatening divestment undermines those who are truly committed to Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

The organization Presbyterians for Middle East Peace released a statement condemning the report’s authors as giving a “friendly ear” to “a small group of activists within the Presbyterian Church that has relentlessly sought to punish Israel” and want “to find one party at fault in a conflict where all parties have engaged in positive or negative actions.”

The group promised in the statement to fight the report from being adopted.

“Gratefully, there is no reason to believe that the General Assembly will respond positively to the MRTI recommendation,” it said.

In 2006, the church replaced a 2004 policy that called for “phased selective divestment” from multinational corporations operating in Israel with one that called for investment in Israel, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank “in only peaceful pursuits.” In 2008, the church’s General Assembly instructed Presbyterians to avoid over-identifying with one side on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The committee’s report will be voted on at the church’s General Assembly next year.

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