Petition 80503

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Oppose Divestment from Israel (80503-C1-R9999)

Oppose Divestment From Israel
WHEREAS, Israel is nearly the only long-standing democracy among its neighbors in the Middle East; and
WHEREAS, both the president of Iran and the new Hamas government of the Palestinians have called for the destruction of Israel; and
WHEREAS, some church groups have selectively advocated for divestment of firms doing business with Israel while ignoring severe human rights abuses by the governments of Israel’s neighbors; and
WHEREAS, this type of selective attention to Israel’s mistakes will not create lasting peace in the Middle East; and
WHEREAS, the 2006 session of the Pacific-Northwest Annual Conference adopted a resolution noting all of the above concerns and resolving, in part, that attention should be given to ALL human rights abuses in the Middle East; and
WHEREAS, the Arab-Israeli conflict is very complex, and it is irresponsible to simply place all blame on Israelis while ignoring the serious failures of the Palestinian leadership and of other Middle Eastern nations; and
WHEREAS, divestment campaigns against Israel typically ignore such important historical realities as the expulsion of Jews from nearby Arab lands, Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Territories resulting from a war of self-defense against armies preparing for its annihilation, and the subsequent refusals of the aggressor nations to negotiate for the return of the occupied land in exchange for recognizing Israel’s right to exist; and  
WHEREAS, it would be extremely unbalanced, unfair, and unjust for The United Methodist Church to take any action of divestment from Israel without also taking divestment action against Iran and Syria, whose state sponsorship of terrorism has claimed many innocent lives and played an unquestionably negative and deadly role in hindering peace and justice in the region; and
WHEREAS, while no nation, including Israel, has been perfect in upholding human rights, Israel has a better human rights records than its neighbors;
WHEREAS, Israel stands nearly alone among Middle Eastern nations in its guarantees of religious freedom, upholding women’s equality, and protecting homosexuals from severe repression; and
WHEREAS, a stated primary goal of many campaigns for anti-Israel divestment is to “isolate Israel economically and diplomatically”; and
WHEREAS, while we decry accusations of anti-Semitism being used to stifle legitimate criticisms of the Israeli government, we also cannot ignore the fact that such campaigns to single out the world’s lone Jewish state for criticism and punitive action do amount to targeting Jews for negative treatment and exclusion; and
WHEREAS, we can likewise not afford to ignore history of centuries of horrendous anti-Semitism perpetrated by Christians, including complicity and even participation in the Holocaust, which precipitated the creation of the Jewish state; and
WHEREAS, in 2002, Harvard President Lawrence Summers included the fact that “some at universities across the country have called for the University to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the University’s endowment to be invested” in a list of recent “actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent”; and
WHEREAS, for this General Conference to support any action of anti-Israel divestment would have negative consequences for Jewish-United Methodist relations; and
WHEREAS, the movement for divestment from Israel has suffered significant setbacks in recent years, including:

  The Summer 2005 Church-wide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) rejected an Israel divestment motion, opting instead to endorse “positive investment” for the region;

  • In December 2005, the Democratic National Committee unanimously adopted a resolution declaring that “efforts to isolate Israel through boycotts or actions that include the possibility of divestment are counterproductive to the search for peace”
    • In March 2006,  despite heavy lobbying from proponents of divestment from Israel,  the  Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group unanimously affirmed its previous opposition to divestment from Caterpillar, Inc., citing “no compelling evidence that Caterpillar is or has been complicit in human rights abuses” as well as the facts that “[d]isinvestment is by definition a last resort action, ending the possibility of engagement with the company,” “there are no current or projected sales of Caterpillar equipment for use by the Israeli government,” and “Caterpillar sold its equipment to a US Government body and had no direct sales to the Israeli Government”;

    • The 2006 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), by an overwhelming 483-28 vote, replaced a statement adopted by the previous (2004) General Assembly that had contained “instructions to initiate a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel” with a more balanced statement that did not single out Israel for punitive treatment or endorse any specific divestment action, acknowledged that the 2004 divestment action had “caused hurt and misunderstanding among many members of the Jewish community and within our Presbyterian communion,” “accept[ed] responsibility for the flaws in our process” with regard to that action and affirmed the right of Israelis to have a “viable and secure” state;

    • In October 2006, the Anti-Defamation League reported that a prominent activist for anti-Israel divestment admitted to receiving “cold receptions from the universities petitioned.”
        WHEREAS, in a 2002 column, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz noted that while Israel is “far from perfect, it “has shown extraordinary concern for avoiding civilian casualties in its half-century effort to protect its civilians from terrorism,” is not “the only country that is occupying lands claimed by others” who seek independence, and has a Supreme court that is far superior to other Middle Eastern nations in its record of granting justice to Arabs and Muslims, “as many have found in winning dozens of victories against the Israeli government, the Israeli military and individual Israeli citizens”;
    WHEREAS, for The United Methodist Church to endorse any action of punitive divestment from Israel would stand in sharp contrast to the recent efforts by some leaders of our denomination to seek respectful dialogue with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while opposing punitive actions against his repressive regime and would constitute an inexplicable double standard;
    Be it therefore resolved, that the 2008 General Conference of The United Methodist Church goes on the record as opposing any effort to selectively target Israel for divestment; and  
    Be it further resolved, that we affirm Israel’s right to exist within secure borders and to use appropriate means to protect its citizens from terrorism as non-negotiable; and
    Be it further resolved, that we decry the terrorist violence of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other extremist groups in the region; and
    Be it further resolved, that we affirm our commitment to justice, human rights, and self-determination for all people in the region, including Israelis, Palestinians, religious minorities in other Middle Eastern nations, and Arabs and other minorities within Israel.