Friday, June 20, the 221st General Assembly of the US Presbyterian Church voted 310 to 303 to withdraw its $21 million holdings from three major US corporations that profit from Israel’s military occupation of Palestine: Caterpillar (heavy equipment to destroy homes and build prisons), Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions (surveillance technology to control the Palestinian population).
The historic vote followed a decade of intense study, debate and soul-searching throughout the church.
Major US Jewish organizations that claim to represent all Jews, and their conservative Christian allies, lobbied aggressively to derail the initiative. As usual, their weapon of choice is to label supporters of boycott, divestment and sanctions as anti-semitic. Two years ago it worked, resulting in a divestment vote that fell short by a similarly narrow margin.
To counter this deluge of propaganda, the American grassroots organization Jewish Voice for Peace brought to the Assembly a panorama of supportive voices from Jews of conscience across the United States.
Commenting on Friday’s vote, Cecilie Surasky of Jewish Voice for Peace said, “This is a turning point. The Presbyterians’ decision is a major development in the longstanding work to bring the US into alignment with the rest of the world. This vote also shows how attempts to cynically use accusations of anti-semitism to forestall principled actions are losing power.”
They are indeed. Also this month:
- the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ voted to divest from companies that profit from the occupation.
- the pension fund of the United Methodist Church divested from G4S, a British-Danish transnational security corporation operating in Israeli prisons to detain and abuse thousands of Palestinians.
- the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also divested its entire $184 million holdings in G4S.
More detail on the international BDS movement in Our Way to Fight.