The Raq Rega E-Mail Project Issue 7

The Presbyterian Church’s Attempted Divestment Campaign

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at its June meeting in Richmond, Va., authorized its staff to pressure corporations to stop operating in Israel and to stop doing business with Israel.  If a corporation marked for pressure doesn’t buckle under, the Church intends to put it on the Church’s “divestment/proscription list.” and to divest the Church’s holdings in that company.  The Church investments are valued at nearly $8 billion.  In other words they have the capacity to bring significant pressure on the companies in which they invest and to do significant harm to Israel. 

Why is the Church doing this?  Because its General Assembly objects to Israel’s administration of the Territories and to certain alleged ways in which Israel acts with respect to the non-Israeli population in the Territories.

We have spoken about these issues in previous Raq Regas and so will not repeat ourselves here.  The purpose of this Raq Rega is to urge you to contact any and all Presbyterians you know, lay and clergy, as well as the Church at the national level, to ask them to reverse their planned course of action.  The following are the steps the Church plans to take. This list of steps is excerpted from a memo of the Church’s National Ministries Division.  You can read the full text at
http://www.pcusa.org/nmd/pdf/0904nmdc-f13-divestment.pdf
We find it chilling.

The steps the Church intends to take are:

1. [The Church’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI)] will develop criteria for assessing the impact of U. S. corporate presence in Israel, including a classification system for grouping corporations by the nature of their investment.

2. The list will be reviewed with ecumenical partners to identify the most appropriate companies for immediate engagement, including those with whom MRTI or ecumenical partners may already have been engaged.

3. As a result of that effort, a short list of perhaps fifteen to twenty corporations will be identified for intensive action. Factors involved in this evaluation will include such things as

--history of involvement in Israel

--magnitude and strategic importance of involvement

--growth in corporate assets, etc. especially as a result of infusion of new capital

--amount and nature of loans, credits or services by financial institutions

--corporate actions that contribute to the peace process or provide direct support to victims

4. MRTI will correspond with the leadership of those corporations, expressing the concerns of the General Assembly and identifying desirable changes in the company’s role in Israel.

5. MRTI will notify appropriate governing bodies, soliciting their involvement in the process of engagement with corporate leaders.

6. As appropriate in the course of the dialog with corporations, MRTI will request the General Assembly Council to authorize the filing or co/filing of shareholder resolutions with subject corporations.

7. MRTI, in cooperation with ecumenical partners, will monitor regularly the progress made with subject companies.

8. When MRTI is persuaded that a particular corporation, after extensive engagement, remains uncooperative or has refused to be in dialog with the churches, MRTI may prepare a recommendation to the General Assembly Council, asking the General Assembly to place the corporation on the divestment/proscription list and urging the Foundation and the Board of Pensions to comply with the action of the General Assembly in their management of General Assembly assets.

 MRTI will meet on November 4-6, 2004, in New York City. At that meeting, MRTI will develop the criteria for the classification system. Following consultation with ecumenical partners, a focus list will be developed. MRTI will begin its work on steps 4 and 5 as well as monitoring progress with subject corporations. MRTI will report to the GAC in March 2005 along with any recommendations that may be appropriate at that time.”

 The time to act is now, before the November 4 meeting.

 In speaking with your Presbyterian friends and neighbors we suggest you do not attempt to engage them on the substance of their concerns regarding Israeli policy.  Our feeling is that minds have already been made up and opinions virtually set in stone.

 And so we urge you to make your approach not on the basis of whether or not their views on Israeli actions and policies are correct but rather on the basis of the lack of justice and fairness in their divestiture campaign against Israel.

 First of all, ask them to consider, of all the governments in the world that, in their view, are acting unjustly, why did they single out Israel?

Ask them to consider, in light of their stated condemnation of violence by Palestinians against Israeli civilians, why did they elect to take aggressive action against Israel only?

Ask them, in light of the Israeli justice system’s demonstrated willingness to proceed against civilians and military personnel who act unacceptably against Palestinians and to restrain the government in such areas as the placement of the security fence, why did the Church deem it necessary, at this time, to take the extraordinary step against Israel with respect to divestiture?  Surely such extraordinary acts should be reserved for the most extraordinary circumstances where a system demonstrates that it is incapable of righting what the Church perceives to be its wrongful behavior.

Ask them to consider whether disinvestment is the best way of making their argument. The European Union has continually resisted calls to divest, despite their deep criticism of Israel, because they believe it to be a counterproductive act. Divestment is a hostile act and Israeli decision makers are more likely to be swayed by the opinions of those perceived to be evenhanded.

Assure them you are not seeking to limit their right or ability to speak out clearly and forcefully with respect to their views of the Israeli government’s actions.  But you are seeking that they refrain from singling out the Jewish State for their wrath through the extraordinary weapon of divestiture, especially when other states as well as the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinian groups are clearly acting in ways that are vastly more egregious when compared to the acts of Israel that so disturb the Church.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is the eighth largest religious denomination in the United States, with 11,200 congregations and 2.5 million members. 

In the aftermath of the Presbyterian General Assembly’s resolution, the Anglican Church announced that it too will consider divesting from Israel.  The Anglican Church has an estimated 75 million members worldwide, including its American counterpart, the Episcopal Church, with 2.7 million members.

The potential for unjustified harm to Israel is significant.  Please act now.  Contact and engage your Presbyterian friends and your local Presbyterian congregations and clergy as well as the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church a frank discussion of your concerns about the justice and propriety of their actions. 

Remember for all of us, when you contact them BE RESPECTFUL.  The Church is acting out of conviction, and you should respect that.  Do not squander your opportunity by venting your feelings, your hurt and your frustrations.   Remember the objective suggested here is not to try to change minds already made up with respect to judgments about Israel
’s policies and actions, but rather to change minds about the propriety of how to act on those judgments, emphasizing that boycotts of Israel and pressure on companies that do business in and with Israel are simply wrong and inappropriate.
 

For information on your local Presbyterian congregations visit http://www.pcusa.org/search/churches/default.jsp0

The Office of the General Assembly is the ecclesiastical arm of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Under the leadership of Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, the OGA staff carries out the directives assigned to the Clerk by the General Assembly, the denomination's highest governing body.

You can send an email to the Stated Clerk by filling out the form on the following web site:

http://www.pcusa.org/form2mail/form2mail.jsp

Or you can call him.  His telephone number is (888) 728-7228 then 1 5424. 

Or you can send a fax to the Office of the General Assembly at (502) 569-8005

The address of the Office of the General Assembly is

Office of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Web site: www.pcusa.org/oga


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