Wonderful news: The 220th Presbyterian Church General Assembly just voted 457-180 (with 3 abstentions) to boycott products made in the illegal Israeli settlements. This was their resolution #15-02.
A vote last night (resolution 15-11) to divest the US Presbyterian Church from three companies that profit from the Israeli occupation --Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions--failed by a razor-thin margin: 333-331 with 2 abstentions. However, another vote today allows individuals with pensions with the Church to screen the three companies.
The Rationale for the Boycott
From the Assemby's COMMITTEE REPORT(see 15-2):
The Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns supports this overture because all Israeli companies operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are exploiting the natural resources of a people and territory that is under military occupation. These people have lost all power to assert their rights.List of Settlement Products
In light of the overwhelming vote by our sisters and brothers at the United Methodist General Conference in April 2012 for a sweeping boycott of ALL goods from ALL Israeli companies operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, ACREC recommends widening this overture from two companies to all Israeli companies based in the illegal settlements (not Israeli products from Israel).
The ACREC believes that the call by Peter Beinart, to “boycott non-democratic Israel,” meaning the settlements in the West Bank, is an effective non-violent way to protest the exploitation of Palestinian land and people. (See: To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements, By Peter Beinart, The New York Times, Op-Ed March 18, 2012 – Beinart self-identifies as an Orthodox Jewish Zionist).
The call of our Christian sisters and brothers in Palestine to support them by not buying products from companies in the settlements has parallels to the call for boycotts from the African American community during the civil rights movement. The companies in question profit from illegal exploitation of not only natural resources that belong to the rightful owners of the land, but also migrant workers from Thailand, The Philippines, and others.
The Rationale for Divestment
The Presbyterian Church is mandated (by prior resolutions dating to 1971) to engage in socially responsible investment. According to the resolution voted on yesterday, "Elements of this process include research, correspondence, dialogue, proxy voting, and the possible filing of shareholder resolutions. Only after all other options fail to achieve the desired results, the committee on MRTI, through the GAMC, may recommend to the General Assembly (GA) divestment from particular corporations."
Since 2004, they have been trying to engage these three companies, to no avail.
The Caterpillar D9 is the main tool the Israeli Army uses to demolish homes, and agricultural areas in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. According to a Human Rights Watch report from 2011:
Israeli authorities have stepped up unlawful demolitions in the West Bank including East Jerusalem over the past year, displacing a record number of Palestinian families from their homes, an international coalition of 20 leading aid agencies and human rights groups said today...link
...Since the beginning of the year more than 500 Palestinian homes, wells, rainwater harvesting cisterns, and other essential structures have been destroyed in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, displacing more than 1,000 Palestinians, UN figures show. This is more than double the number of people displaced over the same period in 2010, and the highest figure since at least 2005. More than half of those displaced have been children for whom the loss of their home is particularly devastating.
The Presbyterian resolution states that HP's activities help to solidify the occupation. HP technology and hardware support the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, including interdicting humanitarian aid and attacking Palestinian fishermen. HP is also the source for the biometric scanning equipment "to monitor only Palestinians at several checkpoints inside the West Bank, including as part of the separate road system, restricting Palestinian movement. At these checkpoints, the 2.4 million West Bank Palestinians are required to submit to lengthy waits as well as the mandatory biometric scanning, while Israelis and other passport holders transit without scanning or comparable delays."
In addition, the resolution cites that HP does business with the illegal settlements in the West Bank, providing government data storage. "Despite the fact that Ariel is deep in the Occupied West Bank, the company’s published description of this work claims that Ariel is within Israel, including the use of a map making no reference to the West Bank as a separate occupied territory."
Why Motorola Solutions?
Motorola's involvement also helps cement the occupation. Motorola Solutions provides the technology for virtual fences and surveillance for the illegal settlements of the West Bank, as well as for the illegal separation barrier in the West Bank, and in the wall surrounding Gaza. According to the website, Who Profits, "In some cases, the radar stations were erected on private Palestinian land, preventing Palestinian movement near the Israeli settlements."
Although the boycott is unlikely to make a dent in the bottom line of any Israeli company in the occupied territory, it does make a dent in the idea of the "normalcy" and "inevitability" of the occupation. Good news for those who oppose the occupation, good news for those who hope for a two-state solution.