Economic measures against the Israeli Occupation gain momentum

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This just in from The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF), courtesy of the World Council of Churches:

June 2012

PIEF’s strategy has always included initiatives geared to ending public support for the occupation. The opposition against the occupation of the Palestinian Territories is growing both inside the state of Israel and internationally. In facilitating an end to public support, PIEF has focused on public education, economic measures and other concrete acts of solidarity directed at changing situations on-the-ground and also changing public perceptions around the world.

In the last few weeks, PIEF has received encouraging news on “economic measures” taken up by the international community. Many of these reports have appeared on the PIEF website in recent weeks. PIEF now reports to its constituents some of the recent steps as regards economic measures:

Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) divests from caterpillar

Two weeks ago, the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) divested from Caterpillar. They assert that their action is one which upholds “the core commitment of the Society of Friends to peace”. In divesting 900,000 US dollars in shares of Caterpillar, they made a pertinent point of being categorical opponents of armaments – Caterpillar being a producer and seller of weaponized bulldozers to Israel.

After a roller coaster United Methodist divestment campaign ending in partial victory, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is so excited to announce that the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC), which holds over 200 million US dollars in assets, has divested from Caterpillar! FFC divested 900,000 US dollars in shares of Caterpillar, which continues to feel the pressure from all sides for its production and sale of weaponized bulldozers to Israel, used to violate Palestinian rights and destroy Palestinian homes, schools, hospitals, olive groves, and lives.

The Ann Arbor Friends Meeting who initiated the call to divest described the decision as “a significant step since FFC handles investments for over 250 Quaker meetings, schools, organizations, trusts, and endowments around the US”. FFC has a “zero tolerance for weapons and weapons components,” and said, “We are uncomfortable defending our position on this stock.”

FFC is not the first Quaker institution to avoid companies that support the Israeli occupation. In March 2008, the Board of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a US Campaign member group, approved an Israel/Palestine investment screen, stating: “Investments should not be made in any company that provides products or services, including financial services, to Israeli governmental or military bodies… or to Israeli or Palestinian organizations or groups that are used to facilitate or undertake violent acts against civilians or violations of international law.”

For more information, read blog post by the Peace Resources Committee of Illinois Yearly Meeting

FinnChurchAid and EAPPI

FinnChurchAid and EAPPI Finland have launched a consumer campaign on settlement goods demanding that the government ban labelling of settlement products as “Made in Israel”. Campaign materials include a leaflet and postcard that people can give to their local shop managers or drop to customer feedback boxes in shops, a model letter to the headquarters of supermarket chains, and an online petition targeting several ministers and asking them to introduce compulsory labelling and to act on companies co-operating with settlements.

For more information visit the EAPPI Finland website (in Finnish) or read the PIEF news article

United Methodists take action on divestments

Delegates to The United Methodist Church’s assembly approved petitions dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They also called for efforts from the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits to explore “serious peace-making strategies in Israel and Palestine, including positive economic and financial investment in Palestine.” The petition asks for United Methodist general agencies and boards to ensure companies adopt United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The United Methodist Church condemned the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

Despite the failure to obtain approval for divestments that targeted Hewlett Packard, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar based on the “role of their products in Israeli occupation”, delegates approved a report that called on the general Board of Pension and Health benefits to move towards “serious peace making strategies”.

Kairos Palestine commended the United Methodist Church (UMC) for its important steps toward the defence of Palestinian rights and peace with justice. They stated that “although we had hoped that the General Conference would have courageously crossed this concrete step, we trust that the international community is becoming increasingly aware of these corporations’ complicity with Israel’s human rights violations, and we applaud the UMC for raising awareness through its support for a (general) boycott”.

For more read the UMC-GBCS news article and Kairos Palestine reaction (pdf)

Swiss supermarket giant Migros steps in with stringent labelling regulations

In a report from the Times of Israel, we are informed that Switzerland’s largest retail chain “would join a growing list of countries and sellers refusing to mark goods produced in the West Bank as “Made in Israel.” This move follows close on the heels of decisions in South Africa and Denmark where firm steps were initiated to stop labelling products made in the settlements as Israeli. Migros described the decisions as ones taken “in the interests of greater transparency, and (is) designed to help the customers to make an informed choice”.

Palestine’s Christians expressed support for decisions by the governments of South Africa and Denmark, as well as from Switzerland’s largest retail chain Migros, to distinguish products made in the illegal West Bank settlements from those made in Israel, a statement by Kairos Palestine said on Friday. Describing the decisions as “historic,” Kairos Palestine said, “We believe that this decision is a positive step into the right direction and we hope more countries and companies will follow this initiative.”

For more, read an article in the news portal swissinfo.ch and the comment by Kairos Palestine (pdf)

South Africa Trade and Industry Ministry announces labelling measures

The South Africa Trade and Industry Ministry declared its intent to “ban local importers from selling products from West Bank settlements with a label indicating that they were made in Israel”. A one year-long campaign launched by Palestinian organizations and South African human rights groups preceded this decision.

As in many cases, countries and companies are not necessarily banning the sale of products from settlements, but obliging sellers to apply a special label noting that the product originates from beyond the Green Line.

For more, read an article in ynetnews.com

Presbyterian Church in the USA to propose Responsibility Through Investment

According to the website of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, “The General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) is recommending that the upcoming 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) divest the church of its stock in three companies ‘until they have ceased profiting from non-peaceful activities in Israel-Palestine.’” The three companies are Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard.

The report says: “At issue are their participation in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the construction of the ‘security barrier’ between Israel and Palestinian territory, and the destruction of Palestinian homes, roads and fields to make way for the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have been declared illegal under international law.”

“We have run out of hope that these companies are willing to change their corporate practices [in Israel-Palestine],” said the Rev. Brian Ellison, a Kansas City pastor and chair of the denomination’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI).

For more information, read the PCUSA news article

PIEF comment

PIEF acknowledges and recognizes the dedicated moments of preparation and the political pressures that the people behind these decisions have been through. The founding call of PIEF in Amman Jordan called for “costly solidarity” and that’s just what these steps are. The plea from Palestinian Christians to their brothers and sisters in Christ in Amman still echoes: “Enough is enough. No more words without deeds. It is time for action.” In pursuance of the summons to “costly discipleship”, churches increasingly refuse to remain silent in the face of Palestinian suffering.

PIEF encourages and urges its constituents to continue their courageous and innovative action for justice and peace.

In solidarity,

Ranjan Solomon
Consultant
Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum

          

The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) is an international, inter-church advocacy initiative for peace in Israel and Palestine. The PIEF Newsletter is distributed by the World Council of Churches. You are registered to receive it at the address jk@zeta.org….

 

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The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway.
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