Welcome to our Website
The Susquehanna Conference Divestment Task Force was formed by action of the 2013 Annual Conference session by the approval of Resolution 3 from Shopes United Methodist Church, Hummelstown.
Resolution 3 requested a divestment task force be formed to do the following:
- review and research companies that may be contributing to the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and formulate recommendations to be presented no later than the 2015 annual conference with regard to possible divestment from the Susquehanna Conference portfolios. If a final report is not ready for 2014 annual conference, a progress report shall be presented.
- United Methodist congregations and investment managers in the Susquehanna Conference will be kept informed of the work of the task force and encouraged to examine their portfolios in light of the task force’s final report.
- call on the U.S. government, the government of Israel, and the elected Palestinian leadership to reject all acts of aggression and violence, to respect the equality and dignity of all the region’s people, and to forge solutions based on the principles of international law and human rights.
The Task Force members began their work in December 2013 and expect to conclude in June 2015.
The Task Force prayerfully researched the following:
Dates of meetings with topics
A written report of progress to-date was included in the 2014 Conference Workbook, with a follow up verbal report (video) given on the floor of Annual Conference 2014. A final written report is presented to the 2015 Annual Conference.
Why Have a Divestment Task Force?
The request for a Susquehanna Conference Divestment Task Force came from Shopes UMC in Hummelstown. One of their young adults spent nine months volunteering in the West Bank in 2012. He experienced the occupation and learned that Palestinian Christians have requested non-violent actions such as divestment from companies involved in the occupation/illegal settlements. Shopes Church submitted a resolution for a task force to study divestment at 2013 Annual Conference.
The Task Force’s work and was limited to United Methodist positions and to specifics about Susquehanna Annual Conference’s investments.
We encourage you to explore this website and to consider evaluating your investments in light of the information shared here.
Members of the Divestment Task Force are available to help interested individuals or groups to understand this very complex issue. We welcome your comments and questions.
Background for the Task Force Work
The United Methodist Church is Opposed to the Occupation and Illegal Settlements
The United Methodist Church (UMC) has taken an ongoing stand in opposition to the military occupation of the Palestinian Territories and is opposed to the Israeli-only settlements and roads, considered illegal under international law. The “settlements” are self-contained modern cities, typically perched on hills in the midst of Palestinian land, accessed by Israeli-only roads.
Since 2004, resolutions opposing the occupation and settlements have been approved at General Conference. In 2012 a boycott of companies that profit from and/or support settlements was Our United Methodist missionaries in Israel/Palestine, including Rev. Alex Awad, explain the conflict to Holy Land visitors. All United Methodist missionaries to the region since 1990 support divestment. Visitors to the Holy Land have returned home to express their deep concerns about the treatment of those living under occupation and seek ways to help.
Because the Holy Land holds Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy sites and history, many religious organizations are working together to alert the world of their concerns. Palestinian Christians jointly issued a written plea for help in 2009. In The Karios Palestine Document they ask their brothers and sisters around the world to join a grassroots movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions similar to the one that proved effective in ending apartheid in South Africa. Kairos Palestine issued a specific call to United Methodists in November 2014: We ask the United Methodist Church, as we have been asking the Christian community worldwide, to assist us in advocating effective nonviolent means of addressing injustice. We know that as a denomination you have been discussing boycotts and divestment for many years, and we are heartened by that discussion.
Efforts to Align Investments with Official UMC Position
Those familiar with United Methodist investments have reported that the UMC does in fact profit from companies complicit in the occupation and Israeli-only illegal settlements on Palestinian land.
For ten years various United Methodist agencies and some conferences have identified companies known to profit from the occupation/settlements. They joined with other denominations to express their concerns directly to these companies. Those responsible for our investments and those responsible for our social stands have done shareholder advocacy and have held meetings with a number of companies asking them to change their business practices to avoid doing business in or producing products that maintain the occupation and the illegal settlements. Those with fiduciary responsibility believe that continued dialogue will lead to change and they believe letter writing, meetings, proxy votes, and shareholder resolutions will bring about change. They want to keep “a seat at the table” to influence the companies.
Some United Methodist conferences, seeing no change in companies’ involvement after up to ten years of engagement, decided to exclude investment in those companies. In some cases, stocks were sold; in others, companies were placed on an exclusion list.
An effort to divest of certain general church investments did not win approval at General Conference 2012; however, members in more and more conferences continue to ask questions and do research on divestment or exclusion options.
The situation in Israel/Palestine
Watch this brief video “And Who is My Neighbor?” to learn more about the situation in Israel/Palestine, where the Palestinian territories are controlled through a military occupation.
An Israeli-built security fence, typically a 20’ high concrete wall (much larger and longer than the Berlin Wall) with observation towers, is used to prevent Palestinian access to Israel. Where Israeli illegal settlements exist on Palestinian land, this wall often divides Palestinian towns and villages, separating them from their crop land and orchards, from relatives, and from other towns. Palestinians must have Israeli permits to cross the security fence checkpoints. Palestinian workers wait daily in hours-long lines to pass through checkpoints.
Land has been taken from deed-holding Palestinian owners to build the Israeli-only settlements and roads. Israeli settlers, who believe all the land belongs to Israel, attack and burn ancient olive tree groves owned by Palestinians and destroy Palestinian farms and other property. Natural sources of water on Palestinian land are re-routed to the illegal settlements, while sewage from the settlements is often discharged into streambeds in the occupied areas. Water is rationed, delivered by truck to Palestinian homes and businesses and stored in black tanks on the roofs.
Electricity to the occupied territories is limited as well. The Palestinian economy is impacted when goods and products are delayed by long lines at checkpoints.
These restrictions, which many in Israel believe are necessary for their security, causes resentment while keeping apart the two peoples who should be working together toward peace. Palestinian Christians, 2% of the population, work hard to bring peace and often take actions that illustrate Jesus’ teaching to love your enemy.
Peace talks have repeatedly failed to solve this conflict. The church, which views social issues through the lens of Jesus’ compassion for the poor and oppressed, sees the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians, and prays for peace.
Grassroots Groups Use Economic Pressure to Press for Peace
Growing numbers of persons and organizations around the world believe that non-violent action of economic pressure directed at the companies involved in the occupation and in illegal settlements will help bring more attention to the current situation – attention that can pressure both sides to negotiate.
The UM Book of Discipline states that divestment can be used as an investment strategy. In fact, General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits divested from South African companies that refused to sign the Sullivan Principles during apartheid, and they later divested from companies involved in private prisons, from companies involved in Sudan, and most recently from G4S, a British security company used in Israeli prisons where Palestinian prisoners including children have allegedly been seriously mistreated.
Other denominations have had or are having similar conversations. Friends Fiduciary Corporation (Quakers), Mennonite Central Committee,
Presbyterian USA, and some United Church of Christ regional bodies have approved divestment resolutions.