Bishops overwhelmingly oppose divestment in Israel, Palestine

Convention urges solidarity, restorative justice, reconciliation

By Matthew Davies
Posted Jul 2, 2015

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] The House of Bishops sent a strong and clear message July 2 that divestment from companies and corporations engaged in certain business related to the State of Israel is not in the best interests of The Episcopal Church, its partners in the Holy Land, interreligious relations, and the lives of Palestinians on the ground.

The bishops rejected Substitute Resolution D016, which would have called on the Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to develop a list of U.S. and foreign corporations that provide goods and services that support the infrastructure of Israel’s Occupation “to monitor its investments and apply its CSR policy to any possible future investments” in such companies.

Although the resolution didn’t use the word “divestment,” some bishops expressed concern that it was heading in that direction. Others reminded the house that Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has urged the Episcopal Church not to adopt a policy that would make it more difficult for him to manage his congregations and the more than 30 social service institutions throughout Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories. Those institutions include schools, hospitals, clinics and centers for people with disabilities and serve people of all faiths.

“To say that this is a compromise resolution is an extreme. This is a part of a trio of resolutions that we produced on Israel and Palestine,” said Bishop Jay Magness, bishop suffragan for Federal Ministries who served on the Legislative Committee on Social Justice and International Policy that considered the resolutions.

“There was a significant difference of passion and opinion in the committee, and it would seem to be divided along two particular lines. One was … that any hint of divestment will hamper the ministry of Archbishop Suheil Dawani and his priests and congregations in Jerusalem and the Middle East. The other side of this, and in respect to Archbishop Suheil Dawani and his priests and congregations, was that we have to engage in socially responsible divestment,” Magness told the bishops. “We were assured by the treasurer that we don’t have any direct investments in the usually named companies,” such as Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, G4S, and Motorola Solutions.

Dawani was not present at the General Convention, nor was he officially represented by anybody from the Diocese of Jerusalem, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori invited Dawani to be a guest at the convention, but he was unable to attend due to commitments in his diocese.

Bishop Prince Singh of Rochester, chair of the legislative committee, also confirmed that The Episcopal Church currently has no investments in corporations that negatively impact Palestinians on the ground.

Bishop Ed Little of Northern Indiana said the text of the resolution “clearly and unmistakably advocates boycott and divestment, and we must reject it. … As Anglicans, we have the gift and ability to reach out to people on both sides in the conflict. That is what The Episcopal Church is doing in the Middle East. Our current leadership under the presiding bishop is allowing us to be peacemakers.”

Little also acknowledged Executive Council’s rejection of boycotts, divestment and sanctions through its Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility, which affirms “positive investment” and “corporate engagement” to encourage positive change in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

In January, Jefferts Schori led an interfaith pilgrimage to the Holy Land as recommended by Resolution B019 from the 2012 General Convention that called for positive investment “as a necessary means to create a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure” in the Palestinian Territories.

The Rev. Gary Commins, a deputy from Los Angeles and a member of the international policy committee, told ENS he was disappointed by the bishops’ vote, which he described as “operating out of fear, which is never a good thing for people of faith.”

Donna Hicks, convener of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network, said: “We’re encouraged by the fact that bishops and deputies understand that this is a pressing issue, and that the discussion at this convention focused not on whether to take action, but rather what action would be most effective … We’re optimistic that today’s vote is just another step in our own process to ensure that we are not profiting from the occupation, and that divestment will pass at a General Convention in the near future.”

General Convention passed two resolutions on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Substitute Resolution B013, proposed by Bishop Nick Knisely of Rhode Island, “reaffirms the vocation of the Church as an agent of reconciliation and restorative justice,” and recognizes that “meaningful reconciliation can help to engender sustainable, long-lasting peace and that such reconciliation must incorporate both political action and locally driven grassroots efforts.”

Knisely said his resolution is part of a process “inviting us all into a larger conversation over the next triennium to talk through” positive investment.

He reminded the bishops that the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society invested $500,000 in the Bank of Palestine in 2013 for the purpose of economic development in the Palestinian Territories.

Bishop Leo Frade of Southeast Florida said that his experience of embargoes and blocking, in particular the embargo of Cuba, is that “it hurts the same people we think we are helping. Palestinian jobs depend on investment, not on divestment.”

Resolution C018 expresses solidarity with and support for Christians in Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories; affirms the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in healing, education, and pastoral care; and affirms the work of Christians engaged in relationship building, interfaith dialogue, nonviolence training, and advocacy for the rights of Palestinians. The resolution also urges Episcopalians to demonstrate their solidarity by making pilgrimage to Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories and learning from fellow Christians in the region.

As General Convention convened June 25, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the focus of seven resolutions for which the Social Justice and International Policy Committee opened the floor for public testimony at three legislative hearings.

Some 50 people testified on the resolutions related to Israel and Palestine that ranged from calling for deeper investment in Middle East partnerships to calling the church to boycott and divest from companies and corporations engaged in certain business related to the State of Israel.

Several people spoke to the need to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land through economic pressure, saying that the church’s current policy of positive investment has proved inadequate. Others underscored the Christian imperative for engagement and dialogue, citing concerns for any action that might cause further widespread hardship for the Palestinian people and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


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Comments (41)

  1. Dmitri Diaguilev says:

    It’s a great pity people reject Christ’s teachings of loving not only their own. They have despised the root of the tree into which they were ingrafted, by putting to shame the sons of the great men, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And for what?! Lies. For indeed, after 1929 end of war against Ottoman empire, Britain, which received Israeli lands have apportioned a part to Israel. Israeli people believed and immigrated there. In 1944 the land was legally set as Israel’s by the UN. But the never-ending hatred of Essau to his brother has found its way through lies, blackmail (1970s oil crisis) and terror to the hearts of the entire world. And honestly, a ghastly sight to contemplate, in seeing Europeans uphold this demonic hatred, God spare them. And as for Israel been guilty of all these war crimes, a question arises, why did all these innocent civilians allowed terrorists fire their rockets from their rooftops? Was it because they actually wanted to be later being killed by Israeli military and their deaths blamed on Israel? I mean look at them explode themselves in public in the name of their religion! I mean it’s a good hypothesis at least! Plus, a funny thing: the world joining in blaming Eastern Ukrainians in being terrorists while supporting Poroshenko’s atrocities against civilians, yet blaming Israel for protecting itself from murderous, rocket-firing madmen. A good name for it hypocrisy. And we all know that no hypocrite inherits heaven!

    1. David John says:

      Good points. Remember, too, the “Occupied Territories” are occupied because Israel’s neighbors attacked from those territories. Israel defended herself against Egyption and Syrian aggression in the Six Day War, and took territories necessary to her defense.

      Hamas also has a border with Egypt, who knows better than to let them in. It’s not just Israel.

  2. Erna Lund says:

    Many thanks to Tim, Gretchen, Will, Nicholas, John(Andrews), Jack/Sue (Smock), Richard(Toll), Liz(Orr), Vicki(Gray), Rev.Dr. Kathleen Kircher, Jean-Pierre Seguin … This Edict/Dictum from our “High Priests” of the National Episcopal Church officially turning “collective backs” on the Palestinian peoples–and thus referencing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and his evangelical Jesus Movement focus– can you envision such a scenario of Jesus of Nazareth just standing by as 500+ Palestinian children(“sacrificial lambs”)and 2000 Palestinians slaughtered by the Israeli Military Defense Forces(IDF) July-August ’14 … just one of many brutal attacks through these recent 20 years …
    This is so Outrageous and Shameful that these evil attacks are deliberately performed with IMPUNITY w/U.S. protection and approval! And Now we see that Our Church is supportive of such Evil and Destruction of innocent defenseless lives!

  3. Any country we give billions of dollars to is of course our best friend. Blind support is the problem. Supporting injustice, oppression, genocide etc. Is certainly not what Christ would want us to do.
    So wake up and pay attention to what is happening to the churches in the land of Christ,by hey are being attacked.

    http://www.Jewishvoiceforpeace.com

  4. Jack & Sue Smock says:

    Two numbers for the House of Bishops to think about over the summer — 400,000 and 1,800,000. We’ll bet most of us supporting Peace WITH Justice in the Holy Land will figure out what they stand for. On the other hand, we’ll bet most of our leaders don’t have a clue. Otherwise, they never, ever would continue to vote the way have.

  5. Paul Garrett says:

    What the Bishops don’t understand and could have if they had spoken with one of the vendors at convention (selling olive wood carvings from Bethlehem and who also runs a travel company) is that our policies are worse than a failure. The israeli government view us as one more toothless pawn offering niceties about peacemaking that serve as a distraction while they continue squeeze the Palestinians out of their own lands. The vender told me of the continuing exodus of Christian Palestinians that seems to be accelerating. The Bishops don’t get that if we go on as we have and the Israelis go on as they are in a very few years Archbishop Dawani will be Archbishop of an empty church.

  6. F WILLIAM THEWALT says:

    I simply cannot understand support for the Palestinians. Both Hamas and Hezbollah that control Palestine are known terrorist organizations. They look for and seek the destruction of Israel. Truly they are the aggressors in this matter. Israel is the only friend the U.S. has in the Middle East and our church works to frustrate them

  7. Andrew Pearson says:

    This article refers to the bishop in Jerusalem as ‘archbishop.’ He is not an archbishop, the province does not have an archbishop, but a presiding bishop who is Mouneer Anis of Egypt.

  8. Clare Amos says:

    Those who comment that the original article was wrong in describing Suheil as Archbishop rather than Bishop – are themselves wrong! They obviously haven’t kept up with the news that in the 2014 Provincial Synod of the Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East it was formally agreed that the title of Archbishop could be used by both the current President Bishop (at the moment Bp Mouneer) and also by the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem.

    See the release at (for example) http://cypgulf.org/news/announcements/page/3/

  9. erik jaegaer says:

    A simple solution to the problem is to invest or divest to both sides equally. Is this whole discussion a complete waste. How much money does the Episcopal Church going to either side? A small amount just to enough to keep a very small presence in the Holy Land? We must reject Christian Zionism and anti-Antisemitism. The British Anglicans screwed both sides after World War I. The General Convention was correct to reject both sides. I have been to Israel both Palestinian/Jewish sides have some decent legal claims. We should try to be peacemakers. It is up to the Palestinians and Jews to may their own peace. We (British Anglicans) tried to control the situation, we only gave them a common enemy.

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