BNC Statement

Palestinians welcome United Methodist Church divestment

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society leading the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, salutes the United Methodist Church (UMC) for declaring the five largest Israeli banks off limits for investment for the Church’s $20-billion Pension and Health Benefits Fund.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society leading the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, salutes the United Methodist Church (UMC) for declaring the five largest Israeli banks off limits for investment for the Church’s $20-billion Pension and Health Benefits Fund.

The BNC congratulates the United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR) group within the Church for its relentless and effective leadership in raising awareness among Methodist communities about Palestinian rights and the need for the church to end all its investments in companies that profit from Israel’s occupation and human rights violations.

Bisan Mitri, a spokesperson for the BNC, warmly welcomed the decision: “This historic step shows, with concrete measures, the ethical commitment of the United Methodist Church to peace and justice. Israeli banks finance the decades-long occupation and oppression of Palestinians and are a key pillar in sustaining the brutality of Israel’s military, the unrelenting expansion of Israel’s settlements, and the plundering of Palestinian resources.”

A report published by the Israeli rights group Who Profits in 2010 details the involvement of Israeli banks in Israel’s violations of international law and war crimes.

This complicity is summarized in six key areas: 1) the provision of mortgage loans for homebuyers in settlements; 2) special loans for building projects in settlements; 3) financial services to Israeli local authorities in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights; 4) operating branches in Israeli settlements; 5) providing financial services to businesses in settlements; and 6) holding captive the Palestinian monetary market.

The banks named by UMC are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank, and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank.

Rifat Kassis of the Kairos Palestine initiative said: “The UMC’s decision is inspiring and morally courageous. Years of conscientious engagement with the church are bearing fruit. UMC is only the latest of the church denominations to take to heart the do-no-harm principle that Christian denominations hold dear. We are getting closer to a united Christian front taking a principled, moral and effective stand against Israel’s occupation and violations of international law.”

In just five months, UMC’s General Conference will take place when the church will consider divestment from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard, as proposed by UMKR, and creating an occupation-free investment screen. Years of UMC engagement with the three US-based companies have failed to end their complicity in Israel’s occupation.

In 2012, UMC General Conference fell short of voting for divestment from these companies. Meanwhile church activists have continued their dialogue with Palestinian groups that call for BDS against Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid in the pursuit of freedom, justice and equality.

Already in 2016, Irish building materials corporation CRH announced its exit of the Israeli market, selling off its 25% equity stake in its Israeli operation Nesher Cement, mainly due to effective BDS campaigning in Ireland.

Days earlier, French telecoms giant Orange announced the termination of its franchise relationship with Israeli occupation-profiteer Partner Communications, confirming the BDS movement’s announcement last year that this was likely to happen.

In September 2015, French corporate giant Veolia sold off all of its businesses in Israel. This was a direct result of a 7-year campaign against its role in infrastructure projects for illegal Israeli settlements that cost it more than $20 billion in lost tenders and contracts.

A leading France-based Israeli businessman recently told the Israeli media that the growing strength of the BDS movement means that most major European companies now avoid investing in Israel.

Foreign direct investment in Israel dropped by 46% in 2014 as compared to 2013, according to a UN report, partially due to the impressive growth of the BDS impact, as stated by one of the report’s authors.

The Israel Export Institute has revealed that Israel’s exports in 2015 have dropped by 7% over 2014.

Moody’s, a leading credit ratings agency, has warned that “the Israeli economy could suffer should BDS gain greater traction." 

Correction: an earlier version of this release suggested that UMC Pension and Health Benefit Fund had announced the exclusion of Israeli military company Elbit Systems from its portfolio in this recent announcement. While Elbit Systems is indeed off-limits to UMC's investment portfolio this decision had been implemented a while ago.


SHARE

Stay updated!

Sign-up for news, campaign updates, action alerts and fundraisers from the BDS movement.

We won’t share your data with anyone else and will abide by our privacy policy. And of course you can unsubscribe whenever you wish.