Current Affairs

Presbyterian Church boycotts Israel

Sky News

The US Presbyterian Church has voted to withdraw its investments in companies whose products Israel uses in Palestinian territories.

The sale of its stock will make the Presbyterian Church the most prominent US-based religious group to endorse divestment in protest of Israeli policies toward Palestinians.

The church’s general assembly narrowly approved the divestiture in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola by a 310-303 vote on Friday.

A similar proposal failed by two ballots at the Presbyterians’ last national meeting.

The decision is viewed as a significant victory to an international campaign to boycott Israel over alleged human rights abuses.

The movement – known as Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) – aims to halt Israel’s building of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and end the occupation.

The group’s co-founder, Omar Barghouti, praised the Presbyterian vote as a “sweet victory for human rights”.

The church general assembly also voted on Friday to re-examine its support for a two-state solution in the troubled region.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington was quick to denounce the decision, calling it “shameful”.

“Voting for symbolic measures marginalizes and removes its ability to be a constructive partner to promote peace in the Middle East,” the Embassy said in a statement on its Facebook page.

Bill Ward of the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest, based in Washington state, said the vote was not an attack on Israel.

He said: “It is motivated by stewardship integrity, not partisan political advocacy.”

Two smaller US religious groups have recently divested in protest of Israeli policies, included the United Methodist Church and the Friends Fiduciary Corp, which manages assets for US Quakers and the Mennonite Central Committee.

A church spokeswoman estimated the value of Presbyterian holdings in the three companies at $21m (£12.3m).

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