Divestment campaign against Apartheid Israel endorsed by New England Methodists
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Divestment campaign against Apartheid Israel endorsed by New England Methodists

***image1*** The New England United Methodist Church has joined the call for divestment and economic action against Apartheid Israel, urging churches to divest from companies that profit from the Occupation of Palestine. The resolution, passed at the New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church on June 11th, is the latest in a growing number of church resolutions supporting the Palestinian struggle for justice and their resistance to the project of the Occupation Forces to expel them from their lands.

Announcing the resolution, a spokesperson noted, “As United Methodists, we are committed to work for justice, and to refuse to be complacent in the face of such monumental human suffering.” In particular, the resolution drew attention to the forced expulsion of Palestinians – both Muslim and Christian – due to the Occupation’s “confiscation of their property and the severe hardships of living under occupation,” as well as the expansion of Jewish settlements on confiscated Palestinian land. The resolution also condemned the Occupation’s dismissal of the International Court of Justice decision which ruled the Apartheid Wall illegal and demanded it be dismantled and that compensation be paid to Palestinians whose lives it has devastated.

The supporting statement issued by the Conference explained the urgency for the Church to act: “Palestinians face soaring unemployment, malnutrition, restrictions on movement, denial of medical care, denial of access to their agricultural lands, humiliation at checkpoints, and extended lockdowns called curfews. More than 4 million Palestinian refugees live in poverty, while Israelis live in their [Palestinian] homes and farm their lands.”

The statement continued: “Israel continues to take the land of the Palestinian people for ever-expanding settlements, Israeli-only roadways, and the construction of a giant wall […] that is confiscating a significant portion of the Palestinian land in the West Bank. 83% of the West Bank’s water has been taken for Israeli use, leaving Palestinians with desperate water shortages. Israel has destroyed the homes of more than 28,000 Palestinians in four and a half years. Hundreds of thousands of ancient olive trees and vast tracts of agricultural land have also been destroyed.”

The statement also condemned the encircling of Jerusalem by the Apartheid Wall and a ring of Jewish settlements that cut off Palestinians from their cultural, economic and political capital. It criticized Occupation Forces’ violent attacks on Palestinian villagers demonstrating against the Apartheid Wall’s theft of their lands. Thousands of Palestinians have been injured and several murdered as the Occupation routinely fires tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition at protesters.

The New England Methodists are the latest in a growing number of Christian churches worldwide that are using their economic influence to work for an end to the Occupation and towards justice and liberation for the Palestinian people. The World Council of Churches has encouraged its members to take “economic measures” and enter a process of selective divestment to end the oppression of Palestinians. In America, the Presbyterian Church has adopted a similar process and early next month The United Church of Christ will debate the issue of divestment at its annual General Synod. This will be followed by a meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in August. In the UK, the worldwide Anglican Church – with more than 75 million members – is currently discussing selective divestment, and the UK Methodist Church will vote on the issue at the end of June.

A spokesperson from the New England Conference said that together, the increasing number of church actions in America “will send an unmistakable message… that American Christians are waking up to the realities of the occupation and will not stand by while Palestinian Christians and their Muslim neighbors have their land, water and basic human rights taken from them.”

Churches have a long history of involvement with movements for social justice and liberation. In particular, they were at the forefront of the worldwide boycott and divestment from Apartheid South Africa that crippled the racist regime. Divestment marks one of the first steps in building a global movement to isolate Apartheid Israel. A wide number of sanctions and boycotts campaigns are now building with new efforts aimed at finding concrete actions of solidarity with Palestinians struggling for liberation and justice.

The New England Conference – which includes 554 United Methodist and federated congregations in Eastern Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, and one in Vermont – will now form a committee to prepare a full list of companies to be targeted with divestment. The committee’s list will be circulated to the numerous Methodist churches and investment managers in the New England Conference and the process of divestment is expected to begin within the next six months.