The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is divesting its investments with a company for the first time due to Israel’s illegal settlements and military occupation.
The church’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is selling its stock in the U.K.-based G4S, which provides equipment and services for Israeli prisons, checkpoints and settlements in the West Bank. The Methodist board, which manages an investment portfolio of $20 billion, has $110,000 in G4S shares, church officials said Thursday.
“This is the first time that a United Methodist general agency has included human rights violations related to Israel’s illegal settlements and military occupation in a decision to divest from a company,” said David Wildman, executive secretary for human rights and racial justice at the church’s General Board of Global Ministries. “It’s part of our efforts at examining how we are approaching human rights issues and the longstanding Israeli occupation and settlements.”
Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard are two other companies with investments that have come under scrutiny in the past. Divestment action was voted down at the 2012 General Conference in Tampa.
Advocates for divestment say that Caterpillar supplies the bulldozers and earth-moving equipment used by the Israel Defense Forces to clear Palestinian homes and orchards; that Hewlett-Packard provides, sometimes through subsidiaries, biometric monitoring at checkpoints and information technology to the Israeli Navy; and that Motorola supplies surveillance equipment to illegal settlements in the West Bank and communications equipment to the occupation forces.
In two separate votes, divestment was defeated by a 2-to-1 ratio. Susanne Hoder, a Methodist from Rhode Island and a spokeswoman for a group for divestment, the United Methodist Kairos Response, said: “Though we did not get the decision we hoped for, we have succeeded in raising awareness about the persecution of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. We have awakened the conscience of the churches and pointed out the inconsistency between our words and our actions.”