General Board of Pension and Health Benefits Divests From Security Firm

Students in Palestine Protest at Security Checkpoint, Photo courtesy of Michael Loadenthal creative commons

Students in Palestine Protest at Security Checkpoint, Photo courtesy of Michael Loadenthal creative commons

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.”

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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.”



  1. Wow. This is more meddlesome left-wing activism by people who really don’t know what they are doing, having not bothered to get a comprehensive understanding of the historial facts surrounding this matter. Whether or not the West Bank Israeli presence is truly illegal is a matter of some debate since the Israeli army is there owing to Arab aggression.

    • Theresa says:

      This is not a left-wing issue in the UMC, but one that refreshingly “crosses the aisle.” In recent years, including at General Conference 2012, conservative, moderates and evangelicals have supported economic advocacy such as divestment and boycott as principled action for United Methodists regarding the Israeli Occupation.

      There is no serious debate of the illegality of the Israeli settlements, or the 85% of the Separation Wall that is has been built on Palestinian land rather than on the internationally recognized border of Israel. See the European Union decision in 2013 that all EU member nations may not have any accord, agreement or treaty with Israel unless it says specifically that any connection to the settlements must be excluded. And the national pension funds, major banks, and many other non-left-wing entities that are divesting from companies and from Israeli banks in recent months, citing their involvement with the illegal Israeli settlements. One foundation for that illegality is the 4th Geneva Convention Article 49, which forbids an occupying power from transferring its own population to the occupied territory, i.e. colonizing that territory. Israel has placed over 600,000 of its citizens in settlements in occupied territory often with great economic incentives to move there. That isn’t army presence, that’s colonization. See also the International Court of Justice ruling in 2004 regarding the Separation Wall and what other nations are obligated to do to oppose it.

      Leaders working on this issue in the UMC are extensively informed on the history of this conflict and the current situation, including UM missionaries who have lived there for decades, and our partners, the Christians of Palestine, who have lived with it all their lives, along with their parents and grandparents before them. They know more than any of us who are likely to comment here, and they have asked repeatedly for concrete action, such as divestment, carried out with courage and love, to help in ending their suffering under occupation and siege; for that see “Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth.”
      They are rejoicing today that their Christian brothers and sisters have taken this historic step forward.

      • Your comments do not appreciate the actual history of why Israel went into the West Bank. This has become a political issue and facts have taken a back seat to activist zeal. And the non left wing entities you mention are going along with this because they don’t want rabid left-wing zealots and Arab activists breathing down their throats threatening bad PR, boycotts, etc.

        There actually IS some serious debate about the legality of the Israeli presence, maybe not among anti-Semites at the UN and the EU, but among serious-minded people who have actually studied the issue going back to the 1960’s. Israel does have a national security interest in being in the West Bank owing to unprovoked Arab agression, and they have provided some stability to the region, but I am not excusing all the actions of the Israelis.

  2. I am involved with Jews For Jesus since the 70s. Three years ago I got involved with crescent project. We need to share the gospel with the Jew and with the muslim. Let us pray they both convert to Christ and bow down to the Lord of Host. Jesus is the only way to get to Heaven.

  3. In Genesis, we find very plain language from God concerning the treatment of Israel. “Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3 NKJV)

    We also need to look at Bible history. The Israelites were told to take possession of the land. Furthermore, there was an everlasting covenant between the Israelites (Abraham and his descendants). “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.””(Genesis 17:7, 8 NKJV)

    The boundaries laid out by God for the Promised Land appear to encompass the disputed territories of today. If that is, indeed, the case, then the Jewish people have every legal and moral right to keep possession.

    Therefore, are we, United Methodists, on shaky ground by trying to deny Jewish autonomy in the land that God promised to the Israelites?

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