Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions–U.M. Investments

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)

is a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and organizations.  BNC member organizations:  – Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine – Gen. Union of Palestinian Workers – Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions – Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS) – Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) – Palestinian Nat’l Institute for NGOs – Federation of Indep. Trade Unions – Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition – Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Initiative – Gen. Union of Palestinian Teachers – Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) – Gen. Union of Palestinian Women – Gen. Union of Palestinian Writers – Union of Palestinian Farmers – Grassroots Palestinian  Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW) – Pal. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) – Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) – Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem – Coalition for Jerusalem – Nat’l Committee to Commemorate the Nakba – Union of Public Employees in Palestine-Civil Sector – Gen. Union of Palestinian Peasants – Union of Pal. Charitable Organizations – Union of Professional Associations – Women Campaign to Boycott Israeli Products – Palestinian Economic Monitor – Union of Youth Activity Centers- Palestine Refugee Camps – Agricultural Cooperatives Union – Nat’l Committee for Grassroots Resistance  15 March 2015

Dear UMKR partners,

First and foremost, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) wishes to reiterate its deep appreciation for the principled, persistent and morally compelling work that you are doing to clean up the United Methodist Church funds of all involvement in Israel’s regime of occupation, settlements and other violations of human rights.

The BNC, the largest coalition in Palestinian society that is leading the global BDS movement, has learned that the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB) of the United Methodist Church (UMC) is misinterpreting or misrepresenting our views and arguments in UMC discussions regarding divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola Solutions. We have also learned that BNC Secretariat member Omar Barghouti was specifically misquoted by GBPHB to undermine the case for divestment from these three companies. This letter is intended to clear any ambiguity about our position in this regard and to set the record straight.

The BNC salutes the United Methodist Church for its decision in 2014 to divest from the British-Danish security company G4S, a supplier of security services and equipment for Israeli prisons, settlements, checkpoints and wall. We urge the UMC to divest all its investments from CAT, HP and Motorola Solutions, among other corporations that are similarly complicit in Israel’s occupation and violations of international law.

Divesting from companies that are deeply involved in human rights violations is not just an ethical responsibility; it is in line with fiduciary duty of investment managers. As the BDS movement has shown with its successful campaigns against SodaStream, Veolia and others, targeted companies risk losing major contracts, market share and/or stock price as a result of effective human rights boycott and divestment campaigns.

Please find attached to this letter 3 fact sheets presenting up-to-date research by the Israeli human rights organization, Who Profits, that decisively incriminates HP, CAT and Motorola Solutions, respectively, in serious Israeli violations of human rights and international law in the occupied Palestinian territory. Any attempt to claim that divesting from these companies would be merely “symbolic” flies in the face of hard facts about these companies’ ongoing complicity in the occupation.

During a meeting with GBPHB representatives in Ramallah in October 2012, the BNC representatives, including Omar Barghouti, strongly urged the Board to adopt an ethical investment/socially responsible investment screen that excludes companies proven to be involved in Israel’s occupation, starting with those that “source from” settlements or “actively help in the construction of” settlements and their infrastructure. Though the GBPHB representatives did not commit to this formulation, they expressed interest in its “clarity” and promised to “consider” it. CAT, HP, Motorola Solutions and G4S, among other companies targeted by the BDS movement, clearly meet these criteria as they provide products and services to settlements and their infrastructure.

Building colonial settlements in an occupied territory and transferring part of the occupying population to them constitute a war crime under international law. Why is the UMC still invested in companies involved in the construction, security and sustainability of these war crimes?

The BNC urges the UMC to adopt an occupation-free investment screen, similar to the well-researched screen produced by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

In March 2013, as you will recall, the Mennonite Central Committee voted unanimously to stop investments in “companies that benefit from products or services used to perpetrate acts of violence against Palestinians, Israelis and other people groups.”  Furthermore, the MCC announced that it:  “… will not invest direct holdings in companies on the AFSC ‘Israel/Palestine Investment Screen’ list, will choose to invest in mutual funds that limit exposure to companies on the list and will join efforts to encourage the mutual funds that it holds to adopt similar screens. Staff also will aim to align MCC U.S.’ purchasing patterns with these investment principles.”

In addition to the above mentioned companies that are involved in Israeli settlements and occupation at large, we urge the UMC to divest completely from Israel Bonds and the top five Israeli banks that are proven to be heavily involved in financing the occupation and settlement construction.

Already, PGGM, the second largest pension fund in the Netherlands (state run), with over $200B in investments worldwide (10 times as large as the UMC funds!), has divested from the top Israeli banks due to their involvement in the occupation and settlement construction.

The Who Profits report on the complicity of Israeli banks presents damning and irrefutable evidence on their involvement in the occupation and settlements in particular.

Israel Bonds are of course government bonds that directly finance and maintain the Israeli occupation and other injustices. This report by the Minnesota Break the Bonds campaign offers insight into the potential of this worthy target.

Once again, we sincerely thank you for your support for divestment from companies that sustain Israel’s serious violations of international law, particularly those committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including settlements, the siege of Gaza and the ongoing ethnic cleansing in and around occupied Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley.

BNC Secretariat

seeking peace with justice for all of our Middle Eastern neighbors ________________________________________ chairs: Linda Bergh – _________________________________ Leah Mae Carlisle – __________________________ Karen Peterson –