Following the December 2013 decision of the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli institutions and the high-profile backlash against Scarlett Johansson after she signed a sponsorship deal with SodaStream in January 2014 (see JPS 171 for more on both), the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement continued to gain momentum.
On 20 June, the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) voted 310–303 to approve a measure that would divest the church’s holdings in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, three large companies accused of facilitating and/or supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Two years earlier, in Pittsburgh, the PCUSA general assembly had narrowly rejected a similar divestment measure (333–331). The successful boycott resolution explicitly endorsed the two-state solution and distanced itself from the BDS campaign’s stated positions.
Below is the full text of PCUSA’s divestment measure. Earlier drafts of the measure, a rationale for its introduction, and several advisory opinions submitted prior to the vote are available at www.pc-biz.org.
The Presbytery of New Covenant overtures the 221st General Assembly (2014) to:
1. Reaffirm Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation within secure and internationally recognized borders in accordance with the United Nations resolutions.
2. Declare its commitment to a two-state solution in which a secure and universally recognized State of Israel lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people.
3. Instruct the Presbyterian Foundation and the Board of Pensions of the PC(U.S.A.), to divest from Caterpillar, Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, in accord with our church’s decades-long socially responsible investment (SRI) history, and not to reinvest in these companies until the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee of the PC(USA) is fully satisfied that product sales and services by these companies are no longer in conflict with our church investment policy. This action on divestment does not mean an alignment with the overall strategy of the global BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement.
4. Call for all presbyteries and congregations within the PC(USA) to include interfaith dialogue and relationship-building as part of their own engagement in working for a just peace.
5. Call for all foreign aid given by the U.S. government—including aid to Israel and the Palestinian Authority—to be comprehensively and transparently accounted to the American people and held to the same standards of compliance with all applicable laws.
6. Call for church advocacy for foreign-aid accountability to be directed toward its universal adherence rather than targeted for selective application to some recipients and not others.
7. Encourage Presbyterians to travel to the Holy Land, and give broad support to the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities throughout the Middle East.
8. Affirm the importance of economic measures and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians that support and advance a negotiated two-state solution.
9. Urge all church institutions to give careful consideration to possible investments in Israel-Palestine that advance peace and improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.