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In July, the 2 million member Presbyterian Church (USA) will similarly ponder divestment. The head of the Presbyterian committee of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network is contacting Methodist delegates encouraging them to sound the anti-Israel trumpet.
“This is an important time for those of us who have worked so hard for peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis,” Carol Hylkema wrote. Promising she was “watching/looking for news coming” from the United Methodists, she told them that their decision “will have some influence on the outcome” of the Presbyterian General Assembly. “We will covet your support and prayers at that time,” she told them.
No doubt. A network of anti-Israel groups, aware of the symbolic importance of Mainline denominations backing their cause, is plotting feverishly for Methodist and Presbyterian approval of divestment. A recent confidential conference call among anti-Israel church activists revealed their strategies for the Methodist event.
About 20 leftist U.S. rabbis recently have endorsed anti-Israel divestment, which excited the church activists. Meanwhile, 1,250 U.S. rabbis from left to right have signed a letter opposing divestment. “It’s important for people who are concerned about Jewish relationships too, and help people understand that this is an interfaith effort that we are a part of,” explained one. They were also excited by support from the Israeli Committee on Home Demolitions [ICOHD]. “That’s another great connection from a group that is on the ground there in Israel and supporting this effort,” it was noted.
Conscious that United Methodism is global, with nearly 40 percent of its members are overseas mostly in Africa, the church activists emphasized their international outreach for divestment. The church’s official General Board of Church and Society, which is lobbying for divestment, has even hired a Zimbabwean to liaise with African United Methodists.
Citing counsel from the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation, one activist implored her fellow activists that when contacting Methodist delegates “don’t alienate, so keep your politics in check, if you are talking to a conservative person and you are progressive, keep that in mind.” And she urged stressing: “We all support freedom and equality for all people.”
Unlike previous divestment initiatives, this latest round targets 3 firms that ostensibly profit from the “occupation.” They are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola. “We have been very careful to focus only on companies that are directly involved with the occupation,” explained one activist, citing a 2010 trip when a delegation photographed U.S. equipment nefariously at work on the West Bank. “Caterpillar is knowingly providing equipment that is used to destroy homes, more than 26,000 homes have been destroyed with that equipment, and to destroy water cisterns at orchards,” the activist complained. “The sixty ton bulldozers are used as a key weapon by the Israeli army in the Gaza strip and West Bank.”
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