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Presbyterians Will Boycott, But Not Divest

The Presbyterian Church (USA), meeting at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, voted yesterday by a 2-vote margin not to divest pension funds from three U.S. companies whose products are said to be used in non-peaceful pursuits in the occupied Palestinian territories: Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola Solutions.

A committee had earlier voted 36-11 to support divestment. Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel, a minister from Atlanta, GA, who strongly supported divestment, said some Jewish organizations and Presbyterians lobbied hard against divestment, and the rabbi invited to give an inter-faith greeting instead spoke against divestment and said it would harm, perhaps irreparably, the relationship between Jews and Presbyterians.

Abu-Akel, who grew up in Galilee in a Palestinian Arab Christian family, said, "From a biblical point of view — from a prophetic point of view — we want to invest our money in a very responsible way, so we are not divesting from Israel. We are divesting from our American three companies that are harming Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza."

Even though the vote was against divestment, Rabbi Alissa Wise of the Jewish Voice for Peace was heartened because it was so close, which she thinks shows that "times are changing," and more and more people — Jews included — recognize that the occupation is wrong.

A vote this morning was overwhelmingly in favor of boycotting Jewish settlement products: 71% to 28%, with 1% abstaining.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh worked hard with its national partners to oppose the divestment proposal, according to Director of Community Relations Jeff Cohan, who called it "divisive and confrontational." He said his group will cooperate with Presbyterians to implement a measure the group passed calling for collaborative projects and positive investment in the area by 2014.

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