Frequently asked questions about phased selective divestment
Why did the General Assembly take this action at this time?
The General Assembly has repeatedly spoken out against Israel's occupation, believing that it threatens the existence of both Israelis and Palestinians. A regional body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) proposed that the church divest from multinational corporations doing business in Israel. The Assembly discussed the matter and modified the divestment request, asking its Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) to "initiate a process of phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel, in accordance with General Assembly policy on social investing."
What is meant by "phased, selective divestment?"
It is a long, careful process that involves research into corporate involvement and selection of a focused list of corporations to engage, followed by discussions with corporate leaders, consideration of the possibility of a shareholder resolution, and, as a last resort, a recommendation that the General Assembly divest from particular corporations as a matter of Christian witness. Recommendations, if approved, would be forwarded to the PC(USA) Board of Pensions and the PC(USA) Foundation for consideration.
Isn't the call for divestment really a call for an economic boycott of Israel?
The General Assembly did not call for a boycott of Israel. It called for the PC(USA) to consider withdrawing investments in multinational corporations that profit from the continuation and expansion of the occupation, including Israeli settlements and construction and maintenance of the separation barrier.
What do you think about the suicide bombers who commit human-rights violations against innocent civilians?
We condemn them. We deplore all violence against innocent civilians. Presbyterians have been unequivocal in this stance, deeming "terrorism — whether state, group or individual — immoral because it wrongfully and deliberately attacks innocent civilians." The church has said that terrorism is "a dead-end alternative to a negotiated settlement."
Why don't you divest from all countries that violate human rights? Aren't you singling out Israel?
Presbyterians regularly engage corporations, all over the world, on human-rights issues, including the United States. Engagement leading to change is the goal of this process. We seek to use our resources to help create the sort of human community that God intends.
Divestment is a last resort option should corporations be unwilling to use our resources in ways that promote peace with justice. In the past, when engagement through conversation and shareholder action has failed, divestment has been necessary as a matter of conscience. This tool has been used with companies operating in South Africa and Sudan, as well as with U.S. corporations involved in tobacco, gambling, military production, environmental pollution, etc.
What do you hope to accomplish by divesting from companies doing business in Israel?
Divestment is the option of last resort. Our goal is to use our resources to seek justice and basic human rights for all, to end terrorism and the occupation, and to create a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land. If our investments cannot be used to further these aims, then we will consider changing our investment strategy in order to work for peace.
How do you decide which companies to divest from? What are the standards for choosing?
The Mission Responsibility through Investment Committee has established a set of criteria by which to choose corporations to engage and ground rules for such engagement.
Aren't there other ways to influence objectionable policies in a foreign land?
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) repeatedly uses its voice to speak out about injustices around the world.
When words are unavailing, the General Assembly may, as a last resort, withdraw its investments from corporations whose behavior is inconsistent with the church's values. The process of phased, selective divestment is intended to demonstrate the depth of our conviction and our commitment to a peaceful resolution enabling each side in the conflict to live with dignity.
Won't divestment hurt Arab and Jewish workers alike?
The lives of all the people of the region are being devastated by violence and the occupation. By seeking to engage multinational corporations about support for the occupation, we are trying to help end the violence.
Did you consult with Jewish leaders before taking this step?
While the Presbyterian deliberative process used by the General Assembly does not include consultation with Jewish leaders, conversations about the occupation and other common concerns have been part of our interfaith dialogue for many years.