Overture Affirming Occupation-free Investment in Palestine

This overture is seeking both votes and concurrences. Please forward information on your Presbytery vote or concurrence to the PPF General Assembly Team at generalassembly@presbypeacefellowship.org. Please see the OGA Overture Fact Sheet for the exact rules for concurrences and for the fast-approaching deadlines.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Believing that Christians and Muslims as well as Jews of Palestine and Israel deserve the freedom for full human development, and honoring the request of Palestinian mission partners for foreign investment and aid that does not strengthen the occupation or contribute to the denial of rights, the _____________ Presbytery overtures the 221st General Assembly (2014) to do the following:

1. Affirm the commitment of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its constituent bodies to engage in investments in the West Bank in ways that support the rights under international law of the Palestinian people and contribute to their welfare. We affirm our intention to undertake such investments in ways that do not contribute to the continuation of Israel's occupation, annexation, or blockade of those areas, with specific attention to the illegal Israeli buildings, settlements, and barriers built on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.


2. Commend to the Church the work of the Presbyterian Foundation, in cooperation with the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA), identifying principles, approaches, and specific ways in which denominational agencies and entities, presbyteries, congregations, and individual members can engage in such occupation-free investments. We affirm the actions of those who have chosen to make new investments consistent with these approaches.


3. Affirm and commend to all the work of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF) in establishing an Occupation Free Fund, so that individuals, congregations, Presbyteries, and other entities can make gifts to PPF that will be invested in enterprises that do not benefit financially from the work of occupation, including the expansion of settlements. The General Assembly further commends other investment vehicles that prohibit investments in corporations that profit from and normalize the economic disadvantaging and dispossession of Christian and Muslim Palestinians denied full citizenship rights.


4. Affirm support of long-standing denominational procedures of corporate engagement with companies that contribute to or benefit financially from the work of occupation, including the expansion of settlements. To the extent that such procedures of corporate engagement do not produce satisfactory results, we affirm the denomination's commitment to pursue prudent steps to withdraw any funding currently invested in such companies.


RATIONALE

Because these matters cannot be fairly dealt with by simple slogans like invest, don't divest, we look to our Biblical core and the painstaking work of previous General Assemblies. We also seek to be guided by the witness of Palestinian Christians who struggle to endure economically while also calling for all forms of nonviolent pressure to end the occupation.


Foundations: Biblical bases

The prophet Isaiah (65:17-25) clearly expresses a vision of the Glorious New Creation that God envisions for the world, a vision that stretches throughout the scriptures and challenges us to participate in bringing that new creation to fruition. In that new vision, God will establish Jerusalem as a joy, where

They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat.

In the Gospel according to Luke (10:29-37), a lawyer asks Jesus, Who is my neighbor? Jesus defines the neighbor by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is commending acts of mercy when there are those who are oppressed. In the face of Israel's continuing occupation with its oppression, occupation-free investment is one way we can participate in the mercy that Jesus commends.

In his second letter to the church in Corinth (8:3-15), the Apostle Paul offers a model of the global church investing in and supporting the needs of the Christian community in Palestine. Paul lifts up the model of the Macedonians, a poor community abundant in generosity, and frames the investing in Christians in the Holy Land as a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance (v. 13).


Foundations: Past Presbyterian actions, and the way forward

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has repeatedly affirmed that the occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the expansion of settlements in those areas, and the continuing blockade of Gaza by Israel are morally and theologically wrong and are a hindrance to a just peace. Past General Assemblies have pointed to the denial of citizenship rights and self-determination and, listening to the voices of Palestinians themselves, have affirmed the role of nonviolent economic pressure, given the failure of moral suasion to slow the steady expansion of control of Palestinian land and resources. In 2004 the Assembly initiated a process of corporate engagement. This has led to continuing study and engagement with companies represented in our portfolio as to the extent to which their products and services enable the occupation.

In 2008, re-affirming the church's commitment to invest only in companies engaged in peaceful pursuits, the Assembly also affirmed the Amman Call, which affirmed economic pressure (as proved effective for South Africa). In 2012 the Assembly adopted a boycott of products of Israeli settlements but narrowly defeated a motion to divest of securities in companies profiting from the occupation. The Assembly also passed a motion, later ruled out of order, that requested the Board of Pensions to develop a separate fund for ministers who did not want their pensions profiting from the occupation.

The extensive 2010 policy statement on the Middle East, Breaking Down the Walls, recognized the desperate need for economic development for Palestinians, whose economy is systematically weakened by restrictions on human freedom to travel and access to electricity, water, up-to-date technology, communications, etc. In fact, the Palestinian economy is sustained by foreign aid, while the biggest assistance possible would simply be lifting the restrictions and preventing the Israeli government or settlers from taking Palestinian land and water, which clearly discourages investment. Among that report's recommendations, the Assembly calls on denominational agencies and entities, presbyteries, congregations and individual members to invest positively, after due vetting, in sustainable economic development projects for the West Bank and Gaza (that do not support the occupation) sponsored by Palestinians or jointly by Palestinians and Israelis in equitable partnership (III. D). The Presbyterian Foundation has been seeking to implement this recommendation since before the action of the 2012 Assembly.

As this is written, the latest peace process seems stalled, partly due to Israel's continuing settlement programs. Today, the prospects for a viable two state solution are questionable. Recognizing the continuing pressure on Palestinians to leave their ancestral lands, this overture affirms a both/and approach, including both investing in Palestine, done in ways that do not support or validate the on-going occupation of Palestinian lands, and also denominationally-approved actions of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

Focusing on the investment side of that dual approach, this overture affirms and commends to the church the work of the Presbyterian Foundation, which provides details of how the denomination will undertake such investments, including criteria and specific investment opportunities appropriate for our denomination. It also commends to the church the Occupation Free Fund put in place by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and encourages others to engage in similar investments. As Jesus commended the work of the good Samaritan who came to the assistance of someone in need, and as Paul commended the Macedonians for coming to the aid of needy Christians in the Holy Land, so are we called on to provide support for the Palestinians as they seek to maintain their rightful place in a land where they have lived for many generations.