by Pauline J. Chang | The Christian Post | 10 November 2004
The Presbyterian Church (USA) may have a list of companies to “divest” from by spring 2005, lest Jewish anti-divestment campaigns complicate plans set during the Nov. 4-6 meeting of the PC(USA)’s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) team in New York City, NY.
The MRTI meeting, which addressed the denomination’s decision to “selectively divest” from companies benefiting from Israel’s occupation of the West Back and Gaza Strip, established six criteria on which businesses will be targeted.
Four of the six criteria target the Israeli occupation directly, whiles the fifth identifies multinational corporations that promote or enable violence by either Palestinians or Israelis. The sixth criterion addresses the continued construction of the separation barrier between the two nations.
According to the PC(USA), “The establishment of criteria enables MRTI to focus its research so that it may begin identifying which companies — from the PC(USA)’s perspective — further conflict instead of peace and ought to be engaged in dialogue with the church,”
“It’s a set of criteria to organize the work,” said the Rev. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, who is MRTI’s longtime head. “There are hundreds of companies involved [in the occupation] and hundreds [that operate in Israel] who are not involved. … It’s better to focus on criteria that are focused on General Assembly policy on Israel and Palestine.”
Specifically, the four criteria that target the occupation identify multinational corporations that: provide services to or for use by the Israeli police or military to support and maintain the occupation; provide products, services or technology of particular strategic importance to the support and maintenance of the occupation; have established facilities or operations on occupied land; and provide products and services, including financial services, for the establishment, expansion or maintenance of Israeli settlements on occupied land.
The MRTI’s research on the 6 criteria is expected to be completed by the spring of 2005. However, before the decision is made, the major Jewish groups against divestment may launch a campaign to rescind the decision. To date, at least nine Jewish groups worked to preempt Israel divestment decisions by other churches and denominations.
Once the companies have been selected, the MRTI members will meet with the company heads to persuade them to change their behavior. If the companies change, divestment not be necessary.
“Divestment is a long way from this point in time,” said Somplatsky-Jarman.
At earliest, the PC(USA) will begin divesting in the Spring of 2006.