United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR) has published a briefing paper outlining the reasons for its opposition to pending legislation that would curb the basic rights of Americans to decide how they will invest and spend their money. These measures, known as “anti-BDS” (Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions) legislation, have been introduced in a number of US states and in Congress over the last two years. These legislative efforts threaten to limit Americans’ financial freedom and advocacy. They contradict the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) longstanding policies of supporting economic advocacy to achieve justice and bring about social change. Douglas Kerr, one of the authors of this statement, says “the current wave of anti-BDS legislation reflects the politics of fear that sustains the illegal and unjust occupation of Palestinian territories.”
Several states have already passed non-binding bills that condemn BDS, while more recently enacted and pending bills are directed to prevent states’ pension funds from investing in companies that boycott Israel or the occupied territories. The US Congress inserted language in a trade bill discouraging the EU from using boycott, divestment and sanctions directed to Israel. While none of these bills actually restrict US non-profit organizations or individuals from adopting BDS measures, they discourage US constitutionally protected basic civil rights and advocacy efforts, as well as failing to protect the human rights of Palestinians living within Israel or the occupied territories.
In 2012, the UMC General Conference called on “all nations to prohibit: 1. any financial support by individuals or organizations for the construction and maintenance of settlements; and 2. the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.” Recently, the UMC General Board of Pensions excluded investments in five Israeli banks and an Israeli construction company that support the construction and maintenance of settlements. These were among 39 companies it excluded for involvement with human rights violations. In 2014, UMKR launched a boycott of six companies producing products in Israeli settlements. As of 2016, two of these companies had moved out of the illegal settlements, showing that economic actions can make a difference. UMKR commends these principled actions, which will help to end the Israeli occupation and achieve a just and lasting peace for all the people of Israel/Palestine.
Such responsible financial advocacy measures follow UMC Social Principles, and have been applied effectively to US farm workers, apartheid in South Africa, environmental hazards, civil rights, and other human rights situations. UMKR’s focus includes advocating for UMC divestment from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation, boycotting Israeli settlement products, and advocating for US government policies that enforce international and US laws and encourage a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
United Methodist Kairos Response is a global grassroots group within the United Methodist Church seeking to respond to the urgent call of Palestinian Christians for actions that can end the Israeli occupation of their land. For more information, visit www.kairosresponse.org.