Gathering of U.S. Presbyterian Church elders and ministers voted on Friday to divest the religious group’s holdings in three American companies it says have ties to Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian Territories.
The church will divest holdings worth roughly $21 million in Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions.
“We as a church cannot profit from the destruction of homes and lives,” said Reverend Gradye Parsons in a statement about the decision at its meeting in Detroit. “We continue to invest in many businesses involved in peaceful pursuits in Israel.”
Members of one of the largest mainline Protestant denominations had voiced concerns for years over the prospect of companies profiting from “non-peaceful pursuits”, and the decision came amid an international movement pushing a boycott of Zionist goods.
Friday’s vote – 310 in favor, 303 against – came after about a decade of debate and the rejection by two votes in 2012 of a similar measure. It was almost certainly the largest such commitment among U.S. church-group conventions.
The church, which has included in its ranks many U.S. Presidents, said the companies supply equipment and materials used to destroy homes and construct and monitor Zionist checkpoints and settlements, which most countries view as illegal and an obstacle to peacemaking.
The motion carried in the vote also expressed support for a two-state solution to the Zionist-Palestinian conflict and affirms the legitimacy of Zionist entity as a state, among other commitments.
Church officials were careful to say they are not fully aligning themselves with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which campaigns for a blanket boycott of all Zionist goods.
It was unclear exactly what investments the church sought to shed and when such trades would happen, though church agencies meeting in the fall would hear the new policy and instruct investment advisors, church officials said.