Israel divestment campaigns gain momentum in U.S.

Mitchell Plitnick reports: A resolution at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three corporations which provide equipment used to maintain Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands failed by a mere two votes on Thursday.

Yet despite this apparent setback, the movement to divest from such corporations has gained tremendous momentum in recent weeks.

On Jun. 25, Morgan Stanley Capital Index (MSCI) announced that it had removed the Caterpillar corporation from its index of socially responsible companies, due in part to the use of its equipment to violate the human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank.

As a result, the leading retirement assets management firm for workers in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields, TIAA-CREF divested from Caterpillar. Activists in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation hailed this as a major victory, as TIAA-CREF had been the target of a divestment campaign for several years.

The TIAA-CREF decision raised hopes among pro-Palestinian activists that the Presbyterian Church (USA) would also choose to divest from three corporations – Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solution – which their Israel-Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) had identified as profiting from Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.

If the Presbyterians passed a divestment resolution they would become the first mainstream Christian church body to do so.

But major Jewish institutions lobbied hard, as they have in previous years, to defeat the Presbyterian divestment initiative, and they succeeded, albeit by the narrowest of margins. The final vote was 333 against the resolution, 331 in favour and two abstentions.

The narrow margin of defeat, however, provided substantial encouragement to some BDS activists. [Continue reading...]

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