Top officials of the United Church of Christ (UCC) voted on Tuesday to divest from companies that conduct business in Judea and Samaria.
During the church’s annual meeting in Cleveland, the groups General Synod endorsed the move with a final vote of 508-124 with 38 abstentions. Unlike a similar vote last year by the Presbyterian Church USA, which voted to sell of its stocks in companies whose products are widely used in Judea and Samaria, the UCC vote is more comprehensive.
Delegates of the church are calling on its financial officers to sell off all stock in companies which “have been found to profit from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the State of Israel.” The church also agreed to boycott all products made in the territories.
The UCC resolution specifically urged the divestment from Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, Motorola, Veolia Environment and security firm G4S. They also called to boycott Israeli companies that operate in Judea and Samaria, including SodaStream, Ahava and Hadiklaim dates.
UCC delegates also voted on whether to label Israeli policies in Judea and Samaria as “apartheid” but failed to garner the two-thirds majority vote in order to approve the measure.
Known as a liberal Protestant church, UCC’s sweeping decision signals a major win for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In total, the UCC pension board and investment fund control some $4 billion.
Peter Makari of Global Ministries, an organization affiliated with UCC, said the vote was not “a blanket endorsement” of BDS but rather “it’s in the spirit of the call.” He added that the resolutions “reflect our urgent concern for the worsening effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian people and lives, including the disparity in rights and power.”
Rev. John Deckenback, Conference Minister of the UCC’s Central Atlantic Conference, told media, “As disciples of Jesus, we hear and seek to heed His call to be peacemakers, responding to violence with nonviolence and extending love to all.”
“It is in that spirit of love for both Israelis and Palestinians, and a desire to support Palestinians in their nonviolent struggle for freedom, that the United Church of Christ has passed this resolution,” he said.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry slammed the church’s decision as immoral and said the vote only continues the international “demonization” of the Jewish state.
Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said UCC’s policies have “reflected the most radical politics for more than a decade and in no way reflects a moral stance or reality-based position.”
“People of faith ought to be acting to help Israel and the Palestinians to renew efforts to achieve peace, rather than endlessly demonizing one party in the conflict – in our view, the aggrieved party,” Nahshon added.