UMC Graphic on Divestment

January 13, 2016

United Methodists, Israel & Divestment

Activist groups for anti-Israel divestment, who typically don’t have many victories to celebrate, are touting divestment from five Israeli banks and a construction firm by the United Methodist Board of Pensions.

This claim might confuse anyone who recalls that United Methodism at its governing General Conference in 2008 and 2012 overwhelmingly rejected anti-Israel divestment.  The pensions board itself quietly opposed divestment.

Now the pensions board says it’s not targeting Israel as the five Israeli banks are among 39 companies from 14 countries from which it is divesting based on human rights concerns.  It cites Freedom House, a longtime monitor of global political freedom, as a key source.

The 14 countries include North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Syria, some of the most repressive nations in the world.  Israel is the only functioning democracy on this list.  According to Freedom House, on a freedom scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being free and 7 “worst of the worst,” Israel has 1.5.  All of the other countries on the pensions board list have a perfect bad score of 7, except Morocco with 4.5 and South Sudan with 6.5. The Palestinian Authority-Administered Territories have a 6.  Freedom House notes Israel controls Palestinian border and defense policy but otherwise focuses on policies of the Palestinian Authority, which rejects media  freedom, independent judiciary, and a functioning legislature.  Its president’s elected term in office ended in 2009.

So the United Methodist pensions board is not exclusively targeting Israel but is lumping democratic Israel into a list of the world’s most repressive “worst of the worst,” as a Freedom House describes them. It evidently faults these five banks and a construction firm for supposedly facilitating Jewish settlements on the West Bank while noting it remains invested with 18 other Israeli firms.

This same minuet was performed in 2014, when the pensions board sold its shares in a British security firm that sold equipment to Israel.  Pro-divestment groups shouted victory and got the requisite New York Times story.  The pensions board was mum.

Why does the United Methodist pensions board uniquely target Israel for a higher standard in a way that extreme anti-Israel groups will tout as validation?  And why are countless gross abusers of human rights, like Iran and China, not on the list at all?  Or does the pensions board not want to touch the large and wealthy, even if they persecute Christians?

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8 Responses to United Methodists, Israel & Divestment

  1. Mike Ward says:

    This is how the entire Christian left opporates. They push their agenda as far as they can and then when the push back is so hard they can’t go forward anymore, they stop take a tiny little half baby step back and stop pushing just long enough for everyone to turn their backs and then they start pushing again.

  2. Wayne D. Worsham says:

    Thanks for the article and explanation. It is getting harder and harder to stay in the UMC and be a “cheerful giver” as we are told to do in the New Testament. GREAT work at The IRD!!!!!!

  3. johnwleek says:

    I would be surprised if the UM Board of Pension had investments in Iran. Do you know differently?

  4. Paul says:

    At least here in The Episcopal Church, we haven’t jumped on the BDS Bandwagon.

    As heretical and repulsive as “Her Grace” was, at least KJS had the dignity to make sure that BDS never saw the light of day at a General Convention. Let’s only hope that Curry will show the same courtesy.

  5. SunnyL says:

    The UM Denomination is going to Hell in a hand basket….They just bought their tickets!

  6. Skipper says:

    It seems like there’s often someone who doesn’t like Jews, which I can’t understand. I was taught to love everyone. Since the West Bank is critical to Israeli defense, perhaps these people really want to bring about another war. Why would anyone want that? Those pushing divestment should try being peaceful and let everyone else have some peace.

  7. Richard S. Bell says:

    Does the board have any investment in Irani or Chinese businesses that directly support violations of human rights? If not, that is why gross abusers of human rights like Iran and China are not on the list.
    Do the other 18 Israeli firms directly support violations of human rights? If not, that is why the board holds its investments in them.
    Is it possible that a democratic state may adopt programs that violate human rights? If so, the board’s targeting Israel is not necessarily anomalous and not necessarily application of a higher standard to Israel.

  8. TTRR69 says:

    From what I understand, there are Russian banks and companies the Pension Board is invested in…we all know the human rights record of Putin and the fact that he has annexed the Crimea. Just as they were about the murderous excesses of Stalin in the 1930’s to the 1950’s all you hear from the Left is “crickets.” Such hypocrites they are!!! Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is democratic and allows Freedom of Religion to all faiths…

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