|Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions cited for profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel/Palestine|
|Written by Bethany Furkin|
|Tuesday, 13 September 2011 18:16|
Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions also cited for business practices in Israel/Palestine|
CHICAGO (Presbyterian News Service) After seven years of apparently futile engagement with Caterpillar over its business practices in Israel/Palestine, the Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee is recommending that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) add the company to its divestment list.
MRTI is also recommending that the 220th General Assembly (2012) add Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard to the list.
The move toward divestment is the “logical conclusion to what the (General Assembly) asked us to do,” said the Rev. Brian Ellison, chairman of MRTI. The committee implements General Assembly policies on socially responsible investing by engaging corporations in which the church owns stock.
An 85-year-old company based in Peoria, Ill., Caterpillar is the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. The Israeli Defense Forces have used Caterpillar D9 bulldozers – with Israeli modifications – for military purposes, including the destruction of Palestinian homes.
In February 2006, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to divest from Caterpillar, and the United Methodist Church has weighed divestment from the company.
Caterpillar has claimed it does not "condone the illegal or immoral use of any Caterpillar equipment."
Ellison said the MRTI was telling Caterpillar that that its effort to engage the company had failed so far "and we don’t think it’s going to be successful."
At MRTI’s recommendation, the 219th General Assembly (2010) denounced Caterpillar for profiting from what the GA called "non-peaceful use" of its products in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
MRTI has been engaged with Motorola since 2005. The company split into two companies in 2010: Motorola Mobility, which markets cell phones in civilian markets, and Motorola Solutions, which conducts business with the Israeli government. Since the split, MRTI has been engaged with Motorola Solutions.
MRTI has also been engaged with Hewlett-Packard about its products' role in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. “The company sells hardware to the Israeli Navy that is used for its operational communications, logistics and planning including the ongoing naval blockade of the Gaza Strip,” reads MRTI’s report from its Sept. 9 meeting.
The committee discussed continuing engagement with Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard, but ultimately voted to recommend adding those companies to the divestment list.
“I just think we need to take bold action,” said MRTI committee member Terry Dunning.
She added that focusing on two well-known consumer brands might alert people to their connections to human rights violations, and that she doesn’t believe further corporate engagement with the companies will be productive.
“What good did it do us to keep talking to Caterpillar for seven years?” she said.
Another MRTI committee member, Joanne Rodriguez, said that she would have supported continuing engagement if the companies were more open to communication, but they have shown total disregard.
According to MRTI’s report, Hewlett-Packard provided faith-based shareholders with “vague answers” in writing, repeatedly delayed conference calls and participated in unproductive dialogue. Motorola Solutions is “unresponsive to all efforts by religious shareholders to engage in serious discussions about its involvement in non-peaceful pursuits,” reads the report.
“You can’t bring about positive change if there’s no relationship, if there’s no communication — and there isn’t,” Rodriguez said.
The Rev. John Hougen, committee member, said that MRTI’s recommendations are a statement about the companies, not Israelis or Palestinians. Human rights violations should be opposed in any part of the world, but because the Middle East is a political hot button, MRTI’s recommendations could be taken the wrong way.
“I’m voting to divest because it’s the right idea, not — absolutely not — because of the people involved,” he said.
The Presbyterian Outlook's staff also contributed to this report.
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Responses to the MRTI's divestment recommendation have begun to emerge from within and outside the PC(USA). The Outlook will post them as soon as quickly as possible. Here is one from Presbyterians for Middle East Peace:
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace
Media Release for Immediate Release
Re: PC(USA) MRTI recommendation to divest
September 12, 2011
We are saddened but not surprised that the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment, PC(USA) has recommended that the General Assembly of the PC(USA) divest from three companies (Motorola, H-P and Caterpillar) because of their business practices related to Israel and Palestine. It is extremely important to remember that this is a recommendation by a committee. It is not policy of the PC(USA).
We are saddened because the recommendation will, no doubt, increase the divisions within the PC(USA) on how we can most effectively be peacemakers in the Middle East; it will surely offend and hurt our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community with whom we are in close dialogue;
it fails to acknowledge the 2008 action of the General Assembly that instructed Presbyterians not to over-identify with one side in this tragic struggle.
We are not surprised by the MRTI recommendation because there is a small group of activists within the PC(USA) that has relentlessly sought to punish Israel. Wanting to find one party at fault in a conflict where all parties have engaged in positive and negative actions, this small group believes that Israel is solely to blame for the current conflict. This attitude is embedded in the Kairos Palestine document currently being praised by pro-Palestinian activists within the denomination. This small number of activists have lobbied heavily for the denomination to divest from the three companies in question. Some of them have endorsed a much wider boycott and divestment from Israel reminiscent of the actions taken against South Africa’s apartheid regime. Despite their small size, these activists have consistently found a friendly ear within the MRTI.
Gratefully, there is no reason to believe that the General Assembly of the PC(USA) will respond positively to the MRTI recommendation. In the past, the GA has consistently rejected calls for divestment. Polling of Presbyterian lay people and clergy has consistently rejected suggestions for the PC(USA) to be an advocate for any one side in this multi-sided situation. Given the constantly changing dynamics within the Middle East today, it is hard to imagine the 2012 General Assembly radically departing from PC(USA) policies or turning its back on the will of PC(USA) members.
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace will work long and hard to make sure the 2012 General Assembly continues to play a positive rather than inflammatory peacemaking role in the Middle East. To that end, we welcome the help and support of all who oppose the MRTI recommendation.
If interested, please contact us at www.pfmep.org