The pension fund of the United Methodist Church in the U.S., (the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits), recently placed five Israeli banks on a list of 39 businesses
in which the fund will not invest, claiming they do not meet the fund’s standards of human rights and ethics because of Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians. These banks are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank, and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank. The list also includes Israel’s Shikun & Binui Ltd.
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The United Methodist Church has scrutinized Israel before. On May 1, 2014, the UMC’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits mailed a copy
of its draft Human Rights and Investment Ethics Task Force Report and Recommendations to its membership. While the fund’s management company’s Human Rights Guideline Implementation
webpage identified 14 countries as “’high-risk’ countries and areas that demonstrate a prolonged and systematic pattern of human rights abuses” (Central African Republic, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Israel-Palestine, Morocco-Western Sahara, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Turkey-Northern Cyprus, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), the report itself referred to Israel 19 times, Sudan twice, and made no reference to any of the other countries.
The United Methodist Church’s pension fund also published Addressing Human Rights— Israel and the Palestinian Territories, a four page report making no reference to Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, or to terrorism.
Colette Nies, a spokesperson for the pension board said the fund invests in “approximately 18 Israeli companies that meet our investment criteria.” In 2012, the United Methodist Church reaffirmed a resolution entitled Opposition to Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land which states it “does not support a boycott of products made in Israel. Our opposition is to products made by Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories.”
Also in 2012, a Methodist reverend and member of group within the Methodist Church, the United Methodists for Constructive Peacemaking in Israel & Palestine published “We hear and recognize the pain that emerges from your [Israeli and Palestinian] experiences in this conflict. But we are not going to participate in the continuing demonization of one side over another or the continuation of policies that bring about fear and isolation for one side over the other.”
A different group within the United Methodist Church, the United Methodist Kairos Response is an aggressive advocate of boycotting Israeli goods produced in the settlements and sponsors a boycotting Israeli settlements webpage. The Kairos Response submitted two divestment resolutions regarding Israel to the United Method General Conference to be held in May 2016, the first regarding Companies Supporting the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territory and the other Companies Producing Goods and Services in the Israeli Settlements.
Richard Horowitz is an American and Israeli attorney and a former IDF officer. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.