The Episcopal Church joins ecumenical partners in addressing human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

October 21, 2019

At their fall meeting in Montgomery, Ala. the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church adopted and implemented a human rights investment screen to respond to a 2018 General Convention resolution, which directs The Episcopal Church to “join with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s action, CA 16.06.31, “Justice for the Holy Land Through Responsible Investment.”” The screen draws from the actions of General Convention and Executive Council over the past seventy years and directs the Church not to invest in companies that support or benefit from human rights violations. Establishing a human rights investment screen adds to the list of screens the Episcopal Church uses for other issues such as tobacco, fossil fuels and certain military contractors.

At the recommendation of Council's Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility, three companies were identified for removal from the Church's investment portfolio and placement on its No Buy List: Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and the Israel Discount Bank. Further, Council asks CCSR “to pursue continued engagement with Facebook, Booking.com, and TripAdvisor, urging them to address human rights violations through complicity in the occupation of the OPT, and seeking to assure that the companies take all necessary steps to end their complicity in the occupation.” 

"This is a stewardship issue," said the Rev. Canon C.K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church. "The Church does not want to make profits from companies that contribute to the suffering of others."  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ have all previously taken similar actions.

The decision to address human rights violations in the 52-year-old occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including East Jerusalem) is an important step in addressing longstanding human rights violations. “The Church does not support the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, but we do take seriously the rights of human beings to live free of human rights violations. We have engaged companies about the occupation since we first filed a shareholder resolution with Motorola in 1994," said Bishop Doug Fisher, chair of the committee on corporate social responsibility.

Several Jewish organizations distinguish economic campaigns against companies involved in the occupation from the BDS campaign which targets Israel itself, including J Street and Americans for Peace Now (APN). J Street notes on its website “We do not oppose boycott, divestment, or sanctions initiatives that explicitly support a two-state solution, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and focus only on occupied territory beyond the Green Line.”  APN calls for “recognizing the legitimacy and potential value of activism and boycotts that squarely target settlements and the occupation.”

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, said, “"I appreciate the hard work done for so many decades by so many to promote the Church's commitment to justice for all the peoples of the Holy Land."

In calling for the screen at the 2018 General Convention, the Church also called for safeguarding the rights of Palestinian children in detention, pursuing justice in Gaza, reaffirmed Jerusalem as the shared capital of Israel and a future Palestinian State, called for renewed aid to Palestinian refugees and renewed negotiations for a just peace.