TAMPA, May 2, 2012 -- This afternoon, by a margin of two-to-one, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church defeated a move to divest from three U.S. companies doing business with Israel in the occupied Palestinian Territories. The Rev. Alex Joyner, spokesperson for United Methodists for Constructive Peacemaking in Israel and Palestine (UMCPIP), said his group "had been actively opposing divestment and encouraging the more productive approach of negotiations and positive investments."
By a margin of two-to-one, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church defeated a move to divest from three U.S. companies doing business with Israel in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
A group called United Methodist Kairos Response had been among those lobbying aggressively for months to persuade United Methodists to vote for divestment. This approach was first rejected by the legislative committee that reviewed the petition. They removed language directing divestment, opting instead for positive investment in Palestine as a strategy for peacemaking.
United Methodist delegates defeated two attempts in plenary to reintroduce divestment. A third effort to single out Israeli behavior, when considering applying economic sanctions to companies, was defeated by a similar margin.
Debate about a separate petition passed earlier, which called on "nations to prohibit...the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements," was accompanied by confusion among delegates. After an initial vote, one delegate informed the General Conference that delegates at his table were confused and did not know which way they were voting. Additionally, an amendment which would have removed boycott language was not allowed and never came before the plenary for a vote.
Despite the confusion about the earlier petition, United Methodists ultimately made a very strong statement at their General Conference refusing to single out the state of Israel for economic sanctions.