WASHINGTON – Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged the United Methodist Church to divest
from Israel Tuesday ahead of a church conference vote on the policy.
quadrennial General Conference of the United Methodist Church, being held in
Tampa, Florida, is considering divesting from three companies doing business
with Israel. The vote is scheduled for this week and could have come as early as
Tuesday depending how much debate occurs on different measures.
wrote in the Tampa Bay Times that the “harsh reality endured by millions of
Palestinians requires people and organizations of conscience to divest from
those companies – in this instance, from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and
Hewlett Packard – profiting from the occupation and subjugation of
The South African Nobel Peace Prize winner continued,
“Such action made an enormous difference in apartheid South Africa. It can make
an enormous difference in creating a future of justice and equality for
Palestinians and Jews in the Holy Land.”
A similar motion was defeated at
the Methodist general conference held in 2008, and other motions at this year’s
11- day gathering call on the conference to reject divestment.
groups, who worked to counter the move four years ago, have expressed similar
concern this year about the divestment effort.
More than 1,200 North
American rabbis wrote to conference delegates in April to ask them to oppose
divestment, which would only affect companies doing business with
“A one-sided approach damages the relationship between Jews and
Christians that has been nurtured for decades,” the letter states. “It promotes
a lopsided assessment of the causes of and solutions to the conflict,
disregarding the complex history and geopolitics. Furthermore, it shamefully
paints Israel as a pariah nation, solely responsible for frustrating
The rabbis’ letter, which was circulated before the publication
of Tutu’s opinion piece, also took issue with the comparison between Israel’s
policies and those of the former South African government.
and the specious apartheid terminology that frequently accompanies it, polarizes
people and communities so that the policy of divestment, and not peace, becomes
the central issue,” it argues.
Tutu acknowledged in his column that his
stance might alienate some Jews.
“I am enormously concerned that raising
this issue will cause heartache to some in the Jewish community with whom I have
worked closely and successfully for decades,” he wrote. “But I cannot ignore the
Palestinian suffering I have witnessed, nor the voices of those courageous Jews
troubled by Israel’s discriminatory course.”
United Methodist Church
officials did not respond to requests for comment before press time.