United Methodists who want their church to sanction Israel are regrouping after a committee at their denomination’s General Conference rejected four divestment or investment screening resolutions over the weekend.
Those resolutions “pretty much went down in flames,” said John Lomperis, the director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s United Methodist Action Program and an opponent of divestment.
At the quadrennial policy-making gathering of the 7 million-member church, supporters of selective divestment from companies to pressure Israel out of the Occupied Territories now are rallying around several different plans for the 864 delegates to consider.
Divestment related to Israel’s territories has been a contentious issue at the conference, as it has been in other mainline churches, on college campuses and in trade unions in recent years. Pro-Palestinian divestment supporters say it can help free an oppressed people. Anti-divestment groups say the strategy delegitimizes Israel’s existence and ignores Palestinians’ role in fomenting the conflict.
Positive investments are not a substitute for divestment, according to Susanne Hoder, co-chair of the United Methodist Kairos Response, which had prepared the resolutions related to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
But, Hoder said, “Where we see opportunities to move forward together, we’re going to seize them, and I think we’ve demonstrated that in a conference where there are a lot of strong differences of opinion, we’ve managed to find a way forward to work together with people who have opposing views.”