Presbyterian Church Israel boycott motion defeated

A US church has voted against a motion to divest from businesses that work in Israel, after a heated internal debate.

The Presbyterian General Assembly, the largest such group in the US, defeated the divestment plan by a margin of just two votes. Had the motion passed, it would have meant that the General Assembly divested from Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Motorola.

A second motion, to encourage investment that furthers the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, passed by 369 to 290 votes.

If the vote had passed it would have been taken as a significant victory for supporters of the global boycotts, sanction and divestment campaign against Israel. In recent months the BDS campaign has emerged triumphant, with governments in Denmark and South Africa backing a move to specifically label goods produced in the West Bank.

Rev Katherine Cunningham, the vice-moderator of the Presbyterian Church's Israel/Palestine Mission Network, said after the vote: "It appears that church commissioners were swayed by a fear that divestment would cause irreparable harm to Jewish-Christian relations. "

"This vote is a principled rebuff of the well-financed decade-long international campaign that seeks to co-opt major Christian denominations to the anti-Israel cause, which would make them part of the ongoing conflict," said a spokesman for research group NGO Monitor. Its chief programmes officer, Yitzhak Santis, hailed the "moral vote", which he said sent "a strong message to the worldwide NGO political war against Israel".

Last updated: 9:09am, July 6 2012