Methodists to discuss divestment amid concern over Jewish settlements

Church leaders told that Israeli government is obstructing Palestinian self-determination


A picture taken on October 14, 2020 shows Israeli construction cranes and excavators at a building site of new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Kochav Yaakov, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. - Israel approved 2,166 new homes in settlements across the occupied West Bank, official figures sent to AFP showed, ending an eight-month lull in settlement expansion. The approvals came less than a month after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements to normalise relations with Israel, which in return pledged to freeze its plans to annex swathes of the West Bank. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

Methodist leaders are due to discuss a move on Wednesday intended to toughen up economic action against Israel.

The Church already has a longstanding policy to divest from companies that “profit from activities in illegally occupied areas”.

But critics of Israel are calling for a review to ensure that action is taken against companies that are considered to benefit from Jewish settlement on the West Bank.

A report presented to the Methodist Council says the humanitarian situation of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank has “worsened considerably” and describes conditions in Gaza as “inhumane”.  

In addition, prospects for talks towards a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have “evaporated”. While the Palestinian leadership has been divided and ineffective, the Israeli government has been “increasingly forthright in its opposition to a two-state solution” and its policies “continue to obstruct progress towards Palestinian self-determination”.  

The report observes that “the expanding settlement population… increases the likelihood that companies operating across Israel will have exposure to activity in Israeli settlements”.  

The Church’s preferred option is “constructive engagement” with companies involved in the West Bank. The paper notes that this has previously brought about “significant shifts in policy or sale or closure of operations in the West Bank”.  

But those pressing for a policy review said an ambiguity remains which could leave the Church still holding a stake in a company “even if constructive engagement looks unlikely to bring change”.   

They want to ensure its ethical investments committee advises “exclusion” from companies that continue to operate in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”.  

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