At Tampa conference, United Methodist Church may consider withdrawing investments supporting Israeli military listen04/23/12 Mike Madison
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Despite decades of conflict, there's still now settlement in the territorial conflict between Israel and Palestine. Some members of a major Christian denomination meeting in Tampa this week are trying to get the church to withdraw investments from major companies that profit from Israelâ€™s occupation of the West Bank.
The United Methodist Church holds a conference every four years to determine policy for its 12 million members. Thousands of leaders will discuss the churchâ€™s stances on such issues as the war in Afghanistan, immigration and homosexuality. John Wagner, a United Methodist pastor from Ohio, hopes the church will stop investing in companies that profit from Israelâ€™s occupation of the West Bank.
â€œWe are meeting in Tampa because the general conference of our denomination will be meeting here this next two weeks. Thousands and thousands of United Methodists will be here. We are going to consider a proposal to divest from some companies that our denomination holds stock in that contribute or help to sustain the occupation.â€
Susanne Hoder is an activist with Kairos Response, a movement within the United Methodist Church which seeks to remove church investments from companies that support the occupation, like Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions.
â€œMotorola Solutions provides a radar system that helps to guard settlements that are built illegally, in violation of international law, on Palestinian land in the West Bank. And Motorola provides equipment to surround them and to help guard these settlements. It also provides equipment thatâ€™s installed on sniper towers in the West Bank and on the separation wall built, in violation of the law, inside the West Bank.â€
Hoder says Caterpillar provides 60 ton D-9 bulldozers to the Israeli military, which have been used to destroy 25,000 Palestinian homes along with trees and water systems. In 2003, American college student Rachel Corrie was killed in the Gaza Strip when she was run over by one of these Israeli bulldozers.
Jim Dugan is the chief corporate spokesperson for Caterpillar. He says the U.S. government is the middleman between Caterpillar and foreign militaries.
â€œCaterpillar, in these instances, are providing products, not just the D9 earth moving equipment, but other products as well, to the U.S. government through this foreign military sales program. The U.S. government then supplies the products to the Israeli government.â€
A spokesperson for Motorola declined to be interviewed, but said in an email statement: â€œAs a well-respected and responsible corporate citizen, our global activities are conducted in accordance with U.S., local, country and other applicable laws, as well as our own code of business conduct.â€
Hewlett-Packard didnâ€™t respond to the interview request by deadline.
The 2012 General Conference begins at the Tampa Convention Center Tuesday and runs through May 4.