The United Methodist Church rejected four resolutions calling for the church to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s control of the West Bank.
The votes took place over the weekend at the quadrennial United Methodist Church General Conference that began May 10 in Portland, Ore.
The resolutions called for divesting from three companies that pro-Palestinian activists have accused of working with Israeli security forces to sustain Israel’s West Bank settlement enterprise. They are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.
John Lomperis, director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s United Methodist Action Program and an opponent of divestment, said the resolutions “pretty much went down in flames,” according to Religion News Service.
But Ethan Felson, executive director of Israel Action Network, which has come out against the pro-boycott measures, said on Tuesday that the convention was not over, so the Methodists have not completely closed the door on BDS.
“We’re heartened by the actions of the committees, and hopefully when the gavel closes on the general conference, the United Methodist Church will reject anti-Israel BDS and continue to favor positive investment and productive pathways for Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a peaceful two-states-for-two-peoples solution,” he said.
Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and a Methodist, recently vowed in a letter, addressed to the Jewish Federations of North America and the Israel Action Network, to defeat any attempt to delegitimize the State of Israel. Her campaign sent the letter after the two related Jewish organizations raised concerns about the church’s upcoming debates about BDS during its conference.
Clinton was raised and remains a practicing Methodist.
The first of the four resolutions, prepared by United Methodist Kairos Response, was voted down by the church’s finance administration committee on May 14. Three other resolutions were also rejected. The committee favored a petition that was amended to a general commitment of responsible investment, Religion News Service reported.
Similar boycott, divestment and sanctions petitions failed at general conferences in 2008 and 2012.
In January, the Methodists’ pension fund removed five Israeli banks from its portfolio, saying the investments were counter to its policies against investing in “high risk countries” and to remain committed to human rights.
BDS activists have scored a series of successes in recent years in advancing similar resolutions, most prominently the United Church of Christ in 2015 and the Presbyterian Church (USA) a year earlier.
—JTA News and Features
Staff Writer Justin Katz contributed to this article.