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Methodists Divest from Caterpillar citing Palestinian Evictions

Israeli bulldozers expand the West Bank Jewish-only settlement of Nofei Nehemia in the Salfit District on private Palestinian land, which was expropriated by Israel and declared “state” (public) land, according to the owners. ActiveStills Ahmad Al-Bazz, 13 Aug 2020

Methodist Sabeel-Kairos Group (UK), 5th May 2021

The Methodist Church has sold its shares in the US-based company Caterpillar, citing the continued use of its equipment to destroy peoples’ homes as part of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, and its poor record in Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance.

More photographs have recently emerged of Caterpillar vehicles being used in the destruction of farmland and olive groves, as well as the construction of illegal settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes. Caterpillar claims it is not directly involved in sales into Israel but the likely path of trade via the US military and local agencies is widely known.

Other church bodies have sold out of Caterpillar in the past, as long ago as 2006 the Church of England voted to divest from Caterpillar and in 2014 the US Presbyterian Church did the same. The Quakers have also indicated they would not hold Caterpillar shares, for similar reasons. The recent reports by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, and the international body Human Rights Watch, declaring the situation in Israel/Palestine to meet the criteria of Apartheid, following on many similar statements by Palestinian groups and South African church leaders, including Archbishop Tutu, have added impetus to the international divestment and sanctions movement.

Churches are responding most particularly to the ‘Cry for Hope’ issued by Palestinian Christians last July, which called for such actions as the only means left to bring non-violent pressure on the Israeli Government. The Cry for Hope says ‘the call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) provides a framework for economic, cultural, and academic measures, and for direct political advocacy, as nonviolent means to end occupation and oppression’. Its aim is ‘to exert pressure on Israel to comply with international law, and to call upon its government and its people, in the spirit of the Word of God, to enter into the ways of justice and peace’.

Revd David Haslam, a member of the Methodist Finance Board, said;

‘The Methodist Church has now joined other church bodies in refusing to invest in Caterpillar. Recent photographs from Palestine have shown Caterpillar equipment demolishing Palestinian houses, destroying farmland and extending Israeli settlements in violation of international law. It is nonsense for Caterpillar to claim it does not sell its bulldozers and earthmovers for use in Palestine, it knows exactly what its vehicles are being used for and should be utterly ashamed’.

The Finance Board also last year sold its shares in Heidelberg Cement with which it had been engaging for some years in relation to its extraction of natural resources from confiscated Palestinian land, in order to construct illegal settlements. It was also performing poorly financially. The Board is currently reviewing its policy on Israel/Palestine, taking into account the recent reports referred to above, and in the context of previous divestment from banks and companies operating in South Africa under the Apartheid regime there. The Methodist members of Sabeel-Kairos UK, an advocacy group for Palestinian Christians, who urged this review, will be seeking to engage with the process.