The Methodist Church, recognising the Holocaust and the centuries of persecution suffered by Jewish people in Europe and elsewhere, affirms the legitimate security fears of both Israelis and Palestinians. The Methodist Conference of 2002 stated the Methodist position that a return to the borders of 1967, and a status for Jerusalem as a place for two nations and three faiths, with parity of esteem, is the real basis upon which trust could be built up among the different communities.
In 2010, Methodist Conference received the report Justice for Palestine and Israel. The Conference adopted a resolution supporting a consumer boycott of settlement projects and accepted a circuit memorial calling for the actions of companies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to be taken into account in investment decisions.
The Methodist Church has:
Israel’s expansion into Palestinian territory has deprived many of livelihoods, pasture and water resources. Israel controls 60% of the water resources in the West Bank, whilst settlement expansion, together with the geography of the separation wall, has called into question the viability of a future contiguous Palestinian State within its own secure borders.
The separation barrier/wall, as well as attempting to minimise the risk to Israel of terrorist attack, is widely seen as a mechanism to establish new “facts on the ground”, in that it has not been constructed in accordance with 1967 boundaries and therefore constitutes a de facto annexation of additional parts of the West Bank. It has thereby served to isolate and “imprison” communities (such as the largely Christian community of Bethlehem), preventing access to employment, land and services (such as timely emergency medical response). The barrier/wall represents an impediment to lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.
Violations of International Law
The Government of Israel contests the application of certain aspects of international law as regards the Occupied Territories. However, successive Security Council Resolutions indicate that the continued expansion of West Bank settlements have implications under the fourth Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention makes specific reference to economic activity, denying an occupying power the right to derive economic benefit from occupation. The UK Government (following the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice) maintains the view that the building of the separation barrier/wall within the Occupied Territories is unlawful. Demolition of Palestinian houses, the uprooting of olive groves and the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank represent a contravention of international law.
Israel and Palestine have become trapped in an escalating cycle of serious crises and violence. The IDF often fails to discriminate between militias and civilians; many of those killed have included children. Palestinian militia in Gaza have launched thousands of rocket attacks against Israel and Israeli settlements. Hamas refuses to renounce the deliberate targeting of civilians, which has resulted in serious casualties and deaths.
Epworth aims not to invest in any company that is directly or materially involved in activities that are in breach of international law, or is complicit in violations of human rights as defined by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This includes the provision of “right to life” services (such as water, gas or electricity) that may be used materially to disadvantage one community in favour of another.
Epworth seeks to invest in companies that are, or are likely to become, signatories to the UN Global Compact, thereby demonstrating a commitment to align their operations with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.
Epworth’s strategy for influencing change relies primarily on dialogue and constructive engagement with companies. Engagement is pursued until it becomes clear that a company is not open to dialogue or does not respond positively to the concerns that are raised. If engagement fails, then disinvestment is an option that Epworth will consider.
There may be circumstances where the concerns are of such significance, e.g. on the sale of military equipment, that regardless of other considerations, disinvestment becomes the only ethical response.
The focus of Epworth engagement will be to understand the nature, extent and impact of any business operations in the affected areas. A decision to disinvest will be predicated on some or all of the following factors:
The areas that might lead Epworth to seek constructive engagement with companies include business interests in any of the following:
Companies seeking or maintaining business relationships in Israel and Palestine need to demonstrate that they:
Epworth will also seek to influence companies by encouraging them, where appropriate, to develop opportunities that will enhance the prospect of a viable and sustainable Palestinian economy over time e.g. in sourcing Palestinian produce for export and sale.