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United Methodists Target Guilty Banks, Not Israel

By       Message James Wall       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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Reprinted from Wallwritings


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The $20.9-billion Pension and Health Benefits Fund of the United Methodist Church has placed Israel's five largest banks off limits for investment, placing them on what The New York Times terms the church's "black list."

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The denomination's Pension Board does not use the term, "black list," a deliberately-chosen pejorative term designed to evoke memories of an ugly anti-communist era.

The United Methodist Pension Board's actions carefully distinguish between Israel's overall economy and its specific illegal occupation expenditures. This action relegates the banks to what in hockey is known as "the penalty box."

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But hey, look on the bright side, the Times did report the Pension Board's body blow to Israel's on-going and increasingly desperate struggle to preserve its positive image.

The "people called Methodists" came by that name in the days of John Wesley, the church's founder, because they were methodical in their preaching and in their procedures.

Standing on tombstones, or on the city corners, wherever they could find an audience, these methodists were never vague about the Good News, they were specific. (See illustration above.)

Specifically, in 2016, the latest Good News is that the United Methodist Pension Fund has withdrawn its funds (divested) from two Israeli banks it had previously held in its portfolios, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi, both of which it determined, after careful study, had aided and abetted Israel's illegal occupation.

How careful? The Times described the long process. Here is part of what it found:

"M. Colette Nies, a spokeswoman for the Pension Board, based in Glenview, Ill., said that [its] guideline, approved by the board in 2014 and carried out last year, applied to 14 different regions around the world, including the Middle East...

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"Ms. Nies said in the statement that the pension fund remained invested in 'approximately 18 Israeli companies that meet our investment criteria.'"

This is believed to be the first time a major American church pension fund has made such a strong moral financial judgment against Israeli banks for the specific reason that they "sustain Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land."

The five Israeli banks placed on the United Methodist Church's Pension Fund's "do not invest" list, are First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank, Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, and the aforementioned Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi, for their deep involvement "in financing illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories."

The information has been posted on the Pension Fund's website as companies "that pose excessive human rights risks."

Wespath, the Pension Fund's manager, also divested from Shikun & Binui, an Israeli company involved with construction in the illegal settlements beyond Israel's recognized borders.

The United Methodist Kairos Response, an activist UMC organization, praised the action of the Pension Fund.

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James Wall served as a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois, from 1999 through 2017. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced (more...)
 

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