On 2 July 2004, the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA approved several measures opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine Friday, including a call for the corporate witness office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to begin gathering data to support a selective divestment of holdings in multinational corporations doing business in Israel/Palestine.
Divestment is one of the strategies that U.S. churches used in the 1970s and '80s in a successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.
The vote was 431 to 62 to have the church's Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) study the matter and make recommendations to the General Assembly Council (GAC).
When a handful of commissioners expressed reservations about the action, the Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor from Bethlehem, an ecumenical guest at the Assembly, said divestment is important because it is a way for the churches to take direct action. For too long, he said, the churches have simply issued statements and that is not enough.
We have to send strong messages to such companies, Raheb said, referring specifically to Caterpillar Inc., the American builder of the armored tractors and bulldozers the Israeli army uses to demolish Palestinian homes.
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