Many, from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Pope John Paul II to the president of the United States, have spoken eloquently of their desire for peace in the Holy Land. The pope made an unprecedented pilgrimage to the region and included a visit to Dheisha refugee camp. But the time for talk has long since passed and it is now time to heed another call — one of personal responsibility.
Many, from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Pope John Paul II to the president of the United States, have spoken eloquently of their desire for peace in the Holy Land. The pope made an unprecedented pilgrimage to the region and included a visit to Dheisha refugee camp. But the time for talk has long since passed and it is now time to heed another call — one of personal
In spite of past setbacks and much skepticism, many people on both sides of the conflict cling to the hope for peace There exists right now a small window of opportunity to reach a just settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict through non-violent means. For people of faith, we must do our part to ensure that this opportunity is not lost.
Regardless of whether this new opportunity bears fruit in the political arena, we believe that serious ethical and moral issues pertaining to the occupation still need to be addressed. Hence the challenge is for churches, indeed all people of conscience, to consider seriously the issue of morally responsible investment.
There are multiple examples of violations of human rights in the Israel-Palestine conflict. International Humanitarian Law specifies that people living under occupation (such as Palestinians on the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem) must be protected until the occupation comes to an end. It is illegal to build on or confiscate their land. It is illegal to
kill or harm innocent civilians (whether Palestinian or Israeli). It is forbidden to employ collective punishment, degrading treatment and torture. It is illegal to transfer parts of an occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territories. International law also forbids the acquisition of territory through war.
We believe that we must recognize and name the challenges that are facing the peoples of both Israel and Palestine. Holding Israel accountable for its actions does not condone the illegal and horrifying attacks on civilians by Palestinian extremists who should also be held accountable through legal means.
God calls us to value all people and stand up for all who are suffering and oppressed regardless of their race or religion. Such a stand leads us to responsible stewardship in the investments we make as individuals, churches, institutions and corporations. As Christians, we object to all those who carry out violent, unethical, immoral and illegal actions. We have a
God-given responsibility to act and cannot ourselves participate even indirectly in supporting and enabling unjust policies.
It is clearly demonstrated that Israel, in its continued occupation and the practices associated with the occupation, is in open violation of international law and specifically the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Violations of these articles, specifically the grave breaches
(Article 147) have been defined as war crimes. Earning money through investment in companies whose products and services are used in such a way as to violate international law and human rights is equivalent to profiting from the oppression and suffering of others. Caterpillar is a profound example of such a company.
Investment in such companies enables the government of Israel to sustain the ongoing violation of human rights of innocent civilians under occupation and the illegal Israeli settlement policies that lead to human rights violations.
Continuing such investments, once the facts are brought to our attention, constitutes deliberate condoning of the illegal and immoral practices.
At this point in time, having assessed the international community’s failure to persuade Israel to comply with the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, we must look at other options.
Around the world, people are beginning to speak of selective divestment from Israel as a method of creating the change that is needed. One Israeli human rights lawyer, Shamai Leibovitz, put it succinctly: “As an Israeli thoroughly familiar with Israeli politics, I believe that selective economic pressure is the most effective way to end the brutal occupation of the West
Bank and Gaza, and bring peace and security to Israelis and Palestinians.”
No group of people, simply due to their ethnicity or nationality, should be excluded from the protections of international law. Morally responsible investment is a Christian imperative and a non-violent method aimed at ending the illegal occupation. We are calling for divestment from targeted companies that benefit from the violation of human rights and refuse to alter their behavior once confronted. This pressure must continue until the occupation ends.
Rev. Dr. Namin Ateek is director of Sabeel, Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.