MRTI recommends PC(USA) divestment of three companies

Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions cited for profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel/Palestine

September 12, 2011


After seven years of apparently futile corporate engagement with Caterpillar over its business practices in Israel/Palestine, the Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee is recommending that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) add the company to its divestment list.

MRTI is also recommending that the 220th General Assembly (2012) add Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard to the list.

The move toward divestment is the “logical conclusion to what the (General Assembly) asked us to do,” said the Rev. Brian Ellison, chairman of MRTI. The committee implements GA policies on socially responsible investing by engaging corporations in which the church owns stock.

“We are telling them, ‘(Corporate engagement hasn’t) been successful, and we don’t think it’s going to be successful,’” Ellison said.

At MRTI’s recommendation, the 219th GA (2010) denounced Caterpillar for profiting from the non-peaceful use of its products in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

MRTI has been engaged with Motorola since 2005. The company split into two companies in 2010: Motorola Mobility, which markets cell phones in civilian markets, and Motorola Solutions, which conducts business with the Israeli government. Since the split, MRTI has been engaged with Motorola Solutions.

MRTI has also been engaged with Hewlett-Packard about its’ products role in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. “The company sells hardware to the Israeli Navy that is used for its operational communications, logistics and planning including the ongoing naval blockade of the Gaza Strip,” reads MRTI’s report from its Sept. 9 meeting.

The committee discussed continuing engagement with Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard, but ultimately voted to recommend adding those companies to the divestment list.

“I just think we need to take bold action,” said MRTI committee member Terry Dunning.

She added that focusing on two well-known consumer brands might alert people to their connections to human rights violations, and that she doesn’t believe further corporate engagement with the companies will be productive.

“What good did it do us to keep talking to Caterpillar for seven years?” she said.

Another MRTI committee member, Joanne Rodriguez, said that she would have supported continuing engagement if the companies were more open to communication, but they have shown total disregard.

According to MRTI’s report, Hewlett-Packard provided faith-based shareholders with “vague answers” in writing, repeatedly delayed conference calls and participated in unproductive dialogue. Motorola Solutions is “unresponsive to all efforts by religious shareholders to engage in serious discussions about its involvement in non-peaceful pursuits,” reads the report.

“You can’t bring about positive change if there’s no relationship, if there’s no communication — and there isn’t,” Rodriguez said.

The Rev. John Hougen, committee member, said that MRTI’s recommendations are a statement about the companies, not Israelis or Palestinians. Human rights violations should be opposed in any part of the world, but because the Middle East is a political hot button, MRTI’s recommendations could be taken the wrong way.

“I’m voting to divest because it’s the right idea, not — absolutely not — because of the people involved,” he said.

  1. If the church decides to divest from companies whose products are used in actions that is disagreeable to the church, I strongly urge divestment from all equities the church has in it's investment portfolio. Sell all investments and use the money for charitable efforts. One initiative might be to save our Christian brethren from persecution in Muslim lands. Do you not care about them?

    by Carol Phillips

    June 22, 2014

  2. I am opposed to your lack of support for Israel. We must stand with them as they are the only true partner in the Middle East and yoursupport of those who terrorize others is wrong. If you are going to be political, you need to pick your friends and know your enemies. It is not the Jews who kill or want to kill the Christians.

    by BSP

    March 20, 2014

  3. It seems to me you are only concerned with trying to force companies to stop supplying Israel with needed implements to help them protect themselves from the hostile Palestinians and nations that surround them. I know that there are Palestinians who are not militant but just because our news outlets don't choose to report the bombings and other acts of terror that happen to the Israelites doesn't mean they don't happen and I think the Israelis have every right to protect themselves from them. Seems to me you're jumping on the Israelis and not saying or doing anything to show opposition to the Palestinian bad guys. Wasn't the West Bank part of the land God originally gave the Israelites? So it still belongs to them. I don't know if I can remain a member of a church that stands against God's chosen people. I'm going to have to pray about it. Have you GA people never read Revelations? God is bringing his Israelite children back to the home HE gave them so many years ago.

    by Toni Koerner

    March 8, 2014

  4. May we go back to being a church now? It is fine if you don't want to buy certain products because of your beliefs, just don't use our church as a platform to try and convince others to do the same. Aren't there enough issues that divide us already.

    by Jerry

    July 7, 2012

  5. I am a retired US Navy chaplain and a member of the National Capital Presbytery. I oppose the divestment of three companies that are profiting from so-called "non-peaceful pursuits" in Israel/Palestine. No nation is perfect. I have unresolved issues with Israel, Palestine, Russia, China, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Armenia, Cuba, some European nations, several African nations (including Egypt), you-name-the-country and, yes, even my own land, the United States of America. Has the PCUSA dumped stocks of companies doing business in any/all of these sovereign states? Yes, I have problems with certain Israeli and Palestinian policies; yet I find no sound reason to single out Israel by proposing that the PCUSA divest itself of Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard for doing business there. It would be interesting to study and evaluate the PCUSA's investment portfolio, to determine which of its holdings "profit from non-peaceful pursuits." Most essentially, Israel is our most loyal friend in the Near- and Middle-East. It is the most democratic institution of the entire region. The profound spiritual teachings of its religion, embraced by the majority of Jews today, helped birth Christianity.

    by Eli Takesian

    April 27, 2012

  6. I also believe that the progressive movement has hijacked our denomination. With respect to this issue, Isreal is surrounded by countries that are actively working towards its extinction. If we do anything to weaken Isreal, God will hold us accountable.

    by Billie Qualtrough

    April 18, 2012

  7. I'm getting tired of this bull too. Why is our Church investing in any company. We're not supposed to be an investment company. Sell the stock and use the money for mission work, you know building Christian churches to "spread the word" of Jesus, his 1st commandment. As for the "Palestinians" send these Muslims back to Jordan and the surrounding lands they were sent from or told to leave their homes to provide a huge immigrant population on Israel lands to disrupt Israel regaining their lands. By the way, there is no such animal as a Palestinian, they are Arabs from wherever they were sent from. It's an old, effective trick to spread Islam and to retake lands or capture lands. The West Bank is Israel from the beginning of mankind, not Arab Islam. And why isn't our Church concerned with the wiping out of Christianity within the lands the Arab Palestinians are now claiming as theirs. Those Christians should be our main concern as this land was almost all Christian before the British returned Israel to the Jews and the Arabs flooded in from Jordan, etc.. The torture and forced conversion to Islam of Christians in these Palestinian lands should be our main concern. Christianity is on the verge of being dead in the land Jesus walked in. Before it is dead, we better start using Israel to protect what's left of the Christians not add to the death of more Christians. Stop worrying about Caterpillar and start worrying about the Christians and the torment they are living through in Palestinian hands.

    by Anna Lagace

    January 27, 2012

  8. I too thank John Wimberly for calling our attention to the transgressions of Caterpillar in other parts of the world where we are involved militarily. Our committee ought to investigate our actions there as well. But unlike John, I don't believe that action to divest from this company and the other two, so identified, is "an attack on Israel". The effort on the part of some, who oppose this divestment recommendation, to confuse Israel with Judaism, and or equate the present policy of a right-wing government with Jewish people, here and over there, is just misleading. I hope that citizens of other parts of our world will not link me directly with U.S military and diplomatic policies expressed by our present government, and my faith as a Christian. I would expect them, however, to want me to act on my faith to oppose such policies. I think that our boldness as a denomination to strike out against such inhumanity is well within the lines of what it means to be both Jewish and Christian. There are many voices for peace and justice within the State of Israel who are calling for such support.

    by william plitt

    January 11, 2012

  9. I am very glad the committee took this action regarding aterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett Packard. Thank you for your hard work and deliberation.

    by Fred Montgomery

    October 21, 2011

  10. The MRTI is basically arguing that the church should divest its holdings in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Pakcard because it is immoral to own their stock because the companies are “profiting from the non-peaceful use of its products in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.” But remember, the church must then sell the stock to somebody. The church can't divest unless we sell the stock to somebody. And if the church burns or shreds the stock, that just helps those companies, because it reduces the amount of stock outstanding, so that can't be right. And if we sell the stock to somebody else, we have just gotten rid of our guilt in order to impose guilt on somebody else. Even if one agrees with the divestment strategy, it is still inherently flawed in its execution.

    by Jeanne E. Reiss

    October 8, 2011

  11. As a member of the United Methodist Church and the UM movement: United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR), I appreciate very much these recommendations by MRTI. The UMKR group is also working on church divestment from the same three companies. It would be a great support for our efforts if others would endorse our resolution that is being considered this coming spring at the UMC's General Conference. All are invited to endorse, not just United Methodists! Both individuals and groups. You can find this resolution and endorse it at: Looking forward to working with Presbyterians on our mutual efforts for a just peace in Israel and Palestine.

    by M. Theresa Basile

    October 5, 2011

  12. Once the GA voted to "denounce" Caterpillar for profiting from the non-peaceful use of its products in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, there was no place else to go but divestment. I was disappointed that divestment did not pass at GA in 2010. If we recognize the error of profiting from such activitiy (which, to my mind, it took our church far too long to do), we are hypocrites if we continue to profit from that activity ourselves! Finally the MRTI is recognizing that corporations that are supporting the occupation of the Palestinian Territories, which our church has condemned, do not deserve our continued support. This is not about the existence of the state of Israel; it is about the activity of that state and American corporations that continue to facilitate human rights abuses and violations of international law, as well as Jesus' 2nd commandment.

    by Melinda Thompson

    October 2, 2011

  13. The party to this conflict that is unwilling to permit a 2-party solution is the Palestinian position. When their only acceptable solution is the annihilation of the nation of Israel and its people, who believes that social justice is going to be the result? It doesn't matter how long the committee studied the issue if they are unwilling to meaningfully represent the various positions, you're going to get this kind of misdirected policy. I too will stand with Israel, so I cannot stand with "my" church.

    by Teri Sanders

    September 22, 2011

  14. Those of us who have witnessed for ourselves the destruction and suffering caused by these mammoth, customized war machines have been appalled to know our Church profits from their sale to the IDF. Now we can finally take heart and pride in MRTI's definitive call for divestment. May God grant that our General Assembly will heed their call and take this direct action to hasten a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

    by Bob Stoddard

    September 21, 2011

  15. This move saddens me that God's chosen people are being turned from by the church I have called home for so long. As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord - and stand with Israel.

    by Curtis Pate

    September 20, 2011

  16. I celebrate, with a bit of surprise, the fact there are multiple "Laurie Anderson's" in the PCUSA; yet the one who chairs the Middle East Monitoring Group is not the same person who commented on 9/13. Currently the Middle East Monitoring Group is working to collect narratives from both Palestinian and Israeli voices to fulfill the mandate of the 219th GA. Earlier this year we released the Kairos Palestine Study Guide. We look forward to presenting our report at the 220th GA(2012).

    by laurie anderson

    September 20, 2011

  17. A little late to the discussion, but boycotting Catepillar is just plain silly. Heavy construction equipment is a fungible commodity - if Cat were not to sell to Israel then Israel would buy from John Deere or from Komatsu or from one of a dozen other manufacturers. I can support PCUSA not investing in gun manufacturers or defense contractors, as these are companies that profit from wars (un-becoming investments for churches), but boycotting a company that makes equipment for farmers and for construction firms (and a company that undoubtedly employs many of our members) makes no sense and only serves to damage our credibility as a serious religious organization.

    by J. Davey

    September 19, 2011

  18. So far the only affects of the action against Caterpillar is to drive one of my sons and family out of the PCUSA. Great success, huh?

    by Bill Skinner

    September 17, 2011

  19. This, along with final success on passing 10A is the continuing focus of the zealots that are destroying what's left of the PC(USA). Not only are worshipers voting with their feet, but entire parishes are departing. Enough is enough! But no, we'll have the same sex marriage on the agenda in Pittsburgh in 2012. If that's successful, departures will be in the thousands not waiting around for the votes of the presbyteries. Politics, not evangelism has fully taken over and the PC(USA) is rapidly approaching irrelevance. Sad.

    by Dana Gilmour

    September 17, 2011

  20. As a retired engineer from one of these companies, I can only ask, "Is the maker or seller of a gun guilty of murder?"

    by Paul Rosenberger

    September 16, 2011

  21. It is with great pleasure that I read that the Committee on MRTI of the Presbyterian Church has voted to add three companies to the General Assembly’s divestment list. It does not matter how big or how little people think you are or what kind of an impact you will have on the issue. What really matters is to do the right thing for the sake of the Creator. It is a great stand you are taking here and I commend you for it.

    by Jafar Ahmad

    September 14, 2011

  22. Well, I have mixed feelings about this decision. If you want to get a good picture of the situation with the Israelis and Palestinians, read The Lemon Tree. It's a great book. But onto this decision, I really struggle with it. Many companies manufacture products that, unfortunately, are misused. So why are the companies responsible for that? Some folks become addicted to prescription medicines, so should we divest and boycott all pharmaceutical companies? 10 years ago terrorists used passenger airplanes to destroy the World Trade Center, so should we divest and boycott all airlines and airplane manufacturers? If we truly decide to divest and boycott all companies whose products are misused thus bringing harm and injustices to others, we would not be able to invest in anything or buy anything. I think this decision is a rather simplistic reaction to a deep-seated complex issue. Returning to pre 1967 borders is not the solution either. Palestinians want to return to their homes in Palestine (Israel) and have a shared Palestinian-Israeli government. Israel is not willing to evict hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes to return them to the Palestinian, nor are they willing to share their government with non-Jews. Until some compromise/solution is found to these two diametrically opposed positions, there will be ongoing violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

    by David M

    September 14, 2011

  23. If the church declines to side with justice for fear of alienating enablers of injustice, then is it a church at all? MRTI is to be commended for taking this courageous stand, and for its faithful diligence to its process.

    by Liz Letzler

    September 14, 2011

  24. 1. MRTI's action causes offense to Jews who feel that the PCUSA is laying blame at the feet of Israel and ignoring Palestinian terrorist provocations. For this I am heartily sorry and I will tell my Jewish friends how much I regret MRTI's actions. 2. MRTI's action offends those of us who work for Caterpillar, a manufacturer not of death but of tractors designed for construction and agriculture. 3. MRTI's confuses of efficient and material causation. See Aristotle's Physics. 4. MRTI has shown no concern for the PCUSA congregations that continue to be harmed by its foolish actions 5. This is not the first time that an innocent party has been scapegoated so that religious authorities can feel morally superior to the rest of mankind. The charade continues and the only question now is how long we people in the pew will continue to support a church committee that lacks fairness, wisdom and compassion.

    by Gary Davis

    September 14, 2011

  25. So much heat, not much light. We, the church, have asked MRTI to help us put our money on values that are consistent with the Gospel. None of those who have opposed the recent divestment recommendation have addressed the real issue: the contribution of these companies to a military occupation which the 2010 GA recognized as "a sin against God and other fellow human beings." Thanks to John Wimberly for calling attention to the use of CAT bulldozers to demolish homes in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will pass this info on to the Iraq mission network for investigation and action.

    by Walt Davis

    September 13, 2011

  26. I have stood in silent, peaceful demonstrations and witnessed Caterpillar D9 bulldozers tear down rows and rows of olive trees that Palestinians have tended for year upon year. I have seen houses that have been torn down multiple times and heard the Palestinian residents talk about The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions that has rebuilt them over and over again. Going to see both sides of the story in the West Bank and Israel is the best way I know of to convince US citizens of the evils of the miliary occupation of Palestine. Caterpillar bulldozers are used as part of the destruction, violence, oppression and degradation of the Palestinian people and I rejoice that MRTI has moved to divest from the Caterpillar Company. Today I am proud to be a Presbyterian.

    by Polly Johns0n

    September 13, 2011

  27. This is greatly distrubing, but not surprising. MRTI long ago decided Israel was to blame for all the conflict in the Middle East, a position which is neither balanced nor historically accurate. But history and facts do not matter when you have chosen a particular narrative and have closed your ears to other perspectives. I know this first hand because I have tried to reason with MRTI. Since 2004 divestment and Caterpillar have been the goal with the unbelievable idea that it will actually further peace in the Middle East. It will not! This only serves to damage already tenous relations with Jewish organziations and people. These recommendations are insulting to people who work for these comapnies. It is a lose-lose proposition. My hope is the General Assembly will reject these recommendations and seek reconcilliation with those hurt. My hope is that the General Assembly will be more balanced in its response.

    by Douglas Hucke

    September 13, 2011

  28. As a commissioner to GA in 2010, I offered an amendment to the overture which only “denounced” Caterpillar and provided at least two more years for engagement with Caterpillar. The amendment asked MRTI to take the action they are recommending now, if during the next year (by the end of July 2011) no movement on the part of Caterpillar took place. The amendment did not pass. In the meantime, as a member of the Presbyterian Church for 60 years, I have not encouraged my congregation to dissolve its relationship with the PC(USA) nor encouraged those with investments with PILP to take their funds elsewhere because of the lack of sensitivity of our denomination to the oppression faced by the Palestinians under the occupation of their lands by the State of Israel, an oppression assisted in the most devastating way by the use of the vary large Caterpillar bulldozers in destroying two of the most treasured aspects of Palestinian lives – their homes and their olive orchards. In essence we were told we “had” to continue to invest in Caterpillar. The recommendation for divestment, if approved for presentation at the 2012 General Assembly, will once again be discussed and voted on at that time. For my part, I hope the commissioners to the 2012 General Assembly, if given the opportunity, vote as per the recommendation of the MRTI; it is time for such an action.

    by Ted Settle

    September 13, 2011

  29. Caterpillar vehicles have been used by US troops to demolish homes in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't hear MRTI raising any concerns about that activity. Because this isn't about punishing Caterpillar. It is a transparent attempt to move the PCUSA toward boycotts, divestments and sanctions to punish Israel. The last three GA's have rejected requests to divest. I have no doubt this one will do the same.

    by John Wimberly

    September 13, 2011

  30. I was an Elder Commissioner to the 2006 General Assembly. After doing all the reading I could about the Israel and Palestine conflict, both its history and current reality, I was convinced that a great injustice had been done to the Palestinians. But I was afraid that the 2004 GA was rushing divestment and voted for more corporate engagement. Five years later, after learning more and watching the behavior of the Israeli government and, sadly, our own, I am convinced that this decision by MRTI is timely. The church has studied and prayed about divestment and has discerned the way forward. Now I believe that we are following Christ's urging to seek first the kingdom of God by rejecting violence and by insisting that there is an alternative kind of world based on respect, cooperation, and sharing resources. Divestment helped bring about the truth-telling, reconciliation, and start of cooperation in South Africa. I pray that an international movement of divestment gains momentum to do the same in Israel and Palestine. I am gratified that the PC(USA) has joined this movement.

    by James McGown

    September 13, 2011

  31. I have over $13,000 invested in PILP and am considering withdrawing from that program because I will not accept the POUSA telling me where I can and cannot invest my money. Stay out of the church members' pocketbooks and stick to religious subjects.

    by Bill Parker

    September 13, 2011

  32. Every one of the comments, except Mr. Hartsell's, resonates with me. MRTI has worked long and hard on this issue over a number of years. Our church is more than a social club, Mr. Hartsell. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to work for justice. Without justice, there is no peace. Such discipleship is not always "convenient" or "comfortable", but is a necessary element of our calling as Christians. Mark Braverman, author of "Fatal Embrace" calls on the Church to work for justice and peace, not just for the Palestinians, but also for the survival of Israel (which seems to be so entrenched in a bunker mentality that they aren't thinking clearly or strategically). Mark calls on us as Christians to "pick up our cross and deal with it". Far from being a frightening prospect, picking up that cross is empowering and freeing. Working against the status quo that embraces injustice is often lonely work, but the only path open to disciples of Jesus Christ. Blessings on MRTI and the PC(USA).

    by Laurie Anderson

    September 13, 2011

  33. Mr. Hartsell, The people that listen to this decision are many: Middle East Christians in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel/Palestine for sure. They are grateful, because it tells their neighbors that not all Christians are alike; at least Presbyterians are willing to take a moral stand and support justice. They have told us they are SAFER because of our courage. Contrary to your opinion, what we do matters a great deal. And many in the U.S. are also grateful. All we asked of these companies is that they stop profiting from producing products that contribute to injustice and violence. They have either refused or ignored us.

    by Pauline M. Coffman

    September 13, 2011

  34. Thank you, MRTI. I am so grateful to be a part of a church that takes a stand on matters of social justice. After years of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, the removal of 750,000+ people from the region, we cannot, the world cannot stand by and do nothing and say nothing. As Desmond Tutu said: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." We, the Church of Jesus Christ, cannot be silent. We follow a teacher who stood up to oppression in all forms, and we must follow boldly. We may be moving toward irrelevance in some people's eyes, but prophetic voices are not usually embraced with open arms. In fact, they are almost never embraced with open arms. Thanks for taking a stand, for doing the right thing, for speaking with a prophetic voice! Blessings upon you and the MRTI committee. John Morgan

    by John Morgan

    September 13, 2011

  35. I applaud the action of MRTI, and I urge the GAMC and General Assembly to support this action. For too long we have studied and conversed about this issue, and it is time for action. We cannot stand by and ignore how U.S. based companies have, by their actions, have contributed to the obvious abuse of Palestinians. Ethical considerations demand that we act now!!

    by Linda B. Brebner (Rev. Dr.)

    September 13, 2011

  36. Thank you, MRTI! This recommendation is fully in keeping with Biblical and Reformed theology, for it takes seriously both the depths of human evil, apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and also Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan that severely condemns us if we just pass by and ignore evil done to our neighbors in the world. The Nazi Holocaust was horrifying, but it's sad to witness those who were persecuted continue, now, to persecute Palestinians themselves. What a beautiful gesture it would be if Netanyahu & company would not only respond positively to President Obama's call to make the pre-1967 & Six Day War borders into the boundaries between Israel and a new Palestinian state, embracing the West Bank and Gaza (with appropriate land swaps to make it feasible), but also respond positively to former President Ronald Reagan's call (to another oppressive occupying power): "Tear down this wall!" How glorious it would be if Israel would turn over to Palestinians some of the well-built settlements, that since 1967, Israelis have brazenly constructed on the West Bank and in Gaza! The whole world, including the U.N., should help the displaced Israelis build new settlements for Jews, but in Israel itself--perhaps in the Negev, using the latest techniques of irrigation/desalinization! And the whole world should contribute generously to the Palestinians to help them mold their new nation, with guarantees for peace to all. Dwyn Mounger, Knoxville TN

    by Dwyn Mounger

    September 12, 2011

  37. I'm a 50 year Presbyterian and I'm so tired of this crap I can't stand it. Yet another step by the now irrelevant PCUSA toward extinction. Just who outside of the denomination do you think listens to this stuff? Caterpillar doesn't list en to you BECAUSE YOU DON'T MATTER have hijacked a viable church and driven it into the ground. I sincerely hope that the entire FOP decides to pick up their marbles and go elsewhere. I'll be doing everything I can to talk my local church into going with them.

    by Bob Hartsell

    September 12, 2011