Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Has the United Methodist Church Rejected Divestment?

Have the Methodists finally tired of the BDS movement hijacking their annual conference in an effort to promote their biased highly politicized agenda?

Seems likely.

Recently publicized guidelines by the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church seem specifically designed  to ward off the BDS movement’s near pathological obsession with Israel.  The pension board manages over $21 billion in assets for over 91,000 participants, including clergy and lay staff.

The General Board and its Wespath investment management division have recently announced the implementation of new investment guidelines, using environmental and human rights factors for determining ethically sound investments

The new human rights guidelines state:

The management of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits/Wespath Investment Management division will evaluate the human rights-related impact and risk of the companies in which we invest and will use engagement to improve both social and financial corporate performance.
This risk is particularly acute when companies have significant exposure to high-risk operating areas defined as:
1. Countries demonstrating a prolonged and systematic pattern of human rights violations*
2. Conflict-affected areas where significant human rights violations have been widely documented
For General Board investment purposes, excessive sustainability risk, leading to exclusion from portfolios, may occur if a company provides significant financing or other financial services to, derives more than 10% of its revenues from, or sources more than 10% of its raw materials from a country or area as described above.
Exceptions may be granted if a company is ranked or rated as an industry leader in its overall environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance by the General Board's ESG service provider.
The General Board also may exclude from investment the sovereign debt of any country demonstrating a prolonged and systematic pattern of human rights abuses.*
* Defined as those countries with the worst ranking in Freedom House's annual "Freedom in the World" report.

The board will scrutinize companies that operate in nations with the worst ranking in Freedom House's annual “Freedom in the World”  In  2014 report, the lowest scores went to the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

According to Freedom House, Israel consistently is ranked as the only free country in the Middle east. These new rules make divestment from companies doing in business in Israel, including Motorola, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar highly improbable.

In response, anti-Israel church group United Methodist Kairos Response has implied that Caterpillar donations to Freedom house have influenced its high ratings on Israel.  It’s another of the near infinite variations on the double loyalty canard that often borders on anti-Semitic, implying that interaction with Israel or the Jewish people inevitably clouds judgment and renders impartiality void.

Not surprising from a group that called the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland a “sin against God and humanity”

Kairos Response fails to note that in spite of Caterpillar’s massive investment in China, (including 23 existing manufacturing facilities, 4 new facilities under construction, 4 research and development centers and 3 logistics and parts centers along with over 15,000 members of the “ Caterpillar team” over 10,000 dealer employees and 16,000 supplier staff), Freedom House still ranks China as “Not Free”. 

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