Archbishop Tutu in Support of Methodist Divestment

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has just written a powerful op-ed in support of United Methodist church divestment.

I have no doubt that he will once again incur the wrath of the Jewish establishment – especially since he criticizes the 1,200 rabbis who recently signed a public letter opposing church divestment:

While they are no doubt well-meaning, I believe that the rabbis and other opponents of divestment are sadly misguided. My voice will always be raised in support of Christian-Jewish ties and against the anti-Semitism that all sensible people fear and detest. But this cannot be an excuse for doing nothing and for standing aside as successive Israeli governments colonize the West Bank and advance racist laws.

I recall well the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail in which he confesses to his “Christian and Jewish brothers” that he has been “gravely disappointed with the white moderate … who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom. …”

King’s words describe almost precisely the shortcomings of the 1,200 rabbis who are not joining the brave Palestinians, Jews and internationals in isolated West Bank communities to protest nonviolently against Israel’s theft of Palestinian land to build illegal, Jewish-only settlements and the separation wall. We cannot afford to stick our heads in the sand as relentless settlement activity forecloses on the possibility of the two-state solution.

Hear, hear. His invocation of MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is apt and spot on.

I’m particularly appreciative of the Archbishop’s shout out to “the brave rabbis of Jewish Voice for Peace.”  It’s wonderful to see our letter of support garnering such widespread acclaim from so many quarters.  And it’s especially gratifying to be showing a decidedly different face of the Jewish community to our brothers and sisters in the Christian community over this issue.

The divestment resolution is scheduled to voted on by the UM Conference plenum tomorrow. Stay tuned.

5 thoughts on “Archbishop Tutu in Support of Methodist Divestment

  1. Clif Brown

    Jesus was a rebel, but you sure wouldn’t know it from the huge organizations that have claimed him as a role model for their membership.

    The Methodist Church is an extremely cautious organization that generally goes into the water when almost all others have already done so. The irrelevancy was one reason the faith in which I was tutored never caught on. I have my fingers and toes crossed that they will do what any person who appreciates liberty and justice for all would do.

    Martin Luther King Jr. died at 39, but at least he said he could see the promised land, though he might not make it there. The Palestinians have been wretched for over 60 years and only now is there some sign of movement in the United States on their behalf. They haven’t been to the mountaintop like MLK because Israeli settlers are already there and have it cordoned off. All Americans should be ashamed of our part in keeping such long-suffering people oppressed.

  2. Stewart Mills

    What a treasure to humanity is Desmond Tutu!

    Thanks for sharing his wisdom Brant.

    “If we do not achieve two states in the near future, then the day will certainly arrive when Palestinians move away from seeking a separate state of their own and insist on the right to vote for the government that controls their lives, the Israeli government, in a single, democratic state. Israel finds this option unacceptable and yet is seemingly doing everything in its power to see that it happens.” DT

    1. Vicky

      The United Methodist Church supports a boycott of Israeli settlement products. The general conference called for ‘all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land’. That motion was passed by a majority vote of 558 to 367.

      They voted against divesting from three specific companies – Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard. A divestment is not the same as a boycott. The decision to divest is made on a case by case basis, and divestment was proposed here because these three companies are implicated in the occupation in particularly nasty ways. To take one example, Caterpillar supplies the D9 bulldozers that are used in the demolition of people’s homes. There is no special sophisticated ‘understanding’ of the conflict that can make that money clean or this profiteering OK. Unfortunately such investments pay a lot of salaries.

  3. Stewart Mills (Sydney, Australia)

    For an update on the Divestment proposal:

    By Tita Parham* | May 2, 2012
    “TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS)—Delegates to The United Methodist Church’s top lawmaking assembly approved petitions dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but they did not approve a measure to divest from specific companies.

    Delegates instead approved a report calling on the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits to explore “serious peace-making strategies in Israel and Palestine, including positive economic and financial investment in Palestine.”

    The Israeli-Palestinian issue dominated the May 2 afternoon plenary at General Conference. Nearly 990 delegates from around the world are gathered through May 4 for the assembly, held every four years.
    The petition originally called for divestment from Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar, which provide products that are used by the Israeli military in the occupation of Palestinian lands. The Finance and Administration Committee instead substituted language urging “positive, rather than punitive options,” according to Jessica Vargo, East Ohio delegate and committee chairperson.

    The petition also asked United Methodist general agencies and boards to ask companies to adopt United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and to consider economic sanctions with companies that refuse.

    Vargo noted this petition did not mean that divestment from companies would not be considered. Rather, the petition placed the decision to divest into the hands of the Board of Pension and Health Benefits, as has been historically done, not General Conference.”


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