Methodists Concerned with Israeli Occupation

July 31, 2007

Author: Michael Paulson

Source: The Boston Globe

Ratcheting up the simmering debate over how Protestant denominations should express their concern about Israel, the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church is advising congregations and individuals to divest their holdings from a wide variety of American corporations that the United Methodists believe support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

The action, although largely symbolic, is being greeted with dismay by leaders of the local Jewish community, but is giving new energy to the divestment movement, which had lost steam in other mainline Protestant denominations. The United Methodist Church, with 8 million members nationally, is expected to discuss the Middle East at its General Conference next year; in addition to New England, other conferences of the denomination have been debating divestment as a means to pressure Israel.

"We're trying to have people recognize that something is going on in those occupied lands that's wrong, and we want it to change," said William P. Aldrich, chairman of the divestment task force of the denomination's New England Conference. "If a person is concerned about what's going on, this is a way of ensuring they are not making money from that."