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Employing Economic Measures as Nonviolent Tools
for Justice In the Israeli-Palestinian Context
A statement from the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy in Washington DC
August 22, 2016
The U.S. Congress and 22 states across the U.S. are considering, or have passed, laws that
penalize or criminalize the use of economic measures to oppose Israeli policies towards
Palestinians that many find unjust and discriminatory. The targets of these proposed laws are
organizations and agencies that endorse, in full or in part, the Palestinian call for the use of
boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). Such actions are anti-democratic, suppress legitimate
criticism, and restrict our freedom to determine our own investment and selective purchasing
practices. We affirm and defend the right of churches and organizations to witness using
economic measures in the specific case of Israel-Palestine.
The BDS call, issued in 2005 by over 100 Palestinian civil society organizations, seeks to
promote a nonviolent response to end Israel’s 50-year military occupation of Palestinian
territories and dismantle the separation barrier, much of which is built on Palestinian land; to
recognize the full equality of Palestinian citizens of Israel; and to respect, protect, and promote
the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, according to UN
resolution 194. U.S. churches, among many others, are clear in seeking an end to the occupation.
Churches and church-related organizations have employed such nonviolent tactics in many
instances of injustice, both domestically and globally, over the decades. The Montgomery Bus
Boycott and the boycott of products made by slave labor are some historical precedents. Some
more recent examples include:
√ Support for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to seek fair wages for farmworkers who
pick tomatoes used by major restaurant chains. The churches have affirmed boycotts of
Taco Bell and Wendy’s in support of the farmworkers.
√ Support for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in the boycott of Mt. Olive Pickle Company in order to seek better wages for those who pick cucumbers.
√ Support for United Farm Workers (UFW) in grape and lettuce boycotts aimed at securing
fair wages for farmworkers.
√ Opposition to the use of racially offensive names and logos by professional sports teams
√ Participation in the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility to promote socially
responsible practices by various companies through shareholder activism.
√ Divestment to oppose the policy of apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.
√ Corporate engagement with and/or divestment from fossil fuel companies in the context
of the climate change debates.
Through the use of such nonviolent but impactful measures at the intersection of faith and
finance, the churches have participated in making a difference, promoting justice, and effecting
change. Indeed, when corporate social responsibility standards do not lead businesses to change
their practices, then it is often only through the concerted economic pressure of civil society and
public interest groups that positive political and social reforms occur.
The current effort to penalize or criminalize such use of economic leverage in the specific case of
Israel-Palestine is therefore offensive and disturbing. It strikes us as an attempt to remove a
responsible, powerful, and legal method of public witness as an option. To target economic
measures in any way on one specific policy issue—Israel-Palestine—is selective and
inconsistent. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld, without dissent, the right to boycott (1982).
As churches and church-related organizations, we may not endorse all aspects of the Palestinian
civil society BDS movement; nor do we all have similar policies on the use of economic leverage
in the context of Israel-Palestine. However, we all share a hope and desire for an end to
occupation, and we continue to advocate for that. If we choose, through debate and reflection, to
employ our economic leverage to advance that policy objective, as we do many others, we
understand it as our right to do so. It is an assertion of our right as stewards of our financial
resources to spend and invest as we choose, and to do so responsibly, according to our
theological and moral conviction, expressed in our denominational or organizational policies.
We must be clear: such an assertion of this right is an effort to change unjust Israeli policy
toward Palestinians, not to delegitimize the State of Israel, nor to marginalize or isolate our
Jewish neighbors, or their enterprises. Our choices to purchase and invest responsibly, and to
advocate with corporations or governments, including our own, are motivated by our firm
commitments to justice and peace for all people, without discrimination or exclusion.
As churches and church-related organizations, we reject any efforts by the State to curtail these
rights, and will continue to exercise them, as appropriate and in accordance with our faith and
American Friends Service Committee
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Pax Christi International
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (USA)
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
Political Action Resources