Mennonite Church USA convention passes resolution for Israeli divestment

— The Mennonite Church USA voted Thursday to sell its holdings in companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the latest American Christian group to do so. ORLANDO, Fla.

A similar resolution was passed by the Mennonite Church Canada during a 2016 assembly in Saskatoon.

Although the economic impact is expected to be minimal, such votes are closely watched as a measure of views on Israel and the Palestinians from within the U.S., the Jewish state’s closest and most important ally. The decision was made at a national Mennonite convention in Orlando, Florida.

Watch the Mennonite Church USA’s YouTube video regarding the resolution

A woman walks past caricatures of Israeli artists against the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement displayed during the Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth’s anti-BDS conference on March 28, 2016, in Jerusalem. MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

college campuses and elsewhere as a means of protesting Israeli policies and bringing moral pressure to end the occupation of Palestinian territories. Such votes by the Mennonite Church and other religious groups are occurring as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, known as BDS, has gained strength on U.S. Israeli officials and their allies have denounced divestment policies as attempts to delegitimize the Jewish state, a characterization BDS advocates call baseless.

With files from Postmedia Network

The resolution directs managers of the $3 billion Everence church fund to regularly screen holdings to avoid any economic support for Israeli policies in the occupied territories.

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A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

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The first delegate session is underway at #MennoCon17. On the agenda: Seeking Peace in Israel Palestine

— The Mennonite (@TheMennoniteInc) July 6, 2017

The Mennonite Church has just over 75,000 members. The statement adopted Thursday condemns anti-Semitism, encourages stronger ties between church members and Jews, and endorses a review of how Mennonites responded to the Holocaust. Mennonites had rejected a divestment proposal at their last national meeting two years ago amid fears that the resolution would be considered anti-Jewish.

In previous years, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ approved divestment measures. The Episcopal Church rejected a similar proposal at a national meeting two years ago, as did the 12.8 million-member United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant group in the country, at a conference last year. However, the Methodist pension board has barred investment in five Israeli banks, citing human rights concerns, and this week announced a new social values investment fund that will bar profits from the use of fossil fuels and evaluate holdings according to concerns expressed by church policy making bodies about Mideast peace, including Israeli treatment of Palestinians.