New York, NY, January 13, 2016 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today condemned as “misguided in intent and misleading in perception” the announcement by the pension board of the United Methodist Church that it had removed five Israeli banks from its investment portfolio.
The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, which has assets of $20 billion, sold off its investment of a few million dollars in the Israel banks, along with an Israeli construction company, as part of its effort to identify companies “which profit from human rights abuses.” These companies were added to an existing list of 39 excluded companies around the globe.
“We not only question the criteria used by the Church to identify these Israeli companies as complicit in alleged human rights abuses, but also their intent,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “While the Church investment in these Israeli companies was minimal, the symbolism of blacklisting banks, which represent the bedrock of the Israeli financial sector and the economy in general, is quite significant and surely was considered by the pension board. We would ask whether the Church applies the same level of scrutiny to all firms in its portfolio.”
“This decision is problematic in how it may be perceived,” said Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs. “It is a sad reality that the United Methodist Church, which has historically resisted divestment efforts, has enabled and furthered the demonization of Israel. To single out and tar internationally respected Israeli financial institutions hinders peace building efforts between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We urge the United Methodist Church to work with its pension board to refine these guidelines, and actively reconsider the decision to blacklist Israel’s core financial institutions.”