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January 13, 2016 3:26 pm

United Methodist Church to Exclude Israeli Banks in Judea-Samaria From Investment Portfolio

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The United Methodist Church symbol. Photo: UMC Facebook page.

The United Methodist Church symbol. Photo: UMC Facebook page.

JNS.org – The United Methodist Church (UMC) on Tuesday said that its pension board will exclude five Israeli banks from its investment portfolio due to concerns over human rights.

UMC lists Israel and the disputed Palestinian territories as a “high risk” region with “a prolonged and systematic pattern of human rights abuses.” But UMC continues to invest in 18 other Israeli companies, according to M. Colette Nies, a spokeswoman for the pension board.

While many Methodist leaders oppose divestment, a coalition of UMC members called the United Methodist Kairos Response has been advocating for divestment from Israeli companies in Judea and Samaria as well as eastern Jerusalem.

“This is the first step toward an effort that helps send a clear message that we as a church are listening and that we are concerned about human rights violations,” Susanne Hoder, a leader of United Methodist Kairos Response, said Tuesday.

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The American Jewish Committee (AJC) denounced the pension board’s decision.

“Targeting Israeli businesses is precisely what BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activists seek, though this kind of action does nothing to bring about real Israeli-Palestinian peace,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s Director of interreligious and intergroup relations. “The Methodist Pension Board action against Israeli companies is deeply disappointing, and goes against the UMC’s rejection of BDS at its 2012 General Conference.”

UMC’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits will exclude Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank, and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank.

The pension board had already voted in 2014 to divest from Israel by selling the stock of a security company, G4S, because the company supplies equipment to Israeli prisons.

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  • Though this decision by the UMC is unfounded and misinformed, it reflects a trend among endowments to align their investment portfolio with their philosophy as an institution.

    Investors started thinking about the beneficial, social or environmental impact of their financial decisions in the 1990s. By 2007 the term “impact investing” first emerged. With the rise of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) campaign, Israel Investment Advisors, LLC aims to proactively counter organizations like the UMC by allowing Israel’s supporters to ‘align their money with their mission.’

    Despite global capital market volatility in 2015, currency devaluation, and plummeting oil prices, the State of Israel exhibited less stock market and currency risk than most world indices. Israeli GDP demonstrated solid and steady growth, and interest rates were stable. Aside from investing in Israel for ideological reasons, the State of Israel is a ‘value’ investment providing opportunities overlooked by most American investors.

    Israel-centric Impact Investing was designed by Israel Investment Advisors to provide institutional, as well as individual, investors the peace of mind that their money aligns with their mission. In addition to investing portfolio assets in the Israeli capital markets, we screen portfolios to minimize allocations to countries unfriendly to Israel’s interests. By partnering with Israel as an investor, Israel Investment Advisors, LLC helps our clients earn the “double bottom line” of potential financial returns as well as fulfilling their mission to support the State of Israel.

Algemeiner.com