All talk: The United Church of Christ’s Non-existent Boycott

At the United Church of Christ (UCC) General Synod in Cleveland, Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Christian and pastor of the evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, called the UCC’s resolution to divest from Israel “a strong signal that [Palestinians] are not alone, and that there are churches who still dare to speak truth to power and stand with the oppressed.” Photo courtesy United Church of Christ/Flickr.

The United Church of Christ (UCC) is faking its support of anti-Israel boycotts, an investigation from CAMERA has found.

In 2015, the United Church of Christ’s General Synod made headlines when it voted to divest from companies doing business with the Jewish State. The church resolved to target companies such as Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

But four years later, CAMERA’s Dexter Van Zile started snooping around the investment portfolio of the church’s retirement fund. He says the records show that the church is being dishonest with the public about its ethics and business practices.

Van Zile found that the denomination’s retirement fund is still actively invested in three of the companies named in their divestment resolution: Caterpillar ($1.7 million), Hewlett-Packard ($437,000) and Motorola ($342,000).

In 2015, church leaders justified their divestment campaign against these companies by accusing Israel of human-rights abuses in Gaza and the West Bank.

“The United Church of Christ chose to stand in moral judgment on these companies and the Jewish state,” says Van Zile. But he argues that if the church’s moral position were accurate, then the church’s own retirees are now profiting from human suffering caused by the Jewish state.

He concludes that “either the UCC is led by hypocrites, or it doesn’t even believe its own propaganda.”

Van Zile also points out that the UCC’s General Synod told its local churches that they shouldn’t profit from companies that do business with Israel. “But the denomination’s retirement fund does just that,” he says. “In its pronouncements about Israel, the UCC’s General Synod has placed a heavy, cumbersome load of judgement onto Israelis, but won’t bear the cost of its own virtue signaling.”

Miriam Elman, a political-science professor at the University of Syracuse in New York, says that those church activists who were “pushing BDS in 2015 knew divestment would probably never happen, but that wasn’t their ultimate goal.”

“Like on campus, where groups promoting divestment resolutions know that campus administrators will never comply, in the mainline churches the purpose is to crowd out other topics, to monopolize the conversation on Israel’s alleged transgressions,” explains Elman. “So even a loss is a victory.”

Rick Walters, director for corporate social responsibility for UCC Pension Boards, acknowledges that “while we take General Synod resolutions seriously and more than live in substantial covenant with them, the Pension Boards is not bound by them.”

“The real lesson here is that the church’s moral posturing won’t affect the monetary income of its retired clergy,” says Van Zile. “Israelis face the risk of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, but the denomination’s clergy can’t tolerate the risk of lower investment returns. The whole point of the fraudulent divestment resolution wasn’t to sell stock, but to use them as a pretext for anti-Israel witch trials at church assemblies.”