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New England United Methodists are Divesting from U.S. Companies Doing Business with Israel

"In the mind of the religious left, Blockbuster Video is now a leading oppressor of the Palestinian people." --Mark Tooley, IRD's Director of UMAction

Contact: Loralei Coyle, 202-682-4131, 202-905-6852 cell; Radio Interviews: Jeff Walton; both with The Institute on Religion and Democracy

WASHINGTON, August 8 /Christian Newswire/ -- A task force of the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church is asking its members and investment managers to divest from 20 companies that do business in Israel, identifying them as complicit in Israel's presence in the West Bank.

The targeted companies range from large conglomerates like General Electric to the video retailer Blockbuster and the computer systems company Silicon Graphics.

The New England Conference, which has lost over 20 percent of its membership over the past eight years, has approximately 93,000 members in 550 congregations in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, eastern Connecticut and Vermont. In 2005 the conference endorsed the idea of divestment and commissioned the task force to develop ideas.

Several other United Methodist regional conferences have also endorsed anti-Israel divestment but have not gone so far as New England. The only major U.S. denomination actively to endorse anti-Israel divestment was the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which, after enormous controversy over two years, revoked its divestment policy in 2006.

Mark Tooley, IRD's Director of UMAction commented:

"Once again, a regional church area pushing activist politics at the expense of evangelism and discipleship sees the fruits of its disordered priorities: a rapid plunge in membership and church attendance.

"Interestingly, while the New England Conference task force's list of recommendations acknowledges Palestinian militant attacks on Israelis, there are no suggestions for discouraging Palestinian excesses. Americans doing business with Israel are the only identified transgressors.

"The anti-Israel divestment campaign exclusively faults Israel while largely ignoring Palestinian terrorism and hostility to Jews.

"In the mind of the religious left, Blockbuster Video is now a leading oppressor of the Palestinian people."

The Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in 1981, is an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches' social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad.