Thursday, March 22, 2018
A BIG BDS WIN!
At the request of Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting and other Quaker Meetings around the nation, Friends Fiduciary Corporation, the Quaker investment management company with assets of $400 million, has agreed to exclude companies from its investments that contribute to any and all internationally recognized conflict zones and occupations – including, of course, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.
Here is the relevant wording of Friends Fiduciary’s new (March 2018) policy: We evaluate companies on their human and labor rights performance using industry standard objective ratings data and conducting our own research. . . We also consider company involvement in internationally recognized conflict zones and occupied territories, due to the unique risks such involvement may pose.
We avoid investing in companies that provide products or services that materially contribute to the maintenance and expansion of occupied territories and conflict zones.
You can find their complete investment guidelines here.
This is a big deal! PIAG and the Ann Arbor Meeting have been in dialogue with Friends Fiduciary for seven years on this issue. For much of that time, Friends Fiduciary’s Board was concerned that excluding companies that were complicit in Israel’s occupation would be seen as punitive, or that supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was anti-Semitic, or that screening out companies that manufacture weapons or weapons components (as they already did, as Quakers) was enough. But in March, 2018, they changed their minds.
Here are some of the arguments the Ann Arbor Meeting used to persuade them to rethink the issue.
From our letter to the Friends Fiduciary CEO and Members of the Board (October, 2017):
“We agree that discernment about controversial issues in difficult. We hear in [your] concern a worry that economic action that speaks to the government of Israel about its mistreatment of the Palestinians is directed against Jews as a persecuted people, which Quakers should not tolerate. Further, we hear . . . that expanding Friends Fiduciary’s investment procedures from excluding not only companies that make weapons of war, but those that support the repression of the Palestinian population in other frightening and injurious ways, would be “punitive” and therefore, perhaps, un-Quakerly.
“We respectfully disagree with both these premises.
“As Quakers, we are convinced that the goal of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is not to punish Israel or the companies that support its actions. Instead, we believe that its purpose is to hold companies and institutions accountable for their violations of human rights and/or international law by pressing them to make changes in their behavior.
“We appreciate that calls for divestment can cause discomfort among individuals and institutions that hold power and privilege. But this discomfort should not be given precedence over the pain and injustice Palestinians suffer under occupation. As Quakers, we believe that seeing God’s light in all people means that the feelings of the privileged group should not outweigh the rights of the oppressed.
“Boycotts and divestment are proven nonviolent tactics that were considered by many at one time to be controversial but are now widely celebrated as brave, principled, and just. Examples range from Mahatma Gandhi’s boycott of British-controlled salt and imported cloth, to the Montgomery bus boycotts and lunch counter sit-ins in the segregated U.S. South, to the grape boycotts in defense of farmworkers in California, to the divestment from corporations doing business in apartheid South Africa. Quakers, too, have a long history of supporting economic activism, including boycotts, to advance movements for social justice. In the 18th century, John Woolman and Anthony Benezet argued that the purchase of slave-produced goods helped keep the institution of slavery viable. In the 19th century, Quaker activists such as Lucretia Mott led the Free Produce movement to undermine the market for goods produced by enslaved people and to promote the buying and selling of goods produced by free labor. The Israel-Palestine conflict presents similar challenges and affords principled people and institutions similar opportunities.
“As to the concern about anti-Semitism, we take this issue very seriously. We are clear that the BDS movement categorically rejects and condemns all forms of racism and bigotry, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Throughout our years of work for peace in Israel-Palestine we have been buoyed and supported by Jews who share our dismay at Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people. Over the last five years we have noticed a distinct increase in the support of the Jewish community for BDS, especially among younger Jewish Americans who feel that Israel’s repressive and cruel occupation does not embody the prophetic Jewish values they were taught growing up, values they cherish and believe in. They know that their work for BDS does not make them anti-Semitic.
“In this new climate of openness, Quakers, too, are becoming more willing to learn about Israel’s repressive policies and to discuss how they can best support justice in the region. Many Meetings have now approved Minutes affirming their support for divestment or other economic action. . . Please see www.quakerpi.org for a full list of such actions.”
We congratulate Friends Fiduciary Corporation for their principled decision!
Posted by Helen at 9:39 AM