George Rishmawi-IMEMC & Agencies, July 28, 2004

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA issued a statement in which it authorized exploration of a selective divestment of church funds from those companies whose business in Israel is found to be directly or indirectly causing harm or suffering to innocent people, Palestinian or Israeli. It did not approve a blanket divestment from companies that do business in Israel, however.

It is likely that this decision by one of the main churches in the USA had come in response to the advisory ruling of the International court of Justice and the decision of the United Nations General Assembly couple of weeks ago, which regarded the Separation wall as illegal and demanded that Israel tears it down.

The World Court’s advisory opinion included a call to boycott anything related to, or might contribute in constructing this wall.

In its statement, the church called on Israel to stop building the wall and end the occupation as it is the source of the conflict in the Middle East.

"The assembly called for an end to Israel’s construction of the “separation barrier’,” the statement said

"While fully aware of our interest in Israel’s security, the major reason for this action was the Assembly’s concern of the impact of the structure on the economic, social, and religious life of Palestinians," the statement said.

The Statement used the word "wall" in reference to the Separation wall "because it has become a general reference for the physical structure being put in place."

It raised legitimate questions, corroborated by Israel’s Supreme Court and the International Court of Justice, regarding the route of the wall.

In previous Assemblies, the church has called for an end to the occupation, as the principal cause of the conflict.

Presbyterians are calling for an end to this barrier in the belief “that the best hope for security for both Israelis and Palestinians may be found in laying down all forms of aggression on both sides, ending the Israeli occupation, and finding ways to build bridges of peace rather than walls of separation. Good neighborly relations, rather than mutual isolation and suspicion, are urgently needed between Israel and its neighbors in Palestine and the Middle East.” The statement said.

Palestinians are willing to take the International Court of Justice decision after being adopted by the UN General Assembly to the UN Security council to issue a binding resolution asking Israel to tear the wall down, and impose sanctions on Israel if did not abide by the resolution.

This attempt however is likely to be blocked by an American Veto. However, Palestinians are hoping that in case of an American Veto against such a resolution, they might be able get the council to issue a non-binding decision in case a minimum of 9 members of the council voted in favor of the resolution.

Palestinians are hoping that if there were no binding decisions by the international institutions regarding the wall, a divestment campaign might grow to pressure Israel to comply with International Law and respect Human Rights.