The United Methodist Church has delayed a vote on a resolution on divestment from three US companies which “aid and abet”* Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The vote was initially set for Tuesday, but has been delayed until later this week. There is speculation among General Conference delegates in Tampa, that a move will be made to limit debate on the final resolution to two short speeches on each side.
Supporters of divestment are hopeful they will prevail. Prominent Palestinian visitors have made convincing speeches in meetings around the Conference. The outcome, however, remains uncertain.
Meanwhile, while we wait, let us use our time creatively by pondering another vote scheduled in the US in November.
That would be the election between the incumbent US President, Barack Obama, and the presumed Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. That election offers an ominous connection to the resolution process currently facing United Methodist delegates in Tampa.
The November election campaign has begun. President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan overnight Tuesday where he was greeted by US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Lt. General Mike Scaparrotti, Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. (picture above.)
The President addressed an American television audience from an American air base in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday night. He said that he had “traveled here to herald a new era in the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan, “a future in which war ends, and a new chapter begins.”
In Kabul, Obama signed a ten-year strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan. That agreement has been the subject of extended discussions over the past several months.
No doubt, the trip was also designed to bring attention to the one year anniversary of the successful US removal of Osama bin Laden from the political scene.
Monday, presumptive candidate Romney, eager to downplay the one-year anniversary, exposed his gross ignorance of the politics of the Middle East in an off the cuff response to a journalist’s question about bin Laden.
His quick response, while shaking hands with supporters, was a flippant remark about former President Jimmy Carter.
His comment was too much for one of America’s leading Muslim authorities, Juan Cole, who blogs at Informed Comment. Cole, author of Engaging the Muslim World, is a Professor of History at the University of Michigan.
“Mitt Romney said Monday that of course, he would have taken out Bin Laden and that “even Jimmy Carter would have made that call.’
Since Jimmy Carter ordered a brave and risky but failed military mission into Iran, that was a cheap shot on the part of someone who has never had anything to do with the military.
Moreover, Jimmy Carter made peace between Egypt and Israel and played a major role in reducing the number of Africans stricken by the Guinea worm from 3.5 million to 1,100. So Romney, who has mainly been sending our jobs overseas, isn’t good enough to shine Carter’s shoes.”
Cole is not a partisan politician. He is a careful, passionate scholar. But he is obviously worried about the 2012 presidential campaign, which could lead to a President Mitt Romney. In his blog, Cole offered this Romney gem from a Republican primary debate in 2007:
Romney: We’ll move everything to get him. But I don’t want to buy into the Democratic pitch that this is all about one person — Osama bin Laden — because after we get him, there’s going to be another and another.
This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and Al Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate.
They ultimately want to bring down the United States of America.
Mull over the political ignorance and simplicity exposed in that comment. To Romney, Muslims are all alike, “Shia and Sunni, Hezbollah and Hamas and Al Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood.’
There is more from Tuesday ‘s blog posting from a clearly agitated Professor Cole as he considers the presence of a President Romney in the White House:
The real problem with Romney is not that he would not have taken out Bin Laden. It is that he sees the Muslim world as in the grip of a congeries of pan-Islamic Caliphate movements against which he wants to wage a Mormon jihad with trillions of dollars of taxpayer money.
But in fact almost none of the movements he mentions has anything to do with al-Qaeda or a Caliphate. Romney supported Hosni Mubarak to the hilt and opposed the Arab Spring. He doesn’t understand the youth movements sweeping the Arab world. He lumps all kinds of unrelated, and changing, Muslim movements together with al-Qaeda.
He doesn’t even seem to understand that if he works to get rid of the al-Assad regime in Syria, he likely will be bringing the Muslim Brotherhood to power there, one of the groups he is sworn to fight as fiercely as he would Bin Laden.
The problem with Romney is that when it comes to the Muslim world, he doesn’t have the slightest idea what he is talking about, and seems intent on alienating 1.5 billion Muslims, a fifth of the world. He wanted to substitute a crazy conspiracy theory for a tactical approach to getting Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership.
In this regard, the Obama campaign has correctly nailed him, but they haven’t gone far enough in emphasizing the truly creepy character of his [Romney's] obsession with Muslims in general, far beyond the fringe al-Qaeda element.
How does this political campaign resonate with the United Methodist General Conference?
As a start, the two issues are joined with strong feelings on each side.
Delegates to the General Conference prepared a divestment resolution to submit to the committee responsible for considering financial matters. The resolution had been developed from resolutions from several national agencies and seven regional conferences.
The divestment resolution offered a small step toward supporting Palestinian freedom from Israel’s occupation. The resolution was narrowly focused to avoid entering a complex political issue with a simplistic solution.
As submitted, the resolution says:
The 2012 General Conference calls on The United Methodist Church to end its financial involvement in Israel’s occupation by divesting from companies that sustain the occupation. The 2012 General Conference:
*calls for all United Methodist general boards and agencies to divest promptly from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard until they end their involvement in the Israeli occupation. These companies have been engaged repeatedly by the United Methodist general agencies, boards and annual conferences on this issue.”
Unlike Candidate Romney, there was no off-handed display of ignorance. Instead, the resolution was a forthright request that United Methodist pension funds be withdrawn from three US companies which had refused to cease participating in the occupation.
The response from the financial committee–I kid you not, gentle readers–was to gut the original and deliver to the General Conference a resolution that sounds familiar from previous Protestant “go slow” resolutions:
The 2012 General Conference calls on the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to explore serious peacemaking strategies in Israel and Palestine, including positive economic and financial investment in Palestine.
Delegates who shaped the original divestment resolution promptly brought back their original resolution as a minority report. The conflicting resolutions, the Financial Committee solution–invest in Palestine, not divest from Israel’s occupation–and he original divest resolution, will do battle later this week.
President Jimmy Carter, by the way, has expressed his support for the original divestment approach. He is a Southern Baptist, which means he is not in attendance at the United Methodist General Conference. But his spirit remains with the divestment delegates.
Back on the political campaign trail, Mitt Romney continues with his personal attacks on President Obama, while the President uses Air Force One and his bully White House pulpit to strike back.
We can look forward to a long and hot summer of shallow charges and counter charges designed to play on the emotions of competing factions.
And, oh yes, don’t forget to prepare for the next national religious gathering where another divestment resolution (citing the same three US companies) will be considered by the Presbyterian Church in the US.
The Episcopal Church will meet later this summer in its national gathering. Thus far, there is no sign that a resolution on divestments will trouble the Episcopal Church’s sedate waters.
The photograph above of President Obama arriving in Afghanistan, is from the AOL home page.
*–The term “aid and abet”, used in the opening paragraph above, is defined by West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, as
“To assist another in the commission of a crime by words or conduct. The person who aids and abets participates in the commission of a crime by performing some Overt Act or by giving advice or encouragement. He or she must share the criminal intent of the person who actually commits the crime, but it is not necessary for the aider and abettor to be physically present at the scene of the crime. An aider and abettor is a party to a crime and may be criminally liable as a principal, an Accessory before the fact, or an accessory after the fact.”