Palestine Israel Network

Justice is Love in Action

To whom do we listen? Voices from Hawaii on Divestment

Posted by:
Shannon Berndt
November 3, 2014

The Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii held its diocesan convention 24-25 October 2014 at which they considered a resolution one of whose resolves stated:

recognizing our Church’s investments in certain companies may be supporting the infrastructure of the Occupation, we embrace Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s observation that the powerful will only come to the negotiating table if economic pressure is applied, the Convention thereby adopts a policy of selective divestment or a No Buy policy of any holdings in Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions until such time that the conflict is resolved through a just outcome for Palestinians and all Israelis or that these companies take action to disinvest from their involvement in the Occupation.”

The standing committee of the diocese acts as a committee to recommend the action the convention takes on resolutions. It moved to refer the resolution to the Hawaii Deputation to General Convention. Thus when the resolution came to the floor of convention, convention first had to act on the motion to refer. That motion was defeated. Then the convention had to act on the resolution itself. It passed.


We offer some fragments of testimony from some of the supporters of the resolution who have graciously given us permission to circulate their testimony or summaries of it.

First on the motion to refer, from EPF PIN steering committee member the Reverend Canon Brian Grieves, canonically resident in the Diocese of Hawaii:

First, thank you, Bishop, for your fairness in handling the many points of view that have come your way on an issue that always raises passions. I hope we will all be as gracious with one another as you have been to all of us.

Bishop Suheil’s message that he prefers we not speak on divestment, as modest as this is, raises an important question: for whom does he speak? Bishop Suheil is a good and kind man, who lives everyday under threat to have his residency permit revoked by the Israeli government. I have a lot of sympathy for Bishop Suheil and why he says what he does.

But we are being watched by many other Palestinians today. I also think of the two Palestinian women with deep roots in the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem who have written to us imploring our support. I hope you saw that letter. They are in the sunset of their lives. What will we say to them? Beneath their words is a deep frustration and anger. Forty-seven years of occupation is a long time.

We are also being watched by many Israeli Jews who work hard to oppose their government’s policies of Occupation, hoping we’ll take action today.

If we refer this resolution will the message be we are saying to the Palestinian people we know you’ve lived this humiliation for 47 years, but that this issue is too controversial, too complicated. We haven’t had time to study it fully yet, even though we said 3 years ago we would?

Or can we find a way to send a message that we have heard the cry of the oppressed, and we will no longer be complicit in their suffering? Let’s vote no on referral so we can talk about this.


And some testimony supporting the passage of the resolution:

From The Reverend Professor Gregory Johnson, Rector, St. Mary’s, Honolulu:

During the course of the conversations and correspondence I’ve received as a co-sponsor of Resolution 6, a common concern has emerged: that a vote for the resolution is in some way a vote against the State of Israel.   Please be assured that a vote FOR the resolution is NOT a vote against Israel. The resolution before us is simply asking Israel to live up to its own charter as prescribed in its declaration of independence of May 14th, 1948 [The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel]: “THE STATE OF ISRAEL will” … [and I quote] … “foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace … it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” 

The only thing anyone needs to add to that is a resounding “AMEN!”


From The Reverend Kerith Harding, Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s, Kula:

I sat on the National Executive [Council] of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship when we were asked to support divestment. When it came time to vote, I was the ONLY member who abstained. Quite honestly, I just didn’t have a good grasp of the issues involved. The rest of the Board voted in favor of divestment. [Editor’s note: the final vote was 8 for, 2 against, 1 abstention in Spring 2010.]

Shortly thereafter, I went to Jerusalem and Palestine and my worldview changed. Once you see the injustice of the Occupation, you cannot “un-see” it....

  • Once I had seen a Palestinian woman sitting outside her family home after Israeli police had kicked her out in order to move in a Jewish American settler from Brooklyn, I could not un-see her.  
  • Once I had walked down Shuhada Street and saw settlers carrying machine guns to make sure no Palestinians walked down it, I could not un-walk that street.  
  • Once I had watched Israeli soldiers in Palestine, running exercises in a refugee camp and training their guns on 7 year olds, I could not un-watch them.  
  • Once I had looked-up in the marketplace and seen the nets that had been erected to hold the objects settlers had thrown at the Palestinians shopping below, I could not un-see them. Sadly, there is no net that can keep out the feces and acid that the settlers have been known to throw since… 

Now that I’ve seen ALL this, I cannot avert my eyes, no matter how badly I may want to.

In the 2009 Kairos document, our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters plead with us to “engage in divestment” from everything produced by the occupation.  It is now 2014 and as a church, we have still not answered their call.  If we are invested in companies that are complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights and the violation of international law, then we are – by our investments – complicit in those violations as well.  If we do not choose to divest, then we by default, choose to remain complicit… we choose to “look away,” an action that is distinctively, un-Christ-like. 

Please, do not look away.  We cannot "un-hear" the call from our brothers and sister in Christ.  If you didn’t know about it before, you do now.  Christians of conscience, please support Resolution 6.


Brian Grieves provides some context in his statement to convention on efforts to work with the named corporations:

Regarding Bishop Suheil, I say in all sincerity, the vote to divest from three companies is none of his business. I say that literally, not disrespectfully, because it’s not the Bishop’s money that is invested in companies that contribute to the sufferings of the Palestinian people. If we put one dollar in the plate on Sunday, we are involved. This is about how our national Church invests our money. Full stop. These companies are chosen for two reasons. They are directly supporting the infrastructure of the Occupation, thus contributing to the suffering of the Palestinian people, and they have refused to dialogue for a decade with the denominations that have asked them to do so, including ours. We don’t need a Lenten study series to know that being complicit in the suffering of another people is not right. We need to do this, not just for the Palestinian people and the Jewish peace activists that support them, but also for ourselves, lest we be on the wrong side of God’s judgment.

We have a letter from the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace that urges us to adopt this resolution. Courageous Jews who say, and I quote “there is a growing desire to end our silence over Israel’s oppressive occupation of Palestine. Everyday Jewish leaders are stepping forward … to express our outrage over the confiscation of Palestinian land, destruction of farms and groves and homes, the choking of the Palestinian economy and the daily harassment against Palestinians.” These are Jewish voices. We have to answer, where is our voice?

Palestinians, like people everywhere, are a proud people with a wonderful culture. And what pains me most during my visits to the Holy Land is to see them subjected to humiliation every day. Let’s let them know today we will no longer invest in their suffering.


From The Very Reverend Walter B.A. Brownridge, Dean of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, Honolulu, primary sponsor of the resolution:

The building of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories have weakened the Palestinian Authority, the legally recognized representative/government, and has strengthened extremist elements such as Hamas. Instead of justice and peace, there is inertia, silence, oppression and violence on both sides. These actions fulfill a deadly and tragic cycle of violence. I invoke Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, who said, “Peace is not merely the absence of tension. It is the presence of justice.” As in South Africa we need to elevate and intensify the conversation to pressure the parties. Israel as the more powerful party is the more recalcitrant party. Our investment dollars must not be used to support oppression.


Another sponsor of the resolution, the Reverend Paul Lillie, Rector, St. Mark’s, Honolulu, spoke without a written text and talked of his three years in Jerusalem as a volunteer in the Young Adult Service Corps, and of his ordination in Jerusalem. He noted the enormous power differential between Israel, the powerful, and the Palestinians, making one the oppressor, and the other the oppressed.


The Reverend Dr. Malcolm Chun, Associate Priest, St. John’s By-the-Sea, Kaneohe, speaking passionately and spontaneously, responded to criticism that Palestinians were suspect because of having only Islamic ties. He talked of his meeting Hanan Ashrawi years ago through the World Council of Churches. She is now the first elected female member of the executive leadership of the Palestinian Authority, and an Episcopalian.  He emphasized that they both shared their commonality as indigenous people whose sovereignty, culture and identity have been oppressed and denied. He reminded the delegates that Palestinians are an indigenous people. And that Palestine is also their only homeland. "This is their land!" he exclaimed.


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