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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Presbyterian Church (USA): Divesting from Israel

By a narrow vote of 310 to 303, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted in June 2014 to divest about $21 million in stock from Motorola, Caterpillar, and Hewlett Packard because their respective products were being used by the Israeli Government in violent occupation of the Palestinian territories. The Friends Fiduciary Corp, which manages investments for 250 Quaker groups, had divested from Caterpillar, Motorola, and Veolia Environment two years earlier, and in 2013 the Mennonite Central Committee decided not to “knowingly invest in companies that benefit from products or services used to perpetrate acts of violence against Palestinians [and] Israelis.”[1] This point brings up the ethical point of what to do about companies that sell products used in violence by the Palestinians. To occupy is not like being occupied, though violence is violence. Moreover, using divestment from holding equity in a company may not be a very effective strategy, other than perhaps serving as a symbol, though even in this respect the effort can fad without having brought about the desired policy change.

1. Jaweed Kaleem, “Presbyterian Church (USA) Makes Controversial Divestment Move Against Israel,” The Huffington Post, June 20, 2014.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mrs. Miniver

The Oscar for Best Picture in 1942 went to a film that in the end comes down to war propaganda, complete with a plug for U.S. War Bonds. As troubling as film as propaganda is, the last scene in the film raises even more fundamental problems that the film glosses over. Tellingly, the scene takes place in a bombed church in the fictional English village.

From: “Mrs. Miniver

Putin’s Eurasian Union: Another European Union?

At the end of May, 2014, Russia signed an economic treaty with Belarus and Kazakhstan that “forges closer trade and labor ties among the former Soviet republics.”[1] Even though the new economic ties fall short of another European Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to the new trading relationships as the Eurasian Economic Union, which I contend is deliberately misleading. Being implicitly part of the category mistake, the E.U. itself could be further misunderstood as a consequence.

[1] This and all other quotes in this essay are taken from: Anna Arutunyan, “Russia, 2 Other Nations Sign Pact,” USA Today, May 30, 2014.