Jewish values related to divestment and the position of the Reform Jewish Movement.
We are taught in Leviticus that “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” (19:16). Yet blood continues to be shed on Sudanese soil. Our tradition teaches us that human life is sacred because all of humanity is created b’tselem elohim, in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), and the Torah makes clear that we have an obligation to preserve the sanctity of life by speaking out against oppression and brutality in our world. As a people intimately acquainted with the horrors of genocide, we are obligated to speak out and take action when other people are similarly threatened with annihilation.
Our obligations to our neighbors include the use of conscientious monetary policies as a tool for positive social change, affirming the Union’s position on socially responsible investment that “Jews should not participate in projects that violate Jewish values.”
We recognize, however, that divestment is a specific tactic to be used only in extreme situations and we are particularly cognizant of the fact that this economic tool can be inappropriately applied and misused. The Reform Movement has opposed campaigns advocating for divestment from Israel, which are particularly unhelpful in the quest for peace in the Middle East and unlikely to lead to the intended consequences. Nonetheless, we also understand that, when appropriate, divestment can be a strategy that provides significant power to motivate change.
In 1985, the Reform Movement adopted a resolution on South Africa, which called on the Canadian Parliament and United States Congress to:
• Ban new business investments and bank loans in South Africa; and
• Mandate the disinvestment of United States and Canadians firms from South Africa.
• Directed the Board of Trustees to divest the UAHC of all investments in corporations doing business in South Africa; and
• Urged organizations affiliated with the Reform Movement, as well as Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and congregations and their members to initiate a process of divestment in corporations that do business in South Africa.
The Union also passed a Resolution on Socially Responsible Investment in 1997 and a Resolution on Corporate Responsibility in 1971.
The circumstances in Darfur are such that divestment is timely, appropriate and likely to be successful. It is the only historical case where the act of genocide has been labeled while the atrocities are still occurring. Genocide is the ultimate crime against humanity, and thus in the case of Sudan, divestment is a responsible way for individual companies and states to prevent arms and revenues from aiding the responsible party. The crisis has been continuing for over four years, with other strategies and diplomatic efforts proving unsuccessful. In addition, there is evidence that the government of Sudan has been responsive to economic sanctions in the past. It is now time to apply this additional economic tool along with our other strategies to seek an end to this tragic violence.