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Area Leaders Join Jewish Opposition To Church's Votes

Caterpillar Corp., of Peoria, Ill., is an obvious example, Somplatsky-Jarman said, because the company's bulldozers have been used to clear paths for the security fences and to raze buildings during military operations.

The denomination has $2.7 million in Caterpillar stock.

The statement by Clifton Kirkpatrick, the Presbyterians' top official, that the General Assembly does not equate Israel's treatment of Palestinians with South Africa during apartheid has done little to quell the outcry. (Bruce Parker -- AP)

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He said other companies on the list for potential divestment might include military contractors, manufacturers of computer parts or software used by the Israeli Defense Forces, and financial underwriters of military operations.

"Selected divestment" means the committee generally will not target corporations that own fast-food restaurants; sell clothing, pharmaceuticals and other staples; or support tourism, he said. "These are not boycotts."

The divestment process is lengthy and can be approved and implemented only by action of the General Assembly, which meets every two years; the next assembly will be in 2006 in Birmingham.

Nevertheless, the potential of such a move makes Jewish leaders nervous, and it doesn't help to be told that divestment will be directed only at selected companies.

"We find any divestment unacceptable," said Ronald Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, an umbrella organization for more than 200 synagogues and Jewish organizations. Any divestment strategy will weaken Israel economically and put the country "in a more compromising position against the Palestinians," he said.

Halber worries that such influential denominations as the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Methodist Church will follow the Presbyterians' lead and establish divestment policies of their own. They, like the Presbyterian Church (USA), advocate a two-state peace plan for the region, establishing separate countries for the Israelis and the Palestinians.

"We don't want other mainline churches to adopt this type of effort," he said.

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