Despite an outcry from American Jews, a Presbyterian Church (USA) committee has taken its first step toward selective divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

This week the denomination announced the standards it would use to identify which companies in its portfolio perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian discord.

The church said it would target companies that operate on occupied land; sell products, services or technology to support Israeli settlements or the construction of the separation barrier; or do business with organizations that support violence against civilians.

Companies can balance their business practices by protesting the occupation, helping victims, contributing to a viable economy for an independent Palestinian state or employing Israeli Arabs or Palestinians.

Once companies are named, negotiations will begin. If they fail, the church will submit shareholder resolutions. And if that does not succeed, the church's General Assembly will vote on whether to divest.

If conversations between the church and companies reach an impasse, actual divestment would not take place until the national church's governing body meets again in 2006. It would not take place at all if companies cooperate or Israeli occupation ends, the separation barrier falls and a peaceful agreement is reached regarding settlements.