04-05 On Calling for a Boycott of All Hewlett-Packard Products—From the Presbytery of New Brunswick.
Source: Presbytery Event:221st General Assembly (2014)
[04-05] Middle East Issues
New Brunswick Presbytery
Topic:Unassigned Type:General Assembly Full Consideration
Assembly Action
On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
Electronic Vote - Plenary
Affirmative: 503
Negative: 82
Abstaining: 0
Committee Recommendation
On this Item, the Middle East Issues Committee, acted as follows:
[Counted Vote - Committee]

The Presbytery of New Brunswick overtures the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to do the following:

1.    Call for the boycott of all products manufactured and sold by Hewlett-Packard until the company ceases to profit from all non-peaceful pursuits in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the violation of Palestinian human rights.

2.    Direct the Stated Clerk to

a.           communicate this action to all other PC(USA) councils and entities and strongly encourage these groups and organizations to endorse this boycott, calling upon all Presbyterians to be led by their conscience in the face of human rights violations, ongoing oppression, and injustice;

b.           inform our ecumenical partners of this action, both nationally and globally, encouraging them to do the same.



Hewlett-Packard (HP) began in 1938 as the creation of good friends, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. In that year they invented their first product: Oscillators for Walt Disney (model 200B). By 1942 the company became a health insurance pioneer. After entering the microwave field in 1943, HP incorporated in 1947, went public in 1957, and global in 1959. During this time the company developed Fast Frequency Counters and the first Oscilloscopes. In 1962 it made the Fortune 500 list and would reach the top of that list in 1984. In the 1970s, HP took the lead in laser technology and became a leader in business computing. In the 1980s, the company introduced the Touchscreen Personal Computer, the LaserJet printer, and the DeskJet printer. By 1993, ten million LaserJet printers had been sold throughout the world and the company introduced the Omnibook 300 laptop computer. The very first commercial all-in-one device went to market in 1994. By 2005 HP was called “the most trusted” industry leader. From 2005–2011, Hewlett Packard acquired these companies: Mercury Interactive Corporation, EDS, Palm Inc. and ArcSight ( http://www8.hp.com/us/en/hp-information/about-hp/history/history.html).


HP Global Citizenship Statement

“At HP, we embrace our role as a global citizen. As one of the world’s largest information technologies companies, what we do and how we do it matters. That’s why we use global citizenship to help shape and advance our business strategy… We promote responsible practices in our supply chain, respect human rights, foster ethical behavior, and strive for a workplace where all of our employees can flourish…” (http://www8.hp.com/us/en/hp-information/global-citizenship/index.html).

HP Statement on Corporate Ethics

“We use our size and influence to promote respect for human rights in all our business dealings. We do this by working with organizations such as the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights (GBI) and BSR, which promote awareness of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” (http://www8.hp.com/us/en/hp-information/global-citizenship/governance/ethics.html and see also those guiding principles as set forth in the document found at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf).


HP Business Practices in Regard to Palestine

“The company sells hardware to the Israeli Navy, and as a contractor manages all Information Technology (IT) including its operational communications, logistics, and planning including the ongoing naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. This blockade has included interdicting humanitarian supplies by attacking or turning back international vessels carrying the supplies, and attacks on Palestinian fisherman.

The company also is involved through its ownership of Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in providing electronic biometric identification scanning equipment to monitor only Palestinians at several checkpoints inside the West Bank, including as part of the separate road system, restricting Palestinian movement. At these checkpoints, the 2.4 million West Bank Palestinians are required to submit to lengthy waits as well as the mandatory biometric scanning, while Israelis and other passport holders transit without scanning or comparable delays.

Hewlett-Packard also has extensive involvement with the Israeli army. Soldiers in the IDF are issued a Tadiran Communications ruggedized personal digital assistant (RPDA) based on the Hewlett-Packard IPAQ (handhelds and smart phones) as part of the Israel’s Anog soldier modernization program. This equipment is used to enforce the occupation. In July 2009, Hewlett-Packard won a contract for the installation of software products in a three-year IDF virtualization tender worth an estimated $15 million, with a two-year option to extend.

Hewlett-Packard also has business relationships with the illegal settlements in the West Bank. A subsidiary, HP Invent, outsources Information Technology services to Matrix and to its subsidiary Talpiot, which has its main outsourcing center in the illegal West Bank settlement of Modi’in Illit. By using Talpiot’s services, clients of the company are profiting from the company’s relationship with an illegal settlement and are helping solidify the occupation.

In addition, Hewlett-Packard worked with the government of the illegal settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank to develop specialized solutions for government data storage, and used this project in marketing publicity. Despite the fact that Ariel is deep in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the company’s published description of this work claims that Ariel is within Israel, including the use of a map-making no reference to the Palestine as a separate occupied territory.”

This information comes from the report of the PC(USA) Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) to the 220th General Assembly (Pittsburgh, 2012) and can be found at: http://www.pc-biz.org/IOBView.aspx?m=ro&id=4021.

For a map showing location of Ari’el, see under "Additional Resources."


The 220th General Assembly (2012) approved the following action by a 457-180-3 vote:

1.               Call upon all nations to prohibit the import of products made by enterprises in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

2.               Call for the boycott of all Israeli products coming from the occupied Palestinian Territories, including AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories Beauty Products and all date products of Hadiklaim, the Israel Date Growers Co-operative Ltd., often marked by the brand names: King Solomon Dates and Jordan River (not Israeli products from Israel).

3.               Direct the Stated Clerk to communicate this action to all other PC(USA) councils and entities and invite and strongly encourage those groups and organizations to endorse this boycott until significant progress toward Palestinian rights and independence can be reported to the General Assembly or General Assembly Mission Council.

4.               Direct the Stated Clerk to inform our ecumenical partners of this action, both nationally and globally, and call upon them to join the boycott of these companies. (Minutes, 2012, Part I, p. 41; see also http://www.pc-biz.org/IOBView.aspx?m=ro&id=3775)

In approving this boycott of all Israeli settlement goods, it was the intent of the 220th General Assembly (2012) to send a clear message that it will not tolerate the profiting of companies through military occupation, ethnic cleansing, the illegal appropriation of land and natural resources, and policies promoting displacement and disenfranchisement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Along with the United Methodist Church, which took the same action in 2012, Presbyterians have become leaders in what has become an international interfaith boycott movement. Through its Israel Palestine Mission Network, for instance, the PC(USA) has been a significant player in the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation Interfaith Coalition’s boycott of Sodastream, which is a product manufactured by an Israeli company in the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim outside of Bethlehem. This boycott effort is in full accordance with the actions of the 220th General Assembly (2012).

This is only part of the equation, however. At the same time that we are telling Israeli companies that they must not profit from the occupation of Palestine, we are still supporting American corporations that are doing the same through the sale and service of products in support of the occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government and military. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has longstanding policy and practice in which it does not invest in corporations that profit from non-peaceful pursuits, but also has a strong history of calling upon the consciences of individual Presbyterians to not purchase products from companies that through their business practices actively engage in the violation of human rights in our nation and the world. Through boycott, Presbyterians have been an important part of the successful fight against apartheid in South Africa, ending the sales of Nestles’ infant formula to impoverished mothers in developing nations that caused infant affliction and death, and ensuring the human rights of exploited farm workers in Immokalee, Florida, through the Taco Bell boycott, to name only a few.

The time for Presbyterians to stand up against a U.S. company that is seriously violating the rights of all Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is now upon us. As seen on its own website, HP takes pride in making statements about its global citizenry and corporate ethics in our nation and in the world. As a Church of Jesus Christ, seeking to be a moral agent in, and prophetic voice to a fallen creation, it is our great responsibility to call upon HP to make good on its own moral and ethical claims. Hewlett-Packard has been a great American company since 1938 and we can be proud of its innovation throughout the decades. Hardly any of us are able to do business, personal or otherwise, without exposure to and usage of HP products, which makes this particular boycott so challenging. We acknowledge that this is a hard decision to make because large numbers of us like their products and even have them in our homes, including the author of this overture. In that way, HP has been like a corporate friend to American businesses and households for a long time. It is now time, however, to tell our corporate friend that it is violating human rights in terrible ways and that we can no longer purchase its products until such time that it ceases to profit from this violation through an occupation that is causing and continuing the hardship, suffering and pain, and even death of innocent Palestinians.

ACREC Advice and Counsel

The Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns advises that the 221st General Assembly (2014) approve Item 04-05.

The ACREC agrees with this overture that it is time for Presbyterians to act where possible to help end the almost fifty-year occupation of Palestinian lands. The ACREC agrees fully with the rationale of the overture, particularly, that we have a long and proud history of successful boycotts and that boycotts are a tried and true nonviolent tool for change. Boycotts are a personal way of making a difference in which every consumer can participate.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) profits from the dehumanizing checkpoints that ravage the daily lives of Palestinians through racially-profiled bio-scanning of handprints. Only Palestinians are subject to this daily humiliation; tourists and Israelis are allowed through with no delay. The daily humiliation of standing in line for hours at checkpoints, which has been called “the cattle cage” by poet Susan Abulhawa, should be considered beyond the pale for all people of conscience. HP profits from this kind of inhumane racial profiling.

To see what happens daily in “the cattle cage,” ACREC commends to you this four-minute video that is poet Susan Abulhawa reading her poem Wala, which is set at a checkpoint line that ends at an HP hand scanner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUIqhxMdffE.

The ACREC prayerfully urges the 221st General Assembly (2014) to stop personally supporting the company who makes these bio-metric checkpoints possible and profitable.

ACSWP Advice and Counsel

This overture requests the Presbyterian Church to be a witness for the need for human rights for Palestinians and for an end to the Israeli occupation.

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) advises approval of Item 04-05.

The 220th General Assembly (2012) approved a boycott of all products produced in Israeli settlements, naming several well-known consumer brands (such as Ahava cosmetics) and also noting that such products are often labeled, “made in Israel.” The European Union is increasingly requiring more accurate labeling, and an Israeli human rights group produces a thorough list of companies and products of the settlements. Hewlett-Packard certainly operates in and helps sustain Israeli settlements, even if its products are made and services provided in many different places. And most U.S. consumers are more likely to encounter Hewlett-Packard products than the products of Caterpillar Tractor and Motorola Solutions, the two other companies whose engagement in non-peaceful pursuits is detailed in the divestment recommendations of the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI).

One question before commissioners is whether they should recommend the Hewlett-Packard boycott to encourage personal choices to purchase consistent with any shared decision of the General Assembly as a body to recommend divestment. Such a boycott would not only be consistent but have a different kind of impact on both the purchase-avoider and the company. The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy speaks to the nature of boycott and selective purchasing in general below.

A second question has to do with the focus on Hewlett-Packard rather than the other two corporations recommended for divestment based on their strategic and instrumental role in the occupation of Palestine. It may be that commissioners would want to recommend broadening the number of firms to be boycotted, or to recommend study of broader boycott choices regarding the occupation. The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy believes there is an element of urgency in any witness related to the situation in Palestine and supports the boycott of Hewlett-Packard products partly for that reason, but that sense of urgency regarding the fate of a two-state solution and other conditions could support adding Caterpillar and Motorola Solutions as well, given the thorough process already conducted with regard to both.

With regard to boycotts as a strategy of nonviolent economic pressure, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approved boycott positions in the past, including two dealing with food products: the Nestle Boycott (concerning improperly marketed infant formula in countries lacking adequate clean water) and the Taco Bell Boycott (to increase farm worker wages). In the case of Nestle, boycott was chosen partly because few U.S. investors held securities in the Swiss-based firm and partly because its chocolate products were well-known. (Other infant formula companies were subject to corporate engagement).

The Presbyterian church’s history of “selective patronage” and consumer boycotts is presented more fully in the booklet commended for study by the General Assembly Mission Council in 1979: “Boycotts: Policy and Criteria” (http://www.pcusa.org/resource/boycotts-policy-analysis-and-criteria/). That study notes that all “consumer spending reflects personal and group values,” and is thus broadly selective, while what it terms “selective patronage” is reflected in decisions not to patronize discriminatory businesses (such as in “Project Equality”) as well as alcohol, tobacco, and gambling enterprises.

The basic moral logic of not supporting or profiting from activities contrary to Christian values comes through in a General Assembly action in 1937: “We favor the adoption by the Congress of legislation … which forbids the shipments of Child Labor goods in interstate commerce, and which requires informative labels to be attached to Child Labor goods” (such labels would assist boycotting).

Because the assembly has already approved a broad boycott of settlement products, it would be clear that Hewlett-Packard and any other firms named were not being focused on in isolation from other enterprises taking advantage of the conditions of occupation. Purchasers would be encouraged to look carefully at all settlements and companies connected with them.

The 1979 study provides criteria for engaging in boycotts and some theological reflection on how the church takes moral stands. In terms of criteria, these include: consistency with church policy, lack of other alternative means of influence (such as shareholding and U.S. legislation), timeliness, effectiveness, impact on other aspects of our mission, and provision for review. The ACSWP finds that these criteria are generally met by the boycott of Hewlett-Packard, and believes that such nonviolent economic pressure would be consistent with the call for economic solidarity from both Palestinian civil society and the broad ecumenical and evangelical groups of Palestinian Christians (in the Kairos Palestine document and the “Christ at the checkpoint” conferences). Commissioners may recognize the action called for in this overture as the addition of Hewlett-Packard to an existing and broadly supported boycott rather than a new campaign in itself.

In terms of effectiveness, the Israeli government has passed various measures to prevent or hamper the boycott of settlement products, such as “The Prevention of Harming the State of Israel by Boycott Law (5771-2011), which has been in an appeals process (http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/4DC9430BE04D596885257C2700565A0D#sthash.PgQ71zK4.dpuf). Clearly such measures would infringe on free-speech rights, but one approach is to attempt to provide standing for affected corporations to sue boycott practitioners.

With regard to the legitimacy of economic pressure overall, both the Gaza blockade by Israel and its restrictions on East Jerusalem and the West Bank constitute boycott and sanctions against Palestinian goods and services. This economic “hardball” may make official Israeli criticisms of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions efforts appear hypocritical.

In fact, all words-only efforts have not deterred the Israeli government from expanding settlements, including the purported “legalization” of three once “illegal” settlements in late April. Thus the boycott strategy remains an effective and very participatory way to support greater justice for the Palestinians, and seems to be regarded by the Israeli government and its supporters as a danger to their control. Even when companies do not lose major market share, they are concerned about damage to their reputation and its influence on retailers who carry their products. The principle behind boycott would continue to hold: purchasing Hewlett-Packard products contributes to that company’s support of a military occupation that deprives Palestinians of their land and freedom. Thus not purchasing those products is a form of practical integrity that applies moral standards to market relationships. Overall, in relation to all efforts of advocacy by the church, it is important not to confuse the church’s calling to be a truthful place with efforts to make it a neutral place, and that extends to purchasing as well as investment.

ACWC Advice and Counsel

The Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concern offers the following advice and counsel to the 221st General Assembly (2014) on Item 04-05.

Please see ACWC’s counsel offered on Item 04-01.


PMA Comment

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has historically supported boycotts as a nonviolent economic strategy to counter unjust practices and/or promote social change.

These efforts have included boycotting table grapes and fast-food companies on behalf of farm workers, Nestle for selling infant formula in the developing world, and J.P. Stevens sheets and towels to support textile workers.

Most recently, the 220th General Assembly (2012) endorsed the consumer boycott of all Israeli products coming from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/mrti/boycott/.

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