Methodist pension board bars investment in 5 Israeli banks

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NEW YORK (AP) — The pension fund for the United Methodist Church has blocked five Israeli banks from its investment portfolio.

The fund excluded the banks as part of a broad review of investments it said was meant to weed out companies that profit from abuse of human rights.

The pension board also identified Israel and the Palestinian territories among more than a dozen "high risk" countries or regions with "a prolonged and systematic pattern of human rights abuses."

The United Methodist Church has nearly 13 million members worldwide and is the largest mainline U.S. Protestant group.

The top Methodist policymaking body in 2012 rejected proposals for divestment from companies whose products are used by Israel in the Palestinian territories.

A spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry declined to comment.

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