(CNN) –

Many American Protestants have a reputation for supporting Israel without demur. But a major denomination broke with that convention to jump to the aid of the Palestinian people.

In a cliffhanger vote Friday, the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) decided to dump its investments in three corporations it says deliver products to Israel that help the Jewish state suppress its neighbors.

The decision puts the Palestinians and Israelis on equal footing before God, it said.

“We see both as children of God,” said Heath K. Rada, who moderated this year’s general assembly, the church’s biannual leadership meeting.

A day earlier, the church’s leadership voted to allow pastors to marry same-sex couples in states where that’s legal and to change the definition of marriage in the church constitution from a union between a “man and a woman” to “two persons.”

Not weapons makers

After Friday’s vote of 310 to 303, the Presbyterian Church will pull about $21 million out of Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions.

Why these companies, which are not exactly arms dealers?

“Caterpillar provides bulldozers that destroy Palestinian homes,” said spokeswoman Kathy Francis. HP provides Israel with logistics and technology used in the naval blockade of Gaza.

“Motorola Solutions provides military communications and surveillance systems in illegal Israeli settlements,” she said.

But the church still supports Israel and is not about to join the BDS movement — which calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions to punish the Jewish state over the Palestinian issue.

“We have significant investments in Israel,” Francis said. And the church is keeping them.

The decision was not about politics, but about morals, she said. The church wanted to no longer profit from investing in the destruction of people’s homes and lives.

Instead, it’s shifting some of its investing wherewithal into economic development programs in the Palestinian Territories.

Following the Catholic lead?

The denomination’s stance on the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians could be seen as similar to that Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, demonstrated when he visited the Middle East in June.

The pontiff placed himself between both sides and called for the recognition of two states.

Like Pope Francis, the Presbyterian Church appears to be stepping in the middle.

“We want both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace, free of threats,” Presbyterian spokeswoman Francis said. The church recognizes the right of the Jewish state to exist within secure borders.

And like the Pope, Presbyterians are also concerned about the welfare of Palestinian Christians in a majority Muslim society.

Hitting the tipping point

The divestment from the three companies was no snap decision.

For 10 years, the church has asked them to stop delivering, Francis said. Two years ago, a leadership ballot on the same measure failed to pass by just two votes.

On Friday, enough of the leadership had grown weary of talk and the assembly hit the tipping point.

Although the vote may make Presbyterians look like a stand-outs among American Protestants, Francis said their church is not alone.