- An organization representing up to half a billion Christians
worldwide has encouraged its member churches to divest from companies that
participate in "illegal activities" in the West Bank and Gaza
- The central committee of the World Council of Churches,
which represents more than 340 Protestant and Orthodox churches in more
than 120 countries, announced the decision on Monday, toward the conclusion
of the governing body's meeting in Geneva.
- It specifically noted the "process of phased, selective
divestment from multinational corporations involved in the occupation"
now being implemented by the Presbyterian Church (USA). "This action
is commendable in both method and manner, [and] uses criteria rooted in
faith," the group said in a statement.
- While that campaign angered segments of the American
Presbyterian community, the WCC's international affairs expert Peter Weiderud
told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that its own statement was the result
of a "grassroots initiative" from its membership, and was not
merely the view of a limited number of senior clergy. The WCC itself noted
in another statement that it had chosen to follow a "consensus decision-making
- The central committee "reminded the council's member
churches that 'with investment funds, they have an opportunity to use those
funds responsibly in support of peaceful solutions' to the Israel-Palestine
conflict," the statement said.
- "Multinational corporations have been involved in
the demolition of Palestinian homes, and are involved in the construction
of settlements and settlement infrastructure on occupied territory, in
building a dividing wall which is also largely inside occupied territory,
and in other violations of international law being carried out beyond the
internationally recognized borders of the State of Israel determined by
the Armistice of 1949," the statement continued.
- "The WCC governing body encouraged the council's
member churches 'to give serious consideration to economic measures' as
a new way to work for peace, by looking at ways to not participate economically
in illegal activities related to the Israeli occupation. In that sense,
the committee affirmed 'economic pressure, appropriately and openly applied,'
as a 'means of action.'"
- Weiderud noted that the committee had taken into account
recent positive developments in the peace process, but, as the body itself
stated, "illegal activities in occupied territory continue as if a
viable peace for both peoples is not a possibility."
- Apparently seeking to preempt criticism of the move as
anti-Semitic, the WCC's central committee "framed" its recommendation
by "recalling" its statement in 1992 that "criticism of
the policies of the Israeli government is not in itself anti-Jewish."
- Moshe Fox, minister for public and interreligious affairs
at the Israel Embassy in Washington, DC, disagreed.
- "While maintaining that this recommendation is neither
one-sided nor anti-Jewish, it is clearly both," Fox told the Post
- "At a time when Israelis and Palestinians are engaged
in a political process, returning to negotiations, this decision is utterly
ill-timed. The WCC is apparently seeking to dovetail on the Presbyterian
Church's campaign. But, while the Presbyterian Church is still deliberating,
the WCC is charging forward... [but] a boycott of Israel will not bring
the Israelis and Palestinians any closer to the path of peace," he
- Weiderud also said the WCC was unaware of any intimidation
of Palestinian Christians by Palestinian terrorists or desecration of Christian
holy sites. No churches under Palestinian control were large enough to
qualify for membership in the WCC, although the body had indirect contacts
with several churches there, he said.
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