FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Church of England Votes to Divest from Israel

On Monday, February 6th, the Anglican Church of England voted to end financial investments in companies supporting Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. The General Synod, a policy-making assembly, overwhelmingly backed the call by the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem to divest from “companies profiting from the illegal occupation … until they change their policies.”

One of the companies identified as a target includes Caterpillar Inc., the American manufacturer that produces the bulldozers Israel uses to build the West Bank separation wall. Israel also uses them to demolish Palestinian homes–since 1967, Israel has demolished 12,000 Palestinian homes, leaving 70,000 homeless.

The Anglicans invest about 2.5 million pounds in Caterpillar. The move to divest follows months of negotiations with the company about Israel’s use of their equipment.

Caterpillar insists publicly it does not provide the militarily-modified bulldozers directly to Israel. It claims the US military sells them to Israel, a possible violation of the US Foreign Arms Export Control Act of 1976. This law limits the use of US weapons against civilian populations.

The Daily Telegraph reported the vote does not bind the Church Commissioners, the managers of denominational investments. Still, it is “hugely symbolic” since it is now a stated position on the morality of the Israeli occupation and companies abetting it.

The decision was well-received by many, opposed by others, and follows a church tradition of economic activism on this issue.

Former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African activist and Nobel Prize winner, is a vocal champion of Palestinian rights. He compared Palestinian life under occupation to his own experiences living under Apartheid.

Archbishop Tutu wrote in 2002, “yesterday’s South African township dwellers can tell you about today’s life in the Occupied Territories.” In the same article, he promoted a letter several hundred Jewish South Africans wrote drawing “an explicit analogy between apartheid and current Israeli policies.”

The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, stated that this vote “sends a clear message to Caterpillar that profiting from human rights violations is not compatible with socially responsible business practice.”

Joining in support of the resolution, Rev. John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford told the meeting that although the cause of the conflict was the government of Israel, not Caterpillar, it is still vital to invest with ethics in mind.

The American-based Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) commended the move. Their statement suggested that divestment “stands in the best tradition of nonviolent efforts for change.” JVP supports divestment since “governments have failed to end the occupation.” They contend that non-governmental groups such as faith-based institutions, unions, companies and individual citizens have to “take the lead in seeking justice.”

Pro-Israeli groups protested immediately. The Anti-Defamation League called it a “moral outrage.”

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey claimed to be “ashamed to be an Anglican.” He charges it “ignores the trauma of ordinary Jewish people” in Israel subjected to “terrorist attacks.”

The Anglican decision was not made in a vacuum. Other churches, particularly in the United States, are exploring the use of economic engagement to pressure Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories. Increasingly, churches and Christian religious leaders in Palestine are calling for divestment and boycott from outsiders.

Last year, the Geneva-based World Council of Churches’s central committee urged WCC members to take economic measures against the Israeli occupation to push for a peaceful settlement.

In 2004, the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a bill to explore “phased, selective divestment,” after a period of economic engagement. They argued it was part of their commitment to morally responsible investment. They are re-considering this decision at their June, 2006 General Assembly meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Heavy external pressure from supporters of Israel are causing some within the church to doubt the move. It passed by a vast majority, so spectators expect a lively debate.

For activists in the United Kingdom, the battle for Palestinian rights found some success with the Synod’s vote. Nick Dearden, of War on Want, urged “the Church Commissioners to enforce the Synod’s decision, and to send a clear message that companies like Caterpillar have a responsibility to ensure their products are not used to violate human rights.”

In the United States, student activists are meeting later this month at Georgetown University for the 5th annual Palestine Solidarity Movement conference. They will discuss rebuilding the campus divestment movement and hold training sessions for new and experienced solidarity activists. Speakers include Palestinian activist Omar Barghouthi; British academic boycott advocate Sue Blackwell; Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Initfada; and dozens of veteran divestment activists.

For more information, see www.palestinesolidaritymovement.org.

WILL YOUMANS is a Washington, DC-based writer. He blogs at www.kabobfest.com

 

 

 

More articles by:
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail