Council agrees to put pressure on Israel

Published September 1, 2005

The Anglican Consultative Council has adopted a recommendation that churches put pressure on firms that contribute to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, including the removal of investment funds in these companies as a last resort.

The resolution, which was passed unanimously, also recommended the same action for companies that support violence against innocent Israelis.

Meeting in Nottingham, England, the council praised the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA), for having introduced such a policy and commended “such a process to other provinces having such investments, to be considered in line with their adopted ethical investment strategies.” The resolution also encouraged “investment strategies that support the infrastructure of a future Palestinian state.”

The resolution followed a visit to the Middle East in 2004 by members of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN). “There is little will on behalf of the Israeli government to recognize the rights of the Palestinians to a sovereign state to be created in the West Bank – which includes East Jerusalem and Gaza,” the network said after its visit.

ECUSA has devoted a year to review what corporate actions it might take on Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. ECUSA’s Social Responsibility in Investments Committee said it would do this in partnership with the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East and with the APJN, with input from ecumenical and interfaith partners in the U.S., and from Jewish and Palestinian groups in the Middle East.

“If we do decide to go ahead with this, then it would be in terms of corporate engagement rather than divestment,” Brian Grieves, director of ECUSA’s peace and justice ministries told the Reuters news agency in an interview. “If the company is unresponsive then you have to consider your options, of which selling the stock is one.” ECUSA has an investment portfolio of about $3.6 billion, according to the Canadian Jewish News. Israeli officials have condemned the council’s decision as “extremely one-sided.” Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Mark Regev said the resolution “ignored the realities on the ground,” particularly in view of Israel’s decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip in August.

“The Anglican community takes very seriously its commitment to interfaith relations, and this is particularly true now when there is so much turmoil and trouble in the world,” Anglican Communion spokesperson Jim Rosenthal said during the intense period of lobbying from various groups shortly before the ACC meeting. “The church consistently calls for dialogue in the world and we hope this dialogue will be a force for healing and reconciliation.”

Other churches are currently conducting their own reviews.

With files from ENI


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