A well-known Palestinian theologian has urged Canadian churches to follow the lead of the Presbyterian Church in America, which voted recently for a selective divestment from Israel.
The U.S. Presbyterians elected in July to withdraw from holdings in multinational corporations doing business in Israel as a way of pressuring the Israeli government to withdraw its armed forces from all occupied areas in Palestine.
Canon Naim Ateek, president of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre, cited economic divestment as a strategy to advance the peace process in the Middle East during recent meetings with various groups in Canada.
While visiting the Anglican church’s national office in Toronto, Mr. Ateek spoke of how North American churches had used divestment in the 1970s and ’80s as part of a successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.
“I think we’ve learned the power of sanctions, divestments and so on in the South African situation. We are always looking for non-violent ways of putting pressure on Israel,” he said.
Last September, members of the international Anglican Peace and Justice Network visited the Episcopal (Anglican) diocese of Jerusalem and said it would discuss the results of its visit at the June 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. The network said it might recommend the adoption of social responsibility in investments. The Anglican Church of Canada said at the time that it plans no action regarding divestment from Israel.
Mr. Ateek also said that the separation wall being built by Israel has been fomenting more “militarism, hatred and resentment” among Palestinians.