The United Church of Canada (UCC) has affirmed several controversial recommendations at its 41st General Council meeting in Ottawa. Among them-and pending final approval on Friday, Aug. 17-is a recommendation encouraging members to boycott all products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“The possibility of a boycott sparked impassioned debate,” said a UCC report on its website. The report quoted Bruce Gregersen, general council officer for programs, as saying that members are free to “make up their minds” about whether or not to boycott Israeli goods. The meeting, which began on Aug. 11, concludes on Aug. 18.
Adam Brown, from the Bay of Quinte Conference, was quoted as saying that a boycott signaled a shift from the UCC’s usual “positive and constructive nature” to one that signals “punishment and negativity.”
In all, the UCC affirmed 12 recommendations on Aug. 15 aimed at supporting “the end of occupation” in the disputed territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In another recommendation, the UCC calls on church leaders “to explore the wisdom” of divesting from companies that profit from the occupation.
The call for a boycott has triggered sharp statements from Jewish groups, including The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which issued a press statement saying it was “outraged” by the decision. The Centre’s Chair, David Koschitzky, said that, “In choosing this morally reckless path, the United Church has equally dismissed the concerns of the overwhelming majority of the Canadian Jewish community.”
The Israel/Palestine motion states that the occupation is “a major contributor to the injustice that underlies the violence of the region,” and calls on Israel to dismantle its settlements within the occupied territories. It also requests the Canadian government to take steps to ensure that “all products produced in the settlements be labeled clearly and differently from products of Israel.”
The General Council approved other resolutions, including one that directs its General Secretary, Nora Sanders, to issue a public statement “categorically” rejecting the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The call was initiated by the Native Ministries Council of British Columbia, which has expressed concern about a possible environmental disaster.
The $5.5 billion project will comprise two 1,170 km petroleum pipelines from Bruderheim, Alta., (near Edmonton) to Kitimat, B.C. The pipelines’ daily cycle will include transporting 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to the west coast for export, and returning 193,000 barrels of condensate (a light petroleum product used to dilute bitumen) to Alberta.