Israel/Palestine One Step Closer
The United Church has taken another step towards adopting a contentious policy that includes a boycott of products from the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
On August 15, 2012, General Council affirmed 12 recommendations that call for an end to violence and incitement to hatred by both Palestinians and Israelis in the disputed territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. The recommendations also call for identifying products from the settlements and boycotting them.
The final empowering motion to formally adopt the recommendations and direct United Church policies and actions in relation to Israel and Palestine will come back before General Council on Friday, August 17, said Bruce Gregersen, General Council Officer for Programs, after the meeting.
“We are in a lengthy process of a very important piece of work and we will come back to it on Friday,” he said.
He said the mind of General Council seems to support the adoption of recommendations that include identifying the settlements in the West Bank as a primary cause of injustice in the region and a boycott of products from those settlements.
The Council added two additions to the list of recommended actions. These additions denounce violence and incitement of hatred by Palestinians or Israelis and denounce all questions of Israel’s right to exist that seek to undermine its existence as a state. These two amendments passed by a narrow margin.
Moderator Mardi Tindal noted that few speakers came forward when she called for final discussion of the proposals, which had already been vetted by the Council on August 14. The Council affirmed the key recommendations of the report, including the recommendations on boycott, however, the final action is yet to take place.
The possibility of a boycott sparked impassioned debate.
“If we accept boycott as a means of resolution we are completely and entirely shifting from our positive and constructive nature that builds up and encourages others to a nature of punishment and negativity,” said Adam Brown from Bay of Quinte Conference, noting there are other positive options for action.
Gregersen said that if the church endorses a boycott from the Israeli settlements, members will still be able to make up their own minds about following that lead.
He noted that the church has prompted a debate across the country on these issues.
“For the General Council to say that we believe there needs to be action against settlement products is a significant voice in Canadian society and it’s an encouragement to United Church members to take that seriously,” Gregersen said.