PNN Palestine News Network
Canada’s largest Protestant church looks set to vote today, Friday 17th August, to approve a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements.
On Wednesday, the United Church of Canada’s General Council supported a resolution to boycott Israeli goods produced in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
At the meeting on Friday the church’s governing General Council will vote to accept or reject an overarching proposal that contains recommendations from a report into church policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Church official Bruce Gregersen told Canadian media that the vote was very likely to be passed, saying, “The mind of the council is pretty clear. The main recommendations were approved by a fairly overwhelming vote.”
The motion that was supported on Wednesday calls on the church’s members “to avoid any and all products produced in the settlements”, requests that the Canadian government makes sure that “all products produced in the settlements be labeled clearly and differently from products of Israel”, and also calls for products produced in settlements not to be given any preferential status under the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.
The report stated, “The working group’s desire is that the United Church be able to contribute, even in a small way, to justice that leads to peace in Israel/Palestine.”
The proposal also invited other Canadian churches to join the boycott campaign.
Despite criticisms from Israeli and Jewish groups, Gregersen stated that the proposals are not anti-Israel.
Gregersen told Postmedia News, “We are solidly behind Israel as a legitimate Jewish State. We don’t want to demonize in any way Israel or Jewish people. The problem is the occupation and the settlements.”
Shimon Koffler Fogel, the Chief Executive Officer of The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said that he was outraged at the report. “It singles out Israel in a way that is so fundamentally unhelpful that there is nothing redeeming in this set of resolutions that they’ve supported today,” Fogel said.
“In undertaking this action, the United Church has absolutely disqualified itself from playing a constructive role in advancing peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.”
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies also expressed its concern over the proposal. In a statement, the center’s President and CEO Avi Benlolo said, “I don’t know if church members truly understand how utterly offensive and imbalanced this proposal is, or whether a latent anti-Semitism within the church is slowly coming back to life.”
However, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, a Jewish human right’s group said in a statement that it supported the church’s report.