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February 6: Church Boycotts and Divestments against the Settlements

Lawrence Bush
February 6, 2017
The Church of England’s General Synod overwhelmingly voted on this date in 2006 to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (shown in photo above) voted in favor of the divestment motion, while his predecessor, Lord Carey, opposed it and declared himself “ashamed to be an Anglican” after the vote was passed. One month later, the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group announced that it would not withdraw its investment in Caterpillar, the earth-moving company, because there was “no compelling evidence” that the company, which manufactures equipment used by Israel in house-demolitions and other transgressive activity, was involved in the abuse of human rights. Similar resolutions to boycott Israeli settlement products were passed in 2012 by the United Church of Canada, and in 2014 by the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Methodist Church. In 2009, a group of clergy and lay leaders from all major Palestinian Christian denominations issued Kairos Palestine, a call for boycotts and divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. “[Methodist] researchers subscribed to a service called ‘Import Genius’ which provides records and bills of lading for all U.S. imports. They also did empirical research in stores to learn which settlement products are carried by different retailers. Their report was entitled ‘Seizing the Mandate.’ A Boycott Committee was established . . . [and] launched a church-wide boycott of six consumer products produced in Israeli settlements. These are products frequently encountered by American shoppers, and represent only a handful of more than forty consumer goods with settlement origins in the U.S. market.”--United Methodists for Kairos Response

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.