NOTTINGHAM: Anglican council hardens its stance on investment in Israel
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
THE LONDON TIMES
LEADERS of the Anglican Church set themselves on a collision course with the Jewish community yesterday when they backed a motion calling for provinces worldwide to reconsider their investments with Israel.
While stopping short of a direct call for disinvestment, the Anglican Consultative Council, the executive body of the Anglican Communion, commended the resolve of the US church to take appropriate action where it finds its corporate investments support the occupation of Palestinian lands or violence against innocent Israelis.
The council also asked other provinces to consider such action in line with their existing ethical investment strategies and to adopt investment strategies "that support the infrastructure of a future Palestinian state" . Although the motion, based on a strongly worded report from the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, was toned down by the council after interventions by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Dean of St Paul's, Dr John Moses, it still represents the strongest statement to date by the Anglican Church on the difficulties in Israel and the territories.
One insider said: "What they have done amounts to moral pressure, but stops short of financial blackmail."
It is not mandatory for the General Synod to accept the council's motion, and another source said there would be "misgivings" at the highest levels about taking the recommendations on board in the Church of England. The Church's own ethical investment group recently turned down calls to withdraw its £197,000 investment in the Caterpillar group, which makes bulldozers used in clearance projects in Israel.
The motion was amended to place any disinvestment within existing ethical investment policies, which most provinces already have and which already rule out, for example, holdings in the arms trade. Dr Moses told the council that a call for disinvestment would be "a major statement of policy". Referring to the problems in Israel, he said both sides were working to resolve the issues. "I draw back from anything that might exacerbate the peaceful settlement that they might seek," he said.
The authors of the report wanted the Anglican church to put pressure on companies supporting controversial policies in Israel, such as the security fence. The US Presbyterian Church has already adopted a disinvestment policy and at least one other US church is following a similar path.
Some Anglican provinces could now do the same, feeling mandated by the Anglican Consultative Council resolution.
Jewish leaders have expressed bitter disappointment that disinvestment is still on the table, although they are relieved that the recommendations were toned down to reflect a more measured approach.
Rabbi Barry Marcus, who holds the Israel portfolio on the Chief Rabbi's Cabinet, said: "Moves toward divestment represent a flawed and disastrous course. They will do nothing to advance the twin causes of security for Israel and statehood for the Palestinians. The report itself took a one-sided and subjective view of the situation, and did not reflect the present reality.
"Domestically, I am concerned about the unsettling effect the resolutions will have on Anglican-Jewish relations, particularly in the light of the recent aborted academic boycott of Israeli universities. We urge Anglicans, despite this development, to continue to support investment and negotiation rather than divestment and recrimination."
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said that it was bitterly disappointed. A spokesman said: "Israel is a democracy and a pluralistic society in which Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, have equal rights in the law. These rights are not extended to non-Muslims in many of Israel 's Arab neighbours. Sadly, Israel is also a country on a virtual war footing; not a conventional war, however, but a war of terror characterised by the suicide bomber. It is a war against an implacable enemy which considers all of Israel as occupied territory and where no Israelis, men, women or children, are regarded as innocent."
He continued: "The report's findings ... which predated the withdrawal plans for Gaza and now Bethlehem, were based on consultation with Palestinian groups hostile to Israel. No Israeli input was countenanced."
This concerns the resolution passed by the Anglican Consultative Council regarding divestment in companies that invest in Israel. The email correspondence is between Ruth Gledhill and Irene Lancaster.
Dear Bishops and others,
I have been asked to pass this on by Ruth Gledhill of the Times. It appears in addition that if this resolution is passed by Synod, the Jews of this country will be accused of 'dual loyalties'. I want to repeat what I have said to some of you already. I was asked to send my detailed analysis of the report to the ACC and before that to their Standing Committee in order that all the falsehoods in the report were made known to ACC committee members beforehand.
I was asked to send copies to the Dean of St. Paul's and the Bishop of Liverpool, which I did, with personal covering letters. I also sent a copy of my report with a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The report is not a political critique of Israeli government policy.
It stands in the line of classic Christian anti-Judaism, the sort which in the past has led to explusions of Jews from their homelands, murders and destruction of Jewish property (including cemeteries). The meeting from which the report derived was held in Jerusalem deliberately at a time of the year when Jews would not be available to put their point of view, i.e. Jewish New Year 2004.
Members of the Jewish community, including myself, had received 'assurances' from members of the Church of England such as Dr. Charles Reed, International Advisor to the Archbishop's Council and European delegate to the Anglican Peace and Justice Network and from Dean John Moses of St. Paul's Cathedral that the outcome would not be unfavourable to the Jewish community.
This has not been the case and the Bishop of Liverpool, who asked for a copy of my assessment, was not even present during the debate.
The Jewish community of Britain constitutes half a per cent of the population. It cannot do anything about this alone. Unfortunately, and in addition, some of our religious leaders appear not to possess the leadership qualities that are necessary to put our case loud and clear.
The fact is that huge numbers of the Jewish community in my area alone are planning to emigrate to Israel because of a number of factors that are also affecting Jews in other parts of Europe, but this latest factor is the most serious of them all.
The Jewish community, unlike others, does not normally like putting its head above the parapet, but this time it is essential.
I was asked in my professional capacity to assess this report. No account can have been taken of my findings.
I repeat: this report is not just a word of sympathy for suffering Christian Palestinians. It is a call for the destruction of the State of Israel. Its language is inflammatory and full of lies. Delegates to this unelected body come from countries such as Burma, whose crucifixion of their own Christian citizens is not even mentioned in the report, which did not only cover the Israel/Palestine situation.
This report and the fact it was not thrown out by the ACC is a wake-up call to Anglicans world-wide to do something. Otherwise the situation for Jewish communities in the diaspora will be dire.
I know that there are many fine Anglicans. I know this because I have taught some of them and they are now in prominent positions in the Church partly because of my teaching. I also know that it is terribly difficult to criticise something so close to you as your own religion.
However, as many of you have already said to me, the APJN is not an elected body and I don't even know if the ACC is either. This is the time to act like the Norwegian church under Hitler, or the Danish people under their King during the Holocaust.
Drop your antipathy to Christian Zionists who you dislike for other reasons and realise that if the ACC gets its way, it is probable, due to Muslim politics in the area, that the Christian Church will die out completely in the area of the 'Holy Land' and - believe me - neither Israel, nor the Jewish communities world wide will welcome this at all.
Dr. Irene Lancaster
Centre for Jewish Studies
University of Manchester
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