Three years after approving selective boycott of products from Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, The United Church of Canada’s General Council backed away from enacting a church divestment strategy.
Instead, a decision-making commission at the General Council meeting in Corner Brook, N.L., opted to encourage the church to work with Mideast and North American partners to develop “a program of education and advocacy . . . related to divestment from and economic sanctions against all corporations and institutions complicit in or benefiting from the illegal occupation.”
The church, its foundation and $1-billion pension fund will also be encouraged — but not directed — to divest.
The motion also called for education about Israel-based tourism operations that focus on the area’s religious history but ignore the current turmoil. That approach, says the motion, “bolsters the oppression of Palestinians.”
Rev. Steven Berube, of Riverview, N.B., who recently served in an ecumenical accompaniment program in the occupied West Bank, told commissioners he hopes “that people would not just engage with the dead stones of the buildings and cathedrals, but the living stones — the people who are living there today.”
Faced with reports from church partners in the region that a two-state solution may no longer be feasible because of ever-expanding Israeli settlements, the commission also passed a motion “affirming the right of self-determination for Palestinians and Israelis,” adding that “any choice regarding statehood must be made by the people living in Israel-Palestine.”
A motion was also passed asking church staff to develop a list of organizations in Canada and in Israel/Palestine that are fostering trusting relationships between and among the various stakeholder communities, both within Canada and abroad.
The list is intended to help church people take on more relationship-building work themselves.
Mike Milne is The Observer’s senior writer.