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Canadian church group rejects Israel boycott

TORONTO (JTA) — Canada’s largest Protestant denomination rejected a series of resolutions calling for a boycott of Israel.

Delegates of the United Church of Canada, meeting in British Columbia, voted Aug. 13 against three measures that would have ended trade, cultural and academic ties with Israel. The resolutions also called for financial divestment and sanctions.

Canadian Jewish groups had described the proposed resolutions as anti-Semitic.

Earlier, the delegates in Kelowna repudiated background material on one resolution that claimed some politicians are dual Canadian-Israeli citizens and therefore could have questionable loyalties. The material also said members of Parliament have taken Israeli-sponsored junkets, "which might be called bribes."

We have "not begun or approved a boycott on a national level," United Church spokesman Bruce Gregersen told the Canadian Press. But he added that individual churches and members are encouraged to "undertake their own initiatives, which may include economic boycotts." 

The CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie Farber, who attended the annual meeting, commended the church for rejecting the "misguided and destructive" proposals. He said they were aimed at isolating and excluding Israel on the international stage.

"We are quite relieved and quite pleased," Farber told CBC News. "The council understood it needed to be inclusive, not exclusive, and a boycott is exclusive by nature."

The CJC had warned that passage of the resolutions would cause "irreparable" harm between the church and the Jewish community. B’nai Brith Canada had called the resolutions an "obscene gesture."

Now, Farber said, the two parties will continue their working relationship.

"It gives us really a basis for further discussion," he told the Canadian Press.

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