Canadian Protestants call for settlement boycott

TORONTO (JTA) – Canada’s largest Protestant denomination is calling for a boycott of goods produced in "illegal" Israeli settlements, including eastern Jerusalem.

In a 26-page report released Tuesday, the United Church of Canada calls for an economic boycott of Israel focused exclusively on settlement products. The report seeks "a church-wide campaign of economic action directed against one or more settlement products that can be identified as produced in or related to the settlements or the occupied territories."

The Church wants "a focused boycott of products that are being created illegally," said the Very Rev. David Giuliano, a former moderator, or head, of the United Church, who chaired the three-member working group that wrote the report.

"To buy settlement products is the same as buying stolen goods; in other words, benefiting from the crime," Giuliano said. He added, however, that "this is not a call for a boycott of Israel or Israeli products."

A prominent Jewish leader charged Tuesday that the United Church has been hijacked by a small group of anti-Israel activists who do not speak for the whole denomination.

"Israel has become an obsession for a small vocal group," Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told the National Post newspaper. "I think frankly it betrays the sensibilities of the vast majority of ordinary members of the United Church."

The report arises from a 12-day visit to Israel in February 2011 in which the working group met with representatives of Palestinian, Israeli,  Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities in Israel and the West Bank. The group concluded "foremost" that the first step to peace is to end Israel’s occupation of territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, including the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

"The occupation is damaging both Palestinians and Israelis," the report states. "The occupation is being implemented by a democratic country and sustained and supported by Western governments, including Canada’s."

The Church advises against applying the term "apartheid" to Israel because it "shuts down conversation, disempowers those who desire and work for change in Israel, and does more to harm than to help the potential for successful peace negotiations."

The report will be considered by the Church’s General Council, which meets in Ottawa in August. Until then, the report is not Church policy.

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