United Church of Canada poised to approve settlement boycott

TORONTO (JTA) — Canada’s largest Protestant church stands poised to approve a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements.

Meeting in Ottawa, members of the United Church of Canada’s General Council on Wednesday affirmed a resolution supporting a boycott of goods produced in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

A final vote is scheduled for Friday, when the church’s governing General Council can choose to accept or reject an overall motion that includes recommendations contained in a report on church policy on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

But the tone seems to be set, said church official Bruce Gregersen.

"The mind of the council is pretty clear," he told Postmedia News. "The main recommendations were approved by a fairly overwhelming vote."

The key proposal affirmed Wednesday calls on church members "to avoid any and all products produced in the settlements"; requests that the Canadian government ensure that "all products produced in the settlements be labeled clearly and differently from products of Israel"; and requests that products produced in the settlements not be given preferential treatment under the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

The proposal is not anti-Israel, Gregersen said.

"We are solidly behind Israel as a legitimate Jewish state. We don’t want to demonize in any way Israel or Jewish people," he said. "The problem is the occupation and the settlements."

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it was "outraged" at the development.

"This decision represents a radical shift in the United Church’s policies, betrays the views of the vast majority of its members and flies in the face of decades of constructive interfaith dialogue," a center statement said.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said it is troubled, as well. In a statement, its president and CEO, Avi Benlolo, said that "I don’t know if church members truly understand how utterly offensive and imbalanced this proposal is, or whether a latent anti-Semitism within the church is slowly coming back to life."

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