TORONTO (JTA) — Leaders of Canada’s largest Protestant denomination are speaking out against their church’s boycott of products made in Israeli settlements.
“We believe that this decision [to boycott] has damaged relationships that are vital to growing a just peace,” according to the website of United Against Boycott, which represents 47 leaders of the United Church of Canada.
“We commit ourselves to challenging the decision … through the processes of The United Church of Canada,” the website reads. “We will work against the boycott campaign and the other policies including divestment and sanctions against Israel.”
Earlier this month, the church, which claims 2 million adherents, launched its Unsettling Goods campaign against three Israeli companies — Keter Plastic Ltd., SodaStream and Ahava — with factories in the West Bank. Churchgoers were urged not to buy their products and to avoid retailers carrying them.
The boycott “clearly places the weight of responsibility on Israel for the continuation of the conflict and for the impoverished living conditions of the people of Palestine,” say the opponents of the boycott effort.
The Rev. John Joseph Mastandrea, spiritual leader of Toronto’s Metropolitan United Church and chair of Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Toronto, wrote a letter to the church’s moderator, or leader, rejecting the call to boycott and saying it has “significantly damaged Christian-Jewish relations here in Canada, an inevitable consequence of the United Church lending its name to a movement that can only be characterized as anti-Israel.”
Mastandrea told The Canadian Jewish News that the boycott upset him so much, he contemplated rescinding his ordination.
A spokesman for the church moderator, the Right Rev. Gary Paterson, told The Canadian Jewish News that the boycott “is not about Israel” but to show that “the settlement project is diminishing the possibility of peace.”