The Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign (BIAC) in Vancouver congratulates the United Church of Canada for a strong step forward in support of justice. On Wednesday, August 15 – and re-confirmed on Friday, August 17 – the United Church’s General Council 41 adopted a policy (below) of urging boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements.
” Call on United Church members to take concrete actions to support the end of the occupation by:
a. directing the Executive of the General Council to give high priority to establishing a church-wide campaign of education and 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;
b. identifying the goal of the campaign as building awareness of United Church members of the illegal settlements’ unjust continuation of the occupation and its impact on the lives of Palestinians and Israelis;
c. supporting the campaign through accompanying resources such as this working group report, the Kairos Palestine document, and others that are clearly directed toward an end to the occupation;
d. directing the Executive of the General Council to explore the wisdom of divesting in companies that are profiting from or supporting the occupation;
e. encouraging members of the United Church to avoid any and all products produced in the settlements;
f. requesting that the Canadian government ensure that all products produced in the settlements be labelled clearly and differently from products of Israel;
g. requesting that the Canadian government ensure that products produced in the settlements not be given preferential treatment under the Canada–Israel Free Trade Agreement;
h. inviting the participation of other Canadian churches in the campaign.”
This motion, emerging from years of work by people of conscience within the Church working on Palestine issues, is an important victory toward advancing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and recognition and support of justice for Palestine and the Palestinian people within Canadian churches and popular institutions. BIAC salutes all of the Church organizers and organizers from other groups and organizations, such as Independent Jewish Voices, who worked for years on educational efforts directed at Church members.
It is also worth noting here the efforts of labour activists who have secured a BDS resolution in the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and of student activists who have made Israeli Apartheid Week a fixture at Canadian universities.
This action by the United Church of Canada, Canada’s largest Protestant mainline denomination, follows quickly on the actions of the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA), two large mainline Protestant Christian denominations in the United States, which both adopted boycott motions targeting settlement products at their membership general assemblies in May and July 2012.
The action draws the United Church closer to alignment with the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, targeting Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and international law. The BDS call emerges from all aspects of Palestinian civil society, including Palestinian churches, whose clarion call, the 2009 “Kairos Document“, has been an inspiration and a mandate for Christians of conscience around the world to take action in solidarity with the Palestinian people struggling for freedom.
It should be noted that the United Church of Canada vote came amidst an atmosphere of large-scale fear-mongering and deception promoted by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and similar Zionist organizations, who sought to smear Church organizers as “antisemites” for their work to combat racism and oppression in Palestine. This campaign included numerous lobby efforts targeting the church, massive media exposure, and even statements from nine Canadian senators demanding the Church reject the settlement boycott. It is to the credit of the Church that the settlement boycott motion in fact passed with nearly 80% of the votes present.
We encourage the United Church and its members to continue to work to raise the Church’s voice as a voice for justice in Palestine, and salute the Church and its members for its action to end complicity in the ongoing occupation, oppression and apartheid directed against Palestinians. The United Church was a leading voice in the movement against apartheid in South Africa, and this vote is a crucial victory in the Church’s voice re-emerging as a key voice for justice against apartheid.