Ahead of General Convention this summer in Salt Lake City, a newly formed group within the Episcopal Church, The Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine, has issued a statement and resolution calling for the Episcopal Church to employ boycott, divestment, and sanction tools for nonviolent peacemaking. The committee cites Israel’s decades old policy of occupying Palestinian lands, repeated human rights violations, and the most recent failure of the US-sponsored peace process in their writing. Mondoweiss, a news website that covers American foreign policy in the Middle East, primarily from a progressive Jewish perspective, has the story:
As a church we have consistently opposed the occupation, said Reverend Canon Gary Commins, DD, Deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Los Angeles, past chair of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, former Chair of the Episcopal Service Corps, and one of the authors of the statement. “At the present time, we may be complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. The time has long passed when the Episcopal Church must recognize this. The time is now for us to truly respect the dignity of every human being, including Palestinians.”
Noting the changes that have occurred since the church’s Executive Council called for constructive engagement with such companies in 2005, including the collapse of the US-sponsored peace process last year due mainly to Israeli settlement construction, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent pledge never to allow the creation of a Palestinian state, the statement urges church members to take a moral stand, following in the footsteps of our brothers and sisters in other mainline churches such as the Presbyterians and United Methodists, who have adopted boycott and divestment initiatives targeting Israel’s nearly half-century-old occupation of Palestinian lands. The statement reads in part:
“At this juncture, in this new landscape, our purpose is to help end the occupation and to assure civil rights and equality for all the peoples of Israel and Palestine. The Church’s approach should be straightforward: boycott, divestment, and sanctions are tools of nonviolent peacemaking that put the weight of our corporate dollars behind our commitment to justice. The Church’s financial portfolio can again be used as an instrument of political change. And it can help to break the stalemate while illuminating the ways that America otherwise enables a brutal status quo.”
The statement also includes a resolution calling on the General Convention to institute a process for being socially responsible with its investments related to companies that undergird the infrastructure of Israel’s occupation.
Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, has written a statement in support of the goals for this group and for using boycott, divestment, and sanction tools for peacemaking in Israel and Palestine:
I understand the enormous burden western Christians carry for the many centuries of anti-Semitic behavior towards our Jewish sisters and brothers. It is a dreadful record which will require years of healing and reconciling work to fully overcome. But I must point out to you quite emphatically that the injustices borne by Jewish people in Europe and later the United States cannot be corrected at the expense of another injustice perpetrated against the Palestinian people. Why should the Palestinians be the bearers of the sins of western complicity in anti-Semitism and the Holocaust? Your rightful initiative to reconcile with the Jewish people should not come with a blind eye for the inhumane policies inflicted by the state of Israel on the Palestinians. I therefore commend this paper that has been prepared by thoughtful Episcopalians who recognize your own country’s complicity in Palestinian suffering under occupation, and of your investments that undergird that suffering. Please read and study it carefully. I fully endorse it. You proved with us in South Africa that only economic pressure could force the powerful to the table. As you have courageously done before, may you once again witness to the cause of Christ’s justice to free the oppressed and by so doing to liberate the oppressor so that these two peoples can finally be reconciled and live together in dignity, security and peace. God bless you all as you as a Church wrestle to discern what God requires of you in this hour. With a heart full of love to a people I will always embrace, I am Yours faithfully,
+Desmond Archbishop Emeritus Cape Town