A United Church report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is calling for a boycott of goods produced in Israel’s controversial settlements, including East Jerusalem.
Rev. Bruce Gregersen, the United Church’s senior program officer, told Postmedia News a proposed “economic boycott” of goods produced by settlements is calling attention to oppression and injustice toward Palestinians because of Israeli policies.
“Buying products produced in the settlements is … like buying stolen goods,” he said, also labelling the settlements as illegal.
However, he emphasized that the report is not calling for a comprehensive boycott of Israel or all goods made or sold there.
The report is not yet part of church policy. It will be considered by the denomination’s 41st General Council, which meets in Ottawa this August.
Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said the report misconstrues that the settlements are the root cause of the long-standing conflict.
“The root cause is not Israel’s presence but the rejection of Israel’s presence in the territories,” he said.
The report doesn’t help bring about peace and reconciliation, he said, calling it offensive and simplistic.
“What it does is give oxygen to those seeking to isolate and demonize Israel in the international community,” Fogel said.
The report’s description of the Holocaust as the “denial of human dignity to Jews” is “obscene,” he said, “in light of the real effect of the Holocaust, which was the decimation of Jewish communities of Europe to the tune of 6 million souls.”
Fogel said its description was not unintentional because the authors were seeking to “draw a parallel between the Jewish experience during the Holocaust and the Palestinian experience within the Modern Age.”
“That, too, is an example of moral equivalence that is just, from our perspective, intolerable.”
Also, Fogel questioned why the threat faced by Christians in other countries, including in the Middle East, was not being dealt with by the group. Gregersen responded that the United Church has paid attention to the plight of other vulnerable communities, such as in Sudan, in the past, although there are no current campaigns as prominent as the one on Israel.
“What is important is that international law counts for something and as long as Israel is excused for … its oppressive behaviour in the West Bank and the Palestinian territories, then what right do we have to criticize others as well?”