World Council of Churches gives nod to Israeli divestment proposal

From the archive (legacy material)

Stephen Brown | EPISCOPAL NEWS SERVICE | 21 February 2005

The World Council of Churches (WCC) on February 21 urged its members to consider economic measures to oppose Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and praised the action of a U.S. denomination that has started a process of selective divestment from companies linked to the occupation.
“Multinational corporations have been involved in the demolition of Palestinian homes,” the WCC’s main governing body said in a statement adopted during a February 15-22 meeting in Geneva. They “are involved in the construction of settlements and settlement infrastructure on occupied territory, in building a dividing wall which is also largely inside occupied territory, and in other violations of international law.”
The WCC’s central committee commended the action of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in initiating a process of phased, selective divestment from multinational corporations involved in the occupation.
“This action is commendable in both method and manner, uses criteria rooted in faith, and calls members to ‘do the things that make for peace’,” the WCC committee said, referring to a biblical text (Luke 19:42). It encouraged the WCC’s 347 member churches “to give serious consideration to economic measures that are equitable, transparent and non-violent.”
Churches with investment funds had “an opportunity to use those funds responsibly in support of peaceful solutions to conflict”, the WCC central committee noted. “Economic pressure, appropriately and openly applied, is one such means of action.”
Peter Weiderud, director of the WCC’s commission on international relations, said the statement would also be brought to the church grouping’s management in relation to the organization’s own investment funds. “We need to review our policy,” Weiderud told journalists.
“This is about activities related to the illegal occupation of the West Bank and not a general policy with regard to Israel,” Canon Trond Bakkevig, the moderator of the WCC’s public issues committee, said when he presented the statement.
The decision of the U.S. Presbyterian church in July 2004 to start a process of divestment caused a storm of reaction among U.S. Jewish groups and was criticized by some within the denomination itself.
In defending the proposal, Presbyterian officials have said that the denomination has consistently affirmed Israel’s right to security and has condemned terrorist acts against Israel.
The WCC’s governing body reaffirmed an earlier statement by the world church grouping that “criticism of the policies of the Israeli government is not in itself anti-Jewish.” It noted the grouping had called for “effective international guarantees for the political independence and territorial integrity of all nations in the area, including Israel” and had affirmed Israel’s “serious and legitimate security concerns.”