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Saturday, December 10, 2016
CoE votes to disinvest in firms supporting occupation of Palestinian territories
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¬†Christian peace campaigners are welcoming yesterday's vote by the Church of England's general synod to disinvest church funds from companies profiting from Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. The main target of the plan will be the US earth-moving equipment company Caterpillar which has supplied vehicles used by Israel to demolish Palestinian homes. The vote follows examination by the Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group of whether the shares currently held in Caterpillar were consistent with the Church's ethical investment policy, which prohibits investment in arms companies or companies making 'weapons platforms' such as naval vessels or tanks. The church currently invests about £2.5m of its £900m share portfolio in Caterpillar and had been engaged in negotiations with the company about its activities. Caterpillar insists it has not provided the earth movers directly to Israel but to the US military which sold them on. But Caterpillar was singled out by the United Nations for complicity in human rights abuses. As detailed in War on Want's recent 'alternative report' on Caterpillar, thousands of Palestinian homes and vast swathes of agricultural land have been destroyed by the Israeli military using armoured Caterpillar D9 bulldozers. Caterpillar bulldozers have also been used in the construction of Israel's Separation Wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in July 2004. One of the company's machines killed American peace activist Rachel Corrie two years ago and Christian churches in the USA have also begun discussions over divesting from Caterpillar. On the first day of its meeting in London, the general synod, heard denunciations of Israel's use of the machines from one of its own bishops and from the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, who is Palestinian, whose letter was read out. The Rt Rev John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, who chairs Christian Aid, told the meeting that the problem in the Middle East was the government of Israel rather than Caterpillar but it was vital that the church should invest only in organisations which behaved ethically. Rabbi Jonathan Romain, a spokesman for the Movement for Reform Judaism in the United Kingdom, said the Church of England's vote was "puzzling and annoying, but it's not a Christians-against-Jews issue." "It's the wrong signal at the wrong time, because of the massive changes going on in Israel right now," Rabbi Romain said, alluding to the Palestinian vote for Hamas and the coming Israeli general elections. Michael Whine, defense director for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a representative organization, said, "The vote was simplistic and unbalanced, and fails to take into account the realities of the Middle East and the threat that Israel continues to face from terrorists." But some Jewish groups in the United States and Europe have welcomed the church's decision. "I think it is a powerful message," said Dan Judelson, secretary of European Jews for a Just Peace, which has called for Israel's immediate withdrawal from the occupied territories. "It shows that people are not prepared to lie down and let the issue rest." Sources: Christian Aid/CV
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