Sun, Sep 26, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Anglican group promotes boycott of Israel, firms

THE GUARDIAN , JERUSALEM

An influential Anglican group is to ask church leaders to impose a boycott of Israel and firms that do business there to protest the occupation of Palestinian areas.

The Anglican Peace and Justice Network's call comes amid growing concern in Israel at rising support among churches, universities and trade unions in the west for a divestment campaign like the boycott of apartheid South Africa.

In July, the US Presbyterian Church became the first major denomination to agree on a formal boycott of Israel.

Following an eight-day visit to the occupied territories, the network said it would press leaders of the 75 million Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide to impose sanctions on Israel.

The leader of the group, Jenny Te Paa, said the delegation from Anglican churches across the globe was so shocked by the plight of the Palestinians, including the construction of the concrete and steel barrier through the West Bank, that there was support for a boycott.

"There was no question that there has to be a very serious kind of sanction in order to get the world to see that at least one major church institution is taking very, very seriously its moral responsibility," she said.

"It happened in South Africa, and in South Africa the boycott had an effect. Everybody said it wouldn't work and it did work. So here we are taking on one of most wealthy and incredibly powerful nations supported by the US. That's the Christian call."

The network is to recommend the boycott to the church's decision-making body in Wales in June.

The group will also make the case that divestment is a "moral imperative" to a meeting of archbish-ops in London in February. Te Paa said she believed the consultative council would agree to a boycott.

In July, the general assembly of the US Presbyterian Church, which has 3 million members, voted overwhelmingly for a boycott of Israel. Some Scandinavian churches are also pressing for a boycott.

The Israeli government is increasingly concerned about the prospect of popular boycotts. It believes there is little prospect of the US or European governments endorsing sanctions, but it recognizes growing support among religious groups and in the academic world and trade unions for organized action against the occupation.

A campaign by British academics for a boycott of Israeli universities drew a furious reaction. Israeli universities have called it an "unwarranted attack on Israeli academ-ic freedom." Supporters of the protest say the Israeli occupation, including checkpoints and curfews, places restrictions on Palestinians' academic and other freedoms.

Dozens of professors at prestigious American universities have signed a petition calling for an end to US military aid to Israel and for their universities to divest from firms doing business there. Among the targets would be Israeli products, shops that do business there and companies such as Caterpillar, which sells the bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes.

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