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Source: Episcopal Church
World Council of Churches
26 July 2005

WCC leader defends call for action on Israeli divestment

By Chris Herlinger


Tuesday, July 26, 2005
[Ecumenical News International] New York -- The general secretary of the World Council of Churches has defended the church body's recent call that its member denominations consider withdrawing investments from firms profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

"I understand that one is tempted to look upon the [WCC call] as something directed against the very existence of the State of Israel," the Rev. Samuel Kobia said in a 24 July speech in Chicago to the annual conference of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ).

But this was not the case, he said. "The churches are to examine whether they are economically linked to illegal activities in occupied territories, beyond the internationally recognised borders of Israel."

Kobia said the church grouping's call was not an example of anti-Semitism and he said that not every criticism made of Israel and Israeli policies is anti-Semitic. He noted that the WCC had denounced anti-Semitism as a "sin against God and man".

Kobia acknowledged that the WCC move had prompted criticism by US and international Jewish leaders. But he warned against comparing the WCC move with calls for the "boycott of Jewish goods and Jewish persons as in Germany in the 1930s".

The issue of economic pressure to protest against Israeli policies has caused a flurry of controversy in recent months, particularly in the United States.

At its general synod earlier this month, the United Church of Christ approved a resolution calling for "economic leverage" as a way to promote Middle East peace. That followed a move in 2004 by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to initiate what it calls "phased selective divestment" from some businesses in the occupied Palestinian territories. The US Episcopal (Anglican) Church has also said it would review its investments in companies that do business in the region.

In his address, Kobia, a Kenyan Methodist, acknowledged that religious traditions have both "the power to unite and inspire" and also "to divide and destroy". He urged the ICCJ and others of faith to "form new alliances for life that defy the division and conflicts that are a product of globalised injustice in all its many forms".

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