Palestinian Christians have have called for economic sanctions against Israel similar to those imposed against South Africa during the apartheid regime, saying that the churches’ other options for ending Israel’s occupation have been ‘exhausted’.

Palestinian Christians have have called for economic sanctions against Israel similar to those imposed against South Africa during the apartheid regime, saying that the churches’ other options for ending Israel’s occupation have been ‘exhausted’.

The call comes from a Palestinian Christian peace advocacy organization which had released a report in response to recent divestment options being adopted by American and European Christian organizations from companies profiting from Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, including East Jerusalem.

Sabeel, based in Jerusalem and with support groups in the U.S., Canada, and many European countries, advocates ending occupation through nonviolent means and based on international law and existing United Nations resolutions.

The report, ‘A Nonviolent Response to the Occupation: A Call for Morally Responsible Investment’ addresses the legal, moral, and theological foundations for divestment and recommends the model of selective divestment advocated by the Presbyterian Church USA and the World Council of Churches, as well as actions by the Episcopal Church (USA) Social Responsibility in Investments Committee to investigate possible corporate actions.

These and other organizations, including Jewish and Israeli groups working for a just peace between Israel and Palestinians, have advocated various forms of divestment, citing sanctions during the height of apartheid in South Africa when trade and foreign investment actually bolstered the apartheid economy and added to the resources of the apartheid state.

The Rev. Richard Toll, chairman of Friends of Sabeel-North America, said that the necessity to exert economic pressure on the state of Israel has come about after decades of unsuccessful efforts by the international community to get Israel to end its occupation, which is illegal under international law.

He said that Israel has defied United Nations resolutions and the International Court of Justice and has ignored decades of diplomatic efforts by western church leaders calling for an end to the occupation.

“The churches have exhausted all other options with Israel,” said Rev. Toll, stating that Sabeel’s international patron, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has consistently compared the South African apartheid system to Israel’s segmentation of the West Bank and its ‘illegal wall’ being built around Palestinian areas creating prison-like
cantons.

The Sabeel paper cites statements by mainstream American and European church organizations and a growing number of Jewish/Israeli peace organizations formulating positions in support of sanctions against Israel.

It describes the system of “international economic support for the occupation” using the examples of franchises in the occupied territories, military goods, construction materials for illegal settlements and the separation wall. It quotes Israeli human rights lawyer Shamai Leibovitz who states, “As an Israeli thoroughly familiar with Israeli politics, I believe that selective economic pressure is the most effective way to end the brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and bring peace and security to Israelis and Palestinian.”

In a March 16 article appearing in “The Nation” magazine, Leibovitz wrote, “For decades the Israeli army, equipped with US arms and technology, has killed, maimed, beaten and tortured tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians. Clearly, America could have put an end to this.”

The Rev. Canon Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Anglican priest and director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem, is one of the authors of the Sabeel study on church divestment. He said that Christians are called to recognize and name the evils facing the peoples of Israel-Palestine, arguing that “at a minimum we cannot ourselves participate even indirectly in supporting and enabling unjust policies.”

He referred to “ownership responsibility” in which shareholders are the true owners of corporations and as such share responsibility of their actions.

The full statement by Sabeel may be viewed at the website of Friends of Sabeel-North America may be viewed here: http://www.fosna.org/