Jewish and Israeli groups have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury, backing the call by the Church of England’s General Synod to disinvest church funds from companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.


Jewish and Israeli groups have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury, backing the call by the Church of England’s General Synod to disinvest church funds from companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.

In a letter seen by Ekklesia, and dated yesterday (15th March) the 16 groups assert that sanctions against the Occupation have a ‘solid moral foundation’ and urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to have the ‘moral strength’ not to back down from supporting the Synod’s decision.

The motion, which was passed by the Church’s ‘Parliament’ at the beginning of February provoked outcry from the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, as well as a group of Conservative MPs who accused Synod of being ‘politically motivated’.

In what was seen by many in a snub to Synod however, the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) subsequently said it would not recommend disinvestment, most notably from the controversial US company Caterpillar.

In yesterday’s letter to Rowan Williams however, Jewish and Israeli groups say that they deplore those who have labelled Synod ‘anti-Semitic’ for their decision. They also express their hope that the ‘unfortunate’ decision by the EIAG will not undo the resolution that Synod made.

The letter states; “We, the undersigned representatives of Israeli and Jewish organizations, have witnessed the Occupation first hand. In our view, Israel’s Occupation and settlement policies stem more from territorial claims than from genuine concerns of security, which can only be addressed through a complete end to the Occupation and peace with the Palestinians. Of the 12,000 Palestinian homes demolished by Israel in the Occupied Territories since 1967, less than 5% were demolished for security reasons (and even then we oppose demolition as a form of collective punishment, illegal under international law). In 95% of the cases the families involved were completely innocent of any security offence and were never even accused of or charged with any offence.

“We therefore extend to you and the Church of England our unreserved support of the synod’s call to disinvest from Caterpillar and other companies profiting from the Occupation. This is an entirely appropriate moral stand for civil society to take.”

The letter asserts that Caterpillar custom-makes its massive D-9 and D-10 bulldozers for the express purpose of demolishing Palestinian homes, and that these machines are sold to Israel as military equipment.

The letter further highlights that the demolition of Palestinian homes is prohibited by international law and that the Fourth Geneva Convention requires an occupying power to protect the well-being of vulnerable civilians under its control, and forbids collective punishment.

“In light of the ongoing and extremely severe human rights violations committed by the Israeli government in the Occupied Territories,” the letter continues, “we believe that sanctions against the Occupation have a solid moral foundation. We can only hope that with your support the decision of the Synod to endorse divestment will not be undone by the unfortunate decision of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group.

“As Israelis and Jews, we also deplore the statements of those who have labelled the synod members, including yourself, as anti-Semitic. It is inconceivable to us – indeed, we find it grotesque – that Jews who have suffered displacement and exile could possibly defend the demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes or any aspect of the Occupation.

“We hope they come to understand that the Occupation threatens to destroy the entire moral fabric of the Jewish community, in Israel as well as in the Diaspora. We hope that the call of your Church for divestment in Caterpillar will resonate with the Prophetic tradition of our own people, so that the leaders of British Jewry will join with your initiative. What unites us is the understanding that either Israelis and Palestinians achieve a just peace or both peoples continue their downward spiral into violence and suffering. Your call for divestment in companies profiting from the Occupation represents an important brake on that downward spiral.”

The letter is signed by Paula Abrams-Hourani, European Jews for a Just Peace; Gaby Belz, Just Peace Between Israel and Palestine (Switzerland) Paola Canarutto, Rete-ECO (Italy) Liliane Cordova Kaczerginski, Union Juive Francaise pour la paix; Jeff Halper, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) Abe Hayeem, Just Peace (UK) Ruth Hiller, New Profile (Israel) Dan Judelson, European Jews for a Just Peace; Richard Kuper, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (UK) Vivien Lichtenstein, Joint Action for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (UK) Orna Neumann, ICAHD UK; Rachel Ostrowitz, Noga Feminist Magazine (Israel) Mitchell Plitnick, Jewish Voice for Peace (US) Fanny-Michaela Reisin, European Jews for a Just Peace – Germany Gila Svirsky, Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel) Sergio Yahni, The Alternative Information Center (Israel).