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United Church poised for final vote on boycotting products from Israeli settlements (NATIONAL POST) Natalie Stechyson, Postmedia News OTTAWA, CANADA 08/16/12)Source: http://life.nationalpost.com/2012/08/15/united-church-poised-for-final-vote-on-boycotting-products-from-israeli-settlements/ NATIONAL POST NATIONAL POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
OTTAWA — The General Council of Canada’s largest Protestant denomination has all but approved a resolution that calls for a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements.

The United Church of Canada on Wednesday affirmed key parts of the recommendations in a report that proposes several courses of action for the church toward the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

A final vote is now scheduled for Friday, when the General Council can choose to accept or reject an overall motion that includes those recommendations. Church commissioners have debated and amended the resolution over the last two days at the 41st General Council in Ottawa.

But the tone seems to be set, said Bruce Gregersen, the senior program officer at the United Church.

“The mind of the council is pretty clear. The main recommendations were approved by a fairly overwhelming vote,” Gregersen said.

The proposal, from the Working Group on Israel/Palestine Policy, is one of about 130 proposals commissioners have been discussing this week. The General Council meets every three years to elect a new church moderator and approve new policies.

This particular proposal calls for the United Church of Canada to continue to identify the end of the Israeli occupation as necessary for peace in the region, calls on Israel to dismantle settlements within the occupied territories, and urged the Canadian government to “provide leadership among nations advocating for the end of the occupation.”

The proposal also calls on United Church members “to avoid any and all products produced in the settlements,” requests that the Canadian government ensure that “all products produced in the settlements be labelled clearly and differently from products of Israel,” and requests that the products produced in the settlements not be given preferential treatment under the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

The proposal also invites other Canadian churches to participate in the campaign.

“The working group’s desire is that the United Church be able to contribute, even in a small way, to justice that leads to peace in Israel/Palestine,” the report of the working group said.

The proposal is not anti-Israel, Gregersen said.

“We are solidly behind Israel as a legitimate Jewish State. We don’t want to demonize in any way Israel or Jewish people,” he said. “The problem is the occupation and the settlements.”

The Jewish human rights group, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, released a statement that it supported the report.

But Shimon Koffler Fogel, the Chief Executive Officer of The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, called the report an outrage, saying that it flies in the face of critical thinking on complex issues.

“It singles out Israel in a way that is so fundamentally unhelpful that there is nothing redeeming in this set of resolutions that they’ve supported today,” Fogel said.

“In undertaking this action, the United Church has absolutely disqualified itself from playing a constructive role in advancing peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.”

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said they were troubled and saddened.

“I don’t know if church members truly understand how utterly offensive and imbalanced this proposal is, or whether a latent anti- Semitism within the church is slowly coming back to life,” said Avi Benlolo, president and CEO, in a statement. (© 2012 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. 08/16/12)

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