Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
n Israeli bulldozer demolishes a Palestinian house on the Israeli-Gaza border.
n Israeli bulldozer demolishes a Palestinian house on the Israeli-Gaza border.

Clerics urge church to disinvest from Israel

Christian clerics today demanded that the Church of England honour its commitment to disinvest from Israeli companies operating in the occupied territories.

LONDON // Christian clerics today demanded that the Church of England honour its commitment to disinvest from Israeli companies operating in the occupied territories. More than 20 clerics and theologians, including Alun Morinan, national co-ordinator of the Christian Network's Campaign Against the Arms Trade, signed a letter to be published today in The Guardian newspaper, calling for immediate action.

Amid growing public protests in Britain since the Gaza offensive, including a sit-in at a leading Scottish university and a mass demonstration on Saturday at an Israeli import centre in London, the clerics complain that the General Synod, the ruling body of the Church of England, had done nothing to implement a three-year-old commitment to disinvest. The letter says: "In February, 2006, the Church of England voted at the General Synod to disinvest in companies that operated in the Palestinian occupied territories, saying that there was a need for 'morally responsible investment'.

"This was a highly principled decision by the Synod, one that we totally support. "However, since that resolution was passed, the Church has not acted on that decision and it still remains that the Church of England has investments in companies that profit from the suppression of human rights in the Palestinian occupied territories. "We believe that given the events in Gaza as well as the continued illegal occupation of whole swathes of Palestinian land and the illegal land grabs by settlers, supported by the Israeli government, that the Church of England must make good on its policy of disinvestment and withdraw its investments from those who profit from the misery of millions of Palestinians immediately."

The London-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) applauded the move. Betty Hunter, its general secretary, said the General Synod had taken "a morally courageous decision" to disinvest. "Sadly, three years on and the Church of England retains investments of £2.2 million [Dh12m] in a company, Caterpillar, whose bulldozers and heavy machinery are used to extract the legitimate residents of Palestine to be replaced by illegal settlers.

"I hope that the General Synod will take heed of what their own clergy and congregations are saying and disinvest now." Nobody from the Church of England was available for comment yesterday but, after the General Synod vote, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, appeared to back away from the call to disinvest. Apparently alarmed by the angry reaction of leading Jews in Britain, Dr Williams, who voted in favour of the motion, denied that it was a commitment to disinvest but, rather, "to engage with companies about whom we had concerns".

Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian campaigners in the United Kingdom were celebrating a victory in academia yesterday after a student sit-in in the foyer of Strathclyde University in Glasgow ended when the university authorities agreed to cancel a contract with an Israeli water company. About 40 students took part in the protest, organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, demanding that the university cut all ties with Israel following the Gaza offensive.

The students' demands included the cancellation of a contract with Eden Springs, its main water cooler supplier, and the creation of a scholarship programme for Palestinian students at Strathclyde. The university authorities agreed to both of these demands and also to broadcast an appeal across the campus for funds to help those suffering in Gaza. Danny McGregor, one of the protesters, told yesterday's Scotsman newspaper: "We are happy with what we have achieved. We were in there for 24 hours and we feel we made a lot of progress."

Peter West, the university secretary, said: "The university expresses its deep concern about the plight of the people of Gaza. We are particularly aware that the infrastructure of higher education has been damaged, making it particularly difficult for Palestinian students to pursue their studies. "The university has made a number of undertakings, including supporting its students in their effort to raise funds for the rebuilding of Gaza. In addition, it will create a scholarship scheme for Palestinian students, similar to the scheme already offered to students from Rwanda."

Dr West added that he hoped Strathclyde's actions would "encourage universities across Scotland" to join the scholarships scheme. In London, the Boycott Israeli Goods (Big) campaign organised a demonstration outside the main depot of Carmel Agrexco, the Israeli state export company. Tom Hayes, a spokesman for Big, said: "The aim of the protest was to draw attention to this company's sale of flowers from occupied Palestinian land on Valentine's Day.

"We are asking the British public not to buy bloodstained flowers for their loved ones this year. Following the murder of more than 1,300 people and the maiming of nearly 6,000, the majority women and children, in Gaza, it is vital that we keep in the public consciousness that, by purchasing Israeli goods, they are supporting the slaughter of innocent people." dsapsted@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National