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Pax Christi Supports Divestment from Israel

Christian Peace Group Supports Divestment from Israel

The 10th anniversary assembly of Pax Christi Aotearoa-New Zealand, held in Auckland on 1-2 October, endorsed the Anglican Peace and Justice Networks and Presbyterian Church of the United States in their recent call for divestment in Israel modelled on the popular boycott of apartheid South Africa.

“We are constantly reminded by the current President of Pax Christi International, Michel Sabbah, who is also Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, of the suffering of his Palestinian people”, said Kevin McBride, national coordinator of Pax Christi Aotearoa-NZ.

“We haven’t always known how to intervene from this distance but this initiative gives us a very concrete means of response. Hopefully, it will go some way to awakening the Israeli government to the folly of their current policy and contribute towards the cessation of violence and a negotiated and lasting peace.”

Initiators of the campaign were inspired by the boycott of South Africa which is credited with bringing about the end of its apartheid regime.

The Pax Christi assembly will also call on the Catholic Church of New Zealand and its members and all other New Zealand faith groups to endorse this divestment initiative.

A full copy of a Guardian article outlining the project follows:

Anglican group calls for Israel sanctions

An influential Anglican group is to ask church leaders to impose a boycott of Israel and firms that do business there in protest at the occupation.

The call, by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, comes amid growing concern in Israel at rising support among churches, universities and trade unions in the west for a divestment campaign modelled on the popular boycott of apartheid South Africa.

In July, the Presbyterian church in the US became the first major denomination to agree a formal boycott of Israel.

The network said it would press leaders of the 75 million Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide to impose sanctions on Israel after an eight-day visit to the occupied territories.

The leader of the group, Jenny Te Paa, said the delegation from Anglican churches across the globe was so shocked by the plight of the Palestinians, including the construction of the concrete and steel barrier through the West Bank, that there was strong support for a boycott.

"There was no question that there has to be a very serious kind of sanction in order to get the world to see that at least one major church institution is taking very, very seriously its moral responsibility," she said.

"It happened in South Africa, and in South Africa the boycott had an effect. Everybody said it wouldn't work and it did work. So here we are taking on one of most wealthy and incredibly powerful nations, supported by the US. That's the Christian call."

The network is to recommend the boycott to the church's decision-making body, the Anglican consultative council, in Wales, in June. The group will also make the case that divestment is a "moral imperative" to a meeting of Anglican archbishops in London in February.

Ms Te Paa said the network had influence within the Anglican community and that she believed the consultative council would agree to a boycott of Israel.

In July, the general assembly of the Presbyterian church in the US, which has 3 million members, voted overwhelmingly for a boycott of Israel. Some Scandinavian churches are also pressing for a boycott of Israeli goods.

The Israeli government is increasingly concerned about the prospect of popular boycotts. It believes there is little prospect of the US or European governments endorsing sanctions, but it recognises growing support among some religious organisations, and in the academic world and trade unions, for organised action against the occupation.

A campaign by British academics for a boycott of Israeli universities drew a furious reaction, including accusations of anti-semitism.

Israeli universities have called it an "unwarranted attack on Israeli academic freedom".

Supporters of the protest say the Israeli occupation, including military checkpoints and curfews, places great restrictions on Palestinians' academic freedom.

Dozens of professors at prestigious American universities, including Princeton and Harvard, have signed a petition calling for an end to US military aid to Israel and for their universities to divest from firms doing business there.

Among the targets would be Israeli products such as fruit, shops that do business there and companies such as Caterpillar, which sells the bulldozers used by the army to destroy Palestinian homes.

"I hope that even by mentioning that we could call for this it would serve as an invitation for dialogue with the Israeli government," said Ms Te Paa.

"If it doesn't happen I think divestment can mean anything from having the list of stores [to boycott] to very significant withdrawal of investment from Israel."

[Chris McGreal in Jerusalem, Friday September 24, 2004 – “The Guardian”]

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