by Ruth Gledhill | Times On Line | May 28, 2005
THE Anglican Church is to consider a report calling for it to dispose of its holdings in companies doing business with Israelis who “support the occupation of Palestinian lands”.
The report calling for disinvestment is to be debated by the worldwide Anglican Church in Nottingham on June 22. It mirrors a programme already begun by the Presbyterian Church in the US.
It would be unprecedented for the Anglican Consultative Council to reject the report.Once it has been accepted, the Church’s 38 provinces worldwide will be asked to implement it.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has been consulted about the plan.
Canon Brian Grieves, the US church’s representative on the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, which drew up the report, said that the aim was to “engage” with companies doing business in Israel.
Canon Grieves said: “If we discovered, for example, that we owned stock in a fast-food chain doing business in one of the settlements, the first appeal would be to encourage that company to move itself out of the settlement. Divestment would be a last resort.”
The 35-page report could not come at a more sensitive time. A boycott of two Israeli universities by the Association of University Teachers was rescinded only this week.
This month the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group, which guides the Church on where to place its £4 billion holdings, turned down calls to withdraw investment from the Caterpillar group after lobbying from Jewish and pro-Palestinian groups. Caterpillar bulldozers are used in clearance projects in Israel.
The report was condemned by Britain’s Jewish community last night. Irene Lancaster, a research fellow at the Centre for Jewish Studies at Manchester University and the author of Deconstructing the Bible, described it as “crass, one-sided and anti-Semitic”. She said: “The document is full of innuendo and supercessionist language and aims to separate Jew from Jew in Israel, which is a very common phenomenon in Jewish history.”
The Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, intends to make the “strongest representations” to Anglican bishops about the report. Rabbi Barry Marcus, his spokesman on Israel, said: “It does not reflect the present reality. The Israeli Government has recognised the prospect of a Palestinian state, announced that it intends to disengage from Gaza and has committed itself to the ‘road map’.
“Any move towards divestment is wrong in principle, and will be seen as discouraging the momentum in Israel towards a peaceful resolution.”
Church of England leaders are understood to be concerned at the damage that could be done to Jewish-Christian relations. “If I were reading this from a Jewish perspective I would say this report is calling for disinvestment,” a senior insider said. “I would say the same thing if I were coming from a pro-Palestinian perspective. I cannot see the Church of England adopting a policy of disinvestment.
“We will use the bureaucratic process to tie this report up to the extent that it will never see the light of day.”