World Council of Churches Refuses SWC Request To Rescind Israel Divestment Campaign

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Geneva, 24 March 2005

World Council of Churches Refuses SWC Request To Rescind Israel Divestment Campaign

A meeting between the Wiesenthal Center Director for International Liaison, Dr. Shimon Samuels, and senior officials of the World Council of Churches at the WCC's Geneva headquarters, tested the limits of years of interfaith dialogue. While General Secretary, Dr. Samuel Kobia, listed WCC resolutions condemning the Holocaust, antisemitism and recognizing Israel's right to exist, he pointedly stated: "...the need to look wholistically where the WCC is coming from."

Samuels protested the "Certain Economic Measures for Peace in Israel/Palestine" adopted by the WCC Central Committee on 21 February 2005 and published in "WCC Statements, Minutes and Recommendations 15-22 February 2005," calling for:

"...a process of phased, selective divestment from multinational corporations involved in ...the occupation. This action is commendable in both method and manner, uses criteria rooted in faith and calls members to do the 'things that make for peace' (Luke19: 42)."

The Central Committee, meeting in Geneva 15-22 February 2005 therefore:

- "encourages member Churches to work for peace in new ways and to give serious consideration to economic measures... "

- "reminds Churches with investment funds that they have an opportunity to use those fund... economic pressure... is one such means of action."

Samuels recalled the long history of antisemitic boycotts, especially Hitler's "Kaufen Nicht bei Juden" (Do not buy from Jews) campaign and emphasized that divestment was counterproductive as it:

- encourages the rejectionists and terrorists at a time when Israel is taking great risks for peace,

- will cut off those who boycott from path-breaking medical, agricultural and scientific high-tech advances unique to Israel and even high-level data-sharing in cutting-edge counter-terrorism monitoring,

- is disproportionate unless there is also equal divestment from NGO's, charities, banks and state instruments and bonds of countries that finance and incite to terror, hate and violence, especially in the Middle East, and

- damages years of interfaith dialogue (especially in the use of Biblical endorsement (e.g. as above, Luke 19: 42) to sanctify the boycott and places the WCC in the same camp as neo-Nazis and other antisemitic racists.

Kobia responded that "we do not want to jeopardize good working relations [with Jews] over the years" and "we are organizing a major meeting on terrorism in history and theology."

Samuels noted that the WCC's mission statement stresses its role in "seeking reconciliation and peace" and, yet, "...it adopts one-sided statements on 'the Apartheid Wall' to describe Israel's defence barrier and its Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) never meets with Israeli survivors of terrorism or victims' families, or even Israeli Arab Christians subject to Islamist Jihadist menace."

Reverend Ucko, responsible for WCC Inter-Religious Relations and Dialogue, claimed that "to visit survivors of terror would be instrumentalization in using them for an ulterior motive, that is, to mitigate the image of what you [the Jews] perceive as our one-sided document."

Jonathan Frerichs, Program Executive of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, added, "The level of suffering is a good indicator to where injustice is being committed - there is no comparison across the Wall between the suffering" [of Palestinians and Jews].

On the divestment campaign against Israel, General-Secretary Kobia had described the WCC's Central Committee statement as "talking to ourselves," while Reverend Ucko concluded, "If you are asking us to rescind divestment, that we will not!"

Interestingly, the WCC International Affairs, Peace and Human Security pamphlet, entitled "Churches Speaking the Truth to Power" states "In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, clear proposals have been made to promote a comprehensive settlement based on international law and UN resolutions...."  The pamphlet's cover shows an armed Israeli soldier and a Palestinian woman with a walking stick.

"This is a WCC comprehensive settlement campaign based on big lies and boycotts," concluded Samuels.

For further information, please contact Dr. Samuels at +33 6 09 77 01 58.