Toronto church to boycott Israeli goods
Toronto Star reports United Church of Canada's Toronto branch to unveil boycott of Israeli products, companies doing business with its military to end what it calls ‘illegal occupation of Palestinian lands’; plan calls on Ottawa to require that products originating in the occupied territories be labeled differently from those coming from the rest of Israel
The United Church of Canada's Toronto branch was set to unveil Wednesday a boycott of Israeli products and companies doing business with its military to end what it calls the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, the Toronto Star reported.
The move comes on the heels of a similar controversial move by the Ontario wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which last month voted to support an international boycott campaign against Israel to protest its treatment of Palestinian refugees.
"We want to commend that position," Frances Combs, co-chair of the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada's task force on Israel was quoted by the Toronto Star as saying.
According to the report, the boycott is being undertaken only by the 300-church Toronto conference of the United Church, not the church as a whole.
‘We affirm the right of Israel to exist’
The Toronto Star said Combs's task force was asked three years ago to devise a plan for implementing a resolution passed by the Toronto conference to pressure Israel to leave the occupied lands. That resolution has never been made public until now.
The plan will call on Ottawa to require that products originating in the occupied territories be labeled differently from those coming from the rest of Israel, the report said, adding that the group will then ask that occupied-territory products be boycotted by church members.
"This is not a boycott against Israel," Combs told the Toronto Star, adding that only occupied-territory products are to be targeted. "We affirm the right of Israel to exist."
According to the report, the group also wants the church and its members to divest from companies supplying the Israeli military, and will be pushing for the church as a whole to adopt similar measures at its general council meeting in Thunder Bay in August.
A 20-page resolution to be debated in Thunder Bay also calls on the church to invest in Palestinian companies, the Toronto Star said.
Bruce Gregersen, who heads international programs at the United Church's national office, told the Toronto Star that the occupation of parts of the West Bank and Gaza since the Six Day War in 1967 has had a destabilizing effect on the entire region.
The church has few investments that would have to be sold off, Gregersen said, since it tends to avoid military suppliers. But a policy of targeting Palestinian companies for investment could have a positive impact on the lives of people in the occupied territories, he told the Toronto Star.