United Church of Canada poised to approve settlement boycott


Canada’s largest Protestant church stands poised to approve a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements.

Meeting in Ottawa, members of the United Church of Canada’s General Council on Wednesday affirmed a resolution supporting a boycott of goods produced in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

A final vote is scheduled for Friday, when the church’s governing General Council can choose to accept or reject an overall motion that includes recommendations contained in a report on church policy on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

But the tone seems to be set, said church official Bruce Gregersen.

“The mind of the council is pretty clear,” he told Postmedia News. “The main recommendations were approved by a fairly overwhelming vote.”

The key proposal affirmed Wednesday calls on church members “to avoid any and all products produced in the settlements”; requests that the Canadian government ensure that “all products produced in the settlements be labeled clearly and differently from products of Israel”; and requests that products produced in the settlements not be given preferential treatment under the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

The proposal is not anti-Israel, Gregersen said.

“We are solidly behind Israel as a legitimate Jewish state. We don’t want to demonize in any way Israel or Jewish people,” he said. “The problem is the occupation and the settlements.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it was “outraged” at the development.

“This decision represents a radical shift in the United Church’s policies, betrays the views of the vast majority of its members and flies in the face of decades of constructive interfaith dialogue,” a center statement said.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said it is troubled, as well. In a statement, its president and CEO, Avi Benlolo, said that “I don’t know if church members truly understand how utterly offensive and imbalanced this proposal is, or whether a latent anti-Semitism within the church is slowly coming back to life.”

Expert: European governments can legally ban West Bank goods


European governments are fully within their legal rights to boycott products made by Jews in the West Bank, a British legal expert has concluded.

The 60-page opinion by James Crawford, a professor of international law at Cambridge University in Britain, has been shown to senior officials of European Union member states in the past few months, according to the UK Independent, which also saw the opinion.

“[T]here do not appear to be any European Commission laws which could be breached by a member state taking the decision to ban the import of settlement produce on public policy grounds,” Crawford reportedly states in his opinion.

Some EU states are considering measures ranging from relabeling West Bank goods to reflect that they were made in settlements to an outright ban on their import.

The opinion will be published this week by the Trades Union Congress, according to the Independent. The Congress has been working to approve a ban on the purchase of goods produced in the settlements, though it does not support a boycott of Israel as a whole.

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