Dutch Church Group Walks Back Call for EU Sanctions Against Israel

June 12, 2020
GORIZIA, ITALY – MAY 08: The European Union flag flies on the wire mesh that divides Piazza Transalpina (Transalpina Square) on May 8, 2020 in Gorizia, Italy. Piazza Transalpina is a square divided between the municipalities of Gorizia in Italy and Nova Gorica in Slovenia. In 1947, the new border created between Italy and Yugoslavia was traced by dividing the square in two, crossed by the so-called “Muro di Gorizia”. From May 1, 2004, with the entry of Slovenia into the European Union, the wall dividing the square was removed, but from March 11, 2020 the Slovenian government closed its borders with Italy to counter the spread of the coronavirus. A wire mesh has been positioned on the square to delimit the border between Italy and Slovenia, dividing many families, friends and couples. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Following internal debate, a large Dutch church group retracted and apologized for its call for EU sanctions against Israel.

The Council of Churches, an umbrella of 18 churches and denominations, issued its unusual apology in a statement Thursday. The group took back its letter from last month to Foreign Minister Stef Blok urging him to scrap trade deals between the European Union and Israel if Israel applies its civilian laws in West Bank lands, a move some call annexation.

“We’re sorry that the letter brought to the minister’s attention has led to concern and confusion,” the council wrote in the statement.

The letter to Blok was a copy of an open letter published by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, of which the Dutch council is a member.

Had the Dutch Council written its own letter, the retraction read, “it would have conveyed more carefully the ideas we wanted to express.”

“We don’t wish to speak over specific sanctions or penal action, this is the responsibility of the political domain,” the statement said.

Three churches said that Thursday’s statement does not reflect their views. Two had vocally protested the letter to Blok, along with the Christians for Israel group.

The kingdom’s main interfaith organ, the Council of Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Netherlands, in a statement expressed “relief that [the council] successfully found its way back to the middle ground.”

The council’s statement reiterated its concern about what it called Israel’s annexation plans.

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