The Australian Council of Churches suggests Israeli boycott

July 25, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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The National Council of Churches in Australia has asked its members to consider boycotting Israeli goods made in the Occupied Territories…and received an immediate response from The Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

In a media release the Council said:

“During its 7th triennial Forum last week, the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) announced it will continue to add its voice to the call for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and condemning all acts of terrorism.

In solidarity with Palestinian Christians, the NCCA asks its member Churches and the wider Australian community to consider a boycott of goods produced by Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Rev Tara Curlewis, General Secretary of the NCCA said “We are asking the member Churches of the NCCA to consider boycotting particular goods produced in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It is hoped that such actions will liberate the people from an experience of injustice to one where a just and definitive peace may be reached.”

In a motion moved by the Uniting Church and seconded by the Anglican Church, Israel and Palestine’s right to exist within secure internationally recognised borders was affirmed.

The motion noted that there must be an early end to the occupation of Palestine through freely and peacefully negotiated solutions in accordance with international law and United Nations resolutions.

Rev Curlewis said, “The NCCA welcomes the easing of the Israeli blockade of Gaza in recent days and calls for an immediate end to the blockade. The NCCA will stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and act for an end to the injustice and suffering borne by the people”.

Rev Curlewis will convey these resolutions to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, members of Federal Parliament, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils among other interest groups.

The NCCA’s aid agency, Act for Peace, will continue to encourage churches around Australia to assist ongoing actions on the boycott and support advocacy initiatives calling for a just peace as all parties work toward an end to the conflict.”

The National Council of Churches constituent members include the Anglican, Antiochian Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Assyrian, Chinese Methodist, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Indian Orthodox, Lutheran, Mar Thoma, Quaker, Roman Catholic, Romanian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Uniting Churches…and the Salvation Army.

The ECAJ responded through a letter from its president, Robert Goot in which he wrote:

“Re: Resolution of NCCA 7th Forum 9-13 July 2010 concerning ‘Palestine & Israel’

I acknowledge receipt of your email dated 20 July 2010 and the two documents attached to it, the contents of which came as a complete and most unpleasant surprise.

We are astounded that despite a long-standing dialogue partnership between our two organisations, and between our organisation and many of your constituents, you nevertheless saw fit to pass the above-mentioned resolution without giving us any notice whatsoever that you were proposing to do so, and without at least giving our community an opportunity to be heard on the matter as a part of your deliberations.

It would defy credulity to suggest that these omissions were merely an oversight on your part.  As recently as last month we exchanged correspondence with your President, the Most Reverend Michael Putney, in which we provided a detailed critique of a similar resolution which had been passed by Queensland Churches Together (again, without the slightest attempt having been made by them to hear the other side of the argument).

At your written invitation, one of the ECAJ’s Vice Presidents, Dr Anita Shroot, attended the NCCA Forum on 10 July 2010 to convey a message of goodwill to our Christian friends on behalf of our organisation and the Jewish community. With the appearance at your forum of a representative of the Jewish community fresh in your memory, how could it not have occurred to you before passing the resolution in question to let us know what you were proposing to do and to give us an opportunity to be heard?  Elementary fairness demanded no less.  Try to imagine your own feelings if the situation had been reversed.

That brings me to the text of the resolution.  I note that, inter alia, it calls on member churches of the NCCA to “consider” boycotting certain Israeli products.  Asking people to “consider” an issue usually means asking them to weigh arguments both for and against a particular viewpoint.  We therefore assume that you are encouraging member churches also to hear arguments against a boycott, and not only arguments in favour.

In an article published yesterday, world-renowned Biblical scholar, Professor Amy-Jill Levine, characterised the Kairos document, on which your resolution is expressly based, as “a failure of moral witness”.  I would add that your resolution’s simplistic call for “an immediate end to the blockade” of Gaza, if implemented, would result in a renewal of weapons shipments to Gaza into the hands of Hamas which is committed to the destruction of Israel and the further shedding of blood, which will be on the hands of those who urge such a policy.

Tara, we feel that we have been badly let down by people we have long thought of as our friends. The NCCA’s unthinking and ill-considered resolution has revived painful memories for Jews in Australia of earlier times in Europe when Churches allowed themselves to be swept up in the tide of popular prejudices against the Jewish people.

I now formally request an opportunity to present a detailed critique of the resolution to the Executive of the NCCA and look forward to your early reply.”

Peter Werthem, Executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry told J-Wire: “More than 22,000 Palestinians are employed in Israeli settlements.  An independent poll conducted in June among 1270 Palestinians interviewed face to face in 127 randomly selected locations found that while a majority of 72% support and 26% oppose a boycott of settlements’ products, only 38% of them supported, and 60% opposed, preventing Palestinian laborers from working in settlements.  The poll was carried out by the authoritative Palestinian Center for Policy Survey Research, based in Ramallah. The margin of error was 3%.   The Palestinians, or at least those who were polled, thus seem to be suffering from a severe bout of cognitive dissonance.  They want to put the Israeli settlements out of business without losing their jobs in those settlements.  The ambivalence of their feelings seems to be way over the heads of Australian proponents of a boycott.”


14 Responses to “The Australian Council of Churches suggests Israeli boycott”
  1. Eleonora says:

    Comments from Richard ben Serai, Rita Liddle and David Singer say it all very well. STanding ovation. Did you know that the University of New Castle is also boycotting Israel?
    I recently watched DVD’s of the World Council of Churches seminar that was held in Bethlehem 2012. (They are available through Manna International in Sydney.) So I guess this article doesn’t surprise me, but it makes me mad to put it nicely. Perhaps the Australian Council of Churches will print a list of all the products they want to boycott so the rest of us can buy them. I’d hate to put the Australian farmers out, but if I could, I’d only buy Israeli goods.
    Thank God not all Christians feel this way.

  2. Shaz Rooney says:

    I am a bible believing Christian and a supporter of the people and nation of Israel.
    Jewish Australians, please do not get sucked into thinking that all Christians and all Australian Christian churches are anti-Israel for in my sphere of influence, that is clearly not the case. I attend a thriving church and we as a church are actively involved in the support of the people of Israel.
    A Chrisitian believer acknowledges the significance of Israel to us, and knows when you curse Israel you shoot yourself in the foot; so, to those people in high places within the NCCA – be very careful in how you represent my God on this matter, for historically too much is done in God’s name when He had nothing to do with it – and in this case I don’t believe He is for this motion.
    Ephesians chapter 2 in the bible accounts for the basis of some of my thinking. Check it out.

  3. Richard ben Serai says:

    For those silly Christian Churches who advocate a boycott of goods made in the so-called ‘occupied territories’, I suggest you send your representatives to these areas and see how much harm such a boycott would do to those whom you claim to be trying to assist. The working and non-political Palestinians who just want a peaceful and productive life are very happy to work with Jews and Israelis for mutual benefit. There are no ‘occupied territories’, if you put this criteria down as a factor, then the world must boycott all Australian goods and products, because Australia is an occupied land, ask any Aboriginal person! Wake up you silly people! Answer this question: was it not the fact that for so many years the Council of Churches was run bu the Soviet Union, you should know that.

  4. Lynne Newington says:

    Rita, I’m a gentile of little consequence but I do speak up where I see an opportunity when ever or whoever. I sometimes wonder why I don’t hear other Jewish voices but then I realize we have to learn to live together in harmony.
    I’m afraid I’m no good at compromising.

  5. Rita Liddle says:

    “…My question to The Australian Council of Churches: “why you are not taking any actions in bycotting the products of countries like: Iraq, Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan, Indonesia…etc, where thousands of Assyrians, Copts, South Sudaness and other Christians are killed, slaughtered like sheep, abducted, and the Churches are burned distroyed, or converted into mosques?”…”

    Very justified question. My tentative answer to that would be that the Jewish people are a traditional scapegoat for the haters, the cowardly and the herd.

  6. Rita Liddle says:

    Shame on the Council of Churches!!!! Pfui !

    Shades of the vilification of Jews during that not so long ago dark period in my native Germany, and even further back, when the anti-semitism was expressed in “the Jews killed Jesus” argument.

    Melanie Phillips in her excellent book (*) put it this way:

    “…Antisemitism has simply mutated from prejudice against Jews as people to prejudice against Jews as A people. First, theological antisemitism wanted the Jewish religion to disappear; then racial antisemitism wanted the Jews themselves do disappear; now the latest mutation wants the Jewish state to disappear…”

    I am not Jewish, but a German born lapsed Catholic.

    (*) This book “The World Upside Down” has the very best analysis of the misrepresentation of Israel and the Jewish people, I have ever read !

  7. Lynne Newington says:

    The president of the Executive Council of Jewry Robert Groot will no doubt
    be “pleasantly surprised” due to the National Council of Churches attempting to restore the rift after caused, after they misguidedly called upon all Australians to boycott goods made in Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories.
    The fact it was a Catholic Bishop spokes person made it all the more politically insensitive, considering the Vaticans endeavours to gain benefits in the Holy Land.
    Rome would not be pleased.

  8. admin says:

    they are arranging a meeting

  9. Kate Mannix says:

    Does anyone know if any members of the NCCA have responded in any way to their call for a boycott?

  10. Marianne Dacy says:

    I am angered and saddened by the NCCA boycott. It is hardly an action of ‘tikkun olam’ of healing the world, or a movement to promote peace and reconciliation, and reflects a very one sided view.

  11. david singer says:

    Does the Australian Council of Churches understand that Jews are entitled in international law to settle in the West Bank pursuant to Article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and Article 80 of the United Nations Charter?

    Does the Australian Council of Churches realize that Jews settled and lived in the West Bank pursuant to the above laws until they were driven out from their homes there by six invading Arab armies in 1948?

    Does the Australian Council of Churches understand that the West Bank is “no man’s land” where sovereignty remains undetermined, unresolved and in dispute between Arabs and Jews for the last 62 years?

    Proceeding with the passing of such a resolution without affording the ECAJ an opportunity to state its case reflects badly on the Council’s even handedness and sense of natural justice. It sets back the trust and co-operation built up over many years between the ACC and ECAJ.

    It is a shameful decision that hopefully will be rescinded.

  12. B. Benjamin says:

    I was shoked to read that The Australian Council of Churches has suggested to bycott the Israeli goods made in the Occupied Territories.
    My question to The Australian Council of Churches: “why you are not taking any actions in bycotting the products of countries like: Iraq, Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan, Indonesia…etc, where thousands of Assyrians, Copts, South Sudaness and other Christians are killed, slaughtered like sheep, abducted, and the Churches are burned distroyed, or converted into mosques?”

  13. Lynne Newington says:

    Cathnews July 22 2010 heading; Church body proposes boycott of Israeli goods made in settlements, has covered this story.
    There were not many comments, of course they are all moderated.

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