Leaders of the Anglican Church, which in the U.S. includes the Episcopal Church, USA, are preparing to follow in the footsteps of the Presbyterian Church, USA, which incurred widespread condemnation this summer when it voted to side with the Palestinians and economically divest from the Jewish state.
Anglican Church leaders advocating the punitive move – which amounts to removing capital from Israel – include church officials from the United States, Australia and New Zealand, said Nancy Dinsmore, director of development for the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, in an Associated Press report.
The report said the recommendation to divest, made by 29 Anglican representatives who toured the Holy Land this week before reaching their decision, will be delivered at a 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, to be held in Wales. It will include representatives from all 38 provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the Anglican Church of Canada and the Church of England in England, as well as the Episcopal Church, USA.
The strategy of pressuring the Jewish state by divestment – a tactic last used against South Africa to bring about an end to apartheid – is advocated by Palestinians and Arabs worldwide, Dinsmore told the wire service.
While touring Israel and the West Bank areas, the Anglican leaders were exposed “to the draconian conditions of the continuing occupation under which so many Palestinians live,” according to the group’s website.
Jenny Te Paa of New Zealand, who led the delegation, told AP the Anglican Church is likely to accept the divestment proposal, since it is becoming increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
In July, by an overwhelming vote of its general assembly, the 3 million-strong the Presbyterian Church, USA, voted to divest from Israel.
With the decision, approved in a 431-62 vote at the 216th annual general assembly of the PCUSA, the denomination became the largest organization or institution to join the divestment campaign against Israel. It was the first Christian denomination to do so.
In 2001, the combined value of the Presbyterian Church, USA’s foundation and pension fund was estimated at $7 billion.
In a news release at the time, the PCUSA liaison to the Middle East, Rev. Victor Makari, was quoted as saying: “If nothing else seems to have changed the policy of Israel toward Palestinians, we need to send a clear and strong message.”
The church statement noted that “divestment is one of the strategies that U.S. churches used in the 1970s and ’80s in a successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.”
As a result of the Presbyterian Church’s controversial action, an online petition was launched in protest.
The petition, addressed to the church’s stated clerk, Rev.Clifton Kirkpatrick, asserts the vote is “morally wrong.”
The petition says the church’s resolution is “anti-Semitic because NO OTHER nation is being singled for divestment, not even those whose violations of human rights are truly egregious.”
“Only the moral blindness of Jew-hatred could lead the church to compare Israel’s multi-racial democracy to apartheid South Africa,” the petition says. “Only anti-Semitism could lead the church to condemn democratic Israel, while not voting divestment from Saudi Arabia, where women have virtually no rights and non-Muslims are not even permitted to enter the country without special permission, from Sudan, where race-based genocide is occurring even as we speak, from Iran, where Bahai are murdered for their faith, or from the many other countries where human rights are violated as a matter of routine.” The petition concludes: “We condemn the Presbyterian divestment resolution as an act of hatred against Israel and the Jewish people and call for its immediate revocation.”
The Anglican representatives, who met this week with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Palestinian church representatives, several Israel Arabs and an Israeli activist – but no Israeli government officials – are urging Israel to implement U.N. resolutions mandating Israeli withdrawal from areas it captured when it was attacked in the 1967 Six-Day War.