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CHURCH BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL CREEPING FORWARD

MIDDLEEAST.ORG - MER - Washington - 24 September: The Christian Churches in Europe and the United States have been amazingly acquiescent for so long when it comes to the Land of Christ which we have taken to calling the once Holy Land. And as the official mainstream Churches have held back from speaking up -- many feel betraying Christ's teachings and principles in the process -- the Christian Evangelical Zionist movement has pushed forward with growing messianic support for Israel, even though Christ and the second coming is so antithetical to Jewish theology.

A few months ago the American Presbyterians officially took the first major Church steps to sanction Israel, recalling how South Africa was treated in the days of Apartheid not that long ago. Now an influential Anglican group is pushing for a combination of boycott and divestment from Israel when their senior Church leaders next meet.

The Israelis and their many powerful friends and supporters are working hard to stem this Christian movement before it can gain significant traction and following. Their campaign to intimidate university professors and students groups that have called for similar policies has had considerable but not totally success, especially in the U.S. But in view of Israel's actual policies, the recent International Court of Justice decision, and the growing feelings among many that Israel has itself become a dangerous rogue State, what many Israelis and Jews have feared for a long time is beginning to happen.






Anglican group calls for Israel sanctions

Campaigners inspired by boycott of apartheid South Africa

Chris McGreal in Jerusalem

The Guardian - Friday September 24, 2004:
An influential Anglican group is to ask church leaders to impose a boycott of Israel and firms that do business there in protest at the occupation.

The call, by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, comes amid growing concern in Israel at rising support among churches, universities and trade unions in the west for a divestment campaign modelled on the popular boycott of apartheid South Africa.

In July, the Presbyterian church in the US became the first major denomination to agree a formal boycott of Israel.

The network said it would press leaders of the 75 million Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide to impose sanctions on Israel after an eight-day visit to the occupied territories.

The leader of the group, Jenny Te Paa, said the delegation from Anglican churches across the globe was so shocked by the plight of the Palestinians, including the construction of the concrete and steel barrier through the West Bank, that there was strong support for a boycott.

"There was no question that there has to be a very serious kind of sanction in order to get the world to see that at least one major church institution is taking very, very seriously its moral responsibility," she said.

"It happened in South Africa, and in South Africa the boycott had an effect. Everybody said it wouldn't work and it did work. So here we are taking on one of most wealthy and incredibly powerful nations, supported by the US. That's the Christian call."

The network is to recommend the boycott to the church's decision-making body, the Anglican consultative council, in Wales, in June. The group will also make the case that divestment is a "moral imperative" to a meeting of Anglican archbishops in London in February.

Ms Te Paa said the network had influence within the Anglican community and that she believed the consultative council would agree to a boycott of Israel.

In July, the general assembly of the Presbyterian church in the US, which has 3 million members, voted overwhelmingly for a boycott of Israel. Some Scandinavian churches are also pressing for a boycott of Israeli goods.

The Israeli government is increasingly concerned about the prospect of popular boycotts. It believes there is little prospect of the US or European governments endorsing sanctions, but it recognises growing support among some religious organisations, and in the academic world and trade unions, for organised action against the occupation.

A campaign by British academics for a boycott of Israeli universities drew a furious reaction, including accusations of anti-semitism.

Israeli universities have called it an "unwarranted attack on Israeli academic freedom".

Supporters of the protest say the Israeli occupation, including military checkpoints and curfews, places great restrictions on Palestinians' academic freedom.

Dozens of professors at prestigious American universities, including Princeton and Harvard, have signed a petition calling for an end to US military aid to Israel and for their universities to divest from firms doing business there.

Among the targets would be Israeli products such as fruit, shops that do business there and companies such as Caterpillar, which sells the bulldozers used by the army to destroy Palestinian homes.

"I hope that even by mentioning that we could call for this it would serve as an invitation for dialogue with the Israeli government," said Ms Te Paa.

"If it doesn't happen I think divestment can mean anything from having the list of stores [to boycott] to very significant withdrawal of investment from Israel."

Three Israeli soldiers were killed in a Palestinian attack on an army outpost protecting the tiny Jewish settlement of Morag in the Gaza Strip yesterday.

Troops then killed three of the Palestinian fighters.

A Palestinian umbrella group, the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility for the raid, in which the gunmen infiltrated the post under cover of heavy fog.

The attack is likely to strengthen public support for Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw all settlers and soldiers.



Boycott call strikes a responsive chord

By Laila El-Haddad in Gaza

ICJ's ruling in July strengthened the case for sanctions on Israel

Whether it is the UN General Assembly or the Non-Aligned Movement, resolutions condemning Israel are one thing, implementation is quite another. None the less, many believe international boycott is an idea whose time has come.

In July the International Court of Justice, in a landmark ruling, declared the West Bank separation barrier illegal and urged Israel to demolish the structure as well as pay compensation to Palestinians affected by its construction.

This decision of the UN's top court, although non-binding, cleared the decks for sanctions in the event of non-compliance by the Jewish state.

It was on the basis of this World Court ruling that the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) voted last month for a partial boycott of Israel, asking the 115 member-nations to ban Israeli settlers from visiting their countries and to boycott companies that work on the separation barrier.

Not unnoticed

While the result of the NAM vote is awaited (India is said to have expressed its official disapproval of the document at the UN this week), the development did not go unnoticed in Tel Aviv.

It was enough to get Shraga Brosh, chairman of Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, talking about potential losses to the economy and damage to exports.

The wall has made Palestinians
prisoners in their own country

Three decades are not such a long time in world history. A 1971 World Court verdict against South Africa's occupation of Namibia eventually led to sanctions against that country and the fall of the apartheid regime. Many in Israel fear that a similar fate awaits them.

"This is the marker that grants legitimacy to economic and commercial sanctions, which could endanger our future and security," commented Haifa University professor Nitza Nahmias in the Maariv daily.

But other analysts beg to differ. "It's a long way from a declaratory action by the Non-Aligned Movement to serious enactments by western European or North American governments. I don't see sanctions on the horizon," Hebrew University political science professor Ira Sharkansky told Aljazeera.net.

"I wouldn't count on the Non-Aligned Movement. With all the proclamations of NAM forums, plus $2 or $3, you can buy a cup of Starbucks."

New dynamic

Rather than a literal reading of the NAM resolution, Israeli analyst Yossi Alpher sees it and other boycott efforts like it as part of a "genuine new dynamic" developing in the international community with regard to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

"It's what I call the 'South Africanisation' of the conflict," Alpher said.

"We are seeing a very new international dynamic that seeks to relate to the issue of the territories, in ways similar to South Africa"

Yossi Alpher, Israeli political analyst

"We are seeing a very new international dynamic that seeks to relate to the issue of the territories, in ways similar to South Africa, and the international community is reacting to that."

He says here is a growing awareness in Israel of the need to respect the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling, and sees this "awakening" as the main motivation behind the disengagement movement, regardless of what people think about it.

"Certainly Sharon's disengagement plan represents his ability to predict this dynamic. We are liable to find ourselves branded like South Africa."

South African law professor John Dugard, who is currently serving as the special rapporteur for the United Nations on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, confirmed this trend.

In a report to the to the UN General Assembly early last month, Dugard said there is "an apartheid regime" in the territories "worse than the one that existed in South Africa".

Dugard was a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at the end of the apartheid regime. In May, he called for an arms embargo against Israel similar to the one imposed on South Africa in 1977.

Boycott revisited

This is not the first time that a boycott has been attempted against Israel of course. The NAM decision brings to mind a decades-long Arab boycott of the state of Israel that was for the most part dormant and largely ineffective.

One of the consequences of the Arab-Israeli peace agreements, including the Oslo accords, was the unravelling of the boycott.

Humiliating checkpoints recall life
in South Africa during apartheid

Following the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, 18 of the 22 members of the Arab League agreed to "reactivate" the half-century-old ban on trade with Israel, with little to show for it so far.

A list of 15 firms to be blacklisted was drawn up, but the list has remained unpublished.

League members Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania - which maintain diplomatic ties with Israel - and Somalia did not attend the meeting.

The NAM resolution reintroduces the possibility, yet again, of an Arab boycott in view of the fact that many Arab countries are NAM members.

But according to the Palestinian Trade Centre's Gaza director, Hanan Taha, the goal of any boycott effort this time around would be the European market rather than the Arab one.

"NAM is trying to pressure other countries, mainly western ones, to take a similar decision. The EU is a huge trade market for Israel. This is more of a political move than an economic one. It's a sort of lobbying effort," Taha said.

"[Settlements' products] don't go to Arab markets anyway.And even if they do, it's hard to tell because they are re-exported in American or European packaging," Taha said, highlighting one of the main obstacles faced by the boycott movement.

Growing trade

Jamal Juma, coordinator of the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, says Arabs should be the first to renew their diplomatic and economic boycott of Israel, but admits that this is unlikely to happen anytime soon - certainly not without a European lead.

"The EU is a huge
trade market for Israel. This is more of a political move than an economic one. It's a sort of lobbying effort"

Hanan Taha,
Director-Gaza,
Palestinian Trade Centre

"It's a tragedy and a disgrace. Arab states more than any others are called upon to boycott Israel, and instead they are increasing their trade ties with them," he said, noting that there are joint plans to expand oil pipelines between Israel and Jordan as well as a joint electricity grid along Highway 505.

When completed, the highway will stretch from Tel Aviv to the Jordan Valley, dividing the West Bank in half as it connects illegal Israeli colonies along the way.

Indeed, trade relations between Israel and Jordan have never been stronger. Israeli exports to the Hashemite kingdom increased by 50% last year, according to newly released Israeli economic data.

Juma believes that more pressure needs to be applied to force Israel to abide by international law, and that resolutions such as the one taken by NAM aren't nearly enough.

Global boycott

The Israeli Government is tightening its apartheid-like system like never before, with evidence on the ground to prove it, Juma says.

"There are metal doors at checkpoints and a matrix of administrative procedures to get through. Paths of travel are categorised into various permits and ways, and this is in addition to mass land confiscation that is going on," he said.

Palestinians need more than just
symbolic international support

"It's not time for a boycott of settlement products alone. We need a boycott on a global level of Israel as an apartheid system, as a state not abiding by international law. That's how it should be dealt with," Juma told Aljazeera.net.

"We have to ask ourselves: Who is behind settlements? Who is supporting it? Who is making it a reality in the West Bank? The Israeli Government. It must be a boycott of Israel and it must be made clear to them why."

Palestinian diplomatic sources say PLO representative to the UN Nasir al-Kidwa is planning to build on the international momentum generated by the ICJ ruling and the NAM vote by proposing a resolution of his own in the General Assembly this week.

The resolution will threaten Israel with sanctions if it continues to ignore the Hague-based court's ruling.

However, as far as tangible action is concerned, whether by way of NAM or the United Nations, Palestinians should not expected anything in the foreseeable future.



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