An alternative to divestment?

 — Aug. 18, 200618 aoüt 2006

The United Church of Canada‘s 39th General Council has rejected a proposal calling for divestment from Israel, in favour of what is described as a “pro-peace” investment strategy. The proposal originally presented to the General Council called for the church and its congregations to selectively divest from corporations that support or contribute to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

The General Council is held every three years as the highest decision-making body in the United Church of Canada (UCC). The meeting August 13 to 19 was in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Approximately 400 commissioners from across Canada participated in the General Council meeting.

The issue of divestment has come to the General Council after considerable discussion within the United Church and other western churches. The United Church’s Toronto Conference has already approved a divestment policy. The Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA) approved a divestment plan at their General Assembly in 2004, but retracted the decision at the 2006 General Assembly following extensive criticism within the PCUSA and from the Jewish community. The United Church of Christ in the U.S. has adopted a divestment policy, while the Episcopal Church USA has opted for a limited divestment, maintaining sufficient shares in affected corporations to allow the presentation of shareholder resolutions. The Church of England’s 2006 General Synod considered a divestment strategy but was unable to secure a majority to support the proposal.

Divestment strategies are somewhat more sophisticated than simple boycotts. The strategy was used by churches and governments to combat apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s and early 90s. Other divestment plans have also shown some success. The Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility has successfully engaged in dialogue with corporations through the use of shareholder resolutions and divestment. The recent divestment strategies targeting Israel have called for selective divestment, meaning that the church would only dispose of investments in corporations that were promoting or supporting the Palestinian occupation. Moreover, divestment would occur in stages following a dialogue with the corporation, and only when the corporation refused to reform their corporate behaviour. Divestment has been encouraged by the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Palestine. A conference on divestment was held in Toronto in October of 2005. A report on the conference by Dr. Stuart Brown, former director of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism, is found elsewhere on this website. “A Call for Morally Responsible Investment” was issued by the Sabeel Centre in preparation for the 2005 conference.

The United Church proposal for divestment was modified significantly during the General Council meeting. The final proposal approved Thursday drops the call for divestment, in favour of investment in corporations that are engaged only in peaceful pursuits in the disputed region. The resolution invites the members, congregations, and other church bodies to:

Non-peaceful pursuits would include:

Posted: Aug. 18, 2006 • Permanent link:
Categories: OpinionIn this article: 2006, divestment, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, peace, Sabeel, United Church of Canada
Transmis : 18 aoüt 2006 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : OpinionDans cet article : 2006, divestment, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, peace, Sabeel, United Church of Canada

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