The Church of England’s general synodâincluding the Archbishop of Canterburyâvoted last night to disinvest church funds from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
The main target of divestment will be the US earth-moving equipment company Caterpillar that supplies vehicles used by the Occupation to demolish Palestinian homes. The church currently invests about Â£2.5m of its Â£900m share portfolio in Caterpillar and was engaged in negotiations with the company about its activities. Caterpillar insists it has not provided the earth movers directly to the Occupation but to the US military which sold them on.
On the first day of its meeting in London, the general synod, the church’s parliament, heard denunciations of Israel’s use of the machines from one of its own bishops and from the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, a Palestinian, whose letter was read:
“I am saddened to witness less courage within our church than one would expect. [â¦]
The Elijah’s are absent and the voiceless wait in vain for church Synods to be their voice. Need the church wait until there are no homes and no trees for our people to wake up and tell the Ahabs of today that Naboth is but another child of God and deserves to lead a life with dignity and secure enough that those bulldozers will not reach his home?”
The Rt Rev John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, who is chairman of Christian Aid, spoke at the meeting that the problem in the Middle East was the government of Israel rather than Caterpillar, but that it was vital that the church should invest only in organisations which behaved ethically.
This move of the Church of England is an important step forward within the movement for divestment growing within Christian circles and puts more pressure on international agents supporting the Occupation.
The text of the motion passed by General Synod states that this Synod:
(a) heeds the call from our sister church, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, for morally responsible investment in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and, in particular, to disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc, until they change their policies;
(b) encourages the Ethical Investment Advisory Group to follow up the consultation referred to in its Report with intensive discussions with Caterpillar Inc, with a view to its withdrawing from supplying or maintaining either equipment or parts for use by the state of Israel in demolishing Palestinian homes and land;
c) in light of the urgency of the situation, and the increased support needed by Palestinian Christians, urges members of the EIAG to actively engage with monitoring the effects of Caterpillar Inc’s machinery in the Palestinian Occupied Territories through visiting the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East to learn of their concerns first hand, and to see recent house demolitions;
d) urges the EIAG to give weight to the illegality under international law of the activities in which Caterpillar Inc’s equipment is involved; and
e) urges the EIAG to respond to monitoring visits and further discussions with Caterpillar by updating its recommendations.