This past August, the General Council of the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, adopted a motion urging its members to boycott goods produced in West Bank settlements.
The proposal was part of a larger, rather one-sided report prepared by the church’s Working Group on Israel/Palestine Policy. It aimed to put pressure on Israel to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, which the working group considers to be the primary obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Ironically, the ill-timed boycott motion, which isn’t binding on United Church members, was adopted the same day that Iran “celebrated” International Al-Quds Day, an annual end-of-Ramadan event started by the late Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to protest Israeli control of Jerusalem.
As part of this year’s festivities, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his threats to destroy Israel, saying, among other things, that “in the new Middle East…. there will be no trace of the American presence and the Zionists,” and that Israel is a “cancerous tumour” and an “insult to all humanity.”
The move by the left-leaning church also came amid reports that Egypt’s experiment with democracy is drifting toward full-blown theocracy, as its newly elected Islamist president consolidates his control by installing his own army chiefs and by deploying tanks to the Sinai Peninsula. The latter move was ostensibly made in order to fight terror groups operating in the territory, but it wasn’t co-ordinated with Israel, in an apparent violation of the 1979 peace treaty.
It was also a bit jarring that the boycott was adopted the same day the church chose Gary Paterson as its first openly gay moderator, given that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that grants full rights to gays and lesbians.
Yet the boycott decision wasn’t a surprise. It had been building for a long time. Continue reading