Christian groups call on UK to ban settlement goods

The Quakers and Christian Aid say move would promote peace; Council of Christians and Jews condemns call.

June 20, 2012 04:13
2 minute read.
Palestinians call for a boycott

Palestinians call for a boycott 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Two Christian groups are calling on the British government to boycott produce that stems from Israeli settlements, claiming it would promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Christian Aid and the Quakers are set to tell the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons on Tuesday that the government should implement a total ban of settlement produce by introducing legislation.

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The call has been strongly condemned by the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), a London-based interfaith charity espousing constructive dialogue between Jews and Christians, who are urging MPs not to support the ban.

“The drive of many Christian bodies to press for boycotts is understandable and probably borne out of its frustration with the challenges that the Israeli settlements present,” said CCJ CEO Rev. David Gifford.

“The CCJ questions whether a boycott will achieve much more than for the few who support it to feel better. The CCJ still opposes boycotts and considers continued diplomatic engagement and negotiation as the better response,” he added.

Christian Aid’s advocacy officer for Israel and the Palestinian territory, William Bell, said that the settlements are illegal under international law, a major cause of poverty among Palestinians and an obstacle to peace.

“They will continue to expand and develop unless action is taken that backs the routine statements of condemnation from the international community.

Trade perpetuates the settlements by making them economically viable,” he said.

Bell said that it is the role of governments to protect the consumer from purchasing goods from an illegal source, so the group is calling on the government to impose a ban.

The Quakers said that they see it as a non-violent action to support efforts to build peace in the region.

“I have witnessed the damaging impact of the settlements.

The problem goes beyond the obvious effects on Palestinian livelihoods and damages prospects for peace,” said Marisa Johnson, of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) that is managed by the Quakers.

Jerusalem-based research organization NGO Monitor stated that EAPPI harbors an anti- Israel stance, in that it supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel as well as the right of return.

Bell said he does not support a total boycott on trade with Israel but claimed that banning settlement products is justified because “settlements are illegal and have a negative impact on the Palestinian economic development.”

“Although informed consumer choice can send a powerful message, on its own it cannot adequately tackle the problem,” Bell added.

According to NGO Monitor, Christian Aid assumes “a highly biased and politicized approach” to the conflict.

“Its publications systematically ignore Palestinian responsibility in the conflict and minimizes Israel’s right to self-defense. Its partner organizations include some of the most radical NGOs operating in the region,” the research group said.

Former Liberal Democrat and anti-Israel campaigner Jenny Tonge is a former Christian Aid trustee.

Quaker meeting houses in the UK are regularly used by groups who question Israel’s right to exist and support boycott action against Israel. In 2007, the Quakers joined a coalition of anti-Israel groups to mark the “40th anniversary of Israel’s military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.”

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