US Lutherans consider Israel boycott

2007 Churchwide Assembly calls for two-state solution, investment in PA.

christians jlem 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
christians jlem 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which has almost five million members in the US, took a step toward a partial boycott of Israeli goods at its 2007 Churchwide Assembly in Chicago last week. On Saturday, the assembly, the church's top legislative authority, passed a resolution calling to work toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urging investment in the Palestinian Authority. The assembly then urged "consideration of refusing to buy goods or invest in activities taking place in Israeli settlements, and a review of other economic options," according to Bishop Christopher Epting, the presiding bishop's deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations, quoted on the Episcopal Life Online Web site. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's own news service did not provide information on the content of that motion. According to the Pondering Pastor blog, Saturday's debate on the resolution picked "up with an amendment to call upon the ELCA to underscore the call for economic initiatives by this church and its members in the ['Peace not Walls'] campaign. Such initiatives, in consultation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land could include purchasing of products [from] Palestinian providers and exploration of the feasibility of refusing to buy products produced in Israeli settlements. Also to be explored is the entire investment activity by this church." The amendment passed by a vote of 385 to 368. The assembly rejected a call for divestiture from Israel. The Simon Wiesenthal Center blasted what it called the "mixed message" of the assembly - rejecting divestiture but "studying" a boycott. "This marks the first time a mainline American Protestant church has moved toward a possible boycott of Israel," said the center's Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper. "While we note that the ELCA delegates have now joined the Presbyterian Church (USA) in explicitly rejecting divesting from companies doing business with Israel, they have decided to embrace one of the anti-Israel tactics adopted by United Kingdom trade unions and others in Europe. ELCA delegates would have made a stronger contribution to the quest for peace and justice in the Holy Land had they also raised the ransacking of Christian places of worship and [the] recent forced conversion of a Christian professor in Gaza, as well as the unrelenting targeting of Israeli civilian communities by Palestinian Kassam rockets."