THE Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, is preparing to make a stand, after the
Church of England threatened to disinvest from companies associated with
The Board of Deputies of British Jews agreed to find out where Israel stands
with the Church, and to co-ordinate national and local action. Dr Sacks
convened a meeting of synagogual bodies on Tuesday to work out a strategic
approach to the question of disinvestment, which has reportedly left many Jews
On Monday, he told the Archbishop of Canterbury in a letter that he wanted a
dialogue between Jews and Anglicans on the issue. The crisis in
Jewish-Christian relations has developed because of General Synod's resolution
to "heed" a call from the Anglican Church in Jerusalem to stop investing in
companies "profiting" from Israel's presence in the Palestinian territories.
Its main target is the £2.2-million church investment in Caterpillar, a company
that supplied the D9 bulldozers to Israel which have been used to flatten
Palestinian houses "for security" (
News, 10 February).
The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to Dr Sacks last week regretting the
distress the Synod's decision had caused. He told him that it did not mean the
Church was actually going to disinvest.
"The demolition of Palestinian homes in recent years has been a regular
source of controversy. . . To review whether we should or could continue with
an investment policy which appeared to accept something with which we were
deeply uneasy is emphatically not to commend a boycott or to question the
legitimacy of the State of Israel and its rights to self-defence; least of all
is it to endorse any kind of violence or terror against Israel and its people."
Responding to Dr Williams, Dr Sacks said the Archbishop's letter would "help
our two communities to come together in a process of mutual listening and
speaking so that we may understand one another better and reach a fuller
understanding of the deep issues at stake between Israel and the Palestinians".
He endorsed the Archbishop's call for dialogue.
A Lambeth Palace spokesman commented: "The Chief Rabbi's letter provides a
very good basis on which to build further."
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, last week condemned the
Synod's move towards disinvestment. "I am ashamed to be Anglican," he told
The Jerusalem Post. And in a letter to The Times, Lord Carey
said the Synod's decision was "a one-eyed strategy". It rebuked one side
sternly, but forgot "the traumas of ordinary Israelis who live in fear of
suicide bombers and those whose policy it is to destroy all Jews". The Synod
should have told the Commissioners to invest in both Jewish and Palestinian
businesses, he wrote.
Canon Andrew White, the chief executive of the Foundation for Reconciliation
in the Middle East, who has been involved in the Church's peace negotiations in
the region, spoke of how the call to disinvest had left him "very angry". The
majority of British Jews see anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism, he said from his
office in Baghdad.
"Do we not realise that far more Jews have been killed at the hands of
Christians than of Muslims? . . . The Church has fallen into the trap of
thinking that you must be either pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. The reality is
that we should be pro both people."
The Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) will consider the
General Synod's resolution in June, a spokesman said. Although the C of E's
shares represent a tiny fraction of Caterpillar's total capitalisation of $47
billion, EIAG encourages church investment bodies to use their influence as
shareholders to affect company policy.
Should the Church disinvest from Caterpillar? Vote
here to link to audio archives of Synod debates on the Church of England