THE decision taken by the Quakers of Britain never to invest in companies profiting from the occupation of land in the Palestinian Territories has been met with anger from Christian and Jewish bodies.
The Quakers do not currently hold investments in any company profiting from the occupation, the clerk, Ingrid Greenhow, said on Monday, but we “will now amend our investment policy to ensure this remains the case in future.
“This includes companies — whichever country they are based in — involved, for example, in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in occupied Palestine, and the construction and servicing of the separation barrier and Israeli settlements.”
Its recording clerk, Paul Parker, explained: “Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government.
“With the occupation now in its 51st year, and with no end in near sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.
“We know this decision will be hard for some to hear.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned what it described as an “appalling” and “biased and petulant” decision, which it urged the Quakers to reverse.
Its President, Marie van der Zyl, said on Tuesday: “The appalling decision of the Friends House hierarchy to divest from just one country in the world — the only Jewish state — despite everything else going on around the globe, shows the dangers of the obsessive and tunnel-visioned approach that a narrow clique of Church officials have taken in recent years. . .
“While other Churches have reached out to the Jewish community at this time of rising anti-Semitism and polarisation to work together to tackle prejudice and promote peace in the region, the Quaker leadership has chosen to import a divisive conflict into our country, rather than export the peace that we all want to see.”
The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) agreed, though it used milder language. The purpose of the decision, it said, was “not easy to understand” because the Quakers did not invest in any companies in the region. “We note also that the Quaker community is not seeking to divest from any other current conflict in the world.”
Nor, it said, had the Quakers acknowledged the “injustices suffered by Palestinians and Israelis. Rather than choosing one narrative over another, we need to support Israelis and Palestinians equally in seeking a peaceful solution to this conflict.
“While CCJ recognises the diversity of views held by Christians and Jews on this matter, it is only through understanding the very real complexities and sometimes conflicting truths of all parties, that those external to the conflict are able to make a positive contribution to peace.”