(A. Katz/Shutterstock)
Anti-Israel BDS campaigns are on the rise. (A. Katz/Shutterstock)

The Episcopal Church USA voted down a motion to support BDS. The Mennonite Church postponed a vote on the issue until their next assembly in 2017. 

In a resounding defeat for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States, meeting in Salt Lake City on Thursday, rejected the proposal to divest from Israeli businesses that have operations in Judea and Samaria and to boycott products manufactured there.

“The House of Bishops sent a strong and clear message that divestment from companies and corporations engaged in certain business related to the State of Israel is not in the best interests of the Episcopal Church, its partners in the Holy Land, interreligious relations and the lives of Palestinians on the ground,” the Church said in a statement

The bishops rejected a proposed resolution which would have called for the church “to monitor” its investments in companies involved in Judea and Samaria.

“Although the resolution didn’t use the word ‘divestment,’ some bishops expressed concern that it was heading in that direction,” the Church explained.

Others reminded the House that Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem had urged the Episcopal Church not to adopt a policy that would make it more difficult for him to manage his congregations and the more-than-30 social service institutions throughout Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Those institutions include schools, hospitals, clinics and centers for people with disabilities, and they serve people of all faiths.

Bishop Ed Little of northern Indiana said the text of the resolution “clearly and unmistakably advocates boycott and divestment, and we must reject it.… As Anglicans, we have the gift and ability to reach out to people on both sides in the conflict. That is what the Episcopal Church is doing in the Middle East. Our current leadership under the presiding bishop is allowing us to be peacemakers.”

The Rev. Gary Commins, a deputy from Los Angeles and a member of the international policy committee, said he was disappointed by the bishops’ vote, which he described as “operating out of fear, which is never a good thing for people of faith.”

Donna Hicks, convener of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network, hopes to press forward with BDS resolutions through the church in the future.

Bishop Leo Frade of Southeast Florida said that his experience regarding embargoes and boycotts is that “it hurts the same people we think we are helping. Palestinian jobs depend on investment, not on divestment.”

The vote on the BDS resolution was only one of seven resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict discussed by the General Convention.

The Episcopal Church has around 1.8 million members across the United States.

BDS Does Not Help the Palestinians

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), hailed the decision by the Episcopal Church to reject a motion endorsing BDS.

“We wholeheartedly thank the Episcopal Church convention for lending its support to Israel on this issue and for taking a moral stand. We sincerely hope that other major church denominations in America will follow this example and stop the BDS movement in its tracks,” Lauder said.

Ron Lauder

WJC President Ron Lauder. (AP/MTI, Zoltan Balogh)

“Endorsing BDS does nothing to improve the plight of the Palestinians, in particular not of those employed by Israeli companies in the West Bank,” he explained. “Endorsing BDS also doesn’t contribute to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All it does is to sow division and hatred. The BDS movement won’t bring peace and justice to the Middle Eas. That will only come once the Palestinians and their supporters choose cooperation over confrontation.”

The WJC president said the real motive of the BDS movement was “to put into question the existence of Israel as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people.”

In another apparent BDS defeat, a leading Mennonite group has delayed a decision on divesting from companies with businesses tied to Judea and Samaria. The Mennonite Church USA was set to vote this week on whether they should sell off stock in companies “known to be profiting from the occupation” and from “destruction of life and property” in the territories.

Delegates at a national meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, voted 418-336 to table the resolution until their next assembly two years from now, a Church spokeswoman said Thursday. Twenty-eight delegates abstained.

The Mennonite Church USA has approximately 95,000 members and is one of roughly 40 US Mennonite groups.

Lauder also “welcomed” the Mennonite decision to delay a vote on divestment from Israel until 2017.

The BDS did claim victory earlier last week, when the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) voted in favor of divestment from Israel.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel
AP contributed to this report.