A group of nine Canadian senators warned the United Church of Canada on Wednesday that a boycott of Israeli goods from Judea and Samaria could spark a rift with the Jewish state.
The senators, from both the Conservative and Liberal parties, are all members of the United Church.
A panel established by the church has issued a report that proposes a boycott of all products from Jewish settlements, but not from other areas of Israel, arguing the settlements are illegally eating away 'Palestinian lands.'
However, the nine senators warned the panel that the distinction drawn with the narrower boycott will “be lost upon” Israelis and Canada’s Jewish community.
“What will be made clear to them is that the United Church has chosen sides, declaring Israel guilty and the Palestinians the only injured party,” the senators wrote.
Conservative senator Nancy Ruth noted that she has no objection to the church wading into weighty international politics, but fears it could stoke interfaith tensions at home.
“I’d say it’s a matter of diplomacy,” she told the Globe and Mail. “I don’t think it will be helpful for Jewish-Christian relations."
The church’s working group said it struggled with that issue, but its current proposal brushes concerns about a potential chill in relations with the Jewish people aside.
“Simply put, Israel is maintaining a harsh occupation that must end so peace can emerge," it said in a statement.
A senior official from the United Church who served on the panel, however, also argued the panel had been careful not to single Israel out.
“The working group intentionally chose not to target Israel, but rather the settlements, because we don’t in any way want to be confused with seeking to weaken or contribute to something that would harm Israel,” the official told the Globe and Mail.
But Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs head Simon Fogel said the UC's proposed 'Settlement only' boycott was really an anti-Israel move cloaked in subterfuge.
"Boycotting settlements alone is technically impractical, and it’s really no different than that of a larger boycott aimed at delegitimizing Israel," Fogel said.
“There’s an effort to disguise what the real intent is,” he added.
Fogel also said, "The United Church should explain why it has focused on Israel when Christian communities around the region are under threat."