Members of the United Church of Canada (UCC), the country’s largest Protestant denomination, voted on Wednesday to affirm a motion supporting a boycott of goods produced in Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem, The Toronto Star reported.
Wednesday’s vote was preceded by nearly six hours of contentious debate, in which the church’s general council members nitpicked the proposal’s wording and heard drawn-out testimonies from representatives on both sides of the issue.
The motion was one of several recommended by a report released by a church working group in May. Along with calling on church hierarchy to accept a comprehensive boycott, the report said that “the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory” is a major challenge to a two-state solution in the Middle East.
The Toronto Star quoted Bruce Gregersen, a United Church general council officer and spokesperson who assisted the working group, as saying the vote was a “significant step” toward the church’s affirmation of the entire proposal.
“I think the mind of the council appears to be clear,” Gregersen said. “If there was any sense that all the (anti-report) lobbying was going to have an effect, the council made up its own mind, irrespective of the lobby.”
Voting results were not immediately available but Gregersen told The Toronto Star voters were “substantially in favor” of the boycott motion.
The general council will vote again Friday on whether to confirm the proposals as official church policy.
The vote was met with swift condemnation by some members of the Canadian Jewish community, who say a boycott will create an irreparable breakdown of relations between the two religious groups.
“The reaction of the Jewish community is one of unbridled outrage,” said Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “It is beyond comprehension that (the United Church) would choose to so skew a commentary on the conflict and come out with so one-sided an approach.”
A group of nine Canadian senators recently warned the UCC 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. They warned the panel that the distinction drawn with the narrower boycott will “be lost upon” Israelis and Canada’s Jewish community, who will see it as an anti-Israel measure.
Prominent Jewish leaders have asserted behind the idea is the vehement anti-Israel minority in the UCC that is tarnishing the reputation of the church.
David Ha’ivri, executive director of the Shomron Liaison Office, has warned that a successful boycott of Israeli products made in Judea and Samaria will harm Palestinian Authority Arabs, the very people the UCC claims it wants to help.