Church of England reviews stake in Israeli rail

The Church of England is reviewing its investment in a company building Jerusalem's light railway amid concern that the tramline "will help to cement Israel's hold on occupied east Jerusalem".

But the Church has stopped short of endorsing a campaign urged by Palestinian churches to boycott "everything produced" by Israel's West
Bank occupation.

The boycott call was made in a document known as 'Kairos Palestine', issued by Palestinian Christians last December. It denounces "Israeli occupation of Palestinian land" as "a sin against God and humanity".

Last week, the Methodist Church voted to circulate the document among its members, taking up the call for boycotting settlement goods. But the Church of England's missionary and public affairs committee, in a recently published response to Kairos Palestine, said that the Church's criteria for backing a divestment campaign had not been met.

However, the committee revealed that the Church of England's ethical investments advisory group (EIAG) was investigating the Jerusalem Light Rail project. According to an Anglican spokesman, the Church has a "modest stake" in the main contractor, Veolia, a France-based company.

The missionary and public affairs committee reported "concern in some quarters that once built, the rail system will help to cement Israel's hold on occupied east Jerusalem and tie the settlements even more firmly into the state of Israel".

It said the EIAG wanted to know "the tram operator will ensure access to the tram that does not discriminate between Palestinians and Israelis, and abide by any ruling on the legality of the project in an international law".

The committee also described the Kairos document as "an important and fresh theological resource", which should be studied by Church groups with "care and prayerful attention".

    Last updated: 12:39pm, July 8 2010