Quakers condemned for divesting from firms which 'profit from occupation of Palestine'

Board of Deputies accuse church of 'biased and petulant' divestment from the Jewish state


The Quakers of Britain has been condemned for announcing that they will no longer invest in companies which “profit from the occupation of Palestine”.

The church confirmed on Monday that its trustees made the move, which “fits into a long Quaker history of pursuing ethical investments”.

The Board of Deputies condemned the Quakers’ announcement, accusing the church of a “biased and petulant act”.

Board President Marie van der Zyl also alleged that the church had decided to “divest from just one country in the world – the only Jewish state”.

While the Quakers insisted that they would not boycott is not targeted against Israel or Israeli companies specifically, the church refused to clarify what constitutes a company which “profits from the occupation of Palestine”.

Mrs van der Zyl said: “While other churches have reached out to the Jewish community at this time of rising antisemitism 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 Quakers, who have for so long been at the forefront of peace activism, have now marginalised themselves from being a credible voice on the issue.

“We urge the Quakers to reverse this decision, to stop promoting division, and to join those of us looking to build bridges instead.”

In 2011, the Quakers announced a boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories “until such time as the Israeli occupation of Palestine is ended”.

Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, said they had a “long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel" that had "opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine".

“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," he said.

"We hope they will understand that our beliefs compel us to speak out about injustices wherever we see them in the world, and not to shy away from difficult conversations.

“As Quakers, we seek to live out our faith through everyday actions, including the choices we make about where to put our money.

“We believe strongly in the power of legitimate, nonviolent, democratic tools such as morally responsible investment to realise positive change in the world.

“We want to make sure our money and energies are instead put into places which support our commitments to peace, equality and justice.”

It has previously chosen not to invest in fossil fuels, arms companies and Apartheid South Africa.

Last year, the Church of Scotland debated a boycott of Israel but ultimately rejected it after interventions by the Board and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities.

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