We write ahead of your meeting at which you will be discussing the Synods vote to disinvest from companies such as Caterpillar which profit from the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. We enclose some supporting documents which we hope will be of help in your deliberations and in updating you on the latest developments in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
Many of the undersigned organisations have worked in the Occupied Territories for several decades, and we are sorry to report that the levels of poverty and violence have never been worse. 60% of Palestinians live in acute poverty, a figure which has tripled in just over four years.
The causes of this poverty are not to be found in droughts, hurricanes or tsunamis. They are man-made, caused by the systematic de-development of the Territories over the last 40 years, including theft and destruction by Israel of Palestinian land, water, food and homes. After a visit to the Holy Land two years ago, Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu commented of the Palestinians plight: "It reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa."
Unfortunately Israels policies continue to exacerbate the sense of despair which the Palestinian people feel. One particular policy causing distress is the construction of the Separation Wall, which is cutting off farmers from their land and animals, children from schools, the ill from medical care, and families and friends from each other. The Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice and the UN General Assembly.
Most relevant for Christians in Palestine, the Wall now separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem. The wall around Rachels Tomb will not only sever the connection between the regions most holy Christian sites, but will also herald the creation of a new fact on the ground: an illegal Israeli settlement which will be home to some of Israels most extreme religious groups. A once vibrant neighbourhood around Rachels Tomb has been destroyed, while the tomb itself, a shrine holy to all three Abrahamic religions, is now barred to the citys inhabitants.
Another source of Palestinian poverty, and also illegal, is the policy of house demolitions. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has just reported a sharp increase in house demolitions, with nearly 50 structures demolished in the weeks following the Palestinian elections. This adds to the 12,000 Palestinian homes demolished by the Israeli Army since 1967, rendering tens of thousands of Palestinians homeless, often with serious injuries.
The products of one company, Caterpillar, are used extensively in both the construction of the illegal Separation Wall and the destruction of thousands of homes. So essential is Caterpillars D9 bulldozer that one Israeli military commander has called it the key weapon in operations in the Occupied Territories.
We are aware of the ethical investment policy of the Church of England and commend this as an important part of the Churchs social mission. We believe that investment in companies like Caterpillar which are profiting from such extensive human rights violations in the Palestinian Occupied Territories is a violation of the policy. Indeed, we do not believe that the Church of England, or indeed any organisation with an ethical investment policy, should maintain investments in companies whose profits are derived from such levels of human suffering.
We were pleased when the General Synod voted last month in favour of divestment from companies profiting from the illegal Occupation of Palestine. To overturn this decision, which was based on many months of discussions and careful reflection by Church representatives, would send entirely the wrong message to Israel.
Reaction to the advice of the General Synod to divest from Caterpillar has focused on the electoral change that has taken place in the Palestinian elections. These reactions ignore the fact that the building of the Wall preceded the elections by around three years. The elections results are the consequence of the failure of the Western governments to effect change for the better in the daily life of the Palestinian people. And of course, these reactions conveniently passed over the most important fact of all, one that remains unaffected by the election
result: the building of the Wall – the prime reason for the General Synod motion – has not paused in any way whatsoever. Nor has the consequent seizure of land and destruction of Palestinian property, crops – and thus their livelihood.
We urge you to take into account the enclosed documents when coming to your decision.
Julia Bard Jewish Socialists’ Group
Belinda Coote Medical Aid for Palestinians
Jan Davies Friends of Sabeel UK
Nick Dearden War on Want
Chris Doyle CAABU
Abe Hayeem Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine
Stewart Hemsley – Pax Christi British Section
Garth Hewitt The Amos Trust
Ibrahim Hewitt Interpal
Dan Judelson European Jews for a Just Peace
Richard Kuper Jews for Justice for Palestinians (UK)
Dr Stephen Leah – member of York and Hull District Methodist Synod
Caroline Qutteneh Welfare Association
Dr Alun Morinan CAAT
Georgina Mortimer ABCD
Diana Neslen Just Peace UK
Orna Neumann ICAHD UK
Stephen Sizer vicar of Virginia Water
Julia Wickham Labour Middle East Council