South African anti-apartheid leader and archbishop Desmond Tutu urged the United

The United Church of Canada’s General Council, which meets every two years, sets policy for the Church. In the course of its 2014 meeting, held in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, the Council voted to strengthen the Church’s opposition to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Acting in the face of tremendous pressure from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the key organization in Canada’s Israel Lobby, as well as Christian Zionist church members, it passed a resolution in favour of “initiating and developing a program of education and advocacy in co-operation with our partners, related to divestment from and economic sanctions against all corporations and institutions complicit in and benefiting from the illegal occupation.” It was at the Council’s 2012 national meeting in Ottawa that the Council initially decided to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. CIJA responded at that time by cutting ties with the Church.

In the latest round, internal Church opposition to the resolution was spearheaded by minister Andrew Love, who insisted that support for the resolution was motivated by anti-Semitism. IJV considers this argument to be a completely unacceptable smear and an affront to those who have experienced real anti-Semitism. Furthermore, we categorically condemn the misuse of the label of anti-Semitism to bully Palestinian human rights advocates into silence. The Church’s stand on this issue reflects its overall commitment to progressive values. Opposition to the Israeli occupation is mounting in the ranks of increasing numbers of progressive organizations around the world, among people of a range of religious denominations, as well as those whose motivation for being involved in the Palestine solidarity movement is a strictly secular commitment to social justice.

Rejecting the claim that the church was succumbing to anti-Semitism, church staff Patti Talbot explained that the Council was re-affirming the right of self-determination for both Palestinians and Israelis and attempting to ensure that people of the region strive to resolve the conflict based on international law. We agree with Talbot, as the Council’s stand is completely consistent with the Church’s longstanding dedication to social justice and international solidarity.

Sid Shniad is a national steering committee member of Independent Jewish Voices – Canada.