[Palestine Israel Network] The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops decided to table resolution C060 on corporate engagement on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, leaving in place the present policy on corporate engagement the Executive Council enacted in 2005. The resolution was an amended version of one sent to Convention by 10 dioceses.
“It’s disappointing the bishops could not muster a clear witness for justice,” said Cotton Fite, convener of the Palestine Israel Network (PIN) of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. “But at least they did not move to change the policy.” That policy, which was comfortably affirmed by the House of Deputies, is to apply economic pressure on corporations that contribute to the infrastructure of the Occupation.
In an earlier development, the National and International Concerns legislative committee removed language in resolution B010 that would have rejected boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Conversely the House of Deputies also declined an amendment offered by a deputy that would have begun a divestment process.
The effect of continuing policy on corporate engagement was accompanied by a second resolution B019 that called for “positive investment” intended to build an economic infrastructure for a future Palestinian state, for education of the Church’s members and for the development of a bibliography of resources to assist the Church in understanding the conflict.
Responding to B019 Grace Said, a member of PIN, said, “I am disappointed that the resolution did not mention justice or the Occupation, instead focusing on humanitarian and interfaith activities to explain away the oppressive situation of our Palestinian sisters and brothers.” Speaking as a Palestinian Anglican Said added, “despite the misguided policy of the Church, Palestinians remain steadfast in their desire to seek freedom, equality and justice.”
Five deputies also attached a minority report, lamenting that the use of Kairos Palestine (a statement from Palestinian Christians issued in 2009) and Steadfast Hope (a resource on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict) were dropped from C060.
“Our Church can now inch forward on its long-time advocacy of 33 years to promote justice for the Palestinian people,” said PIN member Donna Hicks. “We have had a policy on corporate engagement for the past seven years. There’s a lot of work to do on this and we need to hold the Church’s feet to the fire to see that it’s done.”
The Executive Council filed a shareholder resolution this past year with ITT for it to amend its human rights policies that affect how it does business in Israel. The Episcopal Church was the first major denomination to file a shareholder resolution on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in 1994. That resolution called on Motorola “to establish a policy to prohibit the sale of products or services to any settlement, including persons living in those settlements, located in the Occupied Territories.”
“We expect to see a robust effort by Executive Council’s committee on Corporate Social Responsibility in the wake of this Convention,” said Newland Smith, deputy from Chicago. ”The Episcopal Church has such a strong record of advocacy aimed at ending the Occupation while promoting justice for the people of both Palestine and Israel. The continuance of corporate engagement is the best result we have from this Convention.”
“Today was a mixed bag for grassroots Episcopalians who want to see their Church make a bold witness to address the injustice of the Occupation,” concluded Fite. ”But there’s a lot of good news and we will continue to press our House of Bishops to exercise prophetic leadership. And we will move forward, with or without them. We know we have individual bishops that are standing with us and that’s heartening.”