A call urging economic sanctions against Israel over the expansion of settlements on the West Bank has been rejected by the 2017 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The highly-charged debate centred round the appropriate way for the Scottish and UK Governments to undertake public commemorations of the centenary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration which committed Britain to working towards “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
The declaration by the then British Foreign secretary Arthur Balfour also called for the protection of the civil and religious rights of the “existing non-Jewish communities” in what was known as Palestine. It did not include political rights.
Rev Tom Gordon, former chaplain at the Marie Curie hospice in Edinburgh, wanted commissioners, to go further than proposals by the Kirk’s world mission council, “deploring” the illegal settlements but not advocating economic measures.
“The expansion of these settlements is illegal under international law and a barrier to peace. To deplore is not enough, further pressure is needed. Economics matter, we live in a global community and we know sanctions make a difference,” Rev Gordon said.
“BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) works to end international support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.
“The call for economic sanctions is not popular, but is predicated on the human rights of all Palestinians suffering under Israeli occupation.”
The Kirk voted instead in favour of “condemning all infringements of international law, including the expansion of the illegal settlements, which are obstacles to peace.”
The Very Rev Andrew McLellan, HM inspector of prisons for Scotland 2002-2009, stressed the Kirk condemned anti-Semitism but that criticism of the Jewish government was not the same as anti-Semitism.
“Not only is Gaza the biggest prison in the world, it is the worst prison in the world. Who pays the price of Balfour?”