Members of the Church of Scotland are to be asked to back economic sanctions against Israel in protest against the growing number of settlements on the West Bank.
Commissioners — or delegates — will vote on a tough new stance at the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, which opens in Edinburgh today.
Four years ago the Israeli government condemned the kirk for boosting political extremism and challenging the country’s right to exist.
Should the latest policy be approved when they convene on Monday, the church will lobby the UK government to begin a boycott of Israeli goods.
An intervention by the Rev Tom Gordon, chaplain of the Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh, is asking the church to “condemn all infringements of international law, including the expansion of the illegal settlements, which are obstacles to peace, and urge the adoption of economic measures to pressure the state of Israel to comply with international law”.
Mr Gordon’s counter motion was published last night and follows a report by the kirk’s world mission council that drew criticism from Scotland’s Jewish community when it was issued four weeks ago.
This earlier document discussed how the church might “creatively resist the occupation of Palestinian territory” but stopped short of recommending sanctions.
It was, however, met with the “considerable reservations” of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. The council was not available for comment on the proposed amendment.
In 2013, a ten-page report published by the kirk said the Jews’ claim to the land of Israel could be invalidated by their treatment of Palestinians. It recommended that the general assembly considered “economic and political measures involving boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against the state of Israel focused on illegal settlements”.
After the report was widely criticised, it was extensively rewritten by the church. The next year, in a symbolic gesture of friendship, the chief rabbi addressed the General Assembly.
In January, Israel approved the construction of 2,500 homes in West Bank settlements, a sign of a policy shift after Donald Trump’s election as US president. Most of the construction is in settlement “blocs” that are likely to remain part of Israel in a final agreement with the Palestinians.
However, 900 of them would sit more than 12 miles into the West Bank. It will be the largest batch of construction since 2012, when Israel announced 3,000 new homes after the Palestinians joined the United Nations.
This year’s week-long conference begins this morning and will include an address by Princess Anne, the first member of the royal family to serve twice as a high commissioner in the Church of Scotland.