Australian Christians call for boycott of goods made in Israeli settlements

The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network (PIEN), an organisation of Christians nationally who advocate a just peace for Palestine and Israel, is asking consumers to pressure Australian companies selling Israeli settlement goods.

“Illegal settlements are unilateral Israeli land-grabs that now control nearly half of the Palestinian West Bank,” said Uniting Church’s Rev Gregor Henderson, co-convenor of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network. “To buy or sell goods made in these settlements is to support the military occupation of Palestine.

“Guided by the proud history of moral nonviolent movements that have used peaceful boycotts as a tool for seeking justice, we are calling on Australians not to buy goods from these illegal settlements and we are asking Australian businesses not to trade with these illegal settlements and sell their products,” Gregor said.

The boycott call comes in the wake of a Human Rights Watch report that revealed exploitative child labour conditions in many settlement farms, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Palestinian Christians have been clear – as the effect of the occupation gets worse every year, they ask for our practical support.  They seek not only words but also actions, including through boycotts.”

PIEN’s boycott action comes in the context of worldwide church and Jewish campaigns.  These include the World Council of Churches support for boycotts; the Methodists in the UK calling on their Government to cease trade with settlements; the United Church of Canada campaign against settlement products; and the Presbyterian Church in the USA divesting in three companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine. In Australia, both the National Council of Churches and the Uniting Church  have invited members to consider boycotting settlement products.

Jewish support for boycotts has also been well documented with key groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace (USA), Gush Shalom(Israel), Australian Jewish Democratic Society, and European Jews for a Just Peace supporting such campaigns.

The initial focus of the campaign is on the Australian distribution and sale of dates imported into Australia from growers and processors in the illegal Israeli settlements.

“We know that dates being grown on stolen land are being sold in Australia”, said Gregor.   “We are working with Australians around the country to identify companies that import or distribute these dates and we’ll be asking these companies to switch to ethical, non-settlement suppliers.”

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