KAIROS urges church's to invest for peace

  • February 7, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - The ecumenical social justice organization KAIROS is urging churches to use their investment portfolios to encourage peace between Israel and Palestine.

The coalition of 11 church bodies wants churches to adopt socially responsible investment policies that not only exclude arms manufacturers, but also corporations that do business in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Jan. 7 report on “Economic Advocacy Measures” aimed at peace in the Middle East singles out Citigroup for allowing itself to be used as a conduit to transfer funds to families of Palestinian suicide bombers and Brampton’s Nortel Networks for taking on a project to provide wireless Internet and cell phone service to the Israeli West Bank settlement of Ariel.

The Canadian Jewish Congress said the document lacked context and balance, but it is unlikely to derail Christian-Jewish dialogue in Canada.

“The good news is that KAIROS very, very clearly rejects the notion of boycotts,” said CJC Ontario regional director Len Rudner.

Most Canadian Jews would reject the idea that the existence of Israeli settlements outside pre-1967 war boundaries is the sole cause of violence between Israel and Palestinians, said Rudner.

“Clearly KAIROS believes that, in terms of resolving the problems in the Middle East, it’s the Israelis who have to do all the heavy lifting. I’m not quite certain what it is that the Palestinian Authority and others are expected to do in all this,” Rudner said.

If the KAIROS’ paper comes up in official Christian-Jewish dialogue in Canada it will get a full airing, said Barb Boracks, executive director of Christian Jewish Dialogue of Toronto.

The KAIROS paper has been reviewed by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ social affairs commission, said its CCCB representative, Benoit Bariteau.

“It’s in line with CCCB policy on the Middle East,” Bariteau said.

The report calls for supporting Palestinian co-operatives, social enterprises and peace groups in Palestine. As an example, KAIROS singles out the Canadian fair trade olive oil importer Zatoun. Zatoun sells about 26,000 bottles of Palestinian olive oil per year, which puts about $280,000 in the pockets of farmers and bottlers. Over the last three years it has also provided $72,000 to Project Hope, an organization that works with Palestinian children, and $52,000 to Trees for Life which plants olive groves in the Palestinian Territories.

Zatoun appeals to people who want to make some positive contribution to the situation in the Middle East without taking sides in the conflict, said Zatoun executive director Robert Massoud.

“People have, I believe, really given up on their governments, on supranational organizations like the United Nations and its agencies, to get things done,” Massoud said.

The economic measures KAIROS proposes wouldn’t have much effect on Israel’s economy or its ability to support settlements in the West Bank, said KAIROS’s global partnerships expert Dale Hildebrand, but it “is a way for us to increase awareness and education within the churches.”

KAIROS did not consider the implications for Christian-Jewish dialogue in preparing the paper, said Hildebrand.

“A dialogue shouldn’t hold hostage the justice work, and the justice work shouldn’t hold hostage the dialogue work,” he said.

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