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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 February 2006, 12:58 GMT
Bishop defends Church Israel move
An Israeli bulldozer demolishes a settler's house in the Gaza Strip
Caterpillar bulldozers were used in the Gaza Strip
A bishop has defended the Church's decision to review investment in companies used by Israel in the occupied territories.

The Church of England Synod voted to review its 2.5m investment in Caterpillar, a bulldozer manufacturer.

Bishop of Hulme, Stephen Lowe, said there had been an over-reaction to the decision by the Church.

Activists have targeted Caterpillar as its bulldozers are used to demolish Palestinian homes.

The Stop Caterpillar campaign says the company's bulldozers, in particular the D9 "armoured" version, have been used to flatten 12,000 Palestinian homes, with the US activist Rachel Corrie killed in one such demolition operation.

I found the reaction to the debate... in the General Synod a little bit over the top
Stephen Lowe
Bishop of Hulme

Rabbi Allan Clancy, an adviser to UK Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, renewed the attack on the Church's move against Caterpillar as unfair.

He told the BBC: "This is totally unfair and a biased criticism."

He said Caterpillar was also used "by the Israelis to withdraw...the Jewish settlements from Gaza".

"There's been no credit for that given. It seems as though they're digging up old stories which have happened months and months ago," he told BBC News programme.

"I didn't hear anything about the Synod criticising the Palestinians for destroying Christian villages where the Israelis tried to protect them".

Anti-Semitism jibes

The Bishop of Hulme, Stephen Lowe, said Sir Jonathan had over-reacted to criticism of Israel.

"I found the reaction to the debate in which I sat in the General Synod a little bit over the top.

"I do find it difficult that if you criticise anything to do with the Israeli government policy towards the Palestinians one is accused of anti-Semitism.

"I think that's actually wrong."

The Church's decision followed a call from the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East for the Church to "disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc".

Caterpillar has previously said it "shares the world's concern over unrest in the Middle East and certainly have compassion for all those affected by political strife".

But it maintains it has "neither the legal right nor the means to police individual use of its equipment".





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