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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 13:20 GMT
Church's Israel funds climbdown
Caterpillar's bulldozers are used to destroy Palestinian homes
Caterpillar's bulldozers are used to destroy Palestinian homes
The Church of England's ethical advisory body has rejected its governing body's call to sell the Church's 2.5m stake in Caterpillar.

The Synod had voted for disinvestment because the US-based Caterpillar's bulldozers are used to destroy Palestinian homes by the Israeli army.

But it said it would "revisit" its decision if direct sales began.

A spokesman for Caterpillar said its products were sold to the US government which had then sold them on to Israel.

"We clearly have neither the legal right nor the tangible ability to regulate how customers use their machines," he added.

The Synod said it found "no compelling evidence" that Caterpillar was complicit in human rights abuses.

The BBC's religious affairs correspondent, Jane Little, said: "This decision may help undo some of the damage done to Christian-Jewish relations but it won't be the end of the matter."

The Synod's vote 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".

Jonathan Sacks - Britain's chief rabbi
I have called on religious groups in Britain to send a message of friendship and co-existence to conflict zones throughout the world, instead of importing those conflicts into Britain itself
Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, voted with the Synod to disinvest.

Without wishing to "question the legitimacy of the state of Israel and its rights to self-defence", it had been unhappy at the prospect of the Church making financial profit from a controversial security policy, he said.

Dr Williams expressed "deep regret" at the effect on Jewish people of how the Synod's decision had been perceived.

But his predecessor, Lord Carey, said the vote made him ashamed to be a Church member.

'Repercussions'

And Britain's most senior Jewish leader, Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, accused the Synod of damaging Christian-Jewish relations.

"The Church has chosen to take a stand on the politics of the Middle East over which it has no influence, knowing that it will have the most adverse repercussions on a situation over which it has enormous influence, namely Jewish-Christian relations in Britain.

"For years, I have called on religious groups in Britain to send a message of friendship and co-existence to conflict zones throughout the world, instead of importing those conflicts into Britain itself."

The vote would "hurt Israel without helping the Palestinians", Sir Jonathan added.

We clearly have neither the legal right nor the tangible ability to regulate how customers use their machines
Caterpillar

But senior Anglican clergy then accused Jewish groups of moral blackmail in raising the issue of anti-Semitism whenever the Israeli government was criticised.

And Dean of Southwark, Reverend Colin Slee, told Newsnight the Church was engaged in "a continuing process of re-examining ethical investment and seeing whether we're behaving as we should".

Israeli troops have demolished 4,100 Palestinian homes since September 2000, according to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.




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