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February 07, 2006

Caterpillar Tractors, Israel and the General Synod of the Church of England: Why the General Synod was wrong to vote for disinvestment

Posted by Peter Mullen

The General Synod of the Church of England yesterday voted to "disinvest in companies profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands". This vote primarily concerns the Church Commissioner's 2.2 million investment in Caterpillar, which manufactures tractors that are allegedly used in the demolition of Palestinian homes. Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen - Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange - explains why he believes this decision to be wrong.

With characteristic intellectual numbness, the General Synod of the Church of England declared yesterday (6th February 2006) that:

investments must be made for the common good and not just for the best financial return.
But what if the common good is served by the best financial return? However, there is no cure for the simple-mindedness of religio-political apparatchiks, so let that pass. The issue under debate was whether the Church should invest in the firm Caterpillar which:
manufactures tractors used to demolish Palestinian homes.
Now that is a loaded and weighted remark if ever there was one. Let's try to deconstruct it.

It is made to seem that the only purpose in the whole manufacture of these tractors is the destruction of Palestinian homes, whereas of course the number of tractors involved in this activity is microscopically few. So a decision to disinvest millions of pounds in Caterpillar must balance the payoff in moral smugness at having spited the Israeli government with the effects of such disinvestment on the company generally and particularly on the wages and bonuses of its workers of which class of citizen the Synod is usually so much in favour.

Now if Caterpillar tractors are indeed being used to destroy Palestinian homes, that is particularly awful for the Palestinians involved. But should they be involved? I mean, the territory on which these homes are built is in fact disputed territory, and that is what makes the issue more complicated than the knee-jerk anti-Israel, anti-capitalist mob in the Synod can cope with.

The issue is wider still. Consider the dispiriting effect of this disinvestment on Jewish-Christian relations worldwide. In the world of real politics as opposed to the antinomian fairyland inhabited by the Synodsfolk, Israel is a beleaguered democracy surrounded by shambolic tyrannies and anarchies all of whom have for forty years avowed its destruction. How about a bit of Christian-Jewish solidarity in the struggle against the brute basket-case regimes which daily rain rockets and mortars on the civilian population of Israel from among those nice little Palestinian semis in the disputed territory?

The Church of England used to be called the Tory party at prayer. Nowadays the C. of E. is just the pathetic ecclesiastical counterpart to the general pro-Arabism, Israel-bashing and don't-let's-be-beastly-to-the-Muslims which is policy throughout the EU. So at the thin end it's a case of a few quid and few tractors. At the thick end it's a case of where we stand in the worldwide confrontation between the countries which uphold democracy and the rule of law and the engrossed chaos of backward coercion which is ninety per cent of the Muslim world.

The Synod might also like to consider that the corrupt rulers of those Arab Muslim States with all that their system implies for their working class and their women, children and disaffected unemployed youth work far greater deprivation and devastation on their own populations than the Israelis have ever done.

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange.

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Even taking the pro-disinvestment lobby at face value, why Israel and not China, or Saudi Arabia, or any of other regimes one could easily launch oneself into a moral froth over?

Posted by: jim at February 7, 2006 10:43 PM

Good to hear today that the Church of England will not now be disinvesting from Caterpillar - although less reassuring to also hear that they will reconsider this decision if Caterpillar sells further trucks to the Israeli army

Posted by: Jane at March 8, 2006 09:25 AM
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