World Council of Churches: Israel planned to destroy Lebanon
The group states Israel planned the war, not reacted
By ELIANE ENGELER
GENEVA (16 August 2006) AP - ISRAEL's assault on Lebanon was planned even before Hizbullah attacked and was aimed at driving a wedge between the different faiths that have been living in harmony in the country, a delegation from the World Council of Churches said on their return from a visit to Beirut and Jerusalem.
"We came back from Lebanon sharing the impression that this destruction was planned. And if the action by Hizbullah was the trigger, this was a planned operation all ready to go," Jean-Arnold de Clermont, president of the Conference of European Churches, told reporters in Geneva.
The Israeli Mission to the United Nations in Geneva declined to comment Wednesday afternoon because they had yet to see a written statement from the council, but the mission was closed by the time a statement was issued and by then no spokesman was available.
"The representatives of Lebanon's various communities with whom (we) met had all agreed that the destruction was both deliberate and planned," said the joint statement issued by the council and other sponsoring church bodies Wednesday evening, summarizing the news conference.
De Clermont, a retired pastor of the Reformed Church of France, was part of a three-member delegation made up of Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy and an official of the council who met with religious leaders and senior Lebanese and Palestinian officials.
They regretted that the Israeli government did not receive them, but they did meet with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger. The trio, which intended to show solidarity with the people in Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories, visited Beirut, Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank during the five-day trip.
De Clermont, who spoke for the two other delegation members who joined him at a news conference in the world council's headquarters, said Israel would not want the existence of a democratic Lebanon where Jews, Christians and Muslims were peacefully living side by side, because it does not want to see its neighbor state succeeding in what Israel is unsuccessfully trying to achieve.
De Clermont said Hizbullah was a scapegoat.
"It is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and not the role and actions of Hizbullah that is at the heart of the present crisis," the statement said.
"All the religious leaders in Israel and Palestine, as well as (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas told us that the time has come to accept sitting down and negotiating with everybody," he said, adding that it was necessary to "demilitarize the thinking" of political leaders.
The delegation had hoped to meet with Israeli government officials and had been in touch with President Moshe Katsav and some ministers.
"There was no sign that the Israeli government noticed the presence of a delegation from the World Council of Churches, whereas (Lebanese) Prime Minister (Fuad) Siniora insisted on receiving us and stressed the importance of a spiritual message in these days of crises," de Clermont said.
The World Council of Churches represents 348 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.
Church body backs Palestinian cause
Firms which profit from Israeli occupation are to be targeted
(23 February 2005) - THE World Council of Churches (WCC) - a global body of non-Catholic Christians - has urged members to sell off investments in companies profiting from Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.
The Council's central committee, meeting in Geneva, praised the Presbyterian Church for examining the possibility of divesting from Israeli companies, similar to the financial boycott it used against the apartheid regime in South Africa two decades ago.
The Presbyterian threat, which echoes divestment debates at some US universities, has angered Jewish-American leaders.
But the central committee, in a document approved at a week-long meeting at WCC headquarters that ended on Tuesday, highlighted the divestment push and encouraged other member churches to consider doing the same.
"This action is commendable in both method and manner, uses criteria rooted in faith and calls members to do the things that make for peace," it declared, using St Luke's Gospel in the Bible as a reference.
"Economic pressure, appropriately and openly applied, is one such means of action," it added.
It was not clear how many of the WCC's 342 Protestant and Orthodox member churches would heed the call.
They were also involved in "the construction of settlements and settlement infrastructure on occupied territory, in building a dividing wall which is also largely inside occupied territory and in other violations of international law".
The Presbyterian Church's general assembly called last July for a "phased, selective divestment" beginning no earlier than July 2006.
But a dissident group is asking church leaders to place a moratorium on the project as early as next month.
List of targets
No companies have been singled out but a report naming the most likely targets is due in August.
Human rights groups have urged Caterpillar Inc, the world's largest maker of construction machinery, to stop selling bulldozers to the Israeli army, saying they are used to wreck innocent Palestinian homes in occupied Gaza and the West Bank.
No one knows yet how much of the church's $8 billion portfolio - investments covering pensions and other holdings controlled by its leadership - might be at issue.
Jewish groups are clearly upset
"Instead of talking about peace we're talking about Presbyterians," David Elcott, director of inter-religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, said this month.
"They have deflected conversation in a very negative way."
The 2.5 million-strong church, the ninth largest in the US, represents most US Presbyterians.
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