The World Council of Churches on Wednesday called on Israel to cease and dismantle its settlements in the occupied territories.
Passed on the last day of the WCC Central Committee meeting, the "Statement on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" encouraged an international boycott of products and services from settlements. It also urged the Israeli government to commit to non-violence and peace negotiations.
"[While] Israel's own right to exist in security evokes sympathy and solidarity around the world," states the Central Committee, WCC's main decision-making body, "its policies of expansion and annexation generate dismay or hostility."
There is a clear distinction, the committee maintains, "between the legitimate interests of the state of Israel and its illegal settlements."
The statement comes exactly a week after the group's outgoing general secretary called Israel's "occupation" of Palestinian territories "a sin against God." The Rev. Samuel Kobia had urged the central committee to also make that declaration official.
In response, the American Jewish Committee called Kobia's statements "hypocritical." The committee also said the statements ignore the reason for Israel's presence in the West Bank.
Jewish groups have had a long and at times disagreeable relationship with the WCC, which they accuse of being more favorable to the plight of Palestinians.
The Central Committee statement said all its member churches should boycott settlement products and services so as not to be "complicit in illegal activities on occupied territory" and to "practice morally responsible investment."
The WCC is the largest ecumenical body in the world, consisting of 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches and representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries.
Its Central Committee met from Aug. 26 to Sept. 2 in Geneva to plan for the upcoming WCC Assembly in 2013 and to elect its new general secretary.