A Church of England advisory panel has urged against pulling investments from the U.S.-based Caterpillar Inc. as part of a boycott call to break financial ties with companies linked to Israel's control of Palestinian territories.
The church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group, in a statement dated Tuesday, reaffirmed a decision taken last year to favor talks with Caterpillar rather than seek divestment.
Many religious groups and pro-Palestinian activists have targeted Caterpillar, whose heavy equipment is allegedly used by Israel Defense Forces in the demolition of Palestinian homes.
In February, the Church of England's governing body approved a resolution to divest from "companies profiting from the illegal occupation" of Palestinian areas.
It set in motion a review of the entire $1.53 billion stock portfolio of the church, which is the historical center of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States.
The divestment backing set off a barrage of criticism from Jewish groups and some prominent members of the church, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who said he was "ashamed to be an Anglican."
The ethical advisory group - whose reports are not binding - called divestment "a last resort action" and urged for continued dialogue with Caterpillar concerning its business contacts with Israel.
The panel noted, however, that Israeli authorities buy Caterpillar equipment through U.S. intermediaries and not directly with the company, which is based in Peoria, Illinois.
John Reynolds, the chairman of the panel, said the advisory group "could find no compelling evidence that Caterpillar is, or has been, complicit in human rights abuses."
The Church of England holds Caterpillar stock valued at roughly $4.4 million (3.71 million euros).
Other churches also are studying possible divestment from companies linked to Israeli operations in Palestinians areas. In May, the Church of Scotland is expected to study possible divestment at its general assembly. In June, the Presbyterian Church (USA) plans to review its 2004 declaration to support eventual "phased, selective divestment" of its $8 billion portfolio.