The resolution – passed with the support of 79 percent of delegates at the general synod in Baltimore, the church’s top governing body – urges Israel to “exercise an absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment of detained children” and cease all practices that violate “international juvenile justice standards.”
It specifically calls for an end to such practices as “nighttime arrests in the child’s home, physical and verbal abuse, blindfolds and restraints, strip searches, solitary confinement, coerced confessions and confessions written in Hebrew, as well as the separation of detained children from their parents and legal counselors.”
UCC is a mainline Protestant denomination with more than 5,000 congregations and about one million members in the United States.
Sunday’s vote was welcomed by the No Way to Treat a Child campaign, which highlights the systematic abuses against some 700 children detained by Israeli occupation forces each year.
“This resolution from the United Church of Christ comes at a desperately urgent moment,” the campaign’s Beth Miller said. “Palestinian children are being detained in greater numbers and suffering increasingly severe abuse at the hands of Israeli forces. In passing this call to action with a strong majority, the UCC joins a growing movement of people in the US standing up and demanding a safe and just future for Palestinian children.”
Work on the resolution was led by the UCC Palestine/Israel Network, a caucus within the church, and was co-sponsored by 15 congregations.
The UCC Palestine/Israel Network said in a press release that the resolution is “based upon longstanding theological values of protecting vulnerable children and is informed by the witness of Palestinian Christian theologians” as expressed in the 2009 Kairos Palestine document.
That document challenges churches to take action for Palestinian rights, including support for boycott, divestment and sanctions.
More pressure on Congress?
The resolution explicitly calls on church members and communities to learn about the situation of Palestinian children under Israeli occupation and advocate for their rights.
It also calls for the US government to hold Israel accountable under the Foreign Assistance Act, “by withholding military assistance from the State of Israel due to its practices of arrest and detention of Palestinian children.”
The vote by the United Church of Christ could give a boost to efforts for such accountability in Congress.
Over the last two years, almost two dozen members of Congress have gone on record demanding Israel end its abuses of Palestinian children. That is only a small fraction of the 535 US lawmakers, but an unusually large number given the all but unanimous support for Israel usually found on Capitol Hill.
A greater mobilization among faith-based activists could mean that more representatives will be hearing messages of concern about Palestinian children from their constituents.
In 2015, the UCC voted by a landslide to support boycotts and divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.