US church votes by landslide to divest from Israeli occupation

Palestinian pastor Mitri Raheb addresses the United Church of Christ General Synod in Cleveland on 29 June. (United Church of Christ/Flickr)

The United Church of Christ (UCC) today overwhelmingly passed a resolution to support boycotts and divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The landslide vote – 508 in favor to 124 against, with 38 abstentions – took place at the church’s general synod, or legislative assembly, in Cleveland. An additional resolution which would label Israel’s practices “apartheid” gained a majority, but did not pass by the two-thirds needed for formal adoption.

UCC is a mainline Protestant denomination with more than 5,100 churches and 1.1 million members in the United States.

The United Church of Christ Palestine/Israel Network, which led the campaign, celebrated today’s decisions as “the culmination of a process that began in 2005, to end the church’s complicity in Israel’s nearly half-century-old occupation and other abuses of Palestinian human rights.”

“It also comes as a response to the Christian Palestinian community’s call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, as embodied in the Kairos Palestine document, which seeks to achieve Palestinian freedom and rights using peaceful means, inspired by the US Civil Rights and South African anti-Apartheid movements,” it added.

UCC follows in the footsteps of the Presbyterian Church USA, which passed similar measures last year and the United Methodist Church whose pension board last year divested from prisons and security firm G4S.

Truth to power

“In approving this resolution, the UCC has demonstrated its commitment to justice and equality,” Reverend Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian and pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, said.

“For Palestinians living under occupation or facing systematic discrimination as citizens of Israel, enduring the destruction of their homes and businesses, the theft of their land for settlements, and living under blockade and siege in Gaza, this action sends a strong signal that they are not alone, and that there are churches who still dare to speak truth to power and stand with the oppressed,” Raheb, who addressed the synod in Cleveland, added.

Occupation profiteers

The resolution now requires the UCC pensions board and other church funds to divest their holdings in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard, G4S and Veolia – companies which have all long been protested by Palestine solidarity activists for their complicity in Israel’s occupation.

It also calls on church members and bodies to boycott all products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli foreign ministry said the UCC vote “reflected the most radical politics for more than a decade and in no way reflect a moral stance or reality-based position.”

“No turning back”

What sets this vote apart is the huge margin of victory, an indication that BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – is gaining momentum despite aggressive efforts by Israel and its lobby groups to fight it.

“There is no turning back now. This is not a one-church movement; this is a national tide marking a new direction for mainstream institutions of all kinds in this country (including universities and celebrities) – that there will be no business as usual with Israeli occupation – that it is only a matter of time before Israel’s ‘South Africa moment’ is here,” the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation said in a statement welcoming the vote.

The US Campaign noted that the United Church of Christ Palestine/Israel Network’s mobilization was supported by members of the Palestinian American community, Muslim and Jewish activists and church social justice groups from several other denominations.

Jewish Voice for Peace, which also backed the effort, congratulated the United Church of Christ for taking “a strong stand for a just peace.”

Today’s vote also comes after a powerful endorsement from South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“It is unconscionable to remain silent, or neutral, in the face of injustice,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate wrote. “Neutrality maintains the status quo and compounds the injustice.”

Today’s vote will buoy members of the Episcopal and Mennonite churches whose national conventions are also due to debate divestment resolutions this week.

Tags

Comments

picture

Mazel tov!

picture

I'm excited to see this! Mazel Tov and thanks for the smile. Just when I gave up on humanity, beautiful things like this article give me hope.
Jane Zacher Student Philadelphia PA Turtle Island

picture

I would be really interested in hearing a response from Ali on this, given that he is a big figure in the BDS movement.

Is something considered a BDS victory if it explicitly declares support for the tw0-state solution, as did the UCC resolution?

On many occasions, Ali, Omar Barghouti, and other prominent figures have explained that supporting the two-state solution is not genuine solidarity with the Palestinian people because it means you oppose the right of return.

What matters more: embracing the tactics of boycott, divestment, and sanctions themselves or supporting the real-life goals that those tactics are designed to achieve?

This UCC resolution embraced the tactics of boycott and divestment, but decided it would use them to achieve its own personal goal of two states. It doesn't support the implicit one-state goal of official Palestinian BDS.

picture

You are doing an excellent job with very good results..I wish you all the best in your effort to publicise the Palestinian plight and the evil Israeli approach and lies. I do hope with your efforts the Western Public begin the true story of Palestine and the Palestinians.

picture

Please forgive my sarcastic thoughts on this...As I am happy to hear the good news for Palestinians who have "SUFFERED" immensely sense 1948 because of the power and support of Israel by the Jewish/Christian world, I hold to account all so-called churches of this horrible activity. Sense you have digressed from being a place of worship/the teaching of truth/peace and friendship...taking money as usury to "invest" in the "world"...you have revealed to everyone of the false directions and false beliefs to your sheep. In Truth you are only to lead the sheep in 'FAITH"...which is OPPOSITE from the world. Your linking with Israel and it's false prophets now "according to God" requires not only BDS but repentance of making your golden calves and worshiping them. You OWE the Palestinians not only the money you have supported your strange gods with, but also with immense apologies, help, and support so they can live a peaceful life as you have in these many years of their occupation. Shame on the heads of all churches that have been hijacked by liars. Your shame holds accountability...amen.

picture

I believe that Christian churches in the U.S. are roughly divided between those that emphasize personal salvation and those that emphasize service and responsibility to others.

Think about Rick Santorum's response to the Papal encyclical on the climate. He says that the Pope would do better to stick with morality and theology. IOW, "tell me how I can get my tail into heaven; then be quiet." He's worried about his own salvation. Not so much about anyone else.

As a person who is Jewish, I can relate more to the Christian churches that see the way to salvation as serving others. Who really knows if there's a heaven or a hell at all? If we do what we can to make our life and the lives of others better here on earth, we can make earth more like a heaven for everyone. That's all the salvation anyone can count on.

Slowly but surely, I think more Christians are coming to this second way of thinking… but it does take time, doesn't it?

picture

This vote not only shows their devotion to justice and equality but to the true principles of the Christian faith. No decent human being can support Israel's brutal occupation and oppression of the Palestinians and the savage and relentless bombardment of the defenseless Gazans. BDS can work. BDS is working.

picture

This is an important step in applying pressure on Israel to abide by international law. Other Christian churches will take inspiration and follow suit. And they will undertake the mission of persuading secular institutions to withdraw support for the Occupation.

Those who wish to send a message of thanks to the UCC synod may use this link-

http://www.uccpin.org/#!contac...

picture

Although this is a good step it is not enough. ALL Israeli products and companies need to be boycotted, not just the settlement ones. It is the Israeli government that steals the land, builds the apartheid settlements, and demolishes homes of Non Jews.

It is Israel that has built a Jewish Supremacist State with over 50 laws that discriminate and persecute Non Jews. To end Israel's apartheid structure, a total boycott is needed, as was done with South Africa. This piecemeal approach will not work to change the Israeli system, which is an abomination.

picture

Don't get too happy. We have far to go. There will be many
setbacks.

Most immediately, there was no comment---NONE---about the restrictions
embedded in the trade bill just passed by the US Congress just as there
was no debate in public discourse. Well.... it is an election year in the
US.

I have forwarded some information (such as Desmond Tutu's statement)
to a very few who once expressed interest. "Please take me off your
list." No one wants to hear if it goes against the easy misreporting of
the MSM.

And do I want Zionism to disappear? Of course I do!
I am for JUSTICE FOR ALL.

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.