*July 2015 Update: A revised version of the resolution originally referenced on this webpage was passed by delegates to the 216th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ (MACUCC), on June 13, 2015. (Our local church’s primary concerns as to the efficacy of this resolution are noted here.)
Prior to the MACUCC June 2015 Annual Meeting and vote, this revised resolution had already been submitted to the Office of General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ for consideration at the 30th General Synod. This is the biennial national meeting of the United Church of Christ (UCC), which was held on June 26-30, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. That document was one of three resolutions related to the Israeli-Palestinian controversy presented for consideration by the Synod this summer, all of which seemed contradictory to the support of mutual negotiations for a just and sustainable peace in this long-standing, complex conflict. (Challenges on the merit of these resolutions presented here: United Church of Christ Proposed Resolution: Israel guilty of Crime of Apartheid.)
The two resolutions proposing divestment and boycott actions were combined into one text (here), which was passed on June 30th, receiving well more than the two-thirds majority vote required for endorsement. The third resolution, that proposed Israel be declared guilty of the Crime of Apartheid (online access to that document could not be found when writing this update), did not receive the necessary two-thirds majority vote and so was not passed on June 30th. (Accounts of vote on both resolutions here: United Church Of Christ Takes A Stand On Israeli-Palestinian Conflict With Divestment Vote and UCC votes for divestment, boycott of companies that profit from occupation of Palestinian territories.)
Therefore we are expanding our endeavors through this Project beyond the MACUCC, to focus on addressing the general public and the wider UCC denomination at the national level.
*You are invited to read further for information on the history, purpose, research, activities and suggested resources of our Israel-Palestine Just Peace Project
United Church of Christ in Canton is a member of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ (MACUCC). In Spring 2014, our pastor, Dr. John Tamilio III, was reviewing the information packet for the 215th Annual Meeting of the MACUCC, which was upcoming on June 13-14, 2014. He noticed a weighty resolution to be proposed during that assembly, in preparation for it to be voted on at the next regular meeting in June 2015. Accordingly, he alerted the church leaders about this “Proposed Resolution of Witness Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” presented by the Justice and Witness Council of the MACUCC, at the request of the Israel Palestine Task Team.
As we read through the resolution and related background information provided, we were concerned that it seemed only one side of this conflict was being offered for consideration, a pro-Palestinian position. There was not a balanced representation of the facts related to the plethora of issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) being promoted against occupied Israel.
A circumstance which seemed contrary to statements within the resolution itself, noting:
“…WHEREAS the UCC is deeply committed to interfaith relationships and General Synods have confessed to the sin of anti-Semitism and proclaimed its renunciation (GS 23 ); …and WHEREAS the UCC values its relationships with Jewish groups in the U.S. who have differing perspectives on the conflict and with Jewish Israeli peace activists who have sought justice, equality and freedom for both peoples…”
If the UCC denomination is indeed “deeply committed to interfaith relationships” and “values its relationships with Jewish groups in the U.S. who have differing perspectives on the conflict”, then we wondered… Where are the differing perspectives and corroborating information that address the purpose and content of this resolution being offered? Where is the pro-Israeli Jewish viewpoint reflected in conjunction with the pro-Palestinian stance?
On further research about the resolution, its intention and related details, as well as other information regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, we have found many relevant sources presenting multiple positions and facts on this deep-rooted struggle. Hence, we have reviewed resources supporting many aspects of both the Palestinian and Israeli standpoints.
Through pursuing this research, we detected a disturbing theme. More recently for the regional MACUCC, and with a well-established history for the United Church of Christ (UCC) national denomination and affiliated Global Ministries, their website postings on Israel and Palestine exhibit a perpetual succession of articles, news-feeds, blogs, promotion of events, suggested worship services, prayers and links to other organizations, which focus only on supporting the Palestinians and usually criticizing the Israelis. The essence being that Israel is solely accountable for the ongoing hostilities, human rights violations and often deplorable living conditions of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
Nowhere on these sites or related links could we find material with a positive focus on Israel. For instance, nothing about Israel’s multiple outreach endeavors to support and assist the Palestinians in the areas of healthcare, agriculture, industry, development of infrastructure and more. Nor about Israel being a safe haven in the Middle East for Arab (and other) Christians, or taking in hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees over the years from various countries around the world who, due to prevalent anti-Semitism and urgent safety issues, have been forced to leave their homelands.
Also, there are certainly no references to Israel’s repeated active efforts to co-exist peacefully, even collaboratively with the Palestinians. Evident as far back as 1947, when Jewish leaders accepted the United Nations Partition Plan, which would have created two separate independent states in Palestine, with one the establishment of a Jewish homeland. A plan that was summarily rejected by the Arabs in the region at the time. (See timeline: Israel’s Quest for Peace.)
After careful assessment of our ongoing, diverse studies regarding the history and multifaceted issues involved in this controversy, our local church had grave reservations as to the benefits of the strategy and content of this resolution, as well as the related information and ongoing approach used to present it. Instead, these appeared to be detrimental to affirmative endeavors for Israel and Palestine achieving a fair, mutual and sustainable peace.
So as advocates for peace, justice, and well-being for Palestinians and Israelis alike, and based on our own prayerful discernment on this matter, our congregation wanted to assure that the voting MACUCC local churches had the opportunity to make an informed decision about this resolution, based on access to and awareness of accurate information representing both sides of the conflict. To that end we recommended, in addition to the *Kairos Document and other resources related to the resolution offered through the MACUCC, that materials presenting the Israeli standpoint be reviewed and discussed by the MACUCC local congregations prior to voting at the 2015 Annual Meeting.
To support an opportunity for these churches to make such an informed decision, our Israel-Palestine Just Peace Project was initiated. We undertook to provide accurate pro-Israel materials and resources applicable to the issues raised by the resolution, as well as definitive objections to the application of BDS measures against Israel as “a constructive, non-violent means” for attaining peace in this persistent conflict. (For a concise rebuttal, see resource list: The Anti-Israel Divestment Campaign: Introduction. Content noted therein remains equally relevant today, as when the BDS Movement global campaign was initiated July 9, 2005.)
Toward that effort, a packet containing such information was mailed via U.S. Postal Service to each of the local churches in the MACUCC, as well appropriate MACUCC regional and UCC national leadership and staff. The materials in that packet are also available here for easy reference:
From the packet cover letter:
Yes, the Israeli’s have done some appalling things to the Palestinians in the name of national security in recent years and need to be held responsible for these — which the Israeli Supreme Court does, by the way. However, steps must be taken to address the hate and violence and their sources on both sides of the negotiation table. It takes all parties of a conflict having a sincere investment in pursuing mutual peace to achieve sustainable peace.
It seems resolutions more suitable for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict would support policies and programs that: 1) encourage face-to-face encounters between Palestinians and Israelis, facilitated to foster sincere mutual respect, reconciliation, and restitution. This could perhaps start on a personal level and expand to groups and organizations as appropriate, including but not limited to leadership. Also, 2) engage with the Palestinians to help them develop a more stable, productive economy and functional, sturdy infrastructure in their territories. To meet these goals, collaborative assistance and training would be provided as necessary, and hopefully accepted willingly… (For a viable starting point, see resource list: INSS Insight #671-Recalculating the Gaza Route: Reconstruction of an Autonomous Area with Protected Zones.)
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Note: Concerns similar to ours, specifically related to the UCC supporting BDS as a constructive means toward peace, were expressed at General Synod 28 in 2011. This was during committee discussion of a related resolution called, “In Support of Effective and Constructive Peacemaking between Palestinians and Israelis through Positive Investment in Palestine.” As a result, this resolution was tabled. (Online access to this document could not be found when writing this webpage.) Full article is here: Synod tables Israel/Palestine resolution.
The article reported, “ ‘If General Synod were to support this resolution, it might be misinterpreted,’ said the Rev. Lori Esslinger, pastor of Flicksville UCC in Bangor, Pa., and a Synod delegate on the committee. ‘The Middle East needs every available option for a peaceful resolution of the tensions there. People need to be clear that the UCC still supports a negotiated peace process…’. ”
“The discussion in committee, held prior to the resolution coming before delegates…, pivoted around whether BDSs are effective means of bringing about peace in the Middle East. General Synod 25 in 2005 had called for the use of economic leverage to promote peace in the Middle East, including but not limited to BDSs.”
“The 15 delegates who submitted the [General Synod 28] resolution specifically wanted to avoid ‘any movement towards boycott, divestment and/or economic sanctions (BDS) which … will serve to encourage more conflict as it seeks to punish one side as if its actions alone are to blame for the failure to reach a peaceful and just solution.’ “
“Instead of fanning the flames of the conflict, the promoters urged the UCC to become ‘true partners’ of the Palestinians by supporting their efforts towards economic improvement and nation-building. Only by creating a viable Palestinian state that can negotiate with Israel as an equal can real peacemaking occur, the supporters said.”
We recognize that Israel’s prolonged occupation results in substantial hardship for the Palestinians, as well as perpetuation of Israeli settlements within Palestinian territory, and so both should be discontinued. But this raises a vital concern re: how Israel is supposed to set aside their firm defensive measures and still maintain effective security for all, while Hamas, now officially part of the Palestinian government, continues to call for the murder of Jews and the annihilation of Israel. This terrorist organization encourages independent attacks and, utilizing Palestinian civilians, including children, as shields, fires rockets into Israeli communities that purposely target civilians and military alike. For true peace to be established, this long-standing course of violence by the Palestinians must be acknowledged and addressed, too.
In addition, we concur with many individuals and organizations around the globe, including large numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, that the path to equitable and sustainable peace will be found in a two state solution. But for both states to thrive, this solution must be attained through collaborative negotiations that include mutual accountability, and viable strategies with active support of third parties to develop respect and acceptance for each other; the goal being reconciliation and cooperation, along with restitution where appropriate. This will not be achieved through resolutions that promote a campaign such as this BDS— a campaign that tries to force one party to take sole responsibility for adverse conditions and all conciliatory actions to resolve a highly complex conflict. Campaigns based on playing this blame game can easily slip into “justifiable” vilifying, slanderous rhetoric and hostile actions against the targeted “bad guys,” as has happened, for example, since the initial promotion of this BDS at colleges and universities across the United States. (See resource list: “Anti-Israeli sentiment growing at alarming rates on U.S. campuses.”)
Such deplorable consequences are best avoided by not going down that road at all.