Written by Connie Larkman
The leaders of the United Church of Christ in New York are pushing back against N.Y. governor Andrew Cuomo's decision to prohibit state agencies from doing business with companies and organizations aligned with the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement against Israel.
On behalf of the New York Conference, United Church of Christ, Conference Minister the Rev. David Gaewski sent a letter to Cuomo calling on him to rescind his executive order. The conference has also created a website where like-minded New Yorkers can add their voices to that call.
"I believe the Governor issued a poorly considered executive order based on one faith perspective," said Gaewski. "Hopefully if an equally loud message in support of peace in the region by means of BDS is communicated, he may reconsider his action. To penalize citizens of New York for expressing their freedom to boycott is unconscionable. I am proud of the Board of Directors of the New York Conference for unanimously supporting this action."
Two years ago, the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ voted to forward a resolution to the UCC General Synod calling on the church to divest from "companies that profit from or that are complicit in violations of human rights arising from the occupation of the Palestinian Territories by the state of Israel," and to "boycott goods produced in or using the facilities of illegal settlements located in the West Bank." That resolution, focusing on the occupation, yet not a complete endorsement of the Palestinian civil society’s BDS movement, was overwhelmingly passed by the General Synod in 2015.
Cuomo's executive order is designed to protect Israel from the economic penalties of boycotts, divestment or sanctions. Under the order, the state of New York will identify institutions and companies that engage in the BDS movement, all state business with these groups will cease, and state funds will be divested from those entities.
The United Church of Christ has long been committed to supporting a just peace in Israel/Palestine. As Gaewski's letter states, "We have sought to build relationships with people of all faiths in the region – [and] both Palestinian and Israeli - who share our desire for justice and healing. Through those relationships we have learned about the realities of the Israeli Occupation and the truly devastating impact it has on everyone in the region, especially Palestinians. We have asked ourselves and our partners in the region how we, as American Christians, can be in solidarity with those who are tirelessly struggling to end the occupation. One of the clearest answers was to use our financial resources to apply economic pressure to the structures supporting it."
"The New York Conference’s determination to stand by its support of the General Synod resolution is courageous and admirable," said Peter Makari, executive, Middle East and Europe, Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). "The United Church of Christ seeks to draw attention to, and ultimately help to end, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and people. Such an approach can only improve the security of Israel and of the region. And to use economic measures is consistent with our church’s non-violent engagement in many situations of injustice in the US and the world."