John Thomas: Press statement on Middle East resolutions

Peace and justice for Israeli’s and Palestinians in the Middle East, and the promise of prosperity and security for both peoples, is the vision that is at the heart of the actions of the General Synod over many years regarding the conflict in the Middle East. We have long affirmed the right of Israel to exist within secure boarders as well as the right of Palestinians to their own state. Our vision is of a shared future symbolized by the sharing of the city and the holy sites of Jerusalem as a capital for both states.

The General Synod has also recognized that violence by both Israeli’s and Palestinians has thus far made the vision impossible, and that there have been failures of leadership on both sides. We join our Palestinian Christian partners in denouncing suicide bombing as a means of achieving the goal of a Palestinian state, and in calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, an occupation that is in violation of international law and places an enormous burden on the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians. The building of the separation barrier and the arbitrary methods used to maintain the Occupation create unjust and unbearable disruptions to Palestinian life including the capacity of Palestinians to work, to travel, to obtain good medical care, and to visit their families, sometimes even within their own villages. While the announced withdrawal from Gaza is welcome, the continued control of the West Bank, and the relentless extension of settlements there, creates geographic and demographic facts that will be difficult, if not impossible, to undo, and causes a profound sense of rage and despair in Palestinian communities. The Occupation must end.
Economic leverage includes a variety of potential tools, including investing in development projects that may help build a viable Palestinian economy, investing in groups in Israel and Palestine that are working for peace and against violence, challenging the corporate leadership of companies that profit from business in the Occupied territories, filing shareholder initiatives with those companies and divesting holdings in companies that refuse to end practices that enable them to profit from the continued violence on both sides and from the perpetuation of the Occupation. Such leverage can serve as a strong public witness against the injustice of the Occupation and the urgency of peace in the Middle East. In calling for the use of economic leverage in all of its forms, the General Synod has signaled a new sense of urgency for peace in Israel Palestine and a renewed commitment to end the Occupation which undermines the future for both Israel and Palestine in such profound ways.
In calling for the use of these means of economic leverage, the General Synod has not called for a boycott against the state of Israel. The General Synod has not called for divesting from companies doing business in the state of Israel. The General Synod has not called for using economic sanctions to damage the economy of Israel. The General Synod has not equated the Occupation with apartheid in South Africa, nor has it equated the Israeli government with the apartheid government of South Africa.
The discussion of the resolutions that were proposed to the General Synod has included an intensive and at times difficult dialogue with leaders of the Jewish community in the United States. I am grateful to the many national and regional Jewish leaders who have engaged in frank but respectful discussions with me and with many other UCC leaders in recent months. We have been helped by those discussions and are encouraged by the possibility of building a stronger and more honest dialogue into the future. In those conversations we have tried to listen carefully. But we have also attempted to reassure our Jewish friends by reminding them of our continued commitment to previous actions of the General Synod which have denounced anti-Semitism and which have separated the United Church of Christ from theologies declaring that God’s covenant with the Jews has been superceded by God’s covenant with the Church in Jesus Christ. We have said clearly that God’s covenant with the Jews is endures. This complex theological concept has enormous practical importance, for it challenges in a profound way the theological justification for centuries of anti-Jewish Christian violence and bigotry, and reminds the church that the Jewish community is an intimate and enduring partner in faith.
Thank you.
Categories: United Church of Christ News

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