Committee unifies General Synod resolutions on peace in Israel/Palestine
Two separate resolutions about a Just Peace in Israel/Palestine that came before the General Synod of the United Church of Christ have been revised and combined into a single resolution that will be sent to the floor for deliberation by Synod delegates.
The committee, chaired by the Rev. Richard Edens, pastor of United Church of Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, N.C., gave its unanimous affirmation of the new unified resolution. It will come before the full General Synod sometime on Monday or Tuesday. General Synod 2015 is gathered from June 26 to June 30 in Cleveland.
“We do not condone violence in any form, and we affirm the right of Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side,” said the Rev. John A. Deckenback, conference minister of the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC, one of the sponsoring conferences of the original resolution.
Aimed at ending the decades-long violence in Israel/Palestine between the two peoples, the resolution will still ask the church and its entities to be involved in boycott, divestment and sanctions. Among the amendments the committee made, the call for divestment was expanded from including five companies to include “any direct or substantive indirect holdings in companies profiting from, or complicit in, human rights violations arising from the occupation.” Another change offered an exit strategy for the church to end its divestments or boycotts of companies when they no longer profit from the occupation or cease operations in the illegal settlements.
“This resolution is not about boycotting or divesting from Israel. It is about boycotting and divesting from companies that benefit from Israel’s occupation,” Deckenback said. “We should not do business or earn pension or investment income from a company that does this.”
As the committee deliberated how the local and regional relationships between UCC pastors and rabbis will change if the resolution passes, the Rev. Jim Antal, conference minister of the Massachusetts Conference, said that it “absolutely will affect those relationships.”
Still, there is support for the resolution from Jewish voices.
“There are lots of American Jews who feel this way, and more and more of us are finding our voices,” said Robert Herbst, an American Jew from Massachusetts and General Synod guest. “It’s not anti-Semitic, it’s not anti-Jewish, nor is it anti-Israeli.”
Antal also reminded the group, as it deliberated nuanced language to the resolution, that “parity is not the goal here. Witness is the goal. Solidarity is the goal.”
A separate committee, debating the resolution on recognizing the actions of Israel against Palestinians in the occupied territories as apartheid, also affirmed that resolution after some debate and making three amendments to the body of the text. That committee added historical context of the UCC and fleshed out the recommendation for all settings of the church members to study the “history, politics, religions and cultures” of Israel/Palestine so that they understand the seriousness of the situation there.
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