Urging the United States to oppose “Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian lands,” leaders of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are encouraging church members to study and act on a new ecumenical call “to end the oppression of the Palestinian people.”
In a July 1 statement, four executives of the two North American denominations “commended” to their members a statement issued by their Palestinian partners, “Cry for Hope: A Call to Decisive Action.” The Palestinians’ struggle needs urgent attention, even in the midst of global racial and health crises, the UCC and Disciples leaders said.
The “Cry for Hope” from the ecumenical Christian movement Kairos Palestine and its global supporters says Israel’s current plan to annex portions of the occupied West Bank is the latest step in Israel’s “ongoing project of land-taking and attaining control over the entire territory of Palestine.”
‘Global politics and maneuvering continue’
“Let us be clear: we reiterate our opposition to Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian lands,” said the UCC and Disciples leaders. Their statement, issued via the denominations’ shared Global Ministries website, was described as a “Message and Call” in response to “Cry for Hope.” It was signed by the general ministers and presidents of the churches, the Rev. John Dorhauer (UCC) and the Rev. Teresa Hord Owens (Disciples), and Global Ministries’ co-executives, the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson (UCC) and the Rev. Julia Brown Karimu (Disciples).
They said the global COVID-19 pandemic and international protests sparked by killings of Black Americans at the hands of police must not be allowed to provide cover for further Israeli land takeovers. “Global politics and maneuvering continue, perhaps hoping for the shadow of these ‘distractions,’” the UCC and Disciples leaders said. “… Israeli de jure annexation of these lands is illegal under international law, but has had the support of the current U.S. Administration as articulated in President Trump’s ‘Peace to Prosperity' proposal, which we have criticized, along with other policy shifts by this Administration regarding Israel/Palestine since 2017.”
The UCC and Disciples leaders encouraged church members to read and study “Cry for Hope” and drew attention to its signature campaign. They also urged church members to join “interreligious dialogue and coalitions to support peace with justice for Israelis and Palestinians, as well as in all circumstances, including here in North America, and work against racism and discrimination in all their forms, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim acts and speech.”
‘A perspective we must heed’
At the time of its July 1 release, “Cry for Hope” – issued with support from Kairos Palestine’s wider network, Kairos for Global Justice – had more than 300 religious, secular and academic signers from around the world.
“We have come to the end of the illusion that Israel and the world powers intend to honor and defend the rights of the Palestinian people to dignity, self-determination, and the fundamental human rights guaranteed under international law,” the ecumenical “Cry” says. “… It is time for the international community, in light of these events, to recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law.”
The “Message and Call” from UCC and Disciples leaders is “an unequivocal rejection of Israeli annexation of the West Bank,” said Peter Makari, Global Ministries area executive for the Middle East and Europe. He said it “speaks clearly against continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, its devastating blockade of Gaza, and its denial of Palestinian refugee rights; and points to Israel’s discriminatory ‘Nation State Law.’”
“Our churches have taken the quest for justice in the Middle East very seriously, connecting that with the struggle for justice in all places,” Makari said. “Our missional imperative to hear the voices of our partners and to amplify those voices leads us to lift up the ‘Cry for Hope’ and its urgency. It offers a perspective we must heed, and invites active engagement and response.”