United Church of Christ passes resolution to divest from Israel

The homepage of the United Church of Christ website. Credit: Screenshot.

(JNS.org) The United Church of Christ (UCC) on Tuesday passed a resolution that calls for divestment from companies that do business with Israel at its General Synod in Cleveland.

The vote—508 in favor and 124 against, with 38 abstentions—culminates a process that began in 2005 “to end the Church’s complicity in Israel’s nearly half-century-old occupation and other abuses of Palestinian human rights,” according to a press release from UCC’s Palestine-Israel Network.

“As disciples of Jesus, we hear and seek to heed his call to be peacemakers, responding to violence with nonviolence and extending love to all,” said Rev. John Deckenback, Conference Minister of the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC, which submitted the resolution to the synod. “It is in that spirit of love for both Israelis and Palestinians, and a desire to support Palestinians in their nonviolent struggle for freedom, that the United Church of Christ has passed this resolution.”

The resolution follows in the footsteps of Presbyterian Church USA, which last year voted to divest from Israel. Two other mainline churches, the Episcopal Church and Mennonite Church USA, are also considering divestment votes this week.

Tuesday’s divestment vote was quickly condemned by Jewish and pro-Israel organizations. 

“The UCC’s one-sided view of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process singles out Israel and, shockingly, ignores any Palestinian accountability,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations.  

In addition to the divestment measure, a UCC resolution describing Israel as an “apartheid” state gained a majority, but failed to amass the two-thirds affirmative vote it needed to pass.

“Anti-Israel extremists within the UCC advanced these anti-Israel measures through deceptive rhetoric and tactics, and despite opposition from respected members of the synod,” the Israel education group StandWithUs said, adding that the measures “severely damaged the UCC’s relationship with the vast majority of the Jewish community.”

Dexter Van Zile, Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, noted that the UCC synod “did not offer one word of solace or support to Christians and other religious minorities suffering in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East.”

“How can a responsible organization remain silent about what’s happening to the Assyrians, to the Yazidis, and what the Copts endured in Egypt when [president Mohammed] Morsi was in power? The silence is criminal, simply criminal,” Van Zile told JNS.org.

Posted on June 30, 2015 .