July 26, 2021
UCC Approves Historic Resolution
Delegates at the General Synod of the United Church of Christ have approved a resolution unprecedented in its condemnation of Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people and in its call to action as a matter of faith.

In its preamble, the Declaration for a Just Peace Between Palestine and Israel "pronounces Israel’s continued oppression of the Palestinian people a sin, incompatible with the Gospel." The declaration affirms that "we reject any laws and legal procedures which are used by one race or religion or political entity to enshrine one people in a privileged legal position at the expense of another, including Israel’s apartheid system of laws and legal procedures."

It further resolves that the UCC in all its settings advocate "for the cessation of U.S. military aid to Israel until such time that Palestinian human rights, civil rights, and self-determination are fully realized and protected in compliance with international law, US laws on foreign military assistance, and the principles of human rights." The declaration upholds without qualification the right of church and religious bodies to join the Palestinian Boycott and Divestment campaign movement and rejects the charge that BDS is anti-Semitic or that it seeks the destruction of Israel.

The UCC Declaration adopts the premises, theological principles, and action imperatives of the 2020 "Cry for Hope" of Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice, effectively leaving no blue sky between the cry of an oppressed, dispossessed people and the commitment of a Christian denomination to respond to that cry (read the letter from Kairos Palestine celebrating the declaration as a "bold act of faith and conscience, precedent-setting among denominations in North America"). Significantly, the declaration names Zionism as contrary to Christianity and Christian values. Quoting "Cry for Hope," the declaration asserts that "Christian support for Zionism as a theology and an ideology that legitimize the right of one people to deny the human rights of another is incompatible with the Christian faith and a grave misuse of the Bible.” It directs members of the UCC and its congregations and its bodies at all levels to challenge the ways in which the Bible or tenets of the Christian faith are used to promote or justify oppression, dispossession or racial supremacy in study, liturgy or preaching.
As significant as the substance of the resolution itself was the process that unfolded as the delegates grappled with issues that have vexed the deliberations of church bodies over the past decades. A special edition of the UCC News Digest described the "debate over whether calling that Israel's legal system 'apartheid' and naming it a 'sin' was too inflammatory," centering on the concern about how "particular words would affect their interfaith friends and colleagues.” Three amendments were proposed -- to remove the language about "sin," to eliminate the characterization of Israel's legal system as "apartheid," and to limit the call to cease U.S. aid to Israel to military aid only. The first two amendments were rejected by the assembly. "Sin" remained. "Apartheid" stayed. The third amendment on U.S. aid was accepted. With that one change, the declaration was adopted by the General Synod by an 83% majority.
It has been a long road since the early 2000s, when it was not possible to even get a divestment resolution approved by a denominational body. The Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church of the USA, for example, has been engaged in this struggle since 2004. But for the Presbyterians and for other U.S. denominations, dogged perseverance and trusting in the "arc of history" have born fruit over the years. Furthermore, groundbreaking developments at international and ecumenical levels demonstrate that the U.S. churches are part of a global network growing in strength and gaining in momentum.

The UCC declaration represents the culmination of decades of church activism, clearing the way for the actions that will ultimately change the political wind and bring liberation to both oppressed and oppressor. The church has done this before, prime examples being the civil rights movement in the United States and in the global fight to end apartheid in South Africa.

"Justice," reads the declaration, "understood both as adherence to the message of the Hebrew prophets and the life and teachings of Jesus, as well as to applicable international laws, is the fundamental and requisite principle which must guide a peaceful future for Israel and Palestine." It is this clarity, undeniable and unstoppable in its simplicity and its power, that will prevail as the struggle for justice continues.

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