In this issue:

  • Resolution Implementation Step Six: Defund Militarism
  • The Broad Reach of the Declaration by Peter Makari
  • UCC PIN Webinar Series: YouTube Links
  • Engaging Difficult Conversations with Interfaith Colleagues: a Resource
  • Upcoming Events
  • Breaking the Stories, curated by the Rev. Loren McGrail
Art work on the end of a table at the Tent of Nations, photograph by Allie Perry
Resolution Implementation Step Six: Defund Militarism
On February 1, Amnesty International released their much-anticipated report, Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity Following last year’s reports by B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International adds further heft to the growing international consensus that Israel is an apartheid regime, perpetrating crimes against humanity. (See Breaking the Stories below for several articles about the report.)

Trying to discredit the report even before its release, in January Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid decried the “poison” and “radioactivity” of apartheid discourse and argued that calling Israel an apartheid state is “a rotten lie.” The Biden administration called the report “false and biased.” The New York Times has been completely silent, apparently not deeming the Amnesty report “news fit to print.”

If the action is in the reaction, the report’s import is seismic. Its research and conclusions, despite being condemned, cannot be denied. One undeniable assertion in Amnesty’s report speaks to the imperative for the sixth step in the UCC PIN Implementation Wheel for the Declaration for a Just Peace Between Palestine and Israel: Defund militarism.
The report calls out the complicity of other countries that aid and abet Israel’s apartheid regime “by supplying it with arms, equipment, and other tools to perpetrate crimes under international law.” As Omar Barghouti, founder of the BDS movement. and Stefanie Fox, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, wrote recently, “No state is as complicit in enabling, arming, and shielding Israeli apartheid as the United States.”

“Defund militarism” is aspirational, a Herculean challenge. But there are critical, concrete ways for us as people of faith to take up the imperative of this challenge. For starters, we need to educate ourselves and inform others about the unprecedented cost and exceptionalism of U.S. military support for Israel, with little to no strings attached or accountability.

One helpful resource is "Bringing Assistance to Israel in Line With Rights and U.S. Laws,"an article by Josh Ruebner and others. Their comprehensive analysis documents the U.S. “ironclad commitment to Israel’s military aid,” providing Israel 52% of the entire U.S. financial military financing (FMF) since FY 2001. 
The bottom line? The U.S. is violating its own human rights laws (the Foreign Assistance Act, the Arms Export Control Act, and Leahy Laws), We as taxpayers are underwriting these abuses, in what constitutes a direct transfer of public dollars to private defense contractors in the U.S. and also in Israel, itself one of the world’s leading arms exporters. 

This is an outrage. In addition to sharing this analysis with others, we must continue to promote and advocate for the legislation that Rep. Betty McCollum has introduced, H.R. 2590, titled “Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act.” In this newest version of the bill, Rep. McCollum extends the limits on U.S. military funding to include not only Israel's abusive treatment of Palestiian children in its military judicial system but also Israel’s displacement of Palestinians through home demolitions, evictions, and illegal annexation of land.

Is your Representative a co-sponsor? Check here. If yes, thank them profusely. If no, call again and again and yet again to advocate for them to sign on. Rep. McCollum persists; so must we. 
The Broad Reach of the Declaration
by Peter Makari, Executive, Middle East and Europe
Global Ministries
When General Synod 33 (2021) voted overwhelmingly to adopt the resolution “Declaration for a Just Peace between Palestine and Israel,” the United Church of Christ reaffirmed its commitments to peace and justice for the world to hear. The UCC also announced with clarity where our denomination stands vis-à-vis the current context in Israel/Palestine, its willingness to name what our members hear from partners and have observed on their own, and our rejection of theologies and ideologies that discriminate and oppress.

Anticipating responses to the resolution, the officers of the UCC issued a “message to the UCC and the wider community,” in which they acknowledged, “We know that this resolution will be well received by some, and cause discomfort for others.” In fact, criticism came quickly.

At the same time, the UCC received strong affirmation for its willingness to name the oppression of the Palestinian people as “sin,” to characterize Israeli systems of laws and procedures as “apartheid,” and to assert a rights-based approach to address injustice, among other statements. Such affirmation came from Palestinian partners of the UCC through Global Ministries, as well as from engaged faith-based movements and groups around the world, including Europe and Southern Asia.

In early August 2021 I was invited to speak about the resolution, during a live broadcast on prime-time Palestinian television program called Malaff khass (“Special File”). In a close to 40-minute segment, I spoke about the UCC’s long history of mission engagement in the Middle East, its current engagement with partners, its commitment to peace and justice globally, including in the US, and to present the substance of the Declaration to a Palestinian audience.

This opportunity had several benefits. First, by speaking to a general viewership, presumably mostly Muslim, we were able to add a voice of American Christianity that may not be heard on a regular basis, beyond the circles of our partners in Palestine and Israel. Palestinians have more exposure to and familiarity with the views of American evangelicals, especially Christian Zionists, who dominate the public discourse (and policy debates). The work of churches and Western Christians with long commitments to peace, justice, and solidarity, such as the UCC, is perhaps not as familiar or well-known. To be able to include that the Declaration explicitly affirms the dignity of “all people living in Palestine and Israel,” and rejects Christian Zionism offers a different face of American Christianity.

Second, by speaking about the enduring relationships of the UCC through Global Ministries with Palestinian partners, we lifted up the witness of Palestinian Christians and their important role in advocating for justice and peace. We emphasized that the UCC acts in partnership with Palestinians. We are committed, as the Declaration states, “to hearing the voices of Palestinians regarding their situation” and to nurturing these relationships.

Third, we recognized publicly our responsibility as a US church and faithful citizens to advocate with our elected officials for change, including support for international law, restoration of US funding for vital programs like UNRWA, and our opposition to military aid that has been used to violate Palestinian rights and US law. The Church has a special role as a moral voice, and our faith moves us to act in accordance with those principles.

Following the broadcast, the station contacted us to share that Palestinian leadership were among the audience, and that they expressed appreciation for our work and voice as a church. The world is watching, paying attention to our witness. May our efforts continue and may peace with justice prevail.
UCC PIN Webinar Series: YouTube Links
Participants gave a thumbs up to our just completed UCC PIN 4-part Webinar Series. Here is a sampling of comments shared in the chats for the webinars: “Hugely important discussion.” “Thank you for this outstanding webinar. I learned so much from it.” “Excellent presentation! So much to think about and act on!” “This has been a wonderfully education session, and inspirational.” “Thanks for the super presentation.” People expressed appreciation for the whole series. And in the chat for our last one, one participant wrote, “Well done, everyone. This model is useful for other denominations to ‘go and do likewise.’”
Partnering with our friend and former UCC PIN steering committee member Michael Spath, and the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace, to produce the series has been a joy and blessing. We will be offering more webinars. Plans are already in the works for a webinar on “The Weaponization of Anti-Semitism.” Look for details to come. 

Full length videos for each of these four webinars are available on YouTube (find links below) and can also be accessed through on our UCC PIN website. Members of our PIN steering committee are currently working to produce shorter, user-friendly versions for church to be able to use for educational programs. Coming soon. 
Israel’s Oppression of Palestine: It is a ‘Sin,’
Nov. 3, 2021
 Why We Call Israel’s Oppression ‘Apartheid,’
Nov. 10, 2021
 Christian Zionism in the Mainline Church and American Civil Religion,
Jan. 26, 2022 
 A Human Rights Framework for a Political Solution, Feb. 2, 2022
Engaging Difficult Conversations with Interfaith Colleagues: a Resource

Conversations about Palestine and Israel sometimes can become tense, painful, fraught, and difficult, especially in interfaith relationships (even with Christian friends and colleagues). Avoidance, either explicitly or tacitly steering clear of such conversations, is a temptation. Our work, indeed our call, in response to the UCC’s adoption of Declaration for a Just Peace, is however to engage in just such conversations. But how?

Imagine a Jewish colleague, friend, or neighbor saying to you, “I heard that the American Jewish Committee has called out your denomination as ‘antisemitic’ because of the position you have taken against Israel. Didn’t you call Israel ‘sinful’? What gives?” How might you respond? How might you engage this person?

UCC PIN has created a resource with reflections on and recommendations for engaging in just such “Difficult Conversations.” The goal is not debate but dialogue, in an effort to increase understanding and, as the document states, “to maintain and build relationships and keep communication open.”

"I'm actually one of the people this resource is meant for,” said Elice Higginbotham, UCC PIN steering committee member and author of the resource. “I've been involved in Palestinian rights advocacy for nearly 20 years -- and yet I confess that, deep in my heart (or in the pit of my stomach), I'm secretly hoping that my fellow progressive friends, whether Jewish or Christian, WON'T ask me challenging questions about Israel or antisemitism. I suspect there are lots of folks out there like me who are suffering similar anxiety. UCC-PIN hopes this resource will help you!"

This resource will soon be available on our UCC PIN website.
Upcoming Events
The Politics of Persecution: Middle Eastern Christians in an Age of Empire
Wednesday, Feb. 23, 11 am-noon ET
On Wednesday, Feb. 23, the Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Lutheran pastor from Bethlehem, pre-eminent contextual theologian, and good friend of the UCC, will speak about his newest book, The Politics of Persecution: Middle Eastern Christians in an Age of Empire, which addresses the situation of Christians in the Middle East. He will present a less-familiar narrative about Christians in the Middle East, challenging us to reconsider how we think about our siblings in faith. Rev. Raheb is also the founder and President of the Diyar Consortium, which includes Dar al-Kalima University, partners of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ through Global Ministries. 

Embodying the Way of the Prince of Peace
Lenten Series Sponsored by the
Central Pacific Conference Palestine Israel Network
Parents Circle Peace Witnesses Robi Damelin and Bassam Aramin
March 12 - 10:00 a.m. Pacific/11:00a.m. Mountain/
12 Central/1:00 Eastern

 Daoud Nassar of Tent of Nations
March 19 - 10:00 a.m. Pacific/11:00a.m. Mountain/
12 Central/1:00 Eastern
Come and See. Go and Tell.
March 26 - 10:00 a.m. Pacific/11:00a.m. Mountain/
12 Central/ 1:00 Eastern
Walking the Path of the Prince of Peace - Meditation on the Series
April 2 - 10:00 a.m. Pacific/11:00a.m. Mountain/
12 Central/1:00 Eastern

To access more details and and to register for the series, go
here. A confirmation email and Zoom link will be sent to you.
Breaking The Stories: February 2022
curated by the Rev. Loren McGrail,
UCC PIN Steering Committee
Haitham Khatib
“Israeli Apartheid and the Path to Teshuvah” – A Statement by the JVP Rabbinical Council
We, the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, stand by the recent reports which use the term ‘apartheid’ to describe Israeli rule over Palestinians. The past year’s reports by B’tselem, Human Rights Watch and now Amnesty International contain well-documented evidence describing how the State of Israel maintains a system of identity-based domination over Palestinians. This detailed evidence demonstrates the systemic and shocking human rights violations and extreme violence and cruelty unleashed upon Palestinians living both under Israeli military and civil jurisdiction. Here.
The obscure UN committee that (may) charge Israel with Apartheid
A U.S. Delegation presents a U.S. periodic report on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (CERD) at the United Nations, August 12-14, 2014 (Photo: U.S. MIssion Geneva/Eric Bridiers)
The conclusions the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination reaches may have huge consequences for Israel as it tries to weather the apartheid storm, and for Palestinians seeking justice. . . The Israeli apartheid idea is like a mountain stream, steadily gaining speed, becoming a river, growing broader, deeper, harder to block or push back. Here.
Texas anti-BDS measure ruled unconstitutional — again
Injunctions against US anti-boycott measures are increasing,as more judges acknowledge the impact on free speech rights.  Pacific PressSIPA USA
For the second time, legislation designed to stigmatize and outlaw the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights has been ruled unconstitutional in Texas.But in Georgia and Virginia, lawmakers are trying once again to crush free speech protections in order to shield Israel.In Texas, Rasmy Hassouna, the Gaza-born owner of an engineering firm, sued the state after refusing to sign a loyalty oath to Israel in order to secure a contract with the city of Houston.A federal judge granted an injunction in late January that blocks the state from enforcing its law against Hassouna.
Resources about Amnesty International's Apartheid Report

Rejection of ‘Israel’s apartheid’ grows as D.C. Episcopalians affirm their opposition, 3 to 1 Here
AP Reporter Presses State Dept on Amnesty's Israel Report Here
Amnesty International’s Apartheid Report: Parsing the Jewish Communal Outrage Here

Amnesty International Defends Report on Israeli Apartheid, Rejecting Criticism from U.S. & Israel Here
Gideon Levy’s challenge: what’s untrue in Amnesty’s report? Here
Amnesty report: The limits of the apartheid framework Here

Is This Israel's South Africa Moment? Here
Other Resources

Over 250 US Rabbis Demand End to Jewish Settler Violence in Palestine Here

Tent of Nations: An Update Here

Home Demolition in Sheikh Jarrah Seen as Part of Broader Israeli Effort to Dispossess Palestinians Here
What Would Jesus Do At An Israeli Military Checkpoint? This Palestinian Pastor Wants To Know
Defeating the IHRA witch hunt: An interview with Palestinian activist and scholar Shahd Abusalama