The Steering Committee of the United Church of Christ Palestine-Israel Network (UCCPIN) strongly condemned the cancellation of Reverend Graylan Hagler’s “From Ferguson to Palestine” talk at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, NY on September 24.
Hagler is a longtime social and economic justice activist. He was deeply involved in the international solidarity movement against apartheid in South Africa and is today an outspoken supporter of Palestinian human rights.
Pro-Israel groups pressured the divinity school to cancel Rev. Hagler’s talk. UCCPIN said it is “outraged” by the decision of the school to rescind the invitation. Speaking on behalf of the Steering Committee, UCCPIN Chairperson Gay Harter stated “the intimidation of individuals and groups seeking justice for Palestinians is a disgrace, but it will not succeed in silencing a prophetic voice that seeks a just peace for all.”
“Rev. Hagler is a highly respected pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, DC and has held important national leadership positions in the denomination,” the Steering Committee noted.
“As a civil rights leader and a champion for low wage workers, Rev. Hagler understands the relationship of racism and power that is relevant to the injustices faced by Palestinians,” Chairperson Harter said. “His reflections on how these dynamics affect people of color in the United States as well as in Palestine and Israel are important for us to hear,” she added.
UCCPIN played an important role in drafting and eventually passing a resolution that calls on the United Church of Christ (UCC) to divest from and boycott companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation. The resolution was passed in June, at the 30th General Synod, an assembly of church members and officials.
The UCC, which has described itself as “an extremely pluralistic and diverse denomination,” is known for its progressive views and its support of civil, LGBTQ, and women’s rights. It is just one of numerous US churches that are taking action for Palestinian human rights.
The show will go on
Hagler told Mondoweiss he received death threats from people identifying as members of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a hard-line right-wing Evangelical Christian Zionist organization—although CUFI was not one of the groups who pressured the divinity school to cancel the event. Rev. Hagler said the callers warned him “We are going to kill you in the name of Christ if you come to Rochester” and “I hope you come here so I can spit in your face.”
In spite of the threats, and despite the divinity school’s cancellation, Rev. Hagler decided he is going to travel to Rochester anyway in order to give his talk, which draws parallels between the struggles of Black Americans and Palestinians for justice and liberation. The event is sponsored by the Rochester chapter of Friends of Sabeel – North America.
Hagler will instead be speaking at the Historic German House on September 24. “I want to thank all of those who have worked to secure a venue, have notified allies, and sent words of encouragement and blessings,” he said.
Rev. Hagler spoke highly of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in particular. They have “been tremendous allies as JVP nationally and locally in Rochester put an eye to the matter and effectively put feet on the ground to make a difference,” the reverend explained.
“There are so many emails, and calls of support that I have received and I am thankful for each one,” Hagler added. “It is clear that with all of the people working together bigotry and hatred will continue to be diminished, truth will continue to be increased and the evils of racism here at home and in places like Israel will be challenged until the evils of racism and hatred are no more.”
Hagler maintained “we have not been intimidated, but are determined to bring truth to light.”