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Presbyterian and UU breakthrough votes on Palestine

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The US Campaign to End the Occupation today posted Anna Baltzer’s report on two church conferences.

I cannot remember a more significant day in church activism for Palestinian rights than the past 24 hours.

The largest gathering of UUs in the country just voted on whether to endorse the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)’s recent divestment from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. The general assembly achieved a simple majority while falling short of the two thirds needed for passage.

We congratulate member group Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME), which led a dynamic campaign, building the momentum and leverage to achieve actual divestment more quickly than any other denomination has!

Just last night, the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a series of powerful overtures by a landslide with the strong leadership of member organization Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Overtures included:

Committing the church to prayerfully consider the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) and engage with its writers;

Calling on Re/MAX, which sells homes in illegal settlements, to follow through on a new promise it made in a recent letter to the church to stop profiting from settlement sales;

Calling on Israel to end its gross mistreatment of Palestinian children and on the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the U.S. Senate to take active steps toward that end.
Urging the IRS to investigate and possible revoke the tax-exempt status of organizations supporting Israeli settlements;

Asking the U.S. government to enforce laws requiring correct labeling of place of production of Israeli settlement goods;

Urging Congress to hold hearings into the use of U.S. military and police equipment by the government of Israel;

Recommending that the Presbyterian Foundation and Board of Pensions refrain from investments that support violence against Israelis or Palestinians.

Supporters of Israel’s discriminatory policies tried repeatedly to introduce amendments and resolutions maligning BDS at the Presbyterian assembly. They even brought forth a resolution specifically calling on the church to distance itself from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation because of our significant role in advancing BDS nationwide. The Presbyterian commissioners soundly rejected every one of these attempts, electing instead for Presbyterians to consider the Palestinian BDS call for themselves.

US Campaign staff and Steering Committee members were proud to be on the ground supporting both of these tremendous efforts with testimonies and strategic support, along with the significant and powerful contributions of member groups Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Friends Service Committee, and Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA).

Unintimidated by today’s climate of repression targeting activism for Palestinian rights, the Presbyterian and UU churches are marching steadily ahead, alongside the many other denominations and religious organizations that have already taken economic actions including the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, Quakers, Mennonite Central Committee, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, and the Alliance of Baptists.

Two years ago, Presbyterians passed divestment by a razor thin margin of just 7 votes. This year, they moved boldly forward with huge majority votes on further strong measures. Meanwhile, the Unitarians achieved a majority on their first attempt at divestment (remember, the Presbyterians took 10 years!).

It is clear that we are in a new moment, and that we have much work ahead of us. We are honored to have you by our side during these historic moments in the struggle for freedom and justice in Palestine.

Anna Baltzer
About Anna Baltzer

Anna Baltzer is the Director of Organizing & Advocacy for The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR).

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8 Responses

  1. Boomer
    June 26, 2016, 5:57 pm

    Good for the Presbyterians and UUs. Good for WaPo too. Not good for the DNC:

  2. June 26, 2016, 10:35 pm

    One of the recommendations that the PCUSA General Assembly passed was this: “The assembly urges Congress to hold hearings into the use of U.S. made and subsidized military and police equipment by the government of Israel in carrying out policies that abuse human rights, violate Geneva Accords, or oppose American principles of religious liberty and nondiscrimination.”

    I spoke to someone who attended the GA and he believed that when the committee putting forth the recommendation used the word “equipment”, they were taking it to include weaponry.

    This is something crying out to be done – to confront the US State Department with its failure to enforce the Leahy Law. The Leahy Law states that the US must not supply assistance to a unit of a security force of a country that has committed gross human rights violations. The State Department itself has produced reports on the gross human rights violations committed by the Israeli military, yet it has failed to apply Leahy Law to those cases. Several of us are working with the office of our congressman to raise this issue. We would urge others to do the same.

    To remain silent is to be complicit in the disproportionate suffering inflicted on the Palestinian people. For example, during Israel’s 2014 incursion into Gaza there were 6 Israeli civilians killed and over 1,500 Palestinians killed. Every killing of a civilian is to be condemned and every death mourned, but the disproportionality is starkly apparent.

    The General Assembly’s recommendation is commendable. Pray that there is followup.

    • Marnie
      June 27, 2016, 7:11 am

      Absolutely. Whatever happened with the letter Sen. Leahy and his signatories wrt the Leahy law besides Netanahyu passing a couple bricks about it?

      • June 28, 2016, 12:55 pm

        To respond to Marnie’s question:

        Here’s the actual State Department response. It is not clear how Politico got a copy.

        Note the paragraph: “In Israel and the Palestinian Territories, the Department has noted several allegations concerning extrajudicial killings referred to in your letter. No individual or unit potentially involved in those incidents has since been submitted to receive U.S. assistance.”

        Note that this response sidesteps the issue of whether or not the unit involved continues to receive assistance that was provided in response to a previous request for assistance. The Egyptian cases are dealt with in stronger terms: “Units that the Department has identified as being involved in these incidents remain ineligible for assistance.” Culpability is implied for Egypt, but not for Israel.

        From the last paragraph of the Politico article: “A spokesman for Leahy declined comment. An aide to Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, one of the lead signatories on the House side, said the Democrat “appreciates the [State Department’s] response and will continue to monitor the situation.”

        Our congressman should be challenging the non-response from the State Department, but don’t. Guessing their constituents might have pushed them to write the State Department. So they went through this feel-good exercise and Palestinians continue to suffer at the hands of Israeli security units with likely assistance from the US and our representatives look the other way. Leahy’s own office declines comment on the failure of the State Department to apply Leahy Law. Israel’s reach is chilling.

    • wdr
      June 28, 2016, 9:52 pm

      The Presbyterian Church (USA) (its official name) is literally dying in front of one’s eyes. Its membership decreases by over 50,000 per year- check out the figures on its wikipedia entry, given year by year- it loses 5% of its membership every year, and expects to lose 500,000 more members by 2020. It has only about half the number of members it had in the 1990s. It has been taken over by the Loony Left, on this and many other issues, and hundreds of thousands of its moderate members have voted with their feet to leave. You will find that all of the liberal Protestant anti-Israel churches are shrinking like a wet sock, and may well disappear within a generation.

      • SamBryan
        June 29, 2016, 10:22 am

        1. The PCUSA is losing some members, but it is NOT dying. In the 1800’s it lost some members when it opposed slavery, but it did not die.

        2. The church is NOT anti Israel. If you read the recommendations that were passed, you will see that they are for Israel, but against Israel’s occupation.

        3. Those who voted for belong to the “Loony left?” I have friends who voted for the recommendations and those who voted against. The more informed a friend was the more likely he voted for. NOT loony.

    [email protected]
    June 27, 2016, 2:11 pm

    Mondoweiss usually does a great job at exposing truth and scratches the surface to reveal the truth underneath. Not so in this article, everything regarding the Presbyterians is true, not so with the Unitarians. The UU’s of which I am a member have on many many occasions defeated resolutions calling on Israel to uphold human rights., for example in 2010 when they would not condemn Israeli settlements and the siege of Gaza. Their previous resolutions would say something like the Palestinians have a right to want a state somewhere. Even the Israeli far right would agree to that.
    The Unitarians let no Palestinians speak, only Jewish folks. Nothing wrong with Jewish folks but when the whole discussion is between one side and the other is not even invited to the table it smells and is foul. Rabbi Jacobs, President of the Union of Reform Judaism spoke to all 3700 people and let them know that BDS was anti-semitic which is to be expected. No one from the other side got any right to speak to anything but a small fraction of delegates. In addition, during the voting process where there was supposed to be an open microphone to speak, procedural excuses used up all the time so that virtually no one who supported BDS was allowed to speak. In addition the Unitarians held panels, again with no Palestinians, where only proponents of US policy and all panelists were committed ZIonists.
    All claims can be verified with those attending the UU general assembly and the list of panelists and speakers is in the program as well as video broadcasts of the entire event The Presbyterians and others have done the work to help bring about human rights for all peoples. I do wish I could include Unitarian Universalists on this list, but alas it is very far behind most other progressive movements for social justice.

    • JWalters
      June 27, 2016, 6:57 pm

      Thanks for the added info on this. Very disappointed in the Unitarians. What kind of “unity” are they for?

      Thanks to the Presbyterians and others who have moved the ball forward on universal human rights and justice.

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