Activism

In overwhelming vote, leading Lutheran branch calls on US to cut off aid to Israel

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This weekend the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) overwhelmingly approved two resolutions calling on the U.S. government to end all financial and military aid to Israel until Israel “compl[ies] with internationally recognized human rights standards”, freezes settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land, and for the church to adopt an investment screen to avoid profiting from Israel’s Occupation, at ELCA’s triennial 2016 Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans. ELCA is one of three Lutheran church bodies in the U.S. 

Yesterday’s vote on Resolution C1 was 751 (82%) in favor, and 162 opposed.

[8.] To urge this church’s members, congregations, synods, agencies and presiding bishop to call on their U.S. Representatives, Senators and the Administration to take action requiring that, to continue receiving U.S. financial and military aid, Israel must comply with internationally recognized human rights standards as specified in existing U.S. law, stop settlement building and the expansion of existing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, end its occupation of Palestinian territory, and enable an independent Palestinian state; and

[9.] To encourage this church’s members, congregations, synods, and agencies to call on the U.S. President to recognize the State of Palestine and not prevent the application of the State of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations.

Pastor Khaled Khalila testifies at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Assembly - New Orleans, Aug 2016 Photo: Christopher Hazou
Pastor  Kahder Khalila testifies at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Assembly – New Orleans, Aug 2016 Photo: Christopher Hazou

A second resolution (C2) directing the ELCA’s Corporate Social Responsibility review team to adopt an investment screen to avoid profiting from Israel’s Occupation passed overwhelming (90%) this morning:

[I]n the case of Israel and Palestine, specifically based on the concerns raised in the ELCA Middle East Strategy….To repudiate explicitly and clearly the European-derived doctrine of discovery as an example of the “improper mixing of the power of the church and the power of the sword” (Augsburg Confession Article XXVIII, Latin text), and to acknowledge and repent from this church’s complicity in the evils of colonialism in the Americas, which continue to harm tribal governments and individual tribal members;

to develop a human rights social criteria investment screen based on the social teachings of this church and the concerns raised in the ELCA Middle East Strategy;

To encourage ELCA members, congregations, synods, agencies and institutions to increase positive investment in Palestine and other under-resourced areas where human rights abuses materially impact the well-being of all people; and

To encourage ELCA members, congregations, synods, agencies and institutions to engage in shareholder advocacy in support of human rights, exercising the right of a shareholder to submit resolutions at a corporation’s annual meeting.

ELCA Churchwide Assembly August 13, 2016 (photo: Christopher Hazou)
ELCA Churchwide Assembly August 13, 2016 (photo: Christopher Hazou)

Leading the initiative was Isaiah 58, a group of ELCA Lutherans who “advocate for a more engaged church response to calls from Palestinians for an end to Israel’s occupation and a just peace for both Israel and Palestine”, who issued this press release today:

Isaiah 58, a group of Lutherans working for peace and justice in the Holy Land, welcomes today’s vote by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to adopt a human rights-based investment screen for its social responsibility funds to ensure the church is not profiting from human rights abuses, including Israel’s nearly half-century-old military occupation of Palestinian lands. The overwhelming vote in favor took place at the ELCA’s triennial Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans.

“In our Affirmation of Baptism, one of the five promises we make as Lutherans is to ‘work for justice and peace throughout the earth,’” said Jan Miller, ELCA member and a leader of Isaiah 58 from the Rocky Mountain Synod. “By adopting this investment screen, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is taking an important step to ensure that we are not profiting from, or complicit in, injustice in the Holy Land and elsewhere.”

Yesterday, the ELCA approved a resolution calling for an end to US aid to Israel until the latter freezes the construction of settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of longstanding official US policy and international law. Currently, the US gives more than $3 billion in military aid to Israel each year, without which it could not maintain its occupation of Palestinian lands, which entered its 50th year this past June.

The ELCA has long opposed Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and supported nonviolent action in support of Palestinian rights. With today’s vote, the ELCA adds its own voice and approach to the growing number of US churches that have endorsed economic acts of conscience in support of Palestinian freedom and human rights, including the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, and others.

Isaiah 58 thanks ELCA voting members for taking a strong, principled stand in support of freedom, justice, and equality in the Holy Land and around the world, and looks forward to continuing our work towards achieving those goals.

Anna Baltzer, Director of Organizing & Advocacy for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation reports:

ELCA marks the ninth denomination to engage in economic acts of conscience to support justice for Palestinians, following the Quakers, Mennonite Central Committee, United Methodists, Presbyterians, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalists, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men, and the Alliance of Baptists.

Isaiah 58 and allies at 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly (photo: Christopher Hazou)
Isaiah 58 and allies at 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly (photo: Christopher Hazou)

Allies from member groups working at the assembly along side Isaiah 58 included Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), American Friends Service Committee, Friends of Sabeel – North America, New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace and U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

The full resolutions are here.

The full report of the ECLA Memorials Committee can be found here.

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Yippee Annie this is great news! The floodgates are opening and the groundswell can begin. Long overdue justice appears to be happening and there isn’t really a thing these Zionist bought politicians can say in defense that won’t look extremely dodgy. It’s a numbers game as I said on another… Read more »

Other churches, institutions, and agencies for human rights, please follow suit and make your voices louder. Time to hold the US government accountable for what is going on in that region, and the suffering of the Palestinians. We are tired of our leaders being deaf.

This is an excellent piece of news. If similar boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) resolutions flood the campuses all year long, then the state of Israel will be abolished, like slavery was abolished. In fact, there is a 2016 National SJP Conference at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia from… Read more »

Thank you Annie for a great article and great news.
And agree with both inbound39 and Kay 24…time to open the
gates….. those institutions that are supposedly there to lead
humanity in the right path, they know what to do…….

party no. 9…..ONE STATE A. [9.] To encourage this church’s members, congregations, synods, and agencies to call on the U.S. President to recognize the State of Palestine and not prevent the application of the State of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations. B. Palestine 194 is the name… Read more »