US church votes to boycott Israel over occupation of Palestine
One of the largest Christian Protestant denominations in the United States has overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
The United Church of Christ voted Tuesday to boycott products from Israeli settlements and divest from companies with business in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, underscoring the growing momentum of a US protest movement against Israeli policy.
The denomination’s top legislative body endorsed the action on a vote of 508-124 with 38 abstentions during its meeting in Cleveland, Ohio.
The boycott resolution was the second such measure passed by the church, which has about 1 million members and over 5,000 congregations across the US.
The first resolution, passed in 2005, called for the use of “economic leverage” Israel and had accused the Zionist regime of widespread human rights abuses against the Palestinians.
Peter Makari of Global Ministries, an agency that is part of the United Church of Christ, said the resolutions “reflect our urgent concern for the worsening effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian people and lives, including the disparity in rights and power.”
Two other American churches, the Episcopal Church and the Mennonite Church USA, were also debating Israeli boycott measures this week at their conventions.
A growing list of US-based churches are considering the call of Palestinian Christians for using boycott and divestment “as tools of nonviolence for justice, peace and security for all.”
The latest vote comes as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, known as BDS, is gaining momentum on US college campuses and in many places in Europe.
The BDS movement seeks to end the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands and respect the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
The BDS boycott campaign against Israel began in July 2005 by 171 Palestinian organizations, which calls for “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his subordinates have called the BDS campaign a new form of terrorism to delegitimize Israel.
Supporters of the movement, including a growing number of American Jews, have called such criticism a fearmongering and divisive tactic meant to prevent legitimate debate about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
Jewish Voice for Peace, an advocacy group based in Oakland, California has endorsed the BDS movement and welcomed Tuesday’s boycott resolution.
“Progressives are speaking up, and it’s only a matter of time until Israel is held accountable for its human rights abuses and violations of international law,” Lev Hirschhorn, a board member, said in a statement on the group’s website.