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The United Church of Christ General Synod has adopted a balanced resolution regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reversing the anti-Israel and anti-peace divestment resolution of a previous Synod. This move is similar to the change adopted earlier by Presbyterian Church USA, reversing their own anti-Israel resolution. The most important parts of this resolution are commitment to a two state peaceful solution, rather than liquidation of Israel, commitment to a balanced approach to the causes and history of the conflict, and a call for an end to incitement and violence.

However, we can surmise that as in the case of PC-USA, the UCC resolution will be challenged again and again by anti-Israel forces within the church.

It has rarely been so clear as it is here that those who insist on boycotting Israel are taking an immoral stance that is against peace and against human rights. This resolution is in many ways a model for the resolutions to be offered as alternatives to boycott resolutions when the matter is raised by pro-Hamas activists in church and union circles. It should be emphasized that moderate Palestinians, like Sari Nusseibeh do not support boycotts. This movement is the work of fanatic exremists represented in the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, people who brand Palestinians who engage in dialog as "traitors who take crumbs from Americans and Europeans."

Highlights of the resolution:

SUMMARY:

This resolution calls upon the 26th General Synod of the United Church of Christ to:

encourage all settings of the Church to engage in ongoing and balanced study of the causes, history and context of the conflict between the Arab and Israeli people in the Middle East, publicly condemn the use of the media, textbooks and other educational materials that encourage children and young people to hate and destroy those with opposing viewpoints, publicly condemn all ongoing and escalating violence that prevents a peaceful resolution from being agreed upon and implemented, and establish a Task Force to study the complex situation in an in-depth and balanced manner.

BACKGROUND:

The 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ passed two resolutions in 2005 concerning the ongoing violence in the Middle East (“Tear Down the Wall” and “Concerning the Use of Economic Leverage in Promoting Peace in the Middle East”). We continue to be committed to assisting the Palestinian and Israeli people in finding a just two-state solution that will ensure a secure, peaceful and productive future. Because the “Tear Down the Wall” resolution focused solely on the actions of Israel, we also have a responsibility to more fully understand and name the ways other nations and forces have contributed to the situation...

RESOLUTION:

WHEREAS, the 26th General Synod of the United Church of Christ continues to affirm the right of the peoples of both Israel and Palestine to live in peace, side by side in two secure and economically viable states; and

WHEREAS, the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ passed two resolutions focusing on the actions of Israel, entitled “Tear Down the Wall” and “Concerning the Use of Economic Leverage in Promoting Peace in the Middle East,” and has yet to fully address other forces contributing to the ongoing violence, oppression and suffering in the region; and

WHEREAS, many children and young people are not being educated for peace but are being exposed to hatred and intolerance in textbooks and the media; and

WHEREAS, in recent months violence has dramatically escalated between the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, especially in the Gaza Strip, in spite of the fact that Israel disengaged from Gaza in September 2005; and

WHEREAS the potential for Palestinian civil war has never before been so real, and if it comes to pass would be disastrous for everyone in the region; and

WHEREAS, the escalating violence between Fatah and Hamas now calls us to consider whether we may have overlooked many aspects of an extraordinarily complicated situation and extraordinarily complicated relationships in the region; and

WHEREAS, we reaffirm our call to act as peacemakers in this war-torn yet holy land;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the 26th General Synod of the United Church of Christ recognizes the need for ongoing balanced study, commentary and critique related to the conflict in the region;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the 26th General Synod condemns all media programs, publications, advertising campaigns, textbooks and groups that perpetuate violence instead of promoting peace; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the 26th General Synod directs the Executive Council to establish a Task Force to engage in ongoing and balanced study of the causes, history and context of the conflict, including appropriate responses to the situation that may or may not lead to further support of economic leverage and removal of the security barrier. The Task Force is to report to the 27th General Synod in 2009 for any necessary further action, and also to report to all settings of the Church so that they, too, may have a deeper understanding of the situation.

The Christian Fair Witness for Israel group had this to say:

On Friday June 22, the United Church of Christ's General Synod adopted Resolution "In Support of a Renewed and Balanced Study and Response to the Conflict Beteween Palestine and Israel."

This Resolution acknowledges that the Divestment and "Tear Down the Wall" Resolutions passed by the 2005 Synod were not balanced, focused solely on Israel, and may have overlooked many aspects of this complex situation. The Resolution calls for the UCC to now undertake a balanced and indepth study of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Fair Witness applauds this move and believes that it is a terrific start.



The text of the resolution is below. A draft version of the UCC resolution is here in PDF format. UCC Web site has not yet been updated (June 23, 2007).

IN SUPPORT OF A RENEWED AND BALANCED STUDY AND RESPONSE

TO THE CONFLICT BETWEEN PALESTINE AND ISRAEL

SUBMITTED BY:

Don Niederfrank (Wisconsin Conference); Matt Braddock (Connecticut Conference); Mary James, William Sawyer, John Tostenson (New Hampshire Conference); Tadd Allman-Morton (Massachusetts Conference); James Darnell (Justice and Witness Ministries Board of Directors); Brady Abel, James Mennerick (Missouri Mid-South Conference); Russ Kohrs (Central Atlantic Conference); Rick Ashley and Rosa Smith-Williams (South Central Conference)

SUBMITTED ON: June 1, 2007

SUMMARY:

This resolution calls upon the 26th General Synod of the United Church of Christ to:

encourage all settings of the Church to engage in ongoing and balanced study of the causes, history and context of the conflict between the Arab and Israeli people in the Middle East, publicly condemn the use of the media, textbooks and other educational materials that encourage children and young people to hate and destroy those with opposing viewpoints, publicly condemn all ongoing and escalating violence that prevents a peaceful resolution from being agreed upon and implemented, and establish a Task Force to study the complex situation in an in-depth and balanced manner.

BACKGROUND:

The 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ passed two resolutions in 2005 concerning the ongoing violence in the Middle East (“Tear Down the Wall” and “Concerning the Use of Economic Leverage in Promoting Peace in the Middle East”). We continue to be committed to assisting the Palestinian and Israeli people in finding a just two-state solution that will ensure a secure, peaceful and productive future. Because the “Tear Down the Wall” resolution focused solely on the actions of Israel, we also have a responsibility to more fully understand and name the ways other nations and forces have contributed to the situation. Further study of the causes and history of the conflict would bring forth a balanced response that holds all parties accountable in appropriate ways, supports mutual understanding and dialog with people of various perspectives, and contributes in a positive way to the wider community that is committed to justice and peace in the Mideast.

In recent months, we have seen a dramatic increase in violence in the Palestinian territories bordering at times on civil war, including in the Gaza Strip, from which Israel completely disengaged in 2005. This tragic violence reveals underlying tensions between the Palestinian political groups of Hamas and Fatah that threaten the welfare of the Palestinian people and diminish prospects of a viable Palestinian state. In the first five months of 2007, more than 200 Palestinians were killed and 1,065 injured as a result of internal fighting. Fifty-five of these deaths occurred during the week of May 13 alone. The potential for Palestinian civil war has never before been so real. If civil war comes to pass, it would be disastrous for everyone in the region.

As the possibility for a brighter future for Palestinians is diminished not only by actions of Israel but also by violent internal battles being waged between Palestinian political parties and militias, members of the United Church of Christ must develop a broader understanding of the violence that plagues this part of the world. We cannot raise our voices only to point out the transgressions of one side. Rather, when innocent lives are being shattered by an atmosphere of intolerance, incitement and internal strife, we are called to an honest and searching critique of all of the forces in conflict.

Tensions between the two main Palestinian factions began surfacing following the murder of three children of a senior Fatah officer in December 2006, and escalating internal Palestinian violence and a turn towards possible civil war did not become apparent until well into the New Year. Thus, the need for readdressing the situation based upon these new events which appear to be independent of the conflict with Israel could not have been anticipated before the January 1, 2007, deadline for submitting resolutions to be considered at the 26th General Synod.

BIBLICAL, THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL RATIONALE:

Jesus called his followers to work for peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” he said, “for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). However, this call is not easily lived out. Creating an environment fostering peace between longtime enemies requires disciplined peacemakers with flexibility in the face of changing circumstances, compassion for suffering on both sides, commitment to the possibility of reconciliation, and the ability to delve deeply into complex issues with discernment and wisdom. The United Church of Christ is called to nothing less than these ideals.

The conflict between the Israelis and the people of Palestine and the Arab states – one that has confounded many peacemakers in the past – is one of the most historically, politically, economically, culturally, and religiously complex situations facing the modern world. Psalm 103:6 says, “The Lord works for vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.” As a peacemaker, the Church in all of its settings must continue to speak out whenever violence, hatred and oppression occur, standing in support of all who are oppressed and subjected to injustice as new realities emerge. God commands it: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:6).

By continuing to humbly study, pray, discern and witness about the conflict in the Middle East, the wider Church will be led to further truths: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you” (Proverbs 2:6-11).

Finally, in our response to this situation and in our advocacy for peace, we are called to live out the prayer displayed at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem: “Let us pray not for Arab or Jew, nor for Palestinian or Israeli, but let us pray rather for ourselves, that we may not divide them in our prayers but keep them both together in our hearts. Amen.”

RESOLUTION:

WHEREAS, the 26th General Synod of the United Church of Christ continues to affirm the right of the peoples of both Israel and Palestine to live in peace, side by side in two secure and economically viable states; and

WHEREAS, the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ passed two resolutions focusing on the actions of Israel, entitled “Tear Down the Wall” and “Concerning the Use of Economic Leverage in Promoting Peace in the Middle East,” and has yet to fully address other forces contributing to the ongoing violence, oppression and suffering in the region; and

WHEREAS, many children and young people are not being educated for peace but are being exposed to hatred and intolerance in textbooks and the media; and

WHEREAS, in recent months violence has dramatically escalated between the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, especially in the Gaza Strip, in spite of the fact that Israel disengaged from Gaza in September 2005; and

WHEREAS the potential for Palestinian civil war has never before been so real, and if it comes to pass would be disastrous for everyone in the region; and

WHEREAS, the escalating violence between Fatah and Hamas now calls us to consider whether we may have overlooked many aspects of an extraordinarily complicated situation and extraordinarily complicated relationships in the region; and

WHEREAS, we reaffirm our call to act as peacemakers in this war-torn yet holy land;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the 26th General Synod of the United Church of Christ recognizes the need for ongoing balanced study, commentary and critique related to the conflict in the region;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the 26th General Synod condemns all media programs, publications, advertising campaigns, textbooks and groups that perpetuate violence instead of promoting peace; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the 26th General Synod directs the Executive Council to establish a Task Force to engage in ongoing and balanced study of the causes, history and context of the conflict, including appropriate responses to the situation that may or may not lead to further support of economic leverage and removal of the security barrier. The Task Force is to report to the 27th General Synod in 2009 for any necessary further action, and also to report to all settings of the Church so that they, too, may have a deeper understanding of the situation.

IMPLEMENTATION:

The United Church of Christ Executive Council is requested to be the primary implementer of this resolution.

FUNDING:

Funding for the implementation of this resolution will be made in accordance with the overall mandates of affected agencies and the funds available.


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