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United Church of Christ resolution decries Israel’s treatment of underage prisoners

Delegates attending the United Church of Christ's General Synod meeting on June 30, 2017, in Baltimore. Photo courtesy of UCC via Flickr

(RNS) The governing body of the United Church of Christ has voted overwhelmingly for a resolution that condemns Israel’s treatment of minors who go through its military courts, accusing it of defying international conventions.

The resolution, which passed Sunday (July 2) at the church’s General Synod in Baltimore, also calls on the U.S. to withhold military assistance to the Jewish state for abuses against young Palestinians.

“Languishing through generations of trauma under Israeli military rule which just marked its 50th year, Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank are subject to Israeli military law which fails to ensure and, in fact, denies basic and fundamental rights,” reads a statement from UCC Palestine/Israel Network, a grass-roots UCC group that pushed for the resolution’s passage.

The American Jewish Committee, a national Jewish civil rights group, denounced the resolution for criticizing Israel but disregarding the role Palestinian leadership has played in inciting terrorism, including violence committed by teenagers and children.

“The UCC resolution ignores the facts that Palestinian leaders continue to support violence against Israelis, regularly demonize Israel, and encourage children through textbooks and paramilitary camps toward violence against Israelis,” reads a statement from Rabbi Noam Marans, the AJC’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations.

“Tellingly, the resolution fails to recognize Israel’s right to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism and incitement of their children,” Marans continued.

The resolution passed with the support of 79 percent of the synod. Another 13 percent voted against it and 9 percent abstained.

The vote reflects a larger movement in American churches, particularly liberal Protestant ones, to increase pressure on Israel for what its critics call an unjust and dehumanizing occupation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank, territory Israel captured in a 1967 war.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a resolution in 2014 that forbids the church from investing in companies deemed complicit in Israel’s control of the disputed territory.

But the Episcopal Church and United Methodist Church have recently rejected resolutions favored by the international “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement organized to pressure Israel — though the UMC last year dropped five Israeli banks from its pension fund investment portfolio.

The UCC, with about 1 million members nationwide, has shown more support for BDS. Two years ago at its last General Synod it approved a resolution favoring church divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s control of Palestinian territories, and a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements there.

A second resolution at the UCC’s last synod, to declare Israel’s relationship to the Palestinians as “apartheid,” garnered a slight majority but not the two-thirds needed to pass.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on Sunday’s UCC vote.

About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)

35 Comments

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  • The usual Mainline suspects. Note the photograph: There were more African Americans at last month’s Southern Baptist Convention meeting. Now that’s telling.

  • The UCC is irrelevant. They’re shrinking and will vanish most likely with a century.

  • So far no one has commented on the issue itself. I have begun to do some research because I have no idea if it’s a valid complaint. So far I have found out that Palestinian children as young as 5 have been detained. Their case goes through the military courts, likely harsher and not geared to children. The majority of the complaints are for throwing rocks although there are also more serious offenses. The pro-Palestinian groups have their views as does the Israeli Defense Force – I take those statements with a grain of salt. I am now looking at a UNICEF study that outlines the problems and lists steps taken by the IDF to make it safer, such as limiting the custody time prior to arraignment, etc. It seems like quite a bit has been accomplished since 2013.

    People here shouldn’t be so quick to make judgements based on their biases. I would guess the truth is going to be hard to ascertain.

  • Telling of what? That’s the Wisconsin delegation pictured. I’ve spent time there. Except for some of the larger cities, Wisconsin is as white as their snow.

  • That’s because the issue here isn’t Israel’s treatment of Palestinian minor suspects, bad as that may be. The issue is the hypocrisy of Mainline denominations when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and what historic views within Christianity are driving that.

  • “It seems like quite a bit has been accomplished since 2013.” One of the sources cited in the resolution is a Defense for Children International report dated 2016. If anything, the situation has gotten worse than was reported by UNICEF in 2013. According the DCI report, the number of Palestinian children under detention has skyrocketed and punishments have become even more harsh. A child can be sentenced to 20 years in prison for throwing stones. This report is not based on biases. It’s based on statistics, interviews, and Israel’s military orders. Check out a summary of the report here: http://www.uccpin.org/no-way-to-treat-a-child-report-summ, where you will also be taken to a link to DCI’s latest (2017) findings.

  • They aren’t even a church. They teach against what Christ taught, so they’ve disqualified themselves.

  • I think in several years the UCC, TEC, and several other mainline churches will merge to conserve resources (mostly pension funds) and then go gently into that good night. Can’t happen soon enough in my thinking. Or…and it’s a big “or”, maybe God will have mercy on them and send revival. That would be preferred.
    Addendum: May God send us all revival.

  • The more liberal churches are following the trend of the progressive Left’s embrace of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel rhetoric while conservative Christians are anti-Palestinian and pro-Israel, following the political Right.

  • Good for you for looking for facts. A retired interim minister talked about a conversation with an elderly Palestinian Christian in the congregation who reminisced about school as a youth where the kids were from all 3 faiths and that the school closed for all of the faiths’ major religious holidays. He joked that maybe that was the reason that there was no tension between faiths at that time. He said that he didn’t want to leave Palestine but that they did it for their children as it had become almost impossible to earn a decent living in Palestine and a challenge to make it through the roadblocks to work in Israel.

  • I think many of the churches also consider the opinions of those leading flocks of the larger church in Palestine and Israel.

  • “Revival” is what happened to the Millerites, and their sect disappeared although some who fervently believed in the emotionalistic claptrap drifted to AOG, Pentecostalism, and other charlatanism.

  • I would be interested to know what other issues have got these people as worked up as this because if this is the kind of thing they spend this much time and energy on instead of the other more pressing injustices of the world then we can conclude they are simply anti-Israel.

  • It can be argued that the Millerites morphed into the SDA which is quite active and lively.

  • That’s one way of putting it. Depends how you define “active” and “lively.” IMHO the UCC and ECUSA are quite active and lively but to these fundies they are “dying” because their numbers are down. The SDA is a somewhat smallish denomination and is considered a “cult” by various right-wingers like the guy who who wrote a fundie encyclopedia of cults and the poor ass even included the UUs, basically to just get everybody he disagreed with. I will say this for the SDA, they operate Loma Linda Hospital and Loma Linda University where I had some procedures in the oughts and it was impressive. I expected it to be about as weird as Oral Roberts University but it’s pretty blandly normal.

  • Actually, the SDA has quite a pulse. and their healthcare system is both broad and effective, especially in the areas of preventive medicine. I know many conservative Christians who would identify them as cultists, I know others who disdain the Roman Catholic Church in the same way. While I differ in some respects with both churches in matters of doctrine, I recognize among their congregants individuals I can easily embrace as fellow members of the Body of Christ, and I toe the fundamentalist line pretty closely.

  • “The American Jewish Committee, a national Jewish civil rights group, denounced the resolution for criticizing Israel but disregarding the role Palestinian leadership has played in inciting terrorism, including violence committed by teenagers and children.”
    The state of Israel is in a different category from Palestinian leadership, so it is a fallacy to demand criticism of both in the same breath.
    I pray that the state of Israel soon will end its occupation of the West Bank. Then there will be the state of Palestine and it will be just to demand criticism of both states under one set of standards.

  • I’d say losing millions of adherents would be the definition of “down” and would be the opposite of active and lively. The average age of a ECUSA congregant is something like…what…110 years old?

  • Actually, no. The ECUSA we last went to had plenty of young people. Mostly not white, which may explain the perception, and the perception being parroted in the right-wing news sources. We had a few in their 70s but most were below 40.

    Most of the losses to Mainline bodies have been die-offs and people going unchurched. The myth many went to right-wing churches is just that, a myth. 100 years ago, people had to belong to a church to achieve middle class status. Now that is no longer a requirement for respectability, what we’ve lost is mostly people on the rolls who never came anyway.

  • Your comment is not supported by the data. Go to Episcopal Cafe for the real scoop. It’s not encouraging.

  • Interesting – that’s where i obtained this tidbit:

    “In 2012, membership in the Episcopal Church is 2,066,710 with
    1,894,181 in the domestic (50 U.S. states) dioceses and 172,529 in the
    non-domestic (non U.S. states) dioceses.

    “– Thirty-three domestic dioceses showed growth in membership in the
    past year: Alaska; Arkansas; Atlanta; California; Central Florida;
    Chicago; Colorado; East Tennessee; El Camino Real; Florida; Fond du Lac;
    Hawaii; Idaho; Iowa; Kansas; Maryland; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana;
    Navajoland; North Carolina; North Dakota; Northern California; Oklahoma;
    Pittsburgh; San Joaquin; Tennessee; Texas; Upper South Carolina;
    Washington; West Tennessee; Western Massachusetts; Western New York.”

    It seems the death of the advocates of the gospel is greatly exaggerated by our right-wing brothers and sisters.

  • That’s kind of like reading Alex Jones for UFO reports. British christofascists are only as credible as those who want the absolute monarchy back.

  • I just did. You stand utterly defeated, as all extremists do, because your sources are bull.

  • They’ve lost 1/4 of their congregants since mid to late 90’s. If you can’t understand the enormity of that then you are not a numerically literate person. And it is not stabilizing. And Canterbury has benched them for their heresy.
    You are not only wrong; you are profoundly wrong.

  • You have to ask the question: where did that growth come from? New adherents or episcopalians moving in from another diocese.

  • The Episcopal Church continued its long trend of decline in 2015, with recently released statistics showing the Mainline denomination losing more than 37,000 members last year.

    In statistics released earlier this week by the Episcopal Church Office of Research, in 2015 the Church had approximately 1.77 million members in its domestic dioceses, down from about 1.81 million members in 2014.

    2015’s membership numbers contrast strongly with the Episcopal Church’s membership count 10 years earlier, which stood around 2.2 million members. This represents a decline of nearly 20 percent over the past decade.
    A strong decline is also found in the Average Sunday Attendance numbers.

    In 2015, the entire Episcopal Church, including both domestic and non-domestic dioceses, had an ASA of about 614,000. This was about 20,000 fewer than 2014 and approximately 212,000 fewer than 2005.
    One factor in this decline was the liberal theological direction of the Church, including its growing acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage.

    In 2003, when the Church appointed its first openly gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson, scores of congregations left the denomination.

    So in the last DECADE they have declined nearly 20%.
    You are profoundly profoundly wrong! Keep “jumping” to pollyanna conclusions and all you do is make yourself look less and less credible. Lol.

  • Hardly. It’s like separating the wheat from the chaff. The ones who leave don’t want to be there, so we’re better off without them.

    We’ve had over ten Episcopal Presidents, but only two fundamentalists, B. Harrison and Carter. Meanwhile Southern Baptists and other megachurches are declining in membership too. And no wonder; it’s obvious from the “81% of evangelicals supported Trump” statistic that it’s a hollow movement with no ideals.

  • Anecdotal, of course, but at the last Episcopal church we regularly attended there were three cradle Episcopals in our Bible Study group of 12. The two who eventually entered the priesthood were ex-fundies. The only people coming from other congregations were military families. YMMV,

  • American Episcopals don’t care about that. “Heresy,” LOL! The Church that propped up British colonialism wouldn’t know heresy from page 8.

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