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U.S. churches split over divestment from Israel
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The leadership of three major U.S. churches took on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last week, voting on resolutions to support the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanction movement.

The United Church of Christ with nearly 1 million members passed the resolution, while the Episcopal Church rejected it and the Mennonite Church U.S.A. delayed its vote until 2017, according to The New York Times.

The BDS movement calls for economic pressure on Israeli policy through boycotts, divestments and sanctions from products and companies that profit from and are complicit with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, according to its website.

The movement began in 2005, The Washington Post reported, proposed by Palestinian groups looking for a nonviolent form of resistance of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.

BDS advocates say the movement, based on the campaign against South African apartheid, is aimed at Israeli policy, not Jews, in response to two decades of failed peace talks and expanded Israeli settlement of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, The Washington Post wrote.

The U.C.C. General Synod in Cleveland voted 508 in favor of and 124 against the resolution, Religion News Service reported.

The Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Christian Palestinian pastor in Jordan and the Holy Land who traveled to Cleveland to attend the synod, said this resolution demonstrated commitment to justice and equality.

For Palestinians living under occupation or facing systematic discrimination as citizens of Israel, enduring the destruction of their homes and businesses, the theft of their land for settlements, and living under blockade and siege in Gaza, this action sends a strong signal that they are not alone, and that there are churches who still dare to speak truth to power and stand with the oppressed, he said.

While the advocacy group Jewish Voice for Peace supports and promotes BDS, the Israeli government and other mainstream Jewish groups oppose the resolution.

The U.C.C. resolutions on the Middle East conflict have reflected the most radical politics for more than a decade, and in no way reflect a moral stance or reality-based position, Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The New York Times. People of faith ought to be acting to help Israel and the Palestinians to renew efforts to achieve peace, rather than endlessly demonizing one party in the conflict in our view, the aggrieved party.

The Episcopal Church rejected the resolution for reasons that echoed Nahshons concerns in a convention in Salt Lake City last week.

The conflict in that part of the world is very complex, Bishop Sean Rowe of the dioceses of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, told the convention, according to The Institute on Religion and Democracy. Divestment would aggravate the peace process. This convention has adopted a number of calls including for restorative justice divestment would work against that.

The Mennonite Church U.S.A. postponed the vote during its convention in Kansas City, because of what supporters of the resolution said are varying fears.

I think there are folks in the denominations who continue to believe that we need to support Israel at all costs, Tom Harder, a pastor from Wichita, Kansas, who helped draft the resolution, told The New York Times. So a resolution that is advocating for the Palestinian people specifically and the injustices they are facing that is a vote against Israel.
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