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

(RNS) The resolution, which passed Sunday at the church's general synod in Baltimore, also calls on the U.S. to withhold military assistance.

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.

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