This Monday, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) hosted its annual summit in Washington DC. The world’s largest Christian Zionist organization, CUFI is infamous for right-wing evangelism and disregard for human rights. The summit featured CUFI founder John Hagee, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and US Vice President Mike Pence as plenary speakers.
They were confronted by over 100 Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders and community members protesting CUFI’s support for Israeli occupation. Several protesters disrupted Hagee and Pence’s speeches shouting and holding banners. Tarek Abuata, director of Friends of Sabeel North American (FOSNA), stood shouting, “Zionism is racism.” Security handcuffed Abuata and carried him out of the convention center. He continued to shout, “People of God, wake up! Protect the Palestinian people.”
Christian and Jewish faith leaders then interrupted the U.S. vice president, chanting, “Israel kills children. Jews and Christians say no to Zionism.” Security dragged them outside. Rochelle Watson, FOSNA national organizer who disrupted Pence, stated, “We have reached a point where remaining faithful requires us to take bold action by speaking truth to power.” Protesters staged two more disruptions during Hagee’s remarks, shouting, “Israel imprisons children. Our God liberates.” Others rose up and shouted, “Israel demolishes homes. Our God shelters.”
Outside the summit, protesters blocked one entrance of the conference center, and later an intersection. They prayed, sang, and read out the names of Palestinian children killed or injured by Israeli apartheid policies. They held posters that read, “Reclaim Our Theology” and “Thou Shall Not Kill.”
This Counter CUFI action was inspired by a coalition including Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), and US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR). Jonathan Brenneman, a Palestinian-American Christian with the Mennonite Church shared, “I’m here in sacred witness for Mohammed, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy, whose leg was amputated after he was shot by Israeli soldiers.” Another protester with Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in New York said, “I’m here today because I have been struggling against the messaging that ‘all Jews support Israel.’ We just need to resist in a holistic way against the forces of empire that are using religion to do this work.” Abuata said of the action: “We are here to bear sacred witness and hold CUFI accountable to a theology of love.”