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ADL to the United Church of Christ on Israel Divestment

The United Church of Christ, at their synod meeting in Atlanta on July 5, 2005, adopted an "economic leverage" resolution against Israel, while at the same time calling on Israel to "tear down" its West Bank security barrier. The decision came after months of dialogue with Jewish groups concerned about the implications of any divestment vote against Israel. In a statement, ADL said the resolution was "deeply troubling" and a setback for Jewish-Christian relations.

In February 2005, the Church distributed to their member congregations a study guide on the issues of divestment and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. ADL reacted to the contents of that study with the following letter, which raised objections to the proposal to institute divestment as a formal church policy.

  February 8, 2005

Dr. Peter E. Makari
Executive, Middle East and Europe
Common Global Ministries Board of the United Church
of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Dear Dr. Makari:

We are grateful that you shared your most recent resource guide with us. However, we must continue to express our concern and consternation that the notion of using economic sanctions is still being considered after the considerable debate that occurred since the PC (USA)'s General Assembly overtures were disseminated. Most poignantly, as recent news reports fill us with hope about steps toward peace in the Middle East, why would this discussion even remain on the table? However, since the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) continue to discuss this issue, we want to share our concerns with you, in the spirit of our mutual dialogue.

We appreciate the United Church of Christ's efforts at balance in its resource guide, "The Palestinians, Israel, and the Churches' Economic Leverage," intended to provide church members with the information to take into consideration when debating the economic sanctions that have been suggested as a means to ending the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

However, we are concerned the guide contains an incomplete account of the history of the struggle between the Palestinians and the Israelis in the guide (Positions and Affirmations) and fails to note the critical contributing factors that led to the situation of today.

In 1947, the Arab nations rejected the partition plan for two separate states, one Arab and one Jewish. Israel accepted the partition plan despite its less-than-ideal solution, understanding the need to compromise. It was the Arab nations who refused the plan and gathered their armies to wage battle against Israel. Had the Arabs accepted the plan in 1947 there would have been an Arab state alongside the Jewish State of Israel and there would have been none of the bloodshed and heartache of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Although the refugee problem was caused by the war imposed on Israel by the Arab invasion in 1948 and again in 1967, Israel has always been committed to participating in an international effort to resettle and compensate Palestinian refugees.

United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338 refer not to a "right of return," but of the need to resolve the Palestinian refugee issue. 242 and 338 have not been resolved because the Arab states never provided a legitimate partner or partners with whom to negotiate a settlement of borders and status of residents. If, as you say, the end of the "occupation" is the first step toward achieving a two-state solution, then the work of the Church should be, first and foremost, encouraging the Palestinians to negotiate in good faith and come to a resolution of this situation.

While you go to great lengths to demonstrate the many ways economic "leverage" might be employed to encourage the Peace Process, there is precious little else. We question why there are no alternatives, such as: engagement with the Palestinian Christian community to assist the changes taking place within the Palestinian Authority; putting pressure on US elected officials to take a greater role in advancing the Peace Process; financially and politically supporting the many constructive efforts taking place within Israel and the Holy Land to create and encourage peaceful co-existence?

Finally, in your section on engagement with American Jews, you cite the diversity of opinions within the community, giving almost equal weight to "grassroots organizations," when on this issue (economic leverage /sanctions) the mainstream Jewish community is of unanimous opinion (and only the most marginal take a different tack). Yet you do not cite the diversity within your own community - acknowledging the many from your own community who have expressed concern and distress with the actions of your friends in other mainstream Protestant denominations.

We hope that before this document is released widely, there might be some acknowledgement of the issues we have raised in our discussions, written reactions and letters. Perhaps the discussion that ensues might bring us all a bit closer to the goal for which we all strive and pray: peace in the streets of Jerusalem, and for all in the region of our heritage.

Abraham H. Foxman
National Director
Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor
Director, Interfaith Affairs

Related Press Releases
United Church of Christ's Israel Divestment Action "Troubling"; Contravenes Months of Interfaith Dialogue (7/6/05)
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