This NGO Monitor report examines the background of the United Church of Christ’s Thirtieth General Synod (June 26-30, 2015), at which three resolutions will address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Two call for the UCC “to divest any holdings” in companies that have been found to “profit from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the state of Israel.” The second would have the church “recognize the actions of Israel against the Palestinians as apartheid.” In this year’s docket of resolutions none covers contemporary human rights issues on any other Middle East country (nor of any other state).
This report illustrates how the resolutions overwhelmingly rely on “evidence” and materials provided by a narrow group of political advocacy non-governmental organizations (NGOs), most of which support BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns against Israel. The consequence is a highly distorted approach in UCC deliberations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Leading this intense campaign against Israel within the denomination is a number of highly politicized UCC sub-groups including Global Ministries and the Palestine Israel Network (UCC PIN). These groups hold a virtual monopoly on the parameters of the discussion about Israeli-Palestinian issues within the UCC, and providing church members with selective and biased information.
The message and materials presented by the UCC sub-groups promote the central dimensions of the political warfare strategy against Israel adopted at the 2001 Durban NGO Forum. This strategy seeks to delegitimize Israel as an “apartheid regime,” demonizes and dehumanizes Israelis, and calls for Israel to be completely “isolated.”
The main tool of this “Durban Strategy” is the global, NGO-led campaign for BDS against Israel. BDS activists are fully aware of the role churches can and do play in amplifying and legitimizing their radical anti-Israel message. The BDS Movement’s website states:
“Religious institutions are seen in many communities as embodying important moral and ethical principles… Divestment campaigns that target companies such as Caterpillar have been initiated in a number of major Christian churches. Not only will successful divestment campaigns financially weaken the Occupation, but will raise both the public profile and legitimacy of the BDS campaign.”
Further, Global Ministries provides a list of thirteen “Israel/Palestine” projects and partners, with only one of these (B’Tselem) being Israeli. B’Tselem maintains its own political bias and has faced serious criticism for its misrepresentations of international law, inaccurate research, and skewed statistics. Of the other groups with which Global Ministries is partnered, a large number support BDS campaigns against Israel as well as oppose a two-state formula.
This consistently biased campaign conducted by Global Ministries and the UCC PIN paved the road to the current efforts to pass resolutions at the General Synod, which accuses Israel of “apartheid” and call for divestment from that country.