Jewish groups protest UCC sanctions on Israel

From the archive (legacy material)

Steve Levin | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | 1 July 2005

A local United Church of Christ resolution urging divestment from American companies doing business with Israel in the West Bank and Gaza will be voted on by delegates to the national church’s general synod that begins today in Atlanta.
Approval of such a measure would make the 1.3 million-member denomination the first mainline Protestant church to follow the lead of the Presbyterian Church (USA), which passed a similar resolution on selective divestment last year.
Rabbi Alvin Berkun, a longtime leader of interfaith dialogue through the Religious Leadership Forum and other groups, is troubled that the leaders of the Penn West Conference of the UCC never tried to talk to him or anyone else from the region’s Jewish community prior to developing the resolution, which he described as “ill-timed and ill-designed.”
The resolution by the Penn West Conference, which includes 135 churches and more than 18,000 members in Western Pennsylvania and parts of Maryland, calls for the denomination’s pension board and foundation to divest from companies “involved with Israel’s illegal occupations of the West Bank and Gaza, the construction of the ‘security fence’ and the continuation (and ongoing construction of new) Israeli settlements within Palestinian territories illegally occupied by Israel.”
Five members of the Penn West Conference ultimately did meet with local Jewish leaders, but not until June 23, nearly four months after the resolution had been submitted.
This week, the Simon Weisenthal Center sent a letter to national church leaders asking that the three proposals be dropped and representatives be allowed to address the synod.
Peter Makari, the UCC’s executive for the Middle East and Europe, said resolutions submitted to the synod cannot be withdrawn. He said anyone can attend the synod and register to speak at the plenary session.
The United Methodist Church and the Anglican Communion, including its American arm, the Episcopal Church, also have studied the divestment issue. Jewish leaders say such efforts have been one-sided, since none requires cessation of Palestinian terrorist acts, or an end to anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian schools and media.
United Church of Christ members of the Judeo-Christian Alliance, an initiative funded by a Jewish nonprofit organization called the David Project, say all three proposals “should be thrown out the window.”
“None of them takes into account the religious, racist and regional nature of the war against Israel,” said Dexter Van Zile, founding director of the alliance and a UCC member.