Washington — The United Church of Christ voted overwhelmingly to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s control of the West Bank.
The vote passed at the church’s synod on Monday in Cleveland by a vote of 508-124 with 38 abstentions, according to the church’s Palestine/Israel Network, which backed the resolution.
“As disciples of Jesus, we hear and seek to heed his call to be peacemakers, responding to violence with nonviolence and extending love to all,” the Rev. John Deckenback, conference minister of the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC, which submitted the resolution to the synod, said in the Palestine/Israel Network statement. “It is in that spirit of love for both Israelis and Palestinians, and a desire to support Palestinians in their nonviolent struggle for freedom, that the United Church of Christ has passed this resolution.”
The Palestine/Israel Network statement said it was heeding calls from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement in backing the resolution.
The divestment motion is the broadest passed so far by a church. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) last year divested from three companies that provide Israel with security equipment used in the West Bank, and the Episcopal and Mennonite churches are considering similar measures this week.
“In recent years, the UCC has been part of a chorus of churches that pin sole responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on just one side – Israel,” the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella body for public policy groups, said in a statement, one of several issued by mainstream Jewish groups slamming the vote.
“While neither side is blameless in the conflict, a position that assigns exclusive accountability for the continuation of the conflict to the Jewish state is deeply skewed and raises troubling questions,” the JCPA said.
The United Church of Christ says on its website that it has 1.1 members in the United States.
Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that is active in the BDS movement, had representatives in Cleveland, and in Salt Lake City, where the Episcopal Church’s general convention is underway, advocating for the measure.
“There is no contradiction between choosing to divest from companies complicit in human rights abuses and maintaining good interfaith relations with Jews,” Lev Hirschhorn, a JVP board member present in Cleveland, said in a statement.