2019 Community News


ON THIS PAGE:

• Statements on the Bahrain Economic Workshop and U.S. “Deal of the Century:”
Palestinian Alliance for Peace (PCAP):
“The Palestinian people will not be bribed into submission”
ON OTHER WEBSITES:
Statement from
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP):
Kushner’s Foreign Investment Plan Is No Substitute for Palestinian Freedom
Statement from American Muslims for Palestine:
Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan Is Neither a Plan nor Will It Lead to Peace

Unitarian Universalist Action of Immediate Witness:
Support Our First Amendment Right to Boycott
UUJME Flyer:
“Support Our First Amendment Right to Boycott”
UUJME Petitionin Support of Our First Amendment Right of Free Speech

• German Parliament Condemns BDS Movement:
Kairos Palestine: A Call for the German Bundestag to Reverse its Resolution

Palestinian BDS National Committee: Palestinians unanimously condemn German Parliament’s attack 

• At United Nations, Israeli Ambassador Uses Bible to Justify Land Theft

Churches and Christian Organizations Reject Trump’s Recognition of Israeli Annexation of Golan Heights

CMEP Statement: Recognizing Israeli Annexation of Golan Heights Another Dangerous Example of One-Sided U.S. Policy

Two Ecumenical Calls for Funding UNRWA, to U.S. President and Congress

Fifteen Faith Organizations Warn Americans: our right to free speech is under attack

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Statement by PCAP on the upcoming Bahrain Economic Conference

From the Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace (PCAP) – June 2019

The Trump administration is convening an “economic workshop” to be held in Bahrain on June 25 – 26.  The purported purpose of this conference is to implement an economic assistance program similar to the “Marshall Plan” with the goal of providing economic development aid to help boost and sustain a viable Palestinian economy.  Although fundamentally there is nothing wrong in holding an economic conference by itself, this particular conference is part of Trump’s so called “Deal of the Century”, in which economic aid is contingent on the Palestinian leadership to sign on to such an agreement. The Palestinian people will not be bribed into submission or relinquish their right for full sovereignty over the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to the right of return.

The Trump Administration is putting the cart before the horse because no economic assistance program can ever succeed if the Palestinian people do not have their right to govern themselves in a full sovereign nation with all its institutions. Investors prefer to operate in a stable and predictable legal and political environment with clearly defined processes for the movement of people, goods and capital.  Therefore, developing the Palestinian economy would be a positive element in a peace agreement, but cannot be a substitute for it.

The Palestinians in occupied Palestine and in the diaspora have high quality human capital, an educated and resourceful population, a tech-savvy young population and a strong inherent entrepreneurship culture.  With these characteristics and an economic environment based on tourism, agriculture, international trade, and hightech knowhow, they can build the Palestinian economy on their own once the barriers of occupation and the repressive system that comes with it are removed.

We call on the faith-based community to join us in demanding the full rights of the Palestinian people to live in their own sovereign state with peace and dignity.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Mathew 5:9  v. 10

Board of the Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace (PCAP)

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Unitarian Universalist Action of Immediate Witness:
Support Our First Amendment Right to Boycott

An Action of Immediate Witness at the Unitarian Universalist Association 2019 General Assembly, sponsored by Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME)

This Action of Immediate Witness calls on Unitarian Universalists and UU organizations to support our constitutionally protected right to boycott. The movement for Palestinian human rights has grown stronger in recent years with student groups, faith groups, unions and academic associations all coming out in support of Palestinian justice, and in many cases calling for boycotts and divestment from corporations complicit in violations of Palestinian human rights.

This growth in support for Palestinian rights has led to a backlash from all those who are threatened by criticism of Israel. The backlash has taken many forms, including a major effort to damage the movement for Palestinian rights with legislation aimed at intimidating or even criminalizing participation in boycotts directed at changing Israeli behavior. Divestment is a kind of boycott and much of the legislation refers to divestment as well as to boycotts.

Since 2014 over 100 measures targeting the use of boycotts in support of Palestinian rights have been introduced at local, state and federal levels. Twenty-seven different states have adopted such laws. Several such bills have also achieved wide support in the US Congress, although no bill has as yet passed both houses to become law. Some of the more extreme federal legislation that has been proposed calls for prison sentences of twenty years and fines of one million dollars. (see https://palestinelegal.org/righttoboycott )

This massive effort to pass anti-boycott legislation is disturbing given that the US Supreme Court determined in 1982 that boycotts are a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment (NAACP vs Claiborne Hardware), and given that such laws have recently been declared unconstitutional by Federal courts in Kansas, Arizona and Texas. The ACLU takes no position on Palestinian rights but has strongly opposed all of the anti-boycott legislation (see https://www.aclu.org/letter/aclu-letter-opposing-revised-version-israel-anti-boycott-act ).

The initiators of this anti-boycott legislation are not really concerned about constitutionality. They know that cases on appeal may take years to reach the Supreme Court and in the meantime their legislation will serve to frighten off those wishing to support Palestinian human rights with the time-honored, non-violent and constitutional means of boycotts.

But we must recognize, along with the ACLU, that all of us are threatened by this attack on our fundamental rights. Today it is supporters of Palestinians who are threatened, tomorrow it may be supporters of farm workers, Black Americans, indigenous people, immigrants, LGBTQIA people or prisoners. Broad opposition to these anti-boycott laws should be based on their unconstitutional, anti-democratic character and separate from one’s views concerning how to support Palestinians.

This Action of Immediate Witness calls on Unitarian Universalist and UU organizations to oppose these anti-boycott laws by reaching out to their representatives at state and federal levels. We also ask UUs to sign UUJME’s petition [see it below] calling on Congress to oppose this legislation (see https://tinyurl.com/defendrighttoboycott) or collect signatures via a paper version.
https://tinyurl.com/defendrighttoboycott-paper and mail them to the indicated address.

Download this document

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UUJME PETITION in Support of Our First Amendment Right of Free Speech!

We, the undersigned individuals, congregations, and organizations related to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), oppose national laws, state laws, and executive orders that penalize participation in the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

We affirm our commitment to the constitutional right to free speech. We affirm that boycotts and divestment in support of human rights are free speech and are aligned with UU principles upholding democracy in human affairs and the right of conscience.

Our opposition to laws penalizing the use of boycotts and divestment in support of Palestinian rights is based on our support for free speech and is independent of whether or not we as individuals or organizations endorse the BDS movement.

We call on members of the U.S. Congress and all other elected government officials to vigorously uphold the right of conscience and free speech by opposing legislation and executive orders that restrict and/or penalize boycotts for Palestinian rights.

UU ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS ARE ENCOURAGED TO SIGN THE FORM!

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A Call for the German Bundestag to Reverse its May 17, 2019 Resolution, “Resisting the BDS movement decisively – fighting antisemitism”

From Kairos Palestine

May 23, 2019 – Christians in Palestine are saddened and confused to learn of the German Bundestag’s passage of a resolution condemning the International Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and making it equal to anti-Semitism. The Palestinian BDS movement embraces the logic of peaceful means of resistance against the ongoing occupation and the Israeli human rights violations and discriminatory measures against our people. It means inviting Israel to the ways of peace, even by instituting some kind of pressure to help the government to open its eyes and see the injustice it is imposing on another people, the Palestinians.
While the Bundestag intends to protect Israel, by the anti-BDS law; putting Israel above the law will not help Israel; on the contrary, by doing this you are justifying and legalizing its unjust measures against Palestinians and help them to sustain the occupation and state of war. Israel needs people and states who can help it reconcile with Palestinians and put an end to its permanent way of war.
Therefore, we ask with heavy-laden hearts, “What other avenue would our German brothers and sisters ask us to take in order to overcome this historic injustice, the uprooting of our trees, the confiscation of our land, the forced transfer of our people, the denial of our human rights, the indiscriminate killing and the denial of self-determination for Palestinians and their right to live in freedom and dignity, free of foreign control and occupation.?”

As to the false charge of anti-Semitism, the BDS movement is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It unconditionally opposes all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

A just and peaceful resolution to our plight is only possible with international support. But Israel is able to whitewash its many abuses of human rights and violations of international law because the governments of the world have turned a blind eye to the plight of Palestinians and failed to hold Israel accountable. This is why, in the first place, we called and call on citizens of the world to embrace BDS as a way to hold Israel accountable and pressure it to move towards a just peace.
Regarding the resolution, “Resisting the BDS movement decisively—fighting antisemitism”, which singles out Palestinians, we ask you why there is no mention of:

● Israel’s strangling blockade of the Gaza Strip for 13 years;
● Israel’s declared annexation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank built on stolen Palestinian land;
● the daily humiliations to which our children are subjected at military checkpoints as they make their way to school; and to which women have become captive and restricted from accessing jobs and services;
● the unjust system of military law; a network of Israeli settler-only roads that restrict Palestinian movement and trade;
● and a separation wall judged by the International Court of Justice in 2004 as “a breach of international law”;
● the nearly 700 Palestinian children who annually are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system, in contravention of international law;
● and most importantly the denial of the right of return, the right for reparations, and right to self-determination for Palestinians that will guarantee their dignity and freedom from foreign domination and occupation.

The State of Israel, institutions and companies that are complicit in the denial of Palestinians’ human rights are the targets of the BDS movement. Everyone has the right to criticize the unjust actions of a state and a corporation. The Palestinian BDS movement does not boycott or campaign against any individual or group simply because they are Israeli.

Finally, as written in the Palestinian churches’ cry for justice (www.kairospalestine.ps), we believe that every human being is created in the image of God and that love is seeing the face of God in every person. We wrote in Kairos Palestine document” We do not resist with death but rather through respect of life. And we affirm that every citizen must be ready to defend his or her life, freedom and land.”

Therefore, we join our Jewish, Muslim and Christian friends and people of good will around the world in calling on the Bundestag to revise its resolution and to realize that Israel needs friends who can pressure and advice it to take the road of real peace and reconciliation. “In the absence of all hope, we cry out our cry of hope. We believe in God, good and just. We believe that God’s goodness will finally triumph over the evil of hate and of death that still persist in our land. We will see here “a new land” and “a new human being”, capable of rising up in the spirit to love each one of his or her brothers and sisters”. (Kairos Palestine 10.)

Kairos Palestine document is the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine. It is written at the time when we wanted to see the Glory of the grace of God in this land and in the sufferings of its people. In this spirit Kairos Palestine requests the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering for more than seven decades. Our word is a cry of hope, with love, prayer and faith in God. We address it first of all to ourselves and then to all the churches and Christians in the world, asking them to stand against injustice, urging them to work for a just peace in our region.

Source: http://kairospalestine.ps/index.php/resources/statements/275-a-call-for-the-german-bundestag-to-reverse-its-may-17-2019-resolution

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Palestinians unanimously condemn German Parliament’s attack on the right to boycott Israel’s apartheid and colonization

From the Palestinian BDS National Committee

May 24, 2019 – Through statements issued by both the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and Palestinian civil society groups, and protests at German Representative Offices in Ramallah and Gaza, Palestinians have unanimously condemned the German Parliament’s May 17 resolution that falsely labeled the Palestinian-led BDS Movement as anti-Semitic.

In a May 19 statement, The Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization called the German Parliament’s resolution “an attack against the Palestinian people and their  legitimate and inalienable rights.” The PLO Executive Committee said that the BDS movement rejects “racism and discrimination,” and called “on the German Parliament to withdraw this decision,” and on “German parties to reject the decision.” They further warned that “the PLO’s Executive Committee will reconsider its relations with German unions, parties and institutions if Germany continues its complicity with the occupation and standing against our people’s rights.”

In a tweeted statement on May 17, the day of the Parliament’s resolution, the BDS Movement described the resolution as “based on outright lies. It’s not only anti-Palestinian McCarthyism, it is a betrayal of international law, German democracy and the fight against real anti-Jewish racism.”

At a protest with 200 participants on Wednesday, May 22 at the German Representative Office in Israeli-occupied Ramallah, Palestinian civil society groups delivered a letter signed by representatives of over 200 Palestinian civil society organizations. The civil society letter said that the groups “condemn in the strongest terms” the Parliament’s resolution, “reject the baseless allegations and fabrications of  the Bundestag,” and call for the German Parliament to “repeal this anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab resolution.” A Thursday protest at Germany’s Representative Office in the Gaza Strip, where two million Palestinians live in an open-air prison under Israel’s siege, echoed those same messages.

The civil society letter said that, “Denying Palestinians the right to non-violently advocate for freedom, justice and equality is anti-Palestinian and puts the Bundestag at odds with international law, with universal democratic principles and even with the formal position of the European Union.”

Palestinian civil society groups reaffirmed the principles that the Palestinian BDS National Committee had laid out in  2017 statement  entitled “Racism and racial discrimination are the antithesis of freedom, justice and equality”,  saying that “the BDS movement rejects all forms of racism and discrimination, including Islamophobia, anti-semitism, sexism, anti-Black racism and homophobia, and is inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement and the US civil rights movement. BDS targets complicity, not identity.” They called on “Germany to end all forms of complicity in Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid by banning Israel’s illegal settlement products and services, ending all military trade and military research with Israel and supporting the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.”

A second Palestinian civil society letter, issued Thursday, called on “the German Government to refrain from adopting this resolution and passing it into law”, saying that doing so “would further threaten the relationship between Palestinian and German civil society.” The letter also called on the German government to impose a military embargo against Israel, and to cooperate to realize the rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

In another statement, the Palestinian Christian group Kairos Palestine said that, “Christians in Palestine are saddened and confused” by the German Parliament’s resolution. Kairos explained, “the State of Israel, institutions and companies that are complicit in the denial of Palestinians’ human rights are the targets of the BDS movement. Everyone has the right to criticize the unjust actions of a state and a corporation. The Palestinian BDS movement does not boycott or campaign against any individual or group simply because they are Israeli.”

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

Source: https://bdsmovement.net/news/palestinians-unanimously-condemn-german-parliament%E2%80%99s-attack-right-boycott-israel%E2%80%99s-apartheid

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At United Nations, Israeli Ambassador Uses Bible to Justify Land Theft

May 30, 2019 – It is deplorable and somewhat surprising to watch Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, wave a Bible at a session of the Security Council to defend his country’s theft of Palestinian land in the West Bank. He is certainly inspired by his boss, Benjamin Netanyahu, who, although secular, quotes the Bible frequently to sell his expansionist agenda.
Read the full article at ChristianZionism.org

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Churches and Christian Organizations Reject Trump’s Recognition of Israeli Annexation of Golan Heights

Following US President Donald Trump’s announcement and declaration recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, US churches and Christian organizations issued the following statement on March 28, 2019.

This past Thursday, March 21, President Trump announced that the United States would recognize Israeli annexation and sovereignty over the Golan Heights.  As US-based churches and Christian organizations with long histories of engagement in the Middle East through mission and ecclesial relations, we fully reject this unilateral declaration and are especially concerned about this Administration’s disregard for international law.

We see this reversal of consistent US policy and international consensus—that the Golan Heights are occupied and were acquired by force in the 1967 War in contravention of international norms—as an abandonment by the US of diplomacy to resolve such issues.

We have witnessed the Trump Administration’s approach to the Israel/Palestine over the past two years, and see this step as a continuation of the White House’s unwillingness to consider the implications of such actions for the possibility of a peaceful and just resolution to the region’s conflicts.  The President’s recognition of Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights is similar in nature to his recognition of Israel’s claims over all of Jerusalem, both of which ignore the legitimate claims of Syria and Palestinians, respectively, despite Israel’s 1980-81 legislative actions claiming jurisdiction and administration over each  of those geographies.  These shifts in US rhetoric contravene United Nations rejection of Israeli claims and the acquisition of territory by force.  We are further concerned that such a pattern does not bode well for the future of West Bank territory, also occupied by Israel.  And we wonder about the timing of this announcement.

We recognize that, just because the US says it is so does not make it so, but we also acknowledge the disproportionate influence that US policy has in the region, and how US policies have not led to a just and peaceful resolution to the conflicts there.  We urge the US to recommit to meaningful negotiations at appropriate times to resolve such matters based on international law and conventions, to involve all appropriate parties, to reject such unilateral actions by one party, and to refrain from making foreign policy statements that would unduly prejudice the outcomes of such diplomacy.

We also urge the US to support appropriate diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria, which has led to more than half a million deaths and more than half the population being displaced.  We recognize that negotiations over the possible return of the Golan Heights to Syria are not practicable at this time of uncertainty—all the more reason for the US to refrain from making such harmful declarations.

American Friends Service Committee
Christian Reformed Church in North America, Office of Social Justice
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Reformed Church in America
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries

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Recognizing Israeli Annexation of Golan Heights Another Dangerous Example of One-Sided U.S. Policy

March 2019 – Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) issued a statement, saying  that this decision “once again demonstrates the administration’s recklessly one-sided approach to Middle East foreign policy. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) deplores the move as violating one of the cornerstones of post-World War II international law: the illegitimacy of territory gained through conquest.”
See the CMEP statement

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Two Ecumenical Calls for Funding UNRWA, to U.S. President and Congress

February 2019 – Fourteen US Churches and Church bodies have joined together to send a letter to President Donald Trump calling on him to reverse the recent U.S. decision to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.  UNRWA provides vital funding to millions of Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East and funding cuts will have a devasating impact on already vulnerable communities.
The full text of the letter:

February 6, 2018
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump:

As Christian denominations and organizations concerned about and working in the Middle East, we are writing to express our dismay at the recent decision to withhold $65 million in U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The humanitarian impact of these cuts will be devastating. Many of our agencies and local partners know firsthand the important role that UNRWA plays in providing assistance to Palestine refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza. More than half a million Palestinian children are educated in UNRWA schools. Half of Gaza’s population receive food assistance from UNRWA. Hundreds of thousands of people each year rely on health services provided by UNRWA clinics. These already-vulnerable communities will be forced to suffer even more if these unconscionable cuts are not restored.

Secondly, we are deeply concerned by the politicization of humanitarian aid that is evident in this decision. The U.S. government has long maintained that “a hungry child knows no politics” and while this has not always been carried out perfectly, it has remained as an important guideline for U.S. policymakers. Humanitarian aid must be provided to civilians on the basis of need alone, not used as a way to attempt to extract concessions from political leaders. We are also concerned that this action could lead to a trend toward politicizing humanitarian aid to other vulnerable communities around the world and would erode U.S. reliability and credibility internationally.

Thirdly, the effort to withhold funds from UNRWA appears to be part of a series of actions to deny basic rights to Palestinians—in this case, their fundamental rights as refugees under international law. We yearn deeply for the day when UNRWA will no longer need to exist, but this must be the result of a negotiated resolution of the conflict, based on international law, that is fair and just for both Palestinians and Israelis. It cannot come through unilateral decisions by the United States to deny the rights of Palestinians.

We stand ready to work with you and all who seek a more just and peaceful future for all peoples in the region. In the meantime, we urge you to restore immediately full U.S. funding to UNRWA.

Sincerely,

  • Alliance of Baptists
  • American Friends Service Committee
  • Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
  • Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  • Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
  • Office of Social Justice; Christian Reformed Church
  • Pax Christi International
  • Pax Christi USA
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • Reformed Church in America
  • United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
  • United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

_____________________________________________

March 2019 – Nineteen faith organizations and denominations have sent an open letter to the U.S. Congress, stating: “humanitarian assistance must be provided on the basis of need alone; it is unconscionable and against universally-agreed humanitarian principles to withhold aid to extract concessions from political leaders.”
The full text of the letter:

March 25, 2019

Dear Members of Congress:

We are writing as church communions and organizations, many with a long history of involvement and work in the Middle East. Over the past year we have witnessed the negative impacts of the Trump administration’s decision to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and to withhold bilateral Economic Support Funds (ESF) for the West Bank and Gaza.

The vital services and programs provided by UNRWA and through ESF funds to the region include food assistance, health care, education and clean water. As a result of the cut-off of funds, we are receiving reports that classrooms are more crowded, food assistance has been reduced and some medical services such as dialysis treatments have been suspended or are no longer available. The humanitarian situation in Gaza, including the lack of clean water and electricity, is particularly dire and has been exacerbated by the reduction in U.S. funding.

Denying basic services to vulnerable populations will not bring about peace and security for anyone in the region. Furthermore, humanitarian assistance must be provided on the basis of need alone; it is unconscionable and against universally-agreed humanitarian principles to withhold aid to extract concessions from political leaders. We are greatly concerned by the Administration’s trend toward politicizing humanitarian assistance globally.

We yearn deeply for the day when UNRWA will no longer need to exist and when Palestinian communities will no longer need humanitarian assistance. But this can only result from a negotiated resolution of the conflict that is fair and just for both Palestinians and Israelis, including an end to Israeli military occupation.

Congress has consistently appropriated funds for UNRWA and bilateral ESF assistance to the West Bank and Gaza in previous fiscal years. We strongly support the disbursement of these funds as intended and the inclusion of this funding in the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations process.

Sincerely,

  • American Friends Service Committee
  • Church World Service
  • Churches for Middle East Peace
  • Conference of Major Superiors of Men (Catholic)
  • Dept. of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
  • The Episcopal Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Friends Committee on National Legislation
  • Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
  • Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  • Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
  • Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, Church of the Brethren
  • Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America
  • Pax Christi International
  • Pax Christi USA
  • Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Reformed Church in America
  • The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
  • Unitarian Universalist Association
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Fifteen Faith Groups Warn Americans: our right to free speech is under attack

January 2019 – Fifteen faith organizations issued a statement calling for Americans to oppose “anti-BDS legislation” such as the [then] pending Senate resolution S.1: “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019.” This bill seeks to provide legality for unconstitutional laws adopted in dozens of U.S. states that penalize Americans – often by denying them access to jobs, contracts, and other opportunities the state offers – if they support boycotts addressing Palestinian human rights or if they simply refuse to pledge in writing that they do not support such boycotts. The Supreme Court has made clear that political boycotts are a form of speech protected by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

The full text of the statement:

Unite to Protect Americans’ Right to Boycott

JANUARY 2019 – We are members of faith communities in the United States whose congregations or denominations have adopted resolutions to boycott products made in Israeli settlements—built on occupied Palestinian lands in violation of international law and longstanding official U.S. policy—or have implemented a screen to divest from companies that profit from the decades-old Israeli military occupation of Palestine. These resolutions affirm our commitment to a just peace for all Palestinians and Israelis.

We are alarmed by attempts to pass legislation in the U.S. Congress that would provide legal protection for states that are penalizing participation in the nonviolent, grassroots Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court has established that boycott actions addressing injustice are a protected form of speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and that American citizens are free to express their political and ethical beliefs by engaging in such boycotts.

Nevertheless, twenty-six states have instituted legal provisions that would penalize Americans – often by denying them access to jobs, contracts, and other opportunities the state offers – if they support boycotts addressing Palestinian human rights or if they simply refuse to pledge in writing that they do not support such boycotts. Restricting American citizens’ access to those opportunities on the basis of our political beliefs is a severe violation of our first amendment rights.

As of November 2018, thirteen other states have considered or are considering placing restrictions on their citizens’ right to support such boycotts.

The first bill introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2019, S.1 – Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, seeks to provide legality for these unconstitutional state provisions. Thus far, this bill has failed to garner sufficient support in the Senate, but that failure was on tactical grounds related to the government shutdown, and the legislation is very likely to be reintroduced.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a recent statement about this bill that reads, in part, as follows:
In the midst of a partial government shutdown, Democratic and Republican senators have
decided that one of their first orders of business should be to sneak through a bill that would weaken Americans’ First Amendment protections. The bill, Combatting BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] Act, encourages states to adopt the very same anti-boycott laws that two federal courts blocked on First Amendment grounds.

Anti-BDS legislation effectively penalizes actions taken by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church, the Mennonite Church USA, the United Church of Christ, and other denominations; and tens of thousands of Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and secular Americans who support boycotts and divestment aimed at ending Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.

As faith leaders, we have long used the nonviolent instruments of boycott and divestment in our work for justice and peace. These economic measures have proven to be powerful tools for social change, from strengthening labor rights for farm workers to ending apartheid in South Africa. As has been warned by the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, anti-BDS legislation is an extremely grave attack on free speech that threatens the use of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions for other peace and human justice causes.

WE CALL ON ALL AMERICANS to join us and the ACLU in defending our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Urge your Senators to reject anti-BDS legislation as an infringement on the rights of American citizens.

Signed,
The Alliance of Baptists
American Friends Service Committee – AFSC
Disciples Palestine Israel Network of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network- EPF-PIN
Friends of Sabeel North America – FOSNA
Israel Palestine Mission Network- Presbyterian Church (USA)
Kairos USA
Mennonite Palestine Israel Network – MennoPIN
Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace – PCAP
Quaker Palestine Israel Network – QPIN
Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East – UUJME
Palestine Israel Action Group (PIAG) of Ann Arbor Friends Meeting (Quakers)
United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network – UCCPin
United Methodists for Kairos Response – UMKR

Endorsed by:
American Muslims for Palestine – AMP

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