United Church of Christ votes to support Palestinian children in Israeli military detention
July 2017 – Delegates at the 31st General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Baltimore, Maryland, voted overwhelmingly on Sunday night – 79% yes, 13% no, 9% abstain – in favor of a resolution which calls on the State of Israel to guarantee basic due process rights and exercise an absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment of detained Palestinian children. (See full text of the resolution here.)
Languishing through generations of trauma under Israeli military rule which just marked its 50th year, Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank are subject to Israeli military law which fails to ensure and, in fact, denies basic and fundamental rights. Palestinian children, who are tried in Israeli military courts, are denied their right to a fair trial, frequently detained in solitary confinement, subjected to strip-searches, hand-ties, blindfolds, physical violence, verbal abuse, intimidation, and are interrogated without a lawyer or their parents present. International juvenile justice standards are routinely violated by Israel’s military court system. Palestinian children live in constant fear of arrest, detention, and violence at the hands of Israeli forces.
With the passage of this resolution, the United Church of Christ (UCC) calls for protection of human rights of the children of Palestine. This call is based upon longstanding theological values of protecting vulnerable children and is informed by the witness of Palestinian Christian theologians as expressed in the 2009 document Kairos Palestine – a Moment of Truth. The resolution also cites established international law, specifically the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child, which Israel has signed.
Angelica Harter, longtime leader within United Church of Christ Palestine/Israel Network agrees, “Torture and abuse of children are totally unacceptable in any society. We must speak up as individuals and as the United Church of Christ to protest our U.S. complicity in this abuse.”
General Synod delegate Rev. Catherine Alder attests, “No child should be bound and blindfolded by Israeli military, taken in the middle of the night from his or her home, ripped from family, forced to sign a confession in a foreign language, go without legal representation or parental presence — all actions which are against international law. This must stop now.”
One teen youth delegate testified in favor of the resolution, lamenting nighttime arrests of sleeping children. She concluded her remarks by saying, “I go to bed knowing I am safe, knowing I am protected. These children aren’t so fortunate.” Another teen youth delegate challenged the assembly with these words: “The monetary aid which the U.S. provides to Israel is staggeringly high, almost four billion dollars. How can we pay this amount of tax dollars to a country that values the torturous interrogation of children?”
The UCC Palestine/Israel Network (UCC PIN), drafters of the resolution, worked with many allies and interfaith partners. The resolution gained co-sponsorship from 15 UCC congregations, endorsements from over two dozen ecumenical and interfaith allies, and expressions of support and gratitude from U.S. and Palestinian partners.
“This resolution from the United Church of Christ comes at a desperately urgent moment,” said Beth Miller of No Way to Treat a Child campaign. “Palestinian children are being detained in greater numbers and suffering increasingly severe abuse at the hands of Israeli forces. In passing this call to action with a strong majority, the UCC joins a growing movement of people in the U.S. standing up and demanding a safe and just future for Palestinian children.”
The United Church of Christ stands with many ecumenical, interfaith and international partners in adopting this resolution. The UCC joins other religious and secular organizations already seeking the remedies listed and/or currently deliberating actions toward justice for Palestinian children subjected to the abuses named.