Enough! As deadly violence and lethal attacks have escalated in the past week between Israelis and Gazan Palestinians, we say, “Enough!” The violence must stop and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be resolved with a just and lasting peace. Peace is our hope and prayer, yet war seems to pervade. Further militarization of the conflict cannot bring about peace; it can only enflame tensions and exacerbate the crisis, providing misdirected outlets to release those tensions, and perpetuate the conflict.
That is one reason Rev. James Moos and I, as elected leaders of the United Church of Christ, guided by General Synod policy, signed an October 5 letter calling for Congress to investigate possible Israeli violations of U.S. law regarding foreign military aid. Israel receives $3 billion in U.S. military aid annually—the largest recipient of any country in the world since World War II—aid which seems to flow without accountability. While Syria and Iran are subject to strict U.S. sanctions, the Palestinian Authority has had U.S. humanitarian assistance suspended, and Congress reviews the U.S. aid package to Egypt, Israel continues to receive massive direct military aid from the U.S.
Our letter states, “In addition to the horror and loss of life from rocket attacks from Gaza and past suicide bombings, we have witnessed the broad impact that a sense of insecurity and fear has had on Israeli society. We have also witnessed widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinians, including killing of civilians, home demolitions and forced displacement, and restrictions on Palestinian movement among others…. Our stand against violence is complemented by our commitment to the rights of all Israelis, as well as Palestinians, to live in peace and security.”
It goes on, “Unfortunately, unconditional U.S. military assistance to Israel has contributed to this deterioration [of conditions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories], sustaining the conflict and undermining the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians.” The longer the U.S. supports Israeli military budgets, the more Israel has available to continue to extend its military occupation and control of the West Bank and Gaza, expand illegal settler presence, construct the separation barrier and Israeli-only roads which carve up the West Bank, and restrict movement of Palestinians within those territories.
The UCC continues to advocate fervently for a just and peaceful resolution to this conflict, in which two states can exist side-by-side, in secure and recognized boundaries; for Jerusalem to be a shared capital, with access to Jews, Christians, and Muslims; and for the rights of all people to be respected and accorded. Our positions are informed by Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers, whose voices are not normally heard in our North American context. The UCC is also fully committed to interreligious dialogue and engagement, seeking to nurture and model harmonious relations with people of many faiths, and together address societal issues of concern to us all as people living out our faith. These two imperatives sometimes come into tension, especially on Middle East issues, but we seek to live out those commitments authentically, remaining firm in our witness for peace with justice.
As we enter into a season of Advent, we say, “Enough!” to fighting and war, to killing and death; we anxiously yearn for peace with justice, for life, and indeed abundant life in all its fullness.
Rev. Black is the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. The United Church of Christ has 5,194 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.