UPDATED: UCC and Disciples join Christian leaders in letter to Congress outlining human-rights violations in the Middle East

UPDATED: UCC and Disciples join Christian leaders in letter to Congress outlining human-rights violations in the Middle East

UCC and Disciples join in a letter to Congress

[The following article appeared online on October 5.]

Leaders of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are joining other Christian leaders representing U.S. churches and religious organizations in a two-page letter to Congress, asking that Israel be held accountable for potential human-rights violations through its use of U.S. military aid.

The letter, signed by UCC President and General Minister the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, Disciples General Minister and President the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, the Rev. James A. Moos, executive minister for the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries and Co-Executive of the UCC/Disciples Global Ministries, and the Rev. Julia Brown Karimu, Presdient of the Disciples’ Division of Overseas Ministries and Co-Executive of Global Ministries, has the support of 13 denominations and organizations in the United States. The ecumenical leaders write that both sides share responsibility for their actions, but U.S. military assistance to Israel threatens long-lasting peace in the region. The letter to Congress also outlines examples of civilian deaths, Israeli restriction of Palestinian political expression and movement, demolition of Palestinian homes, and use of prohibited weapons in civilian areas.

The UCC has sought to constrain the militarization of the Middle Area after the passage of a 2005 General Synod resolution, said Dr. Peter Makari, executive for the Middle East and Europe for Global Ministries.

“Both churches have been consistent in their condemnation of violence, regardless of its source,” Makari said.

The UCC and Disciples join their ecumenical partners “in expressing the concern that U.S. assistance to Israel has been and remains unconditional, is in violation of U.S. law on foreign assistance, and contributes toward the continuation of a military occupation of Palestinian lands, which is antithetical to efforts to promote peace between the Palestinians and Israelis,” Makari said.

The churches and religious organizations, committed to seeking a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis, also point to what they write is a “troubling and consistent pattern of disregard by the government of Israel for U.S. policies that support a just and lasting peace. Specifically, repeated demands by the U.S. government that Israel halt all settlement activity have been ignored.”

The Christian leaders are asking Congress to make U.S. military assistance to Israel contingent on compliance with our country’s laws and policies, pointing out, “as Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid since World War II, it is especially critical for Israel to comply with the specific U.S. laws that regulate the use of U.S.-supplied weapons.”

Global Ministries is a common witness of the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) responsible for nurturing relationships with international partners on behalf of the two denominations. Since 1989, the UCC and the Disciples have been in a full communion ecumenical partnership.

Click here for the full text of the letter.

Update (March 20, 2013): Massachusetts community and religious leaders send follow-up letter to Rep. John Tierney

Update (Jan. 29, 2013): Full-Page Ad in ‘Roll Call’: 80,000 to President Obama—Hold Israel accountable.  See Dec. 11 update (just below) to add your name.

Update (Dec. 11): Jewish Voices for Peace has initiated a campaign to support the request in the letter.  Click here to add your name.

Update (Oct. 31): The Carter Center today issued the following release, in support of the letter:

ATLANTA–The Carter Center commends the 15 Christian leaders who recently urged Congress to investigate human rights violations by Israelis against Palestinians that are obviously in violation of U.S. law. 

Like these church leaders, The Carter Center has long been concerned about Israel’s disregard for stated U.S. policy. This is demonstrated by an unprecedented massive increase in encroachment on occupied Palestinian territory, with illegal settlement expansion during recent years.

“This is precluding the possibility of a two-state solution and endangers a peaceful future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, founder of The Carter Center.

Update (Oct. 25): A webstream newsshow on the Huffington Post tackled the issues of the letter Global Ministries’ Middle East and Europe Executive Peter Makari was a panelist.

Update (Oct. 22): Coverage of the impact of the letter in the New York Times, the Associated Press, and in Ha’aretz.