Watkins and Black among Christian leaders: Say yes to Palestine U.N. membership
International law, basic fairness at stake
Leaders of four denominations, including the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)’s General Ministers and Presidents, have issued a statement backing the Palestinian Authority’s bid for membership in the United Nations.
U.N. membership for the Palestinians is deserved, the four leaders say, “not only on the basis of international law and basic fairness … but to preserve a multi-religious holy land that includes Christian Palestinians.
In addition to the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins and the Rev. Geoffrey Black, the statement was signed by the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and Jim Winkler of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.
The following is the full text of the statement:
The Palestinians deserve membership in the United Nations — not only on the basis of international law and basic fairness — but to help preserve a multi-religious holy land that includes Christian Palestinians. We write as elected leaders of Protestant denominations with mission histories in the Middle East, a deep commitment to our sisters and brothers in Christ in the region, and a concern for the security of Israelis and Palestinians. We serve a God who calls us to seek justice. We look forward to the day when, by God’s grace, swords are beaten into plowshares. We stand united in prayer for peace and reconciliation among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. We write aware that an Obama Administration veto of Palestinian membership in the United Nations would put further pressure on Palestinian Christians and Christian minorities elsewhere in the Middle East.
We understand the view expressed by United States and Israeli representatives that international recognition by the UN is no substitute for two-party, two-state negotiations. But the reverse is also true, given the prolonged and undeniable failure of the negotiations between parties of vastly different power. Membership for Palestine does not preclude either the need for or the possibility of negotiations. Outstanding issues including an end to the occupation, final borders, the status of Jerusalem, settlements, and the right of return would remain to be resolved through negotiation. We believe that UN membership for Palestine would increase the likelihood of fair and transparent negotiations on these issues, as those negotiations would then take place between two members of the United Nations.
Moves in Congress to cut development aid to the Palestinian Authority to punish it for seeking UN membership seem unwise and counter-productive. Funds to strengthen security, education, and healthcare programs for ordinary Palestinians should not become pawns in the politics of a UN confrontation. In fact, cuts in aid from the U.S., the largest single-state donor to the Palestinians, would erode the quality-of-life improvements that have been achieved in the West Bank. Moreover, these cuts would be detrimental to the security of Israelis and Palestinians alike, not to mention U.S. interests in the region.
We are committed to the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security with their neighbors, within internationally recognized borders as described by UN resolutions that envision two viable states. We believe UN membership for Palestine would be a step in that direction.
No church leader wants controversy, yet we share a Bible that includes the critical and self-critical voices of the prophets. We invite those who disagree with us to visit Palestine and Israel, to go through the walls surrounding Bethlehem and Gaza, to understand the economic chokehold of the occupation.
We urge the Obama Administration not to use the veto for a 42nd time when the Security Council considers the recommendation for membership for Palestine, but to abstain—for the sake of a better future for the entire holy land.
Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
United Methodist General Board of Church & Society