Late on the night of Friday, June 22, 2018, the Presbyterian Church (USA), which represents nearly 1.5 million Americans, voted overwhelmingly in support of justice for Palestinians through resolutions on everything from opposing legislation challenging boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns to defending the right to call Israel a colonial state!
A slate of pro-justice resolutions, put forth by USCPR member group Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), passed with overwhelming majorities. PC(USA) rejected resolutions whitewashing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and instead cast votes:
- Condemning Israel’s attacks on protesters participating in the Great March for Return and calling for an end to Israel’s illegal siege of the Gaza Strip;
- Opposing Israel’s illegal annexation of Jerusalem, and its discriminatory practices targeting Palestinians in access to employment, representation, infrastructure, services, and education;
- Voting down legislation that scapegoated Palestinians for the deaths of Palestinian children killed by Israel, and presented false symmetry between the violence inflicted on Palestinian and Israeli children;
- Affirming our right to boycott by condemning anti-BDS legislation being pushed at the state and federal level, including opposing the Israel Anti-Boycott Act;
- Standing firmly in solidarity with Palestinian churches and receiving their call to recognize Israel as an apartheid state and intensify BDS campaigns;
- Challenging the US president and State Department regarding Israel’s discrimination against Palestinians and other citizens of Israel, and calling for US diplomatic action toward equality;
- Challenging boycott target RE/MAX’s profiting from sales in Israeli settlements;
- Ensuring that interfaith relationships in the US are oriented toward justice rather than used as a fig leaf for Israel’s violence against Palestinians;
- Rejecting normalization efforts that ignore the power imbalance between Palestinians and Israelis;
- Voting down a resolution seeking to end the classification of Israel as a “colonial project.”
The resolutions won by a mile following powerful testimonies from local and visiting Palestinians, Black Lives Matter leaders, Presbyterians, and others. Most of the resolutions passed by 80 or 90 percent or unanimously in committee and through the General Assembly.
The tide is turning. Four years ago this week, Anna Baltzer, our Director of Organizing and Advocacy, witnessed with tears in her eyes the PCUSA voting by a hair – 310-303 – to divest holdings from three US companies profiting from Israel’s occupation. At the time, PC(USA) was the first mainline church in the US to do so.
In just a few years, we have gone from near parity to a church standing boldly and unequivocally for Palestinian rights. In just a few years, we have gone from focusing on Israel’s 1967 occupation to a broad platform challenging all aspects of Israeli colonialism, and advocating the rights of all Palestinians throughout historic Palestine, including those fighting for their right to return home.
Massive, mainstream institutions like PC(USA) show how the political orientation and analysis at the grasstops level is shifting quickly, and that those claiming to be progressive without standing with Palestine are increasingly out of touch.
USCPR was proud to be on the ground working to support IPMN alongside Friends of Sabeel – North America, American Muslims for Palestine, St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, and St. Louis Jewish Voice for Peace.
Even as we are outraged by Trump’s decision to remove the US from the UN Commission on Human Rights to shield Israel from accountability, join us in taking a moment to savor these sweet victories as we recommit ourselves to the fight ahead for full freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people.