Resolutions on Israeli ‘apartheid’ top agenda of General Convention international policy committees

By David Paulsen
Posted Apr 17, 2024
Gaza border

Israeli soldiers stand next to the Israel-Gaza border, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from Israel on April 10. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] The 81st General Convention is poised to consider 12 resolutions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, starting with four separate resolutions that would label Israel’s disparate treatment of Jewish and Arab citizens a kind of apartheid.

A hearing on those four resolutions is scheduled for 11 a.m. Eastern April 18 on Zoom with the bishops’ and deputies’ committees on Social Justice & International Policy. Additional hearings are likely in the coming weeks as the parallel committees deliberate on whether to recommend the resolutions for approval by the House of Bishops and House of Deputies when they meet June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Three of the apartheid resolutions were proposed originally for consideration by the 80th General Convention in 2022 but were deferred until this year’s meeting. A010, for example, would acknowledge that Israel “has passed laws that discriminate against its non-Jewish citizens, particularly Palestinians.” That resolution, along with A011 and A012, would put the church on record for the first time in labeling such a system as “apartheid.”

The fourth resolution, D003, was newly proposed this year by the Rev. Boyd Evans, a deputy from the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia. It makes a similar case, “that Israel’s entrenched discriminatory rule over Palestinians amounts to the international wrong of apartheid.”

The Episcopal Church’s positions and policies toward the decades-long and ongoing conflict in the Holy Land typically generate some of the most contentious debates when bishops and deputies gather for the triennial churchwide meeting. This year’s General Convention comes as Israel faces intense global scrutiny for its handling of its war with Hamas.

Hamas militants attacked Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing an estimated 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages back to Gaza, which the Palestinian group has controlled since 2007. The unprecedented attack initially generated worldwide condemnation for Hamas and empathy for the Israeli victims, particularly from the United States, Israel’s strongest ally. Since then, however, public opinion has shifted in response to the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza under Israel’s aerial bombardment and a ground invasion by Israel’s military, which has resulted in thousands of civilian Palestinian casualties.

Gaza

A Palestinian man. Ali Oroq, carries a water container as he walks at a school sheltering displaced people in Gaza City on April 16. Photo: Reuters

Some of the resolutions proposed to the 81st General Convention address these latest developments. D007, a deputy-proposed resolution, would condemn Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, as well as “the ensuing military aggression by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza.”

“No lasting peace can be achieved nor justice established until Israel’s military occupation and control over Palestinians comes to an end and Palestinians and Israelis have equal rights, freedom, and self-determination,” the resolution says, as proposed by Tieran Sweeny-Bender, a Diocese of Olympia deputy. It also seeks to pressure the U.S. government on a range of policy goals, from a cease fire in Gaza to negotiations toward “a future based on equal rights, freedom, and self-determination for all people.”

Resolution D009 would call on the U.S. government to provide money to assist in the long-term rebuilding of Gaza after the Israel-Hamas war. And Resolution D012 would put the church on record supporting conditions for U.S. military aid to Israel to prevent American weapons and technology from being used in potential human rights violations and war crimes. Both were proposed by Sarah Lawton, a Diocese of California deputy.

Other proposed resolutions offer broader perspectives on the conflict. D013 would underscore “no military solution” while acknowledging the historical scope of the conflict and renewing calls for a lasting peace that includes creation of a sovereign Palestinian state.

Resolution D004 would label Palestinians as “among the indigenous people of the lands of Palestine and Israel lying between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.” The resolution does not mention the Jewish people, who also claim that region as their historic homeland.

Additional resolutions mine narrower aspects of the conflict. D005, for example, would align The Episcopal Church with the “boycott, divest and sanctions” movement, which has drawn strong opposition from Israel’s supporters. An earlier resolution on a similar issue, relating to the church’s own investments, generated intense debate at the 79th General Convention in 2018 before ultimately passing.

The Diocese of Rochester has proposed Resolution C002, “On Responsible Travel to the Holy Land.” It would recommend “that pilgrimage travelers to the Holy Land explore and engage the realities of the circumstances and conditions impacting the lives of today’s Palestinians and Israelis, paying particular attention to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories, to the violations of human rights and to Palestinian national aspirations.”

And Resolution D006 would oppose “the theology and politics of Christian Zionism.” The resolution, proposed by Rochester deputy Carolyn Mok, defines Christian Zionism as an ideology “that believes the establishment of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state in the whole land of Palestine-Israel, denying the legitimacy of any Palestinian Arab existence there, was mandated by God and must be completed before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ can occur.”

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service based in Wisconsin. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.


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