We all know the slogan – All politics are personal. And we know the rallying cry – The personal is political. Every political decision has a personal dimension, and every personal act ripples through to the political realm.
For me, and for many, the General Synod resolution “A Call for the United Church of Christ to Take Actions toward a Just Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” – which passed with a 76% affirmation – is an example. In my world, this mixes family loyalty, a passion for justice and peace even when that seems to be impossible, and a belief that Israel has not only the right to exist but the right to protect itself. My niece is studying to be a rabbi. As I write this, she is finalizing the rental agreement for her apartment in Jerusalem where she will live for the coming academic year. Actions against Israel feel personal to Jews and their families, just as actions against Palestine feel personal to Palestinians and their families.
So, what does this resolution actually say? The full resolution can be found at http://uccfiles.com/pdf/GS30-A-CALL-FOR-THE-UNITED-CHURCH-OF-CHRIST-TO-TAKE-ACTIONS-TOWARD-A-JUST-PEACE-IN-THE-ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT.pdf . The resolution calls for divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and people, and the boycott of products that are made by companies that operate in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. It invites advocacy work with Congress to ensure Israel’s compliance with US laws related to the $3.1 billion in US aid that is sent annually. And it calls for continued interfaith dialogue, including our Jewish colleagues.
This resolution is intended to be supportive of Palestinian Christians, who continue to find themselves between a rock and a hard place in a land that is filled with both of those. It seeks to employ a non-violent tactic to bring an end to the occupation, in response to the request of Christian partners in the region. The focus is on the government of Israel and its actions in the West Bank and Gaza.
This is not the final word of justice for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like all resolutions, it poses a one-dimensional response to a multi-dimensional problem. It is not something that everyone in our beloved denomination will agree with. It will be a challenge for those of us with personal ties in the Jewish community, partly because we all too quickly assume that criticism of Israeli politics is anti-Semitic.
General Synod has never presumed to speak for the churches of the United Church of Christ, but it is charged with the responsibility of considering a wide variety of justice and witness issues in ways that speak to the churches. We don’t all agree – and we didn’t when General Synod voted for marriage equality or boycotting Taco Bell. But perhaps we are challenged by General Synod to shine some light into the dark corners of these real issues of peace and justice, and consider anew what we think and believe. Certainly we are invited to be about the work of praying for peace and reconciliation in Israel and Palestine and around the world.
The politics of General Synod are personal, and our personal actions on behalf of healing and wholeness in the world are political as well. It will always be so!
—Katherine Mulhern, Program Support/Adjunct
2030 Iowa (Young Clergy Support) for Iowa Conference UCC