Deputies back plan to end financial complicity in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands

By David Paulsen
Posted Jul 9, 2018
Brian Grieves

The Rev. Brian Grieves, deputy from the Diocese of Hawaii, speaks in favor of the resolution he proposed about ending the church’s complicity in the Israeli occupation, saying “Palestinian lives matter.” Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The House of Deputies on July 9 voted overwhelmingly in favor of pursuing what is known as a human rights investment screen to end the Episcopal Church’s complicity in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, a move that critics call divestment and one they warn will diminish rather than amplify the church’s voice in the region.

Resolution D019 also raised concerns from critics that the church is taking sides in the decades-old Middle East conflict and possibly opening itself up to claims of anti-Semitism, though floor amendments to the resolution sought to minimize those concerns.

In the end, a measure that in 2015 failed even to get a floor debate in the House of Deputies, now sails to the House of Bishops backed by the deputies’ 619-214 vote, with 74 percent in favor. Many voiced an increased sense of urgency in responding to the rapid deterioration of the Mideast peace process and the escalating humanitarian crisis affecting Palestinians.

“Occupation is bad both for the oppressed and the oppressor,” said the Rev. Brian Grieves, a deputy from the Diocese of Hawaii and a member of the Stewardship & Socially Responsible Investing Committee, during the house debate on the resolution he proposed. “We as a church are complicit in this occupation. We have money invested in it.

“Let this be finally the convention where we say we will no longer allow our financial resources to enable this brutal occupation. … Palestinian lives matter.”

The difference between 2015 and this year has been a common theme at the 79th General Convention when discussing resolutions related to Israel and Palestine. Before the start of this convention, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president, accepted a task force’s recommendations intended to expedite the process and ensure a full, open and productive debate on Israel-Palestine issues after complaints about the process three years ago.

By most accounts, the process this year succeeded. Nearly 50 people testified on 15 resolutions at a joint hearing July 6. The House of Deputies was chosen as the house of initial action for all Israel-Palestine resolutions, and Resolution D019, deemed the most controversial, was scheduled for a special order of business to ensure debate didn’t get sidetracked by procedural matters.

Sarah Lawton, deputy from California and chair of the Social Justice and International Policy Committee, alluded to these changes in her opening remarks on the resolution before debate began.

“Last time we didn’t really debate this issue because the resolution failed in the House of Bishops, which was the house of initial action [in 2015],” she said.

The Episcopal Church has long voiced support for Israel’s right to exist and live in peace, as well as opposition to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Lawton listed some of the reasons why the past three years since the last General Convention have added a “sense of urgency” to the debate over treatment of Palestinians: Gaza, described as the world’s “largest open-air prison,” has faced deadly aerial attacks by Israel’s military, Lawton said, and Israeli forces have engaged in a disproportionate live-fire response to border unrest that violates international norms. Palestinian children have been taken from their parents and detained in deplorable conditions.

Many of those complaints were echoed in the impassioned testimony at the committee hearing, which drew people of a wide range of faith backgrounds, including Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“These concerns are addressed in our other resolutions, but they form some of the context for this one,” Lawton said.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

And while most of the other Israel-Palestine resolutions were assigned to the consent calendar to be approved without further discussion, D019 produced robust debate in the House of Deputies during the 80 minutes or so between introduction and passage. A full half-hour was set aside for debate on the resolution itself, with additional time allotted for debate on amendments, according to the rules of the special order of business.

The Rev. Winnie Varghese, deputy from New York, spoke about the Episcopal Church’s long history of socially responsible investing and its decision to withhold investments from certain industries, such as the tobacco and prison industries. Aligning investments with values is now a mainstream practice, she said.

“We are able to do this work,” she said in arguing for the resolution’s passage. “It is selective. It is supportive of our brothers and sisters in Israel and Palestine working for a just peace.”

The Rev. Susan Haynes, deputy from Northern Indiana, also applauded those who are working for peace, but she spoke against Resolution D019.

“I admire the work that people do when they advocate for Palestinians in the Holy Land when their rights are violated by the Israeli army, and I admire the work done by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem who serve people in the occupation under very difficult circumstances,” Haynes said. “But I cannot wholeheartedly support this [resolution] because it is one-sided. Human rights screening is divestment in Israel, and divestment destroys any chance of reconciliation.”

The Rev. Candice Frazer, deputy from Alabama, took exception to claims of one-sidedness.

“This resolution is not anti-Israel or even one-sided, though it might be one-sided if we consider, with our investments, our church has taken a side,” Frazer said. “How can we play a role in peacemaking when we are already invested in the oppression of a people?”

The Episcopal Church already pursues socially responsible investing in Israel through shareholder resolutions with companies that have contracts to support Israel’s infrastructure, such as construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar and telecommunications company Motorola. The threat of divestment is seen by proponents as one way to apply greater pressure on those companies to take a stand against human rights violations, but not everyone agrees with that tactic.

Hillary Raining

The Rev. Hillary Raining, deputy from Pennsylvania, speaks against Resolution D019 during the special order of business on Israel-Palestine in the House of Deputies on July 9. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“If the Episcopal church is going to play any role in this, we need to engage with both sides, not to divest, not to boycott,” said the Rev. Hillary Raining, deputy from Pennsylvania. “Boycotting and divesting from them will only close the channels of communication.”

Frazer countered that “it is through our pocketbooks” that the church can make a difference,” and the Rev. David Ota of the Diocese of California said he saw the Palestinian cause through the lens of his Japanese heritage and Japanese-Americans’ suffering during the U.S. policy of internment during World War II.

“When I think about this issue, when I see Palestinians behind walls, I see Jesus and I see my family and I see our church,” he said. Ota closed his comments with a reference to the massive prayer vigil July 8 attended by the bishops and deputies outside an immigrant detention center not far from Austin. “The policy of a human rights screen is trying to … free the people from destruction and to help us as a church stand with them, just as we stood at the detention center yesterday.”

Three amendments were approved before the final vote. One, proposed by the Rev. Gail Bennett of New Jersey, expedites a potential human rights screen by making those recommendations due by 2019 instead of 2020. A second amendment, proposed by the Rev. Wesley Sedlacek of Oregon, added a clause seeking to make clear the resolution is not critical of the Jewish faith tradition but rather advocates change in policies of a government, Israel.

And the House of Deputies, by a slim margin, approved an amendment from William Boyce of Massachusetts to “urge dioceses and worshipping communities to consider developing similar human rights social criteria investment screens in response to the Israel-Palestine crisis.”

resolution vote resiult

The results of the Resolution D019 vote are shown on the screen at the front of the House of Deputies. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

With amendments done, Jennings called for the vote on the resolution, which passed without further comment.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the House of Bishops will take up the resolution. Resolution B003, relating to the status of Jerusalem, and Resolution B021, on humanitarian aid to Palestinians, are on the bishops’ consent calendar for July 10. At least six other Israel-Palestine resolutions are on the House of Deputies’ consent calendar for the same day, and Resolution C017, which would create a “no-buy” list, is on the deputies’ July 10 legislative calendar.

If any or all of the resolutions clear both houses, the work of advocacy in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the church will fall to the Office of Government Relations.

“We look forward to implementing the guidance of General Convention, and we plan to continue our advocacy in pursuit of a just peace in the Holy Land,” Office of Government Relations Director Rebecca Linder Blachly said in an email to Episcopal News Service. “In the Office of Government Relations, we work closely with ecumenical and interfaith partners on advocacy, recognizing many of us have a diversity of views on particular issues.

“Whatever convention decides, we expect to remain a strong partner and advocate in Washington to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.


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Comments (49)

  1. Frank Harrison says:

    Two related questions. First, what constitutes being a human? Second, what are the rights such humans are suppose to have? A good deal of this stems from 18th century “Enlightenment” which is both atheistic and materialistic.

  2. Rev. Dr. James Hargis says:

    Sorry to my old classmate, Brian, but you are off the wall on this issue. Israel is our friend. Only democracy in the Middle East. And you would lean to supporting terrorist-backing Pelestinians?! Once again, TEC has proved reality is optional. And to my friend (and yes, I do have more than one!) David Ota, this is vastly different than the U.S. WWII internment camps.

      1. Haithem El-Zabri says:

        “Democracy”?? Sure, if you’re Jewish! Do the 5 million Palestinians in the militarily occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip get to have any control or say in their lives? Does this so-called “democracy” include them? You are defending racial supremacy, sir.

        1. Robert Cooper says:

          Haithem you are right. Israel has an ethnocracy not a democracy. And Democracy does not mean it is or will be good or right. There are ways to manipulate undermine or corrupt a democracy. Most democracies are manipulated by financial systems business other groups etc…

    1. Rev. Michael Bennings says:

      Dear Rev. Dr. James Hargis,

      How you define a “democracy”? Democracies do not have concentration camps such as Gaza. Democracies do not maintain militarized Apartheid regimes such as the West Bank with Jew-only roads, Jew-only buses and occupational colonies.
      Let me remind you that Israel was created through terrorism and terrorist organizations (Irgun and Haganah) that killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, bombed and destroyed more than 400 villages, dispossessed and stole Palestinian lands. The remaining refugees were rounded up in the Gaza concentration camp and in refugee camps in neighboring countries.
      This is called genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. What place do these have in YOUR definition of a “democracy”?

      1. Rev. Dr. James Hargis says:

        Democracy is freely elected representatives to govern those eligible to vote. There are reasons Palestinians are excluded, just like we exclude non-citizens. Each country may determine what that means. Is the system perfect? No. Are thei flaws? Of course. But I’d choose any system that tries to implement free elections, over one that is dictatorial, has ties to terrorism, and is brutal.

    2. Robert Assaly says:

      “Terrorist-backing Palestinians”? Does it get more racist than that? I had thought this was a Christian Church.

      P.S. Your friend Brian Grieves is one of the most insightful and knowledgable Episcopalians on Palestine

      1. Rev. Dr. James Hargis says:

        Fine. We’ll just have to disagree. You have your views, and I have mine; and it seems never the twain shall meet.

  3. PJ Cabbiness says:

    Israel does not occupy any Palestinian territory. Palestine is a region. It is not a nation. It does not nor has it ever legitimately possessed any territory. I am deeply saddened by the anti-Semitic path that our Church has taken. The narrative that the Church is accepting and promoting is false and fraudulent. The Palestinian leadership and people are not interested in peace, prosperity or dignified nationhood. Their currency is Theocracy and violence and they willing promote terror and murder against the legitimate nation of Israel. We owe the people of Israel an apology for being deeply (and sometimes intentionally) misinformed and for drawing unwise conclusions that have led to actions that are morally wrong and contrary to our faith. Israel is our friend and ally and we as Christians must oppose this latest wave of
    anti-Semitism. Palestine exists primarily as a political entity whose only purpose is to harass, defeat and destroy Israel. Shame on us.

    1. Steve Price says:

      I do agree that some of the comments on these threads are seriously misinformed or deliberately trying to misinform,propagandise,others.

      1. Rev. Dr. James Hargis says:

        But TEC isn’t misinformed and politicized?!!!

    2. Rev. Michael Bennings says:

      Stealing of Palestinian lands and destroying 400 Palestinian villages through terrorism (Irgun and Haganah), genocide and ethnic cleansing is horrendous. Your attempts to delegitimize the Palestinian people whose land was stolen is horrendous. Rounding them up in concentration camps (Gaza) or in refugee camps is horrendous. The militarized Apartheid regime in the West Bank is horrendous. Playing the victim, when you are the perpetrator is horrendous.

  4. Lloyd Newell says:

    Sounds to me the Church IS taken sides. What leverage will we have in any further discussions with Israel?

    1. Rev. Michael Bennings says:

      Stopping the support for maintaining the vicious occupation of the Palestinian people is a strong enough leverage.

  5. M. J. Wise says:

    TEC has been politically irrelevant for some time, so I still don’t see the point of taking up expensive and limited GC time with this attempt to make us look even more partisan and less likely to be listened to.

    1. william dailey says:

      You’re right M.J. the TEC is irrelevant. We must realize that these “causes” are financed by OUR dollars. Perhaps it is time to spend our money more wisely.

      1. mike geibel says:

        A church cannot act in the role of neutral mediator for peace when it takes sides in civil conflict by declaring economic war on one side. The Episcopal Church is the sworn enemy of Israel, and should be treated as such. I and others joined the exodus from the Episcopal Church some time ago. We call ourselves the MeToo#EpiscopalExodus.

      2. Steve Price says:

        But not as irrelevant as the ACNA.

    2. Rev. Dr. James Hargis says:

      Amen!!!

  6. Nick Khoury says:

    As a Palestinian Christian who’s heritage and family dates back hundreds of years in Palestine it is astonishing to hear fellow Christians deny the natural and legal rights of the Palestinian people. My families Church and village was destroyed in 1948 by the Zionist army. Do not confuse political Zionism who’s founders were atheist and the Jewish faith. Israel’s apartheid policies harms all peoples including Jews. Israel was not founded as a democracy and is still not or it would grant Palestinians whom they control the right to vote and remove discrimatory laws. Most importantly they would have never destroyed their homes, villages and Church’s.

  7. Susan Salisbury says:

    This is blatant anti semitism. This discussion completely ignores, for example all the fires started by the supposedly peaceful Gaza protests. By referring to certain territories as occupied it takes sides in an issue under dispute but worst of all it embraces a group of people who have openly stated on repeated occasions that their goal is the complete destruction of Israel and the Jews. It refuses to acknowledge all of the tunnels dug using building supplies so that Palestinian terrorists can sneak into Israel and kill Jews. Yoy refuse to acknowledge that the Palestinian authority pays terrorists and their families. You leftist deputies like to throw the word Nazi around. Look in the mirror. You have embraced a movement that seeks the destruction of Israel and the Jews, to your everlasting shame.

    1. PJ Cabbiness says:

      Yes. Thank you Susan.

    2. Matt Ouellette says:

      Criticism of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitic, any more than criticism of the U.S. government is anti-American. You might not think the Israeli government is doing anything wrong, but there are many of us who do, and it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

    3. Robert Assaly says:

      Surely you jest. Fires?

      Before a single fire was set, and not a single Israeli injured, by May 14 dozens of Palestinians had been massacred and thousands upon thousands injured inside their Gaza prison. Fires?

    4. Masar Sakr says:

      Israel continually kills Palestinians in Gaza and maintains a brutal Gaza blockade. They also maintain the occupation of the west bank, steal Palestinian land in the form of settlements and restrict the movement of all Palestinians.

      Actions speak louder than words and the actions of the Israeli government have shown that they are committed to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians

  8. Tura Campanella Cook says:

    Return to your virtual binder and read D019 Ending Church Complicity in the Occupation:
    1. Re-affirm prior action … of 1991-D122 “Distinguish Between Criticism of Israeli Policy and Anti-Jewish Prejudice”.
    2. Continue firm support for the right of Israel to exist in secure borders as established and recognized by the United Nations, but also [oppose] Israel’s occupation in perpetuity of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip which is now recognized by the United Nations as the sovereign state of Palestine;
    3. …[D]evelop a human rights social criteria investment screen based on the social teachings of this Church and 70 years of Church policy on Israel/Palestine…
    4. …[U]rge dioceses and worshipping communities to consider developing similar human rights social criteria investment screens.
    The Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace would not have written a statement in support of this and other resolutions if they felt D019 was anti-semitic.

  9. Elaine J. Cohen says:

    It is important to recognize that the State of Israel does not represent the moral compass nor the ethical teachings of Judaism — nor the vast numbers of Jews who do not live in Israel. American Jews in large numbers are shaking off the layers of deceit and misrepresentation that has misguided perception of the State of Israel since its beginnings.

    Israel is not Democratic and its increasing oppression of Palestinians, especially those living in the Gaza prison, does not follow the core principles of Judaism. I do not feel safer as a Jew because Israel practices discrimination and extreme prejudice against Palestinians.

    Remember the lessons learned in South Africa. Sadly, where morality and humanity have failed to reach heart minds, economic sanctions do work.

    1. william dailey says:

      Because Palestine has vowed to wipe Israel off the map I would hope they have no hope in attacking Israel as it defends itself. The hate for Israel in Palestine must be recognized as an essential tenant of Islam that extends to Christianity as well. It’s time for Christians everywhere to wake up and face this threat.

      1. Matt Ouellette says:

        I’m pretty sure hatred of Israel is not a core tenet of Islam, and neither is hatred of Christians. Just because there are Muslims that hold those views doesn’t mean it applies to the entire religion, any more than the homophobia of the Westboro Baptist Church applies to Christianity.

      2. Abu Kamel says:

        You say this as Palestinians villages were and are still to this day being wiped off the ground. Wake up and stop repeating Zionist propaganda.

      3. Thomas Prater says:

        Matt Ouellette – I can see you have never read the koran – – it says something totally different!

        1. Matt Ouellette says:

          So you think the Quran, which was written centuries ago, has a statement in it about the modern state of Israel? That would be quite impressive indeed.

          1. william dailey says:

            The teachings of Mohammad require his followers to offer non-Muslims only three choices: conversion, subjugation, or death. The Palestinian (Islamic) suicide bombers, however, don’t give their victims a choice, Apparently there is no requirement to ask questions when driving a truck down a sidewalk killing unbelievers, bombing a school or flying an airliner into a building. If the Church fails to respond to these threats we will run out of yellow ribbons and flowers.

        2. william dailey says:

          Perhaps more significantly the Koran NEVER mentions Jerusalem. That’s zero, nada references. The Bible references Jerusalem 230 or so times.

  10. Maurine Tobin says:

    Having led 24 groups to experience the facts on the ground in Palestine and having worked for over 20 years with both Israeli and American Jews advocating justice for Palestinians, we know this resolution is the opposite of anti-Semitic. Rather is is on keeping with the mandate in both Hebrew and Chrisian scriptures to use of resources to support the oppressed.

  11. Katherine Pace says:

    As I Jewish American, I would like to express my support for D019. It is not anti-semitic to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people. To the contrary, it is the only moral thing to do. What is more, a growing number of Jewish people in the US and around the world are voicing their support for divestment against Israel. We are horrified by the oppression and violence enacted in our names, and we are endlessly frustrated by the idea that the state of Israel represents all Jewish people. It does not. Thank you to all the people who worked tirelessly to pass D019. I pray that it is approved by the House of Bishops.

    1. Steve Price says:

      Many Jews in Israel oppose the policies of this particular Israeli government.Netanyahu like Trump,did not receive a majority of the vote but was forced to form coalitions to keep his job.Please don’t judge all Israelis by this current government.Maybe enough actions like sanctions can help bring down his coalition so the sane Jews in Israel can reclaim their government and restart the peace process.

  12. Chris Weir Abbyad says:

    If we can be critical of our own government and divest from American companies that do not share our moral values then why can’t we do the same when it comes to Israel? Israel receives the lion’s share of our foreign aid and is the 16th strongest military power in the world. What hope do the Palestinians have in confronting such a power? As Archbishop Tutu so famously said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Many American Jews have given us permission to side with justice for Palestinians.

  13. Alistair Welchman says:

    I am heartened that the Episcopal Church has taken a stand against Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Standing up for the oppressed is the right thing to do, and is also the first step towards an eventual reconciliation.

  14. Jerry Williams says:

    “If you are neutral in situations of terrorism, you have chosen the side of the terrorism” . Slogans, slogans. Do what you will. Divestment has a lot of forms.

  15. Ron Davin says:

    Genesis 12; 3 says it all

  16. John Hirnbager says:

    Free Palestine from river to sea, Palestine should be for all people

    1. PJ Cabbiness says:

      Free Israel from the endless, mindless, murderous attacks from the terrorist puppet non-state of Palestine. Return to Israel all of its rightful, historical territory.

  17. Andrew Poland says:

    Seriously, we need to establish a position in our church called a “Relevancy Chief” or something. What, precisely, does this have to do with the administration of the Episcopal Church? If it’s about funding, I would hope that our money stays in our particular church, and is spent on local aid and projects.

    Why don’t people understand that you do not use a toaster to make a smoothie?

    This is a Church. If you want to politick, there are venues and vehicles for that. Our Church ought focus on what we know best, loving and providing for our NEIGHBORS, and loving God. One can try to make the argument that we are called to do this sort of thing, but I’d argue that the world is chock full of messed up places and issues, and that if we are being fair, it’s darn near impossible to pick, choose, and prioritize how many other lanes that we’re going to step into. Last I checked, the Church I go to on Sunday isn’t a Political Action group. At coffee hour, we don’t sit around stuffing pamphlets and man phone banks. Can we please stick to what our actual function is?

  18. Michael Gillespie says:

    I left the Episcopal Church over a decade ago because I found that I could no longer worship with those who turn a blind eye to, or worse, condone and actively support, Israel’s black letter law crimes against defenseless captive civilian Palestinian populations in the illegally-occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza. Israel routinely oppresses and ruthlessly exploits captive Palestinian civilians, men, women, and children, as human lab rats for the testing of weapons and tactics Israeli arms makers export to other repressive regimes around the globe. What kind of church is it that supports such criminality?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4CehqWcEk4

    https://www.mediamonitors.net/perspectives/palestine-unabridged-claiming-the-right-to-freedom-of-speech-part-one/

  19. Vicki Gray says:

    Concerning your second question, Frank, you might consult the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With regard to Palestinians, the 2007 UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is also relevant. Come to think of it, so is Mark 12:31.

  20. Robert Cooper says:

    It is so nice to see Christian denominations waking up to how Israel has become. Christians have spoiled the child with unconditional help and aid to Israel and Jews in western countries. As one takes a deep look one might see as I do how for Christian Zion we have lost sight of the Peace that Jesus taught. Now we gushing ly send our children both boys and girls to war. Abhorrent to me and I believe Jesus as well. My Quaker faith thinks they are progressive but they are stuck in past over antislavery efforts of which we owe a great deal to Methodists and other denominations. This is difficult for many but not by your fault. Our media keeps us in the dark and Hasbara in Israel was also created to do not only that but manipulate us further. Zionism effected in Israel is not Christian Zionism but secularlized self determination or Self Will and not Gods Will action. There is more but you do the research yourself.

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