[AMENDED] Proposed AIW - Solidarity with Palestinians

Primary Proposer: Rev. DL Helfer of Westminster Unitarian Church
Additional Proposers: Lena Gardner, Rev. Katie Romano Griffin, and Rev. Abhi Janamanchi

Our Unitarian Universalist faith draws on the moral imperative of radical love, and despite all odds, calls us to uphold a world where liberation is real and we all thrive.

Our faith community has long recognized the horrors of violent antisemitism against generations of Jewish people and we reaffirm our commitment to their safety. Our support for Jewish well-being was never meant to undermine the rights and lands of Palestinian people. We seek a world where our Palestinian and Jewish kin are safe. We believe that until Palestinians are free, none of us is free.

We decry all the violence of October 7. We further acknowledge that we cannot possibly contextualize all that led to this point but note that Israel’s occupation and repression in Gaza has been decades long.

Unitarian and/or Universalist congregations and communities around the world have issued calls for peace, justice, and reparations in the Palestinian territories for decades. In 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced, and at least 280,000 were displaced in 1967 when additional Palestinian lands were violently occupied against international law. UUA General Assembly resolutions in 1982 and 2002 called for ending the occupation of Palestinian lands and a 1982 UUA Board of Trustees resolution declared that “criticism of the policies of the government of Israel should not be equated with or confused with anti-Semitism.”

Today, we recognize that Zionism is increasingly intertwined with supremacy and nationalism which our faith has consistently rejected as unjust and discriminatory. In recent years, major human rights organizations have published reports documenting the apartheid policies and practices of the State of Israel.

A growing number of Unitarian Universalist communities and individuals are calling for ending unconditional military aid to the State of Israel and affirming solidarity with Palestinian safety, support, and self-determination, including Black Lives of UU, Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, UU College of Social Justice, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, Unitarian Universalist Association senior leadership, and thousands of UU religious professionals, lay leaders, and congregants. With the U.S. providing Israel the highest amount of military aid in the world, UUs in this country bear a responsibility to speak out against these policies.

Since October 7th, Israel has subjected Gaza to indiscriminate bombings with US-made weapons, resulting in civilian casualties, including journalists, aid workers delivering food and medical supplies, and healthcare workers. As of May 25, 2024, over 40,000 have been killed, including over 8,000 children, counting identified Palestinians and bodies under the rubble, 20,000 orphaned, and nearly 80,000 wounded, including thousands of amputees. Israel has blocked necessary aid delivery, depriving Palestinians of food, water, and medicines and causing famine with starvation deaths in the hundreds and 1.6 million in danger. The targeted and widespread destruction of medical, cultural, agricultural, educational, and religious sites constitutes ethnic cleansing.

At the same time, Israeli settlers are conducting violent attacks on Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank and the Israeli settlement movement is being hosted in U.S. synagogues to sell illegally confiscated land in the occupied territories.

The Israeli military’s deliberate targeting of Gaza’s hospitals and healthcare infrastructure, along with the killing of health workers and the withholding of food and water, is causing a humanitarian crisis that threatens the survival and well-being of the Palestinian population. The International Court of Justice has labeled these actions as plausible genocide and has urged countries that are parties to the Genocide Convention to halt any actions that could contribute to this grave situation.

The persecution of the Palestinians is also connected to a global commitment to profits over human lives and parallels greed-fueled conflicts in Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia. While we call for the liberation of Palestinians, we also call for the liberation for all persecuted people across the globe. At the core of our Unitarian Universalist faith is the belief that life is sacred. Amidst global efforts to tamp down on speaking up for the lives of Palestinians, Congolese, and all oppressed people, we must find our courage to live and speak our beliefs into the broken, breaking world.

Solidarity with Palestinians faces escalating repression in the United States. Thousands of students are staging peaceful protests against the massacres, with universities enabling police forces to conduct hundreds of arrests. These demonstrations are also met with attacks on free speech, providing a pretext for both state and paramilitary violence. A bill declaring criticism of Israel to be antisemitic, based on a controversial definition, has been approved by the House, and the Senate is expected to affirm it as well.

Over 325 groups have signed the Apartheid-Free Communities solidarity initiative of the American Friends Service Committee, including four major denominations: Alliance of Baptists, Disciples of Christ, the South Central Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, and the United Church of Christ. Unitarian Universalist signatories include Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism, The Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East. Now is the time for the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations to declare support for this movement.

Resolved: We, the delegates of the 2024 General Assembly, call on our UU congregations and communities to be in solidarity with Palestinians by engaging in the following actions based on the guidance of Palestinian and impacted partner organizations:

1. Witnessing

  • Call for the liberation of Palestine and an end to the apartheid; declare our moral outrage and shared horror at Israel’s massacre, mass incarceration, torture, destruction of the land, and poisoning soil for future generations, and decimation of systems of care that support life in the region.
  • Call for an immediate permanent ceasefire, massive humanitarian aid, the release of all captives, and an end to genocide around the world.

2. Educating:

  • Hold teach-ins about Palestine and Israel that include sacred spaces for spiritual processing.

3. Organizing and Advocating:

  • Engage with Palestinian-led groups and coalitions supporting liberation.
  • Sign, amplify, and carry out the Apartheid-Free Communities Pledge.
  • Support boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel and corporate enablers, and end US military aid to Israel, until it ceases its policies and practices of apartheid, military occupation, settler colonialism, and genocide.
  • Protect the freedom and safety of solidarity activists by supporting protests and opposing legislation and policies that restrict First Amendment rights.

References, Resources, and Endorsements


Update 6/14: The Proposer of this AIW agreed to some changes to the text received at the listening session. The text above has been altered to reflect any changes. Additionally you can view the revision history on any post by clicking on the pencil icon Screenshot 2023-06-12 at 12.29.36 PM found at the top right of the post.

Update 6/12: The Recording, Transcript, and Chat Transcript from the Feedback Session are available.

20 Likes

Yes, I am in favor of this AIW and just endorsed it. We UUs are called to not look away and to show up in humanitarian crises: catastrophic violence, indiscriminately killing civilians, exploitative capitalist greed around the world, famine, and displacement. We UUs are justice and equity seekers, we must speak up for a permanent ceasefire and release of all hostages while working towards a world where Palestinian and Jewish People are safe and thrive.

20 Likes

I am in favor and have endorsed. As a member of Northern NJ Jewish Voice for Peace, I have seen our events since October 7th be refused a venue—actually, refused 4 venues; supported a student encampment at Rutgers, where the New Brunswick students negotiated a closure while Newark students remained, and of course seen university administrations call in police against their own students, who remained peaceful despite infiltrators’ attempted provocation.

More generally, the use of our tax dollars to support Israel’s military actions—recognized as potentially genocidal—despite U.N. exhortations to not enable such attacks, uses resources that are needed for our own fellow residents.

This is one of the major issues of the summer; we cannot sit silent. Thanks to those who have continued to raise these issues at previous GAs, when the stakes were not so incredibly high.

20 Likes

I’m really grateful for all of the effort put into this AIW–it is so important that we lift up our collective voice as UUs on this issue. I was part of the voice of dissent a few years ago on an AIW that attempted to do some of the same things, and while I wish I had known then what I know now, I’m grateful for the growth and learning. I also feel like I owe folks a collective apology, which I’ll say now, and again as many times as I need to do. I was wrong AND loud.

I’m supporting this AIW wholeheartedly and I hope we pass it at GA!

21 Likes

People reading this AIW and all UUs are invited to participate in related learning spaces.
:peace_symbol:June 8 at 12 pm Pacific/3 pm Eastern - Transforming Conflict in Congregations and Groups - RSVP at Transforming Conflict - Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East
300 seats total - attend as an individual or a group from your community/congregation - will not be recorded
Led by the Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley

:candle:June 13, 4 pm Pacific/7 pm Eastern -
Antisemitism Curriculum from a Framework of Collective Liberation - RSVP at Antisemitism Curriculum from a Framework of Collective Liberation - Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East
300 seats total - will not be recorded

:open_hands:t5:June 18 at 10:30 am Pacific/1:30 pm Eastern - Multifaith Panel on Solidarity with Palestinians - RSVP at multifaithpanel - Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East

Supported in part by the Fund for Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility and the Fund for Unitarian Universalism.

8 Likes

On Oct 7, an unprovoked attack by Hamas into Israel occurred. The attack was on innocent women, children, and families. Women were raped, some while they were being killed. Infants were murdered. This attack occurred 9 months ago to this very day.

Following the attack, the Hamas fighters retreated into Gaza, taking with them hundreds of hostages. Many of the hostages were young attractive women, who were raped repeatedly in Hamas custody. After 9 months, some hostages remain in Hamas custody. It is unclear how many are unaccounted for, but it is more than a few.

The attack was planned by Hamas leadership which was ensconced in palatial palaces in Doha, Qatar. Palenstinians are awakening to the FACT that this attack was designed for one purpose only - to get Israel to respond, which would turn opinion against it.

Sadly, this AIW is a demonstration that this cynical plan is working.

I call upon ALL UUs of good conscience to vote against any resolution which gives Hamas leadership cover to continue their war on Israel.

11 Likes

I appreciate the proposers wording of this AIW. A quoted excerpt “Our faith community has long recognized the horrors of violent antisemitism against generations of Jewish people, and we reaffirm our commitment to their safety. Our support for Jewish well-being was never meant to undermine the rights and lands of Palestinian people. We seek a world where our Palestinian and Jewish kin are safe. We decry Palestinians’ actions of October 7 and also Israel’s brutal response to those actions.”

I also spent some time this morning reading the endorsements AIW here. More info https://uupalestineaction.org/

I also want to spend some more time reading the links and history offered at the bottom of the AIW text here for more learning. Thank you.

7 Likes

It is urgent that the UUA take a stand against the US supplying more weapons to Israel at this time. We should also affirm (I hope reaffirm) the UU belief that Israel and Hamas should follow international law regarding the conduct of war. A pared-down Action of Immediate Witness could focus on the urgent steps that should be taken now! Delegates do not all have the background needed to knowledgeably agree with (or disagree with) the analysis of the current conflict presented in this AIW.

2 Likes

" Justice , in its broadest sense, is the concept that individuals are to be treated in a manner that is equitable and fair."
I don’t think it is fair to bring up the history of 1948 and 1967 without mentioning the fact that the enemies of Israel were trying to destroy that country. After the mass murders perpetrated on the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s, they deserved to be able to return to their ancestral homeland to live in peace with their neighbors. So it is fair to mention the full context of what happened.
Similarly, it is important to note that Hamas is using the Palestinian people as human shields. It is only fair to mention this also.
Personally, I would propose that those 'Palestinians who are not associated with Hamas be allowed to leave Gaza and reside, either temporarily or permanently in Israel or Egypt, with the right to stay and settle or to return to Gaza once the threat of terrorism has been reduced. Therefore, I condemn the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people by the Israeli military.
This is a difficult and nuanced issue. The legitimate fears and hopes on both sides need to be mentioned.

4 Likes

Since I have solidarity with the Palestinians as well as with the Israelis, I would much prefer that the title of this Action of Immediate Witness be either:
“Solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis”
or:
“Peace in the MidEast”

7 Likes

I am deeply disturbed to my core by the AIW statement on Solidarity with Palestinians. It starts off well enough, acknowledging bad behavior on both sides. However, it then becomes entirely lop-sided. Look at the title itself. It does not call for negotiations or for peace in the Middle East; it calls for alignment with Palestinians.

I do not approve of what Israel is doing, but my feeling is that any statements need to more fully address actions on both sides. The use of the word “persecution” is loaded. What would you call what Hamas is doing?

Why does the statement not call on Hamas to address its goal of obliterating Israel? I get that the citizens of Palestine are not responsible for what Hamas does. I don’t want to see ANY dead babies, injuries, rapes, broken families, destroyed buildings, hunger, etc. I’d love to see a cease-fire if both sides implement it. Who’s going to see that Hamas adheres to a cease-fire? Can we do that? If the UUA and you as delegates want to condemn Israel, you should condemn Hamas in equal terms. This issue is not about who’s behaving worse or even about who has more resources. I feel we should focus on solving the problems.

Dear Ones, I wholeheartedly encourage you to understand that this AIW is not fair or just. It does not represent the values of UUs, as I understand them. People should not violate one another. Neither side is blameless. Please participate in the 9pm, Tuesday, June 11 session. And vote no.

Yours, in faith.

13 Likes

Well stated, Scotty.

I could support this AIW with these changes:

  1. “Noncombatant” should be inserted before “Palestinians” in the title of the AIW. Hamas is a terrorist organization whose acts are reprehensible, which operates from and within the Palestinian population of Gaza. I am not in solidarity with alll Palestinians.
  2. The following sentence in the third paragraph is vague and namby pamby and should be replaced by one that states clearly what has happened: “We decry Palestinians’ actions of October 7 and also Israel’s brutal response to those actions.” I recommend this replacement: “We decry the terrorist violence of militants who attacked Israel from Gaza beginning October 7 and Israel’s violent response against the entire population of Gaza.”
9 Likes

I’d like to second those who are calling for a more balanced text, and more balanced title. To that end, I’d suggest adding points like the following to the resolution:
Clarify the difference between the nation of Israel and its government, and call on everyone to support the nation of Israel, regardless of their opinion of particular actions of its government.
Clearly dissociate ourselves from those who would wish to drive Israel into the sea.
Condemn the occasions on which anti-semitism has found its way into the public discourse on these issues.
Palestinians and Israelis both deserve to live, as Micah said, under their own vines and fig trees, with none to make them afraid.

7 Likes

I agree with much of what Rev. Scott writes, but different on one narrow but important point. War is seldom if ever proportionate. The aim of war is to force the capitulation of the enemy regarding its aims, including winning the war itself. What I object to is subjecting noncombatant populations–who did not start war–to death and destruction as a means to persuading their leaders to end it.

4 Likes

Many of us side with Palestine for sure, but since even more so, many of us side with ALL undergoing genocidal and other types of (warring) persecution. We would like to see this AIW also recognize others including Africans, Jewish people, Israeli people, Muslims, Gazaans, Ukrainians, and everybody who has/is experiencing this. Just referencing Palestinians shouts too much one-sidedness.

3 Likes

Thank you. I agree with all that you have said.

Nor does it mention the thousands of Jews who were forced to leave Arab countries ( Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Iraq and others) in 1947 and 1948. This AIW is so lacking in any kind of in depth understanding of the full history that I find it an embarrassment.

9 Likes

Thank you. Well said.

1 Like

I appreciate your vulnerability, Rachel. It is good to notice that we can learn and change our minds. Thank you for your statement!

3 Likes