Wednesday, July 6, 2005

ATLANTA (AP) — Jewish leaders condemned resolutions passed by the United Church of Christ that call for Israel to dismantle its security fences around Palestinian territories and for companies to use “economic leverage” to promote peace in the Middle East.

The measures, passed by the UCC’s rule-making body at its annual meeting Tuesday, seek to hold Israel to a different moral standard, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He called them “functionally anti-Semitic.”

“The UCC has disqualified itself as a legitimate partner for a just and equitable peace in the Holy Land,” Mr. Cooper said.

Peter Makari, the church’s executive director for the Middle East and Europe, defended the General Synod’s votes, saying the church remains committed to religious dialogue and participation among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

“These resolutions condemn all acts of violence on both sides and indicate a clear desire by the synod to end violence and promote peace,” Mr. Makari said.

The synod discarded a previous resolution endorsing divestment against companies involved with Israel in favor of a proposal to use the tools of “economic leverage” — including divestment — to promote peace, Mr. Makari said.

Such efforts would begin with trying to persuade companies to stop profiting from conflicts in the Middle East. If that failed, church officials might sell stock in those companies.

The second resolution calls for the Israeli government to tear down the security barriers around the Palestinian territories.

“The wall has devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians,” Mr. Makari said. “It prevents the opportunity for interaction for people who desperately want there to be peace.”

David Elcott, the American Jewish Committee’s U.S. director of interreligious affairs, criticized the resolution.

“We understand Christian concerns about a wall, but we believe that saving human lives is more significant than property,” he said. “That wall has saved the lives of Jews, Christians and Muslims.”

The votes came a day after the UCC’s General Synod voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution endorsing same-sex “marriage.” Some conservative congregations have threatened to leave the church over the vote, which is not binding on individual churches.

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