On Thursday, July 6, delegates at the Mennonite Church USA biennial convention, meeting in Orlando, will consider the “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine Resolution.” The resolution commits Mennonites to both oppose anti-Semitism and Israel’s now 50-year-old illegal military occupation of Palestinian lands, the latter through an investment screen that would ensure the Church does not profit from companies complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.
This is part of an increasing trend by churches to create industry screens that exclude from investment not only Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard companies, G4S, and Motorola Solutions -- from which the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ voted to divest in 2014 and 2015 -- but the many other companies that profit from Israel’s occupation today and in the future.
Written in response to the “Kairos Palestine” document, a plea from Palestine Christian leaders calling for peace with justice for the Palestinian people, the resolution was drafted with input from multiple Israeli, Palestinian, and other peace partners.
The resolution takes a restorative justice approach. It seeks to speak clearly against injustice while also showing understanding to all. The resolution achieves this by centering the resolution around the ways Mennonites have contributed to the ongoing violence in the region, confessing those harms, and offering concrete steps to address them. This is done in two distinct parts.
Part one is a call to support “peacemaking partners” seeking a just peace in opposition to Israel’s half-century-old military rule over the occupied Palestinian territories. It recognizes the severe impact of this occupation on the human rights and well-being of the Palestinian people, and specifically recognizes that the U.S. Government continues to fund Israel’s military, now the fifth largest in the world, while turning a blind eye to the many humanitarian concerns caused by the occupation. The resolution calls on Mennonites to advocate with their elected officials and to avoid “economic support for occupation while investing in peace and justice.” Mark Regier of Everence affirms that the resolution, “highlights the range of opportunities we have to be active participants in efforts to bring healing to this holy and troubled land.”
Part Two of the resolution addresses the ongoing reality of anti-Semitism around the world, and the extent to which Mennonites in the U.S. are complicit in Jewish suffering historically, currently, and theologically. It then calls on Mennonite Church USA to examine its legacy of anti-Semitism and “build relationships with Jewish communities.”
If approved, the Resolution will offer a unique denominational response. The complementary pairing of opposition to anti-Semitism and occupation, two areas of work often falsely set against one another, reflects a deep desire for opposing Mennonite complicity in violence toward anyone, regardless of their identity.
Members of the Mennonite Palestine-Israel Network (MennoPIN) are hopeful that this resolution will pass. “This resolution would represent a significant step forward for our denomination, which despite decades of on-the-ground involvement in the region, has yet to make a statement addressing our complicity and working toward peace,” says Joy Lapp, a member of the MennoPIN Steering Committee.