Magazine article The Christian Century

UCC Votes for Divestment from Israel as BDS Marks Tenth Anniversary

Magazine article The Christian Century

UCC Votes for Divestment from Israel as BDS Marks Tenth Anniversary

Article excerpt

Some Palestinian activists reveled in the momentum of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement as it marked its tenth anniversary in July.

[The movement has been backed by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The United Church of Christ voted 508-124 at its denominational gathering in Cleveland on June 30 to divest from U.S. companies that profit from Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and to boycott products by Israeli companies in West Bank settlements.]

"The BDS movement has triggered unprecedented debate within Israeli society about Israel's regime of occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid, showing Israeli society that there is a fast-rising price to be paid for maintaining this regime of oppression," said Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian human rights activist and cofounder of the movement.

But there's also a cost for some Palestinians: those engaging with Israelis--in business, sports, culture, and dialogue--are increasingly pressured to abandon their work or go silent. They are branded as "normalizers," appearing to endorse the Israeli occupation as normal, or traitors. Some have received death threats.

At issue are two different perspectives on the Israeli-Arab conflict. One portrays it as one-sided oppression that can be overcome via financial, legal, and social pressure. The other sees it as an asymmetrical conflict fueled by hatred and fear that perpetuates a cycle of violence and cannot be solved by power alone.

As Israeli and Palestinian societies become increasingly segregated, those seeking engagement with the other side say such activities are crucial means to ending the occupation.

BDS supporters say the movement was created to redress a fundamental imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. Diana Buttu, a lawyer and former adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team in peace talks with Israel, recalled Israeli negotiators in Taba, Egypt, in 2001 discussing redrawing the map so that a Jewish settlement deep in the West Bank would be part of Israel. …

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