An Open Letter to the UCC

Dear UCC Leaders,

For the first 16 years of my life I was an active member of the UCC denomination. Sunday mornings meant waking up early and putting on a button-up shirt for church. I sang in the choir and volunteered at soup kitchens.

I went to the summer camps, Bible study groups and on mission trips where we focused on teachings of social justice and service to the community.

Those qualities of empathizing with the downtrodden may have played a role in my conversion to Judaism. A high school exchange year in Germany exposed me to anti-Semitism up close. After a series of events involving an elderly Nazi sympathizer and a fascination with Judaism, I converted and eventually immigrated to Israel in 2010.

On Tuesday, the denomination of my youth passed a resolution in support of BDS, which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. BDS presents itself as a movement supporting Palestinian refugees, but in actuality is an extremist organization that seeks to economically strangle and politically isolate Israel.

Instead of working to advance the two-state solution, which an overwhelming majority of Israelis support, BDS aims to destroy the Jewish State.

The core principles I learned in your pews were reconciliation, inclusion and pursuit of just peace. Your decision to support BDS is baffling because the movement directly contradicts these values.

BDS Is Not Advocating For Peace

Peace is not in the BDS dictionary, with its founder Omar Barghouti stating “we do not support a Jewish State.” Leading BDS activist Ahmed Moor admitted that “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”

Following suit, BDS efforts focus on demonizing Israel rather than helping Palestinians. Ironically, by boycotting Israel, they hurt the Palestinians, hundreds of thousands of whom have employment at Israeli companies in better working conditions and with higher wages than at Palestinian companies.

BDS boycotts decrease the number of jobs available to employ Palestinians, who rely on them for their livelihood. But as long as it harms Israel, they don’t mind.

The UCC’s track record on fighting for justice in the face of opposition is commendable. However, regarding Israel, you’ve been misled and fed propaganda. A just peace must be based on truth and fair for both sides.

Concealing the truth

BDS espouses a one-sided and biased narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict. They neglect to acknowledge that the Arab-Israeli conflict is composed of two refugee problems: Arabs and Jews.

In the 1940’s and 50’s, Arab countries expelled 850,000 Jews and confiscated their belongings. The real-estate stolen from Jews in Arab lands is estimated to be 100,000 square kilometers (4 times the size of Israel) and the seized property is valued at $300 billion.

A just solution to the conflict must also address the plight of Jewish refugees driven out of Arab lands as well as the Jews’ legitimate right to realize national sovereignty in peace.

Finding Fault With Only One Side

Furthermore, BDS solely blames the creation and continuation of this complex conflict on Israel. They overlook the fact that Israel gained control of the West Bank in 1967 in a defensive war, when 5 Arab armies massed on Israel’s borders with the stated goal of Israel’s destruction.

BDS supporters grossly exaggerate Israel’s flaws and obscure cause and effect. For example, they attribute the existence of checkpoints and the security fence to Israel being a cruel and Apartheid state, rather than acknowledge their real purpose: protecting civilians against incessant, carefully orchestrated jihadist attacks.

BDS ignores countries like Lebanon that have apartheid laws barring its Palestinian population from working in over 70 professions and placing limitations on their property rights.

They turn a blind eye to Syria, where thousands of Palestinians have been murdered by both the Assad regime and ISIS since 2011.

They turn a blind eye to Egypt, which invaded Gaza in October 2014, demolishing 800 Palestinian homes and displacing over over 10,000 Palestinian refugees.

They ignore the human rights abuses that the Palestinian government perpetrates against its own Palestinian citizens, such as arresting critics of President Mahmoud Abbas and their leaders’ exploitation of foreign funds allocated for humanitarian purposes.

Not to mention the Palestinian government’s deplorable record in women’s and children’s rights and in ensuring safety of religious minorities. Sadly, a great arbiter of Palestinian suffering is its own government.

Ignoring Root Causes of the Conflict

BDS activists don’t tell you that a root cause of the conflict stems from the Arab rejection of the Jewish State, a legitimate expression of Jewish national aspirations on a sliver of land encompassing less than 1 percent of the Arabian Peninsula.

They don’t tell you that the Palestinian leadership rejected international framework for reconciliation and statehood alongside Israel in 1937, 1939, 1947, 1979, 2000 and 2008, offers that Israel has consistently accepted in hopes for a lasting peace.

They hide the fact that the conflict is perpetuated by jihad incitement in Palestinian schools, government media and mosques. As a result of decades-long indoctrination, recent polls show 80 percent of Palestinians support deadly attacks against Israeli civilians.

Deliberately Deceptive Analogy: Bringing Jesus into It

As a propaganda tool to delegitimize Israel, some BDS-affiliates have even portrayed Jesus as a Palestinian persecuted by Jewish oppressors.

The idea of a Palestinian Jesus is an inversion of history. As you know, Jesus was born to Jewish parents in Judea (the West Bank). The truth is, if Jesus were born today he would be an Israeli settler persecuted by Palestinians in the following ways:

  • Jesus would be denied religious rights on the Temple Mount, where the Islamic Waqf forbids Jewish and Christian worship.
  • He would be regularly pelted with stones riding in the car and on the bus.
  • He would be the target of bombings and his home would need a safe room to shelter against the Palestinian missiles launched toward his village.
  • His village would need a fence and around-the-clock security to protect against invaders
  • He’d be subject to oppressive laws forbidding the building of homes for his growing family (if he had had kids!), yet he could not buy a home from his Palestinian neighbors. Palestinian law calls for execution of Arabs who sell property to a Jew.
  • As an Israeli settler, he would be a victim of slander, falsely accused and mocked by his neighbors, who publicly proclaim their intention to destroy his community.

Harming Interfaith Cooperation

StandWithUs points out that the UCC defended its pro-BDS position by “invoking extremist fringe Jewish groups” that support dismantling Israel.

Polls show that in the Jewish community, there’s more unity “against BDS than on almost any other political issue.” This would be like a neo-Confederate group highlighting an African American who extols the virtues of the Antebellum South.

These moves strain the UCC’s interfaith relationship with the vast majority of American Jews. Instead of building bridges for peace and co-existence, BDS adopts an unjust discriminatory policy in boycotting companies on the basis of national origin.

Distorting the Bigger Picture

Moreover, BDS distracts your attention from real atrocities happening around the world like 100,000 of your Christian brethren murdered annually and millions more who are violently persecuted.

Last week, ISIS activists left notes on the doors of Palestinian Christians threatening to slaughter them unless they flee by the end of Ramadan.

BDS is targeting the only liberal democracy in the region that is committed to safeguarding the rights of religious minorities, while ignoring severe human rights abuses committed by the Palestinian government and their allies.

UCC’s Shared Values With Israel

The UCC has traditionally been at the forefront of women’s issues. Yet in boycotting Israel, where women have exponentially more rights than anywhere else in the region, the UCC has backtracked and joined hands with the side that has one of the world’s worst records in women’s rights.

In most of the Middle East, including Gaza, gays are persecuted and state punishment for homosexuality is death. In contrast, Tel Aviv was named the world’s top gay travel destination in 2012. As one of the most “open and affirming” denominations for gays, how can the UCC turn its back on Israel, an LGBT haven?

The UCC values diversity and interfaith reconciliation. Why not explore both sides of the conflict and promote dialogue, cooperation and peace?

BDS only exacerbates and polarizes conflict in the Middle East. By demonizing Israel, the movement incites extremism and discourages the Palestinian side from taking real steps to achieve peace.

While Hamas, ISIS and other extremist groups strengthen their hold on Israel’s borders, BDS is harming the one minority in the Middle East that so closely shares your progressive values. It’s time to ask yourselves: whose side are you on, extremism and hate, or peace and tolerance?


Nick Lees

About the Author
Nick moved from the Midwest to the Mideast in 2010. A veteran of the IDF Spokesperson unit, he is an internet marketer by profession. He lives outside of Tel Aviv with his wife.
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