Letter to Delegates of the United Methodist Church General Conference
On April 24th, you will join the 988 delegates from around the world who will gather in Tampa, Florida, for this year’s meeting of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. At the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, we want to be sure you are aware that among the resolutions being voted on by the Conference is an historic one to implement divestment from Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola – three corporations complicit in the nearly 45-year Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. We want you to know that after our own careful consideration, the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice (RCF) strongly supports this divestment resolution.
The United Methodist Church has long called for an end to the Israeli occupation and for a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis. In 1996, the General Conference passed two resolutions opposing the occupation. One was in opposition to illegal activities undertaken by the State of Israel in occupied East Jerusalem. The other opposed the continued construction of settlements in the Occupied Territories in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention, declaring that “continuing efforts by the State of Israel to build settlements in the occupied territories violates both international law and the spirit of the Declaration of Principles [of the Oslo peace accords].”
A similar resolution was approved by the General Conference in 2004. It stated the church’s opposition to “continued military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and any vision of a ‘Greater Israel’ that includes the occupied territories and the whole of Jerusalem and its surroundings.”
In fact, these resolutions are just a sampling of the overall position of the General Council, which for over forty years has passed resolutions calling for a just peace in the region. Therefore, your approval of the resolution to be considered at General Conference in Tampa would bring the United Methodist Church’s actions into harmony with the strong moral stance on Israel/Palestine that it has taken for so long.
On December 11, 2009, a document entitled “A Moment of Truth – A word of faith and hope from the heart of Palestinian suffering,” (the Kairos Document) was issued by an ecumenical group of sixteen Palestinian Christians. It declared that “any use of the Bible to legitimize or support political options and positions based on injustice, imposed by one person on another, or by one people on another, transform religion into human ideology and strip the Word of God of its holiness, its universality and truth.” The document calls on Christians worldwide, and the international community generally, to show solidarity with the Palestinian people through “a system of economic sanctions and boycott,” – not as revenge, but rather as “a serious action…to reach a just and definitive peace that will put an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories and will guarantee peace and security for all.”
We at RCF stand in support of the Palestinian Christian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions as a way out of the quagmire that Israel/Palestine has become. After numerous and prolonged visits to the region, we have come to believe that divestment is a necessary and promising strategy to move the parties toward a just peace. It is our strong connection with Palestinians and Israelis and our love for our Christian, Muslim, and Jewish friends in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel that have brought us to this conclusion. In our many conversations with Palestinian, Israeli, and international peace activists of all faiths, we have heard repeatedly that they need us to take action here in the U.S. to change the discourse and to alter the ever-worsening “facts on the ground.”
With our own delegation to Gaza in 2009, after devastation of the Strip by the Israeli military during Operation Cast Lead, we witnessed the human misery produced by the policies of the Israeli government. Traveling in the West Bank, we have continued to see Palestinians driven from their land by settlers, harassed by soldiers, and cut off from one another by the separation wall. Inside Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, we have met with families who have lost family members to violence perpetuated by the occupation. In the face of this suffering and of Israeli and U.S. intransigence, and inspired by the 2005 Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions from over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, we have come to believe that a lasting peace will be achieved only when we withhold our financial support from all the forces of violence. We believe it is the right thing to do.
The Rachel Corrie Foundation is named after the American peace activist who was killed March 16, 2003, by the Israeli military while trying to offer some protection to a Palestinian family and their home. Two brothers (a pharmacist and an accountant) their wives, and five young children watched from inside their garden wall, as an Israeli military Caterpillar D9 bulldozer came toward the home and drove over Rachel, as she stood in its path. In a late 2004 report, Razing Rafah, Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch stated that since September 2000, over 1700 homes in Rafah were demolished as Israeli occupation forces cleared a wide buffer strip and constructed a large steel wall along Rafah’s border with Egypt. “The pattern of destruction strongly suggests that Israeli forces demolished homes wholesale, regardless of whether they posed a specific threat, in violation of international law. In most of the cases, Human Rights Watch found the destruction was carried out in the absence of military necessity.”
The Rachel Corrie Foundation is located in Rachel’s hometown of Olympia, Washington, where we carry on the work that she inspired. On February 27, 2003, less than three weeks before her death, Rachel wrote in an email from Gaza, “This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. But I also want this to stop.”
In the courageous actions of Methodists advocating for the alignment of the Church’s investment policy with its moral statements, we at the Rachel Corrie Foundation see the same spirit of dedication to peace and justice that Rachel exemplified. In closing, we reiterate our support for the divestment resolution being voted on at the General Conference and wish you well in your consideration of this matter.
The Board and Staff of the Rachel Corrie Foundation