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American Churches Launch Initiative to End Israel’s Apartheid

Over 100 Faith-Based Groups Form “Apartheid Free Communities Initiative”

 Israeli and Palestine activists hold a banner during a protest to block the new Route 4370 Israeli highway near the Palestinian town of Anata, January 23, 2019. © 2019 Ilia Yefimovich/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

On June 6, faith groups across North America came together to launch the Apartheid Free Communities Initiative. Convened by the American Friends Service Committee, this coalition brings together over 100 congregations, faith groups, and organizations as an interdenominational campaign working to end the crime of apartheid committed against Palestinians.

In recent years, recognition of Israel’s apartheid has grown amongst American Christians. In July 2021, the United Church of Christ’s General Synod became one of the first denominations to pass a resolution recognizing “Israel’s apartheid system of laws and legal procedures” and affirming that the “continued oppression of the Palestinian people remains … a matter of theological urgency.” Since then, several other denominational, state, and local religious bodies such as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Vermont, and Chicago have followed suit.

Longstanding relationships with Palestinian partners, recent reports on apartheid by Israeli and global human rights groups, and the deteriorating situation in Palestine have pushed faith communities to speak up more loudly. Dr. Peter E. Makari, Global Relations Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, has said, “It is imperative that we name the reality of laws and practices for what it is: apartheid – both as an international legal definition and as our moral responsibility to speak truth – as we accompany partners in their struggle for justice.”

Israeli authorities systematically privilege Jewish Israelis and repress Palestinians with the objective of maintaining the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians. Human Rights Watch has found that this policy, combined with grave abuses committed against Palestinians, such as sweeping movement restrictions, the mass expropriation of Palestinian land, and the forcible transfer of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes in the occupied territory, amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

The Apartheid Free Communities Initiative includes the Episcopal Peace Fellowship: Palestine Israel Network, Friends of Sabeel North America, Mennonite Palestine Israel Network, United Methodists for Kairos Response, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, and many more. These types of Interdenominational movements are critical to providing a unified voice on human rights issues. While bringing together influential leaders, they are a resource to hold conversation and help educate the public on the reality of human rights abuses experienced by Palestinians every day.

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