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In 2021, the United Church of Christ became the first U.S. church body to pass policy that identified Israel’s system of laws and legal procedures related to its treatment of Palestinians as apartheid. In 2022, the leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada issued a Pastoral Letter affirming "Israeli policies and practices that discriminate against Palestinians – Christians and Muslims alike – are consistent with the international legal definition of the crime of apartheid..." This summer, both the Presbyterian Church USA and The Episcopal Church will consider whether to take a similar policy stance on apartheid at their respective national convenings.
The conversations occurring within U.S. Christian denominations mirror those happening in other sectors globally, including within Israel. In 2021, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem released the report "This is Apartheid," in which they concluded "the bar for labeling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met." Similar reports classifying Israel as perpetuating an apartheid system were released by Human Rights Watch (2021) and Amnesty International (2022).
Responses to the reports were met with both fierce praise and condemnation. Some wondered why apartheid only received serious consideration within the international press after "reputable" Israeli and international organizations released their findings when many within Palestinian civil society have made similar determinations for decades. Others, while acknowledging the occupation and human rights violations against Palestinians, felt the use of the term "apartheid" was misplaced and unhelpful.
As church bodies gather this summer with the question of Israel/Palestine and Apartheid on the agenda, what is the role of U.S. Christians in the conversation? How are we to respond as Christians? As citizens of a government that provides $3.8 billion dollars a year to Israel in military aid? What questions are prompted when the term Apartheid is used to describe the Israeli government's rule of Palestinians within Israel and the Occupied Territories?
Dr. Peter Makari, Executive for the Middle East and Europe with the Common Global Ministries Board of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Peter has served in the capacity of Executive for the Middle East and Europe with the Common Global Ministries Board of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) since July 1, 2000.
An Egyptian-American, Peter has lived in the Middle East, where he worked with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) in Cairo, Egypt (1991-1994), and then with the Middle East Council of Churches, based in Limassol, Cyprus (1997-2000).
Peter earned an M.A. in Middle East Studies from the American University in Cairo (1993) and a Ph.D. in Politics and Middle East Studies from New York University (2003). He is the author of Conflict and Cooperation: Christian-Muslim Relations in Contemporary Egypt (Syracuse University Press, 2007).
Peter is a member of West Park United Church of Christ in Cleveland, OH.
Lara Friedman, President, Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP).
Lara has more than 25 years working in the Middle East foreign policy arena, Lara is a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular expertise on the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, and the role of the U.S. Congress. She is published widely in the U.S. and international press and is regularly consulted by members of Congress and their staffs, by Washington-based diplomats, by policy-makers in capitals around the world, and by journalists in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to her work at FMEP, Lara is a Contributing Writer at Jewish Currents and a non-resident fellow at the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP). Prior to joining FMEP, Lara was the Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now, and before that she was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, serving in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis and Beirut. She holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service; in addition to English, Lara speaks French, Arabic, Spanish, (weak) Italian, and muddles through in Hebrew.
Dawood Hammoudeh, AFSC Palestine Program Manager.
Dawood works with grassroots movements and farmers unions in Palestine. His focus is on analyzing economic implications of Israel, PA, Governmental Donors, and private sector policies and practices in Palestine. With an aim to educate youth on how to build linkages between Economics, Geography, & Peace in the region. Dawood Joined AFSC in November 2017.
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace and an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). Cannon holds an MDiv from North Park Theological Seminary, an MBA from North Park University’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management, and an MA in bioethics from Trinity International University. She received her first doctorate in American History with a minor in Middle Eastern studies at the University of California (Davis) focusing on the history of the American Protestant church in Israel and Palestine and her second doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from Northern Theological Seminary. She is the author of several books including the award-winning Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World and editor of A Land Full of God: Christian Perspectives on the Holy Land.