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Unitarian Universalist Association joins anti-Israel divestment effort

Unitarian Universalist Association joins anti-Israel divestment effort

“Social Justice” activists skew agenda with help from Jewish Voice for Peace

In a recent post, we highlighted how Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) is being promoted in America’s liberal Protestant churches.

As we discussed, a malicious strain of anti-Israelism has taken root in these progressive churches largely because of a deep-seated organizational dysfunction:

A vocal and strong minority within the church have led the charge, aided and abetted by a host of venomously anti-Israel Palestinians and their useful fools—a coterie of Jewish enablers. Together, they’ve pushed hard for divestment and boycott initiatives against Israel, gaining an institutional footing by exploiting the language of human rights, monopolizing the discourse, and drowning out dissenting voices”.

UCEIO, Huge News on church divestment
Our focus in the prior post was on three U.S. mainline churches—the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Unitarian Universalist Association (Church) (UUA). All three will feature a number of anti-Israel resolutions at their annual meetings this spring.

“Officials” of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) recently decided to divest from three companies in its portfolio that do business in Israel and allegedly assist in the violation of Palestinian rights. That investment decision is not the end of the story, however.

There will be a broader BDS-related Business Resolution to come before delegates to the UUA General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio this coming June.

The resolution to be voted on by the General Assembly was proposed by the Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME) and asserts that the corporations—Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and G4S—“directly profit from or support the occupation and its abuses of Palestinian human rights”, thus “violating the Principles” of the church.

So the church won’t own any stocks in the companies that are targeted by the divestment resolution by the time the GA 2016 meets on June 22-26.

But the UUJME still thinks it’s important for their Business Resolution to go to a full GA vote. The group wants fellow UUs to be “educated about the situation in Palestine” and believes that having the resolution on the agenda will facilitate a “national discussion”.

The UUJME Clearinghouse

A UUJME April 7 press release announced that the UUA will:

divest from several companies involved in human rights abuses and environmental degradation. The UUA has adopted a human rights screen focusing on conflict zones that includes human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories. The UUA subsequently divested from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, HP Inc., and Motorola Solutions. The UUA has also divested from Caterpillar Inc., due to concerns over its environmental and social practices. These four companies have been the target of boycott and divestment campaigns due to their complicity in violations of Palestinian human rights”.

The press release was also reposted on the anti-Zionist website Mondoweiss.

As we noted in our prior post, this divestment agenda is spearheaded by the Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME), a virulently anti-Israel subgroup within the UU.

There’s been very little push-back to its effort to move BDS through the church. That’s because the UUJME has been able to set the agenda and drive the conversation on Middle East issues.

UU supports divestment

From what I can tell based on the UUA’s website and online information posted by various UU Fellowships (see, for example, UU Fellowship in Plattsburgh, NY site), most subgroups are focused on a host of progressive agendas that have nothing to do with Israel or the Palestinians.

In recent months, UU activism has involved a diverse set of projects from bringing safe water to Flint, Michigan and sponsoring a “human right to water” campaign to fostering bathrooms that’re welcoming to all. UU chapter subgroups are planning to host seminars not on BDS but on ‘grief and climate change’, the ‘wisdom found in the world’s major religions’, and the ‘Cherokee celebration of the spring’.

UU Water Campaign

There’s nothing wrong with such an institutional setup.

Most large organizations sort and slot issue areas into separate committees and sub-committees. It enables members to gravitate to what interests them most, and it usually works.

But in this case, what the UU’s institutional pigeonholing means is that church members are only exposed to issues related to the Middle East if they’re funneled through the auspices of the UUJME.

This effectively ensures that UUs don’t hear or see anything through their church other than a relentless barrage of anti-Israel propaganda.

The UUJME website, its newsletters, travel blogs, new study guide (see a downloadable 23 page version along with some “pre-reading” on its website) and its sponsored trips to the Palestinian territories are all highly biased.

As we discussed in a previous post, these materials are either informed by, or heavily promote, the work of virulently anti-Israel, and in many cases, anti-Semitic Palestinian NGOs—like Kairos Palestine and Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center and its U.S. based affiliates, Friends of Sabeel North America–FOSNA.

Kairos Palestine


FOSNA thanks UUA divestment

Bottom line: The compartmentalization of activities in the UUA empowers the UUJME to set the agenda on Israel and the Middle East for church members, virtually ensuring that UUs will engage only on those materials and with those organizations that the UUJME promotes.

Israel’s Christian Minority Ignored

Taken as a whole, the UUJME’s materials and programming are a moral and intellectual failure. They reduce the very complex problem of the Israeli-Arab conflict into sound-bites and simplicities. They see all the fault on Israel’s side, and all the victimhood on the other.

So basically the Unitarian Universalist church has become a forum for a Palestinian solidarity politics. Other critical issues have been crowded out. Attention has also been diverted from the dysfunction in Arab Muslim governments and societies.

Israel is promoted as the greatest source of suffering in the region, even though Israel’s Christian minority continues to “prosper and grow”, enjoys “complete religious liberty”, and can practice its faith without any restrictions.

This exclusion of Israeli Christian voices isn’t by chance—it’s by design.

You’d think that the UUJME would want fellow congregants to learn from Christians who have an authentic connection to the Israeli state and its society, and to a lived Christian experience in the country.

But you’d be wrong.

Bottom line: The UUJME gives Arab and Aramean Israeli Christians a wide berth. Their work does not appear in UUJME print or online materials. Nor do tours include visits with these Christian communities on the itinerary. These Christians are being excluded and disenfranchised because they aren’t the right type of Arabs. They’re the kind that refuses to debase the Israeli state and its people.

Fr Naddaf on Christians Thriving in Israel

Deflecting Attention from Plight of Palestinian Christians  

Also sidelined on the agenda is Islamist anti-Christian intolerance and hostility, the genocidal persecution and suffering of Christians throughout the Middle East, and the destruction of the region’s ancient Christian communities.



Even the plight of Christian Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, who are “leaving the Holy Land” in droves due to endemic discrimination and persecution (and not by the Israeli occupation or the actions of IDF personnel), hasn’t been taken up by the UUJME as a matter of serious concern.

There are no UUJME-sponsored business resolutions expressing outrage at the economic and social prejudice that makes it “difficult or impossible” for Christian Arabs in the Palestinian territories to be fully integrated into society.

Nor are there any for protecting Christian heritage in the Holy Land from the Palestinian authorities who seek to obliterate it.

In an important recent op-ed for The Gatestone Institute, Lawrence A. Franklin, who served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Israel, describes how Israel’s armed forces have protected Palestinian Christians and their property over the years from those who would do them harm.

Franklin notes that this past Christmas the IDF came to the rescue of Father Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, whose motorcade came under attack by a mob of rock-throwing Muslim Palestinians as it made its way to Bethlehem.

Such incidents aren’t one-off events.

Last week, as the UUA was deliberating whether to divest from companies and corporations that provide Israel with the IT services and systems and the radar, surveillance, and communications equipment that its military and law enforcement need to keep people safe from terror and violence, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and the Islamic waqf (religious ministry) were reportedly busy destroying 1500-year-old church ruins that were uncovered in Gaza.

Christian priests and other faith-leaders reported that, to make way for a new shopping mall, antiquities were bulldozed and removed with no supervision in what they described as a deliberate effort to “destroy their history”.

Ancient Byzantine Church Ruins

Ancient Church Ruins | Gaza | Credit: News Agency/Twitter

Ancient Church Ruins | Gaza | Credit: News Agency/Twitter

Bottom line: the reality is that for all the talk of human rights and social justice the UUJME’s screwed up priorities wind up harming the very people that the church should be supporting—Palestinian Christians who’re desperately in need of the global church’s solidarity and assistance.

UUJME Gets Help from Jewish Voice for Peace

The UUJME has enlisted the help of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). JVP has been fielding an online petition to collect signatures in support of the divestment move.

JVP, UU Sign Up

It’s also allowed its name to be used in the UUJME’s promotional material, where it’s described as “one of the fastest growing Jewish organizations in the U.S”.

And in order to “educate delegates” before they vote on the divestment resolution, the General Assembly’s organizers have scheduled a panel discussion to include among its speakers Rabbi Brant Rosen, co-founder of JVP’s Rabbinical Council. Making themselves available to conference goers in advance of church divestment votes is a common JVP tactic. In fact, at all church assemblies and synods where BDS-related resolutions are up for consideration, JVP members have been on hand, where they play an outsize role in the conversations.

JVP at UCC, 3

Jewish Voice for Peace rally

So now JVP will again provide the critical cover for any hesitant UUs, allowing the UUJME to falsely portray their divestment measure to those members as something “many Jews” endorse.

Bottom line: As we’ve highlighted in many posts (for a partial list, see here), JVP—a group committed to convincing the American public that Israel is a pariah state which deserves to be ostracized—serves a useful function to the anti-Israel BDS movement. It helps to convince church congregations that standing against Israel won’t harm interfaith dialogue. JVP, which represents only the tiniest sliver of American Jewish public opinion, will be more than happy to help delude yet another mainline U.S. Protestant church into thinking that there’s significant support for BDS within the American Jewish community. The reality is that they merely shield the UUJME’s virulent anti-Israel propaganda from allegations of anti-Semitism by noisily invoking their Jewishness as a way of legitimizing Israel’s demonization.


In a press release last week, Curtis Bell, a member of the UUJME’s Board of Directors, lauded the UUA’s decision to adopt anti-Israel investing:

We are pleased with this decision made by the UUA officials. As Unitarian Universalists we want to live by our principles, which include respect for the worth and dignity of every person, upholding justice, equity and compassion in human affairs, and seeking peace and world community. When we refuse to profit from human rights abuses and the suffering of fellow human beings, we are living our principles.”

Those are lofty words, but as we noted above and in our prior post, they mask a nastier agenda that singles Israel out for punishment and isolation like no other nation on earth.

UU Resolution for Divestment

It’s the very opposite of a human rights stance, but it already resonates with much of the UU church membership.

The upshot is that the UUJME won’t have to work too hard in the run up to June’s General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio.

They’ve already managed to convince many fellow UUs that its divestment resolution is prompted by a genuine concern for social justice and doesn’t conflict with Jewish interests or values.

That’s because this subgroup has long dominated the conversation on Israel and the Palestinians in this church.

It’s been able to operate there virtually unopposed.

In fact, as we noted in our previous post, of the three mainline Protestant churches where anti-Israel divestment resolutions are up for review this spring, the UUA has had the least organized push-back to BDS promotion.

So, the Business Resolution is very likely to pass the General Assembly.


Miriam F. Elman is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 60 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, the Middle East, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamElman


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“Unitarian Universalist Association joins anti-Israel divestment effort.”

The irony in that headline is brutal. But then again, Unitarians are a cult, not a church, therefore, they are irrational, in addition to being hypocrites.

This is disappointing, to say the least. To meet them, Unitarians are so much better than this. I can see, however, that the organization as a whole is vulnerable, due to its compartmentalization. Thank you for the alert. BDS is extremely unpopular, and its actions can only last so long as normal people do not know what is being done in their name.

Meanwhile, even the British long-term Liberals are waking up to the intentions of the Islamists:

UK Equalities Chief Who Popularised The Term ‘Islamophobia’ Admits: ‘I Thought Muslims Would Blend into Britain… I Should Have Known Better’

Hard evidence and solid information will eventually trump delusional good will.

    mzk in reply to Valerie. | April 11, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    JVP is as Jewish as Benedict Arnold was American. (This has nothing to do with Zionism, BTW – I’m not a Zionist. It’s about preventing the next Holocaust. Oh, and obsolete little things called Truth and Justice.)

    pst314 in reply to Valerie. | April 11, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    “To meet them, Unitarians are so much better than this.”
    Only superficially are they better. When you get to know them you realize that they are radical leftists whose agenda is born of ignorance, foolishness and twisted values.

buckeyeminuteman | April 11, 2016 at 7:48 am

The Unitarian Universalist “Church” is nothing more than a band of wild social justice warriors. This does not surprise me. However, I would expect better out of Presbyterians and Methodists.

I’ll bet if you darken the door of the typical unitarian universalist “church”, you would not find ONE copy of God’s word.

    Arminius in reply to Clinger. | April 11, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Why don’you? Belief in a deity is not part of what they preach. Actually, they don’t really preach anything except leftism.

    You can be an atheist and join this group which you can’t really call a church. Or, you could be Buddhist, or an agnostic, or whatever. What word of what god would you expect to find?

And whose side is the Pope on? Not the Christians, I think. (To be fair, the Vatican basically plays an appeasement gameto protect their own. It’s hard to compeltely blame them.)

In my spiritual search, I tried out the UUAs. At first I found them to be great people, warm and accepting. I am not sure you would really call them Christians, though, as that did not seem to be a centerpiece of the religion. I do not think that they even consider Jesus as the “One True Son of God” – which actually worked for me, as I had my doubts about that as well.

But it also happened to be an election year – 2004. As we started getting further and further into election season I noticed more and more political messages coming through in the weekly “sermons”. Considering the de-centralized nature of this church, I initially thought it was no big deal. But then, one week, the sermon involved one of the congregation members getting up before the congregation with his children and reading them a Dr. Seuss story. No big deal as there are lots of wholesome messages in Dr. Seuss stories. But then after reading the story this congregation member jumped off into a rant – an actual rant – right there in front of these kids – about how awful a person George W. Bush was and how awful Republicans in general were for foisting this … well, he devolved rather quickly into all kinds of name calling against Bush in particular and conservatives in particular.

I honestly do not know how his diatribe ended as I got up and walked out. I was not so much offended at his diatribe, since I fully acknowledge that different people are entitled to their various political opinions, and he was not so much an authority of the church as he was just a volunteer delivering that week’s “message”, but I was more taken aback by the fact that virtually nobody objected and everyone seemed to be smiling and nodding their heads in agreement that this was a proper subject for the subject of the church “sermon”. I was stunned that this political campaigning was actually getting away with masquerading as a church.

I do not mind a church official having their own political opinion, or even giving that opinion (though I do not think such things belong in the heart of a church’s services), but to stand and preach that those with different political views are awful people and are to be viewed with outright contempt … well, that does not seem to be a very “spiritual” approach to how a church should conduct itself.

Needless to say I have not returned to that church (nor do I intend to).

    pst314 in reply to cazinger. | April 11, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    Your experience does not seem at all atypical: Unitarians are radical leftists first and foremost. Sympathy even for communist tyrannies is normal.

    Arminius in reply to cazinger. | April 12, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    “…I am not sure you would really call them Christians, though, as that did not seem to be a centerpiece of the religion…”

    You can’t call them Christians because they don’t even call themselves CHristians. They acknowledge they descend from two “traditions” that did consider themselves Christians (although many Christians wouldn’t agree), the Unitarians and the Universalists. But the Unitarian Universalists do not consider themselves a Christian denomination in any way, shape or form. They’re fine with any nominal Christian joining their social club that poses as a religion. But by the same token they’re fine with a Jew or Buddhist or Wiccan joining as well. They don’t have a god, so even atheism is cool.

    One of the reasons they abandoned Christianity is they can’t believe a loving God could also punish sinners with eternal damnation in Hell. In other words, words that they wouldn’t use, a complex God that is beyond human understanding can’t possibly exist.

    It’s amusing really. We have very limited understanding of God’s creation. We don’t know much about the universe or the deep ocean areas or all sorts of things. But a creator beyond our understanding must be rejected.

    The fact that they fall for Paliwood mythology and consequently are falling for this BDS movement is further evidence they reject all sorts of aspects of reality which is complex and therefore beyond their understanding. Which isn’t so amusing. But take heart; we’re not talking about a large group of people nor are they anywhere near as influential as they delude themselves to be.

“…The group wants fellow UUs to be “educated about the situation in Palestine” and believes that having the resolution on the agenda will facilitate a “national discussion”…”

I can’t imagine a more narcissistic statement, more reeking in vanity or lacking in self awareness, than this.