Congregational Discussion on Apartheid-Free Pledge
September 29, 2023
I hope you can join us on Sunday for our Congregational Meeting immediately following worship. Most of the meeting will be devoted to a time of listening to one another as Lakeshore discerns whether or not we want to sign the Apartheid-Free pledge.
We are in a historic moment when there is consensus among human rights organizations that the state of Israel is practicing apartheid, based on United Nations definitions. There is also a movement among faith leaders to speak with both a clear Christian voice and a united interfaith voice against Israeli apartheid. This movement is in direct response to Palestinian requests for international help as well as in keeping with the role of the faith community in challenging South African apartheid in the 80s. On Sunday, Lakeshore will discuss if we want to add our voice to this movement as an extension of our own historic commitments to racial justice and to solidarity with the oppressed.
Signing this pledge would be a bold, prophetic action, but it would not be without consequences. This decision should be taken carefully and it is important that we hear the views of everyone in the congregation as we discern whether or not to sign the Apartheid-Free pledge. I hope you will join us on Sunday for this important discussion. If you are unable to come, please share your thoughts with Pastor Jim, Pastor Carolyn or myself, within the next week. Below is the pledge text, as well as some FAQs to better understand what it means to sign the pledge. Thank you for your prayers and participation in this important discussion.
We affirm our commitment to freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people and all people. We oppose all forms of racism, bigotry, discrimination, and oppression, and we declare ourselves an Apartheid-Free Faith Community. To that end, we pledge to join others in working to end all support to Israel’s apartheid regime, settler colonialism, and military occupation.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN APARTHEID-FREE CHURCH?
Taking this pledge is an important step in your congregation’s commitment to resisting racism and apartheid. Whether your community is committed to learning more about Israel’s apartheid regime, is already advocating for justice, or is working to end complicity, signing this pledge connects you to a network of communities committed to the work of justice, freedom, and equality for Palestinians and all people. Click here for creative ideas for living out the pledge in your context.
WHY SHOULD MY CHURCH TAKE THIS PLEDGE?
Taking this pledge brings your congregation into solidarity with people suffering oppression, and is in direct response to calls made by Palestinian Civil Society and Palestinian Christian leadership. They have asked for international support and action as they seek liberation. Clearly naming the truth of apartheid and pledging to work for its end are powerful acts of nonviolent resistance that can help bring change.
In addition, U.S. Christians have particular responsibilities to address Israeli apartheid because of the ways our tax dollars provide direct and unconditional support to Israel and our religion has been co-opted to support Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Congregations played a key role in naming South African apartheid in the 1980s, and they can play a similar role in naming the realities in Palestine/Israel today.
IS IT ANTISEMITIC TO ACCUSE ISRAEL OF APARTHEID?
Definitely not. Labeling Israel an apartheid regime is a reflection of the actions and policies of the government of Israel. Israel is a political entity, like any other state, and its policies, actions, and history can be judged and criticized, even harshly. Such criticism is not, by itself, antisemitic. Further, many Jewish communities themselves have called out Israeli apartheid.
The apartheid-free pledge includes opposition to “all forms of racism, bigotry, discrimination, and oppression.” This includes antisemitism.
You can read more FAQs and learn more about this movement at apartheid-free.org/faqs/