The Presbyterian Church (USA), which represents 1.5 million Americans, has voted overwhelmingly in support of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS).
Members took part in a vote last Friday on a slate of resolutions put forth by one of its member groups, the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN).
The church opposed congressional and state anti-BDS legislation calling on Americans to "defend and advocate for the constitutional protection under the First Amendment for all United States citizens". It opposed "specific US legislation and efforts by agents of foreign governments to suppress" those freedoms. It insisted that the "The Israel Anti-Boycott Act", Senate Bill (S) 720 and House Resolution (H.R.) 1697, which seek to impose civil and criminal penalties for nonviolent BDS resistance against human rights violations in Israel and Palestine, was against the US constitution and a threat to free speech.
The resolutions won by a landslide following powerful testimonies from local and visiting Palestinians, Black Lives Matter leaders, Presbyterians and others. Most of the resolutions passed by 80 or 90 per cent or unanimously in committee and through the General Assembly, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) reported.
USCPR, another member group of the church said that the tide was turning. Four years ago the pro-Palestinian campaign group secured a narrow victory – 310-303 – for a resolution to divest holdings from three US companies profiting from Israel's occupation.
In just a few years, they have gone from "near parity to a church standing boldly and unequivocally for Palestinian rights", USCPR said.
Praising the work of USCPR members and affiliates the campaign group said that they had "gone from focusing on Israel's 1967 occupation to a broad platform challenging all aspects of Israeli colonialism, and advocating the rights of all Palestinians throughout historic Palestine, including those fighting for their right to return home".
"Massive, mainstream institutions like PC (USA) show how the political orientation and analysis at the grassroot level is shifting quickly, and that those claiming to be progressive without standing with Palestine are increasingly out of touch," USCPR added.