This past summer, the United Church of Christ overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling upon “all entities of the United Church of Christ to boycott goods identified as produced in or using the facilities of illegal settlements located in the occupied Palestinian territories . . . and upon church members to join boycotts of such goods in their local communities.”
One of the things that excited me about working for a UCC Church when I took this job was the dedication that this community shows to pursuing justice, even into uncomfortable spaces. Within a week of the UCC’s vote, my own denomination (Mennonite Church USA) failed to pass a similar resolution, in large part because of confusion and discomfort over what it would mean. Myself and other Mennonites who had worked in Palestine were upset that our church would support our work but couldn’t listen to the call of the Palestinian community to stop financially supporting the occupation.
One of the points of confusion for the Mennonites was exactly what the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (or BDS) does. It isn’t a call for us to be pure – our money is inevitably caught up in the evil of the world, whether in the occupation of Palestine, or the private prison industry, or fossil fuel companies. Instead, BDS asks us to put pressure on specific companies to make their operations more visible. We won’t bankrupt the occupation, but we can make pulling out of Israel the easier option for big companies. And it can work – earlier this week, the Irish company CRH pulled out of the Israeli cement market.
I say all of this as a prelude for offering Old First one very small way that we can support this work (or in the spirit of the New Year, “put our resolutions into practice”). Many Sundays, Hospitality teams at Old First purchase Sabra Hummus. Sabra is not made in settlements, but their parent company makes personal donations to two particularly violent Israeli military divisions – the Golani and Givati brigades. Based on my personal experience with one of these brigades, I am asking Old First members to no longer by Sabra.
When I was working in Hebron in the West Bank last spring, the Golani Brigade arrived to enforce the occupation.* I watched them fire teargas at civilians and children, raid homes in the middle of the night to drag off teenagers, and fire 22s at crowds of protestors. These were weekly occurrences, on top of the daily threats against families and children going to school or just playing in the street. This past fall, the Givati brigade arrived in Hebron. They killed ten people in one month, often shooting young people and refusing to let medics treat them. They left young people to die in the street. They assaulted and killed friends of mine.
Some percentage of every dollar we give to Sabra goes to support these actions.
Again, not buying Sabra is not about our purity. It is part of an international campaign, including right here in Philadelphia. I would encourage all of our hospitality teams to not buy Sabra Hummus (even though I agree it is the most delicious hummus) as an act of solidarity with Palestinians. This is something they have asked us to do. On behalf of my friend Ghassan, whose two younger brothers were shot and killed by members of the Givati Brigade, please do not buy Sabra. This is a way we can put our resolutions into practice, a small choice we can make to oppose the unjust occupation of Palestine and be a part of the growing cry for justice.
— John Bergen
*Most of Hebron is technically under Palestinian control, but the Old City of Hebron has several illegal Israeli settlements built on top of Palestinian neighborhoods, guarded by a series of military bases, outposts, road closures, checkpoints, and barricades. The apartment I lived in had a settlement on one side, a military base across the street, a twenty foot cement wall at the end of the street, and our balcony overlooked a road that I could walk on but my Palestinian teammates and neighbors were forbidden from using.