United Church demands Canada “publicly denounce” recent Israeli law legalizing settlements in occupied territory


In an open letter, United Church Moderator Jordan Cantwell urges the Canadian government to publicly denounce Israel’s recent move to “regularize” illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. read more..

In a polite but forceful letter to Canada’s Minister of Global Affairs, the moderator of the United Church of Canada has publicly called on the Canadian government to speak out about Israel’s recent move to “regularize” settlements which the UN has already declared illegal.

“I am writing today specifically regarding the Israeli Knesset approval yesterday of legislation that retroactively legalizes illegal Jewish outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land. The United Church of Canada believes the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a major contributor to the violence in the region,” wrote the moderator of Canada’s largest protestant denomination.


The letter goes on to say that based on information from the UCC’s partner organization B’tselem, (the Israeli information centre for human rights in the occupied territories), “Lending a semblance of legality to this ongoing act of plunder is a disgrace for the state and its legislature. Passing the bill mere weeks after UN Security Council Resolution 2334 is a slap in the face of the international community. While enshrining the dispossession in law is a new development, in practice it is another facet of the massive land grab carried out openly for decades by declaring “state land”. 

We urge the Canadian government to demonstrate this by publicly denouncing the Knesset action as the flagrant violation of international law that it is.

– Jordan Cantwell, Moderator, United Church of Canada

When the bill is brought before Israel’s Supreme Court for review, there is little doubt that the Court will be influenced by the international response the bill has provoked. Several Canadian NGO’s including UNJPPI and CJPME have also sent letters of concern to the minister asking Canada to join other countries in denouncing the bill as a flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolution 2334. A petition allowing individuals to make their opinions known is also in circulation. CLICK HERE


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. If you support our educational mission, why not join? Or make a donation? Or learn more about what we do?  Contact us at: membership.ctip@gmail.com.


  1. The United Church has been and remains an inspirational voice for social justice and doing the right thing. This occupation and continued theft of Palestinian land is unjust and will not lead to peace. Thank you for your leadership and expressing what most Canadians believe.

  2. I am not a church person.. but.. Very glad to see this post. Canada needs to stand for the downtrodden. I remember when Canada had a Peace Keeping force. When we cared about Humanity.

  3. Just a note for any Americans this is not the same UCC as you are probably thinking of, they are pretty similar theologically and politically very different history of how the denomination formed and quite different financial structure (financially a closer analogy would be PCUSA). I’m not sure what the dispute point is going to be. A group that openly hates Israel asks the Canadian government to say mean stuff about Israel.

    Personally I’ve always found the racism in liberal Palestine support theology to be unbelievable. Essentially the argument is: Judaism doesn’t actually believe what the Jews think it believes nor does it teach what they are in their religious centers teaching. We Christians know far better what the doctrines of Judaism are than Jews do. Which is of course classic replacement theology, the doctrine that the Church is the new Israel and the Jews are pretenders to God’s affection. For replacement theologians Jews are today practicing a fake burned out stub of a religion lacking in both the depth of Christ and the genuine light of scripture arrived at through Jesus and the apostles.

    Now there are plenty of evangelicals who believe this. But they are mostly fairly polite in expressing it. They understand they are making an extraordinary claim in asserting that Jews collectively don’t actually know what Judaism’s doctrines are (Note this is not a claim about what they should be which is just a disagreement about the nature of the good but rather the much strong claim that Jews don’t know what they are). Liberal Christians, unlike evangelicals don’t seem to get how condescending and offensive this whole claim is. FWIW mainstream Canadian Jewish groups have condemned the UCC’s stance on Israel as blatantly Antisemitic in that it formally denies the concept of self determination to Jews while asserting it for Palestinians: http://www.cija.ca/press-release-united-church-decision-on-boycott-outrages-jewish-community-and-betrays-its-own-membership/ . I think given this is a church the theological contempt regarding Judaism far outweigh the political disagreement regarding Israel. BTW Peter this is a good example group that I would definitely consider part of the anti-Zionist / BDS movement who are structurally and institutionally anti-Judaic.

    Similarly towards the Christian right there is an arrogance regarding Kairos Palestine theology and Christian Zionism. Certainly there are legitimate theological points to be made against dispensationalism which is the theological underpinning of most modern Christian Zionism. My experience is that dispensationalism holds up pretty well in debates. Dispensationalism drives the 2nd most popular Christian hermeneutical method on the planet. Just casually dismissing it as the UCC does is arrogant beyond measure. Luther called the doctrine of justification the summary of all Christian doctrine. The fact that UCC’s ecclesiology and thus theology of justification almost immediately runs into deep contradictions is not a minor flaw. People in glass houses…. It is long past time the UCC to publish a systematic theology that defends their views and make a serious case, not just rely on name calling.

    1. @CD-Host You seem to be suggesting that the UCC’s position derives just from its own particular theology. I don’t think that is the case, except in the very limited sense that its theology helps to support its belief that it has a prima facie duty to uphold international law and internationally recognized human rights and the principles of justice therein. But then this shouldn’t be just the position of the UCC but of all religious persuasions, indeed of all citizens. Or do you believe that international law and internationally recognized human rights are just an imposition of the UCC on the rest of the world?

      1. @Paul

        Why should a church have any duty to uphold international law beyond the respect paid to any secular law? The UCC doesn’t spend time worrying about upholding international law on telecommunications peering or international law on shipping regulations or conducting bank audits for cross national banks to make sure capital requirements are met. They are a church. Generally churches support secular laws but the fact something is law doesn’t create any obligations on a church beyond obedience (or a very deliberate refusal).

        Of course their position, but more importantly their passion, on this issue is primarily theological and moral not legal. They are not simply making legal claims about the status of particular real estate but rather are making theological claims about the nature of revealed truth. As such I think engaging with the UCC should be on a theological basis. The UCC claims essentially to speak for God not for the UN. So yes they should be asked to defend their theological attack on Judaism much more than their legal attack on Israel.

  4. A tip of the hat to the UCC. A moral voice stands for law, peace and justice. That the law and justice are not in Israel’s favour is not a reason to abandon sound principles.

    The liberals will seed their own demise by continuing to ignore their own constituents.

    1. @Anonymous

      The liberals will seed their own demise by continuing to ignore their own constituents.

      How many pro BDSers that currently support the Liberal party do you know who are planning to vote Conservative if the Liberals don’t change their position on Israel / Palestine? Or do you think Bloc Quebecois starts winning Manitoba?

  5. @CD-Host I think that the UCC is just trying to address what it sees as an important issue of international justice and human rights, which have both moral and legal foundations. The areas of law that you mention do not really touch on justice and human rights. I don’t think that the UCC “claims… to speak for God”, but is just trying to “bear witness” in its own fallible, human way, as is all that any of us can do.

    1. @Paul

      Its possible. I guess I wasn’t considering that because in the USA taking purely political positions not grounded in religion is a good way for a church to lose their tax exempt status. You would pretty much never see a large religious group of churches not consider it their theological obligation to defend any policy recommendations in theology. That comes out of a strong tradition of separation of church and state, there was an idea that was key to the founding of American colonies that churches exist to preach the gospel and the ties to purely secular pursuits corrupt the church. There is a tendency for Americans to think of Canada as too similar to the USA and I might be guilty of that. I guess being American I’d consider what you are accusing the UCC of (giving a personal political opinion in the name of the church) an extremely serious sin for a Protestant.

      I’m not sure where to go from here in this discussion so I’ll cite a source. Holocaust, Israel, and Canadian Protestant Churches By Haim Genizi

      He argues that the UCC’s antipathy towards Israel comes out of the following factors:

      1) A strong belief in the church as the new Israel. A theology that the Jews are supposed to gradually experience demise/withering as a result of their rejection of Jesus. Both the Holocaust (a sudden destruction) and Israel (a rebirth) contradicted this narrative and were opposed. The fact that Jews conquered Jerusalem exacerbated this.

      2) A belief in Zion as the Christian Holy Land. A belief that this area of the planet was going to undergo missionary conversion. Missionaries active in Israel were especially important in building the anti-Israel UCC position. This includes identifying with Palestinian Christians today.

      3) Jewish nationalism (especially its narrow characteristics) seems totally contrary to the universalism of Jesus and the Christian interpretation of the Jewish prophets. To UCCers Zionism is seen as a rejection and antithetical to Judaism.

      4) A belief that decolonialism was part of world peace. The UCC is active in pushing the Canadian government towards pro-peace stands generally. Jews as part of the west were expected to embrace the liberal internationalism that liberal Christians were championing. The WCC in particular was influential here in opposing the occupation and making this the center of christian opposition in subgroups (like the UCC). The Lebanon invasion played a particularly important role here in building consensus since it demonstrated to many people what a militarized nationalist western state in the middle east would act like.

      5) A belief in supporting the downtrodden. After Zionism’s victory especially after 1967 the Palestinians were clearly the weaker party.

      6) The fact that Canadians didn’t personally witness the Holocaust unlike many Western European churches. In the Canadian pews there is simply a denial of the number of people killed and the depth of the cruelty.

      7) The opposition to Jewish missionary activity. Seeing Jews as set apart from other non-Christians.

      8) Opposition to the Zionism is racism formulation which they saw as arising from the delegitimization of Judaism and thus Christianity arising from the Israeli state’s behavior.

      9) Theological competition with rightwing Churches. Evangelical Christianity totally rejects the social gospel. This comes out of a pretribulationalist reading of scripture. The UCC favors an amillenial or postmillenial view. Their understanding of the middle east presents an excellent form to attack Evangelical Christianity on an issue on which their membership is already sympathetic to their position. (I should mention this one is interesting because in the USA this plays the opposite).

    1. Israel was established in 1948 by expelling 750 thousand of the indigenous people of Palestine and has refused for 70 years to allow their return as stipulated in UN resolution 194. The remnants of the Palestinian people were granted citizenship but are discriminated against through 50 laws that deny them equal rights in education, employment, residency, land ownership, immigration and family reunification.
      In 1967 Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza and has denied more than 4.5million Palestinians basic human and civil rights while it has transferred 800 thousand Jewish colonists into Jewish only colonies into the occupied areas in violation of the Geneva Concenions.
      To reclaim Jewish values and restore the Jewish reputation Canadians have to impress on our Israeli friends the need for Israel either to end the occupation without further procrastination and pretext and work with the Palestinians to build their own state or, pending a future final settlement, whatever that might be, grant equal rights in the meantime to the 4.5 million Palestinians subject to Israeli jurisdiction.
      We can accept either. But as human right adherents we cannot possibly accept neither. No longer can the inherently unequal, unjust, un-Jewish discriminatory status quo be stomached as the automatic default alternative to an indefinitely-postponed future agreement, it is our right and indeed obligation to insist that equal treatment should replace the status quo as the natural default alternative.

      1. @nazarethpalestine

        What does “we cannot possibly accept neither” mean? Even if there were sanctions the likely result would be accepting that neither is occurring and having sanctions as a form of pressure. Then what? You are still accepting it.

        And moreover why is something happening in a foreign country that has nothing to do with you involving people you don’t know something you can’t possibly accept?

        BTW the people expelled 70 years ago mostly died of old age. They can’t return.

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