Partnering with Palestine to End Apartheid

By Allison Tanner

In 2023 the Alliance of Baptists took the Apartheid-Free Pledge and continues to encourage Alliance congregations to join them. Below are highlights from a recent Alliance conversation naming some obstacles to congregations taking the pledge, as well as ways to address them. 

Apartheid Free Pledge

We affirm our commitment to justice, freedom, 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 community and to that end, 

We pledge to join others in working to end all support to Israel’s Apartheid regime, settler colonialism, and military occupation. 

I am not knowledgeable enough about what is going on in Palestine and Israel.

Educating yourself/your congregation on Israeli apartheid is a great first step in considering this pledge. The Apartheid-Free website ( is filled with educational resources including short films, human rights reports, expert analysis, Bible Studies and denominational statements. Their FAQ offers great initial insights into the background and usefulness of the pledge. Finally, JPI highly recommends bringing in Palestinian speakers to share their wisdom.

Are there people in your congregation that can champion this work? What community partners might help, both within and beyond the Alliance? Reach out to the JPI community for support!

How will this affect our interfaith relationships?

If your interfaith partnerships are focused on the work of freedom, justice and equality in our world, this is a powerful way to further your joint efforts.

I’m afraid of alienating my Jewish friends or colleagues.

Jews have a wide range of responses to the State of Israel and its actions, much like Christians do. We encourage you to build relationships with several of the Jewish communities who have already signed the pledge. If your Jewish partnerships are uncomfortable with the work of ending apartheid, this will cause some conflict. Doing the work of challenging deeply entrenched and systemic injustice is bound to alienate some people. In navigating these conversations, it is important to remember that the goal is to end the deep harm caused by legalized racial injustice against Palestinians. We recommend bringing in Jewish speakers who can provide wisdom for these conversations. Jewish partners in this work beseech Christians not to let this discomfort silence us from naming injustice and working to end it.

If your congregation is actively addressing the continuing effects of Jim Crow apartheid in the U.S., drawing on skills to navigate these essential, yet uncomfortable, conversations can be helpful. 

I fear we will be called antisemitic.

It is not antisemitic to hold a country enacting apartheid accountable for its actions. However, charges of antisemitism are often used to silence those insisting on human rights for Palestinians. It is important to not let the fear of being falsely labeled antisemitic silence your congregation’s commitments to work to end injustice. Remember the words of Jesus, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account…for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:11-12). 

This pledge is a commitment to address all forms of racism, bigotry, discrimination, and oppression, including both antisemitism and islamophobia. When antisemitism becomes weaponized to silence the work of freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians, this diminishes the real nature and harm of antisemitism. Further, the vast majority of Zionists in the United States are Christian Zionists, who promote an antisemitic theology. Challenging Christian support of Israel is challenging antisemitism. 

Why are we focusing on Palestine and not our own communities?

The United States provides political and financial support to Israel, and the largest pro-Israel lobbying groups are Christian Zionists. Because of this, U.S. Christians have a responsibility to reject the ways our government and our religion are upholding Israeli apartheid. 

Justice is indivisible; in the immortal words of Dr. King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Joining those working to end injustice in Palestine, that U.S. Christians are complicit in, contributes to the work of ending injustice everywhere.

Our congregation is focusing on antiracism work and that takes all our energy.

Working to end apartheid is antiracism work. If your congregation is committed to challenging racial injustice, this is a powerful way to add a global element to your work and connect the dots between antiracism work in the United States and internationally. Further there are direct connections between racial injustice in Israel and in the United States: both countries were established as settler colonial states, have engaged in genocidal practices against indigenous peoples, apartheid regimes that legalize white supremacy, and militarized policing to control these projects. In many ways, U.S. support of Israel is a continuation of its racist practices.

Our congregation cannot take on another social justice issue.

Signing this pledge allows your community to explore the ways social justice issues you are already passionate about are deeply connected to Palestinian struggles against colonization, militarization, mass incarceration, environmental degradation, exploitation and forced migration. Understanding the Palestinian experience provides both international and intersectional lenses to address these issues.

Not everyone in our congregation would be on board with this.

The work of challenging injustice often entails education, conflict, and taking stands that not everyone agrees with. Think of ways your congregation has taken other prophetic stands and apply those insights to how you can take action to do so again.

What difference will signing a pledge really make?

The work of challenging deeply entrenched injustice anywhere can feel defeating. However, this pledge was created in direct response to calls from Palestinians and Palestinian Christians to take action. It offers ways the international community and the international Christian community can join efforts with Palestinians for freedom, justice and equality. How you live out the pledge is context specific, so your congregation can find ways that connect the calling of your congregation to ending Israeli apartheid. This pledge allows your church to become part of the growing anti-apartheid movement that is slowly bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice. 

A few final words:

This isn’t easy work. But it is the work that the church is called to—to stand with the oppressed, to help bring release to the captives, to open the eyes of the blind, and to engage in the prophetic work of liberation.

This work takes time. It entails education, difficult discussions and discernment about how your church can live out its gospel commitments. Think strategically—in what ways can you realistically work to educate your community and offer ways to engage in taking action against Israeli apartheid? How might the Alliance’s prophetic actions provide inspiration? If bringing this pledge to your church is something you want help with, please reach out to the JPI leadership team—we are eager to support your efforts to join with us to end all ties to Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism, and military occupation.

Rev. Dr. Allison J Tanner is the convener of the Justice for Palestine and Israel Community and the Palestine Advocacy Representative for the Alliance of Baptists. Rev. Dr. Tanner is a pastor, organizer and educator ministering as Pastor of Public Witness at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland, California. She also works for American Friends Service Committee as the National Organizer of the Apartheid-Free Communities initiative.

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