PORTLAND, Oregon - A major Protestant denomination demanded that Israel tear down the security barrier it has built along the West Bank and pay reparations to Palestinians harmed by it.
More than 3,000 delegates of the Christian church Disciples of Christ on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a resolution stating the barrier has had "devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians living in the occupied territories" and they should be compensated for their losses.
"We might say - sarcastically - along with Robert Frost that good walls make good neighbors. No, they do not, "William McDermet III of Panama, New York, an ordained Disciples minister, told delegates attending the church's general assembly.
Quoting former President Ronald Reagan, he shouted into the microphone: "Say to Ariel Sharon, 'Tear down this wall. "'
The vote by the Disciples of Christ follows passage of a similar resolution by the United Church of Christ earlier this month.
Wednesday's resolution was denounced by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, who attended the congregation's general assembly in Portland.
"This resolution is an abomination," Cooper said. “It demands that Israel take action that would put millions of its citizens in immediate harm's way. ... No other nation would ever be asked to do the same and as a result, this politically driven resolution is functionally anti-Semitic."
'Who are we?'
In New York, the American Jewish Committee called the resolution "Unfortunate, but stressed that a single resolution does not destroy an entire relationship.
Israel built the complex of walls, fences, trenches, barbed wire and electronic devices to protect itself from terrorists.
The barrier roughly follows the "Green Line," the 1949 cease-fire line that divided Israel from the West Bank until 1967, when Israel captured the territory. The fence also dips into the West Bank, cutting some Palestinians off from their jobs and families.
In 2004, the U.N. World Court ruled that the structure is illegal and must be dismantled.
While delegates of the 770,000-strong denomination based in Indianapolis overwhelmingly voted in favor of the resolution, several members spoke passionately against it.
"Who are we to tell our friends in Israel how to defend themselves?" Jim Wilson of Coffeyville, Kansas said.