New Hampshire Governor Silent on Her Church’s Israel Boycott

United Church of Christ vote comes as Democrats recruit her to run against Ayotte

Gov. Maggie Hassan / AP
July 10, 2015

Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire (D.) has refused to say whether she supports her church’s divestment from Israel as she weighs running for the Senate seat currently held by Kelly Ayotte.

The United Church of Christ voted in June to cut ties with all Israeli companies as part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement. The boycott resolution won support from 80 percent of participants in the church synod.

"This allows us to sustain and strengthen our voice against the occupation. It bolsters and supports the work were are doing there," Peter Makari, UCC executive for the Middle East and Europe, said following the vote.

The resolution was originally limited to five companies that did business in Israel, but the scope was expanded to include "any direct or substantive indirect holdings in companies profiting from, or complicit in, human rights violations arising from the occupation," according to the UCC website.

"We are calling and urging all UCC-related entities to stop bringing wood to the fire of this conflict of human rights," Rev. Richard Edens, who chaired the committee that proposed the resolution, said on the UCC site.

The BDS movement aims to weaken Israel’s economy to pressure the country to disarm and cede territory to the Palestinians. Israel supporters say that the movement is rooted in anti-Semitism.

A Hassan spokesman did not respond to requests for comment from the Washington Free Beacon. UCC’s vote to join the BDS movement comes as national Democrats are attempting to recruit Hassan to challenge Ayotte in the 2016 election.

Jennifer Horn, the chairman of the New Hampshire GOP, called on Hassan to repudiate the BDS movement.

"Israel is our closest and most reliable partner in the Middle East, and our government must do everything possible to support one of our strongest allies. It’s extremely troubling that likely-Senate candidate Maggie Hassan is refusing to join other prominent Democrats like Hillary Clinton in denouncing the disgraceful BDS boycott movement," Horn said. "Hassan’s shameful silence speaks volumes about her views on Israel and shows that she is unwilling to stand up for our best friend in the Middle East.

Hassan is a self-described long time congregant at UCC churches and has maintained close ties with the Protestant sect since taking office in 2013. Her pastor, the Rev. Nancy Rockwell, delivered the invocation at her 2013 inauguration.

Rockwell is an outspoken liberal and prolific blogger. She has speculated that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and espoused pro-abortion views on her website, She also defended fellow her UCC pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s spiritual adviser, after video surfaced of him saying "God damn America" and suggesting that America was responsible for terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

"I felt it was unfair to criticize Obama for the behavior of his pastor," said Rockwell.

Rockwell retired from preaching at the Congregational Church in Exeter two years ago and now focuses on her writing and public speaking. She remains in email contact with Hassan. Rockwell did not attend the June synod and was unaware of the BDS resolution.

"I actually do not know what Governor Hassan thinks of Israel. Right now she’s focused on vetoing an extreme gun bill in New Hampshire and preserving state’s attachment to the Affordable Care Act. I know she’s a great supporter of equal marriage. For many of us so caught up in those things, it’s been hard to look beyond other issues," she said.

She emphasized that the UCC does not seek to bind its members to resolutions that come out of the synod.

"I would want to read the resolution and its rationale before coming down one side or the other but I do respect the committees that work so hard to get them through the process," Rockwell said. "The United Church of Christ does not require conformity of opinion on these things. She would have the right to not conform."

Advocates for Israel called on Hassan to take a public stance on whether she supports the church’s decision. Her position is especially important if she decides to pursue a seat in the U.S. Senate where she will weigh in on foreign policy issues, according to Noah Pollack, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel.

"Refusing to say whether you support or opposed BDS is refusing to say whether you support or oppose the destruction of Israel," Pollack said. "Maybe Gov. Hassan simply doesn't understand what the BDS movement is trying to accomplish. Or maybe she does."

Published under: Israel , Religion