Volume XI, No. 2887 • August 16, 2012
Boycott of Israeli Settlements Would Shatter United Church’s Credibility
On Friday, the United Church of Canada will vote on the Report of the Working Group on
Israel/Palestine Policy, which includes a church-wide boycott of goods from Israeli settlements.
Radical Elements in United Church Infected With Antisemitism, Minister Says
Antisemitism and racism are fuelling anti-Israel activism in a number of Christian denominations,
says United Church minister Andrew Love.
The United Church Should Focus on Faith, not Activism
For the past several days, delegates of the United Church of Canada have gathered in Ottawa for
the church’s 41st General Council.
Attacks on Christians Sharpen with Government Collusion
If Muslim fanatics cannot tolerate moderate and secular Muslims, why should they be expected
to accept those who belong to other faiths?
On Topic Links
Shimon Fogel is CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the advocacy arm of the Jewish Federations of Canada.(Top)
Antisemitism and racism are fuelling anti-Israel activism in a number of Christian denominations, says United Church minister Andrew Love. Love, the spiritual leader of Grace Saint Andrew’s United Church in Arnprior, has been trying to counter the calls for a boycott of ‘settlement’ goods by the United Church of Canada’s (UCC) Working Group on Israel/Palestine Policy and other regional church bodies. He said he is troubled by the way radical elements within the Christian church focus on demonizing Israel while minimizing the Palestinians’ role in the conflict and ignoring human rights abuses against Christians throughout the world.
“I have wracked my brain trying to understand why Israel gets such a disproportionate measure of our moral criticism,” said Love. “I keep coming back to a very difficult conclusion, and that is that there remains an undercurrent of antisemitism in our church, and that disturbs me.
“Conversations I’ve been a part of and what I’ve observed have led me to the conclusion that, if you scratch the surface of our tolerant, liberal church, you find the reality of racism.” He clarified, “I’m speaking of the United Church but this same debate has infected the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and the Anglican communion, where Israel has received a disproportionate amount of attention.”…
The United Methodist Church (US) voted in May against divesting from three companies that do business with Israel. However, according to the JTA, the church passed motions “opposing Jewish settlements in the West Bank” and “recommending the boycott of products manufactured in settlements.” In July, the Presbyterian Church (USA) also voted against divestment as well as against using the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. However, according to the church’s website, it voted in favour of a boycott of “all products made by enterprises in Israeli settlements on [occupied] Palestinian land.”
In a more positive move, the Episcopal Church (US) passed a resolution in July calling for “intense teaching, learning and advocacy around the conflict” and defeated a motion to endorse boycott and divestment…, It also rejected an official study of two documents: A Moment of Truth, by Kairos Palestine and, Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace, by Presbyterians Concerned for Jewish, Christian and Muslim Relations. Both documents, wrote Baumgarten, “have been criticized by some...as theologically problematic in their portrayal of Judaism.”
“There’s no question in my mind that…it stems from an antisemitic, racist view.... The infection – and I use that word deliberately – the infection of political radicalism in our church is going to take a lot of work to counterbalance.”…
He will be distributing [in Ottawa] the results of a recently completed national survey co-sponsored by Faithful Witness and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “The survey revealed an overwhelming gap between what is recommended and what the ‘view of the pew’ is,” said Love. “The overwhelming majority do not want to see the United Church adopt a boycott of any kind, nor do they want the church to take sides on the issue. They want us to keep that credible voice as peacemakers, as bringing folks together.”
If the UCC ignores the will of the majority of its churchgoers and votes in favour of a boycott, Love said, “I don’t think it’ll have any impact on the ground: we simply don’t have the economic muscle; we’re not buying a lot of wine from the Golan Heights. What it will do is add to the feeling of isolation that many in Israel are feeling and [lead] to further division and resentment. It will do nothing to aid in our understanding and dialogue or our ability to work out solutions.”
An anti-Israel boycott will also ruin the relationship between the UCC and the Jewish community, he warned. “As a church that shares a common Abrahamic root with Jews and Muslims, the moment we create a policy, it has very real interfaith dimensions and implications. And the interfaith implication today will be the destruction of our relationship with the Jewish community in Canada at the national level.” (Top)
For the past several days, delegates of the United Church of Canada have gathered in Ottawa for the church’s 41st General Council. This meeting, held every three years, will see a new church moderator chosen, as well as the adoption of policies that will guide the church until the next General Council in 2015. As was widely expected, the council has chosen to put politics ahead of matters of faith. Indeed, it is getting harder to tell where the church ends and a budding left-wing political party begins.
On Tuesday, the church voted to “categorically oppose” the Northern Gateway pipeline. That hardly seems like a religious matter. Nor do other resolutions to be voted on, including the church’s position of raising the eligibility for Old Age Security or Canadian mining operations in Asia.
But nowhere is this truer than with regard to the United Church’s stance on Israel. Over the years, there have been attempts by individual congregations or groups within the church to initiate boycotts of Israeli exports, academics or cultural figures. Fortunately, these have failed. However at this General Council, for the first time, the church is considering adopting a policy on Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians that would include declaring the occupation of Palestinian territory a primary cause of the ongoing conflict. The motion also calls for a selective boycott of Israeli goods — specifically, those actually produced in the settlements that Israel has established on Palestinian land.
This is notable, for three reasons. First, the church leadership specifically commissioned the report in which these recommendations are found, so one cannot say — as church defenders have in the past — that the desire to single out Israel for opprobrium is coming from a fringe element of the church. It’s coming from the top. And second, unlike previous efforts, this call for an Israeli boycott has a good chance at passing — it passed a first vote on Wednesday, and will be studied further (and possibly refined) before being voted on again on Friday.
Finally, it is not as though the church is putting forth similar resolutions about other countries in the world. There is no resolution suggesting a boycott of Egyptian goods in solidarity with the Christian Copts who are being ruthlessly persecuted in that nation. There is no resolution targeting China for its brutal repression of minorities such as the Uiguars and Tibetans. Only Israel — a democracy that fully recognizes the equal rights of people of all genders and sexual orientations and religions — is being officially chastised at the church convention. In fact, with the exception of apartheid-era South Africa, Israel is the only country the church has ever selected for such an official boycott and dressing down. Why the special treatment?
It is not as though the United Church doesn’t have its own structural issues calling out for attention. Membership has fallen by half over 50 years. Financial support has likewise plummeted. Many congregations struggle to pay their bills. United Church faithful, both clergy and worshippers, are increasingly elderly.
The church would be wiser to focus its energies on addressing the problems in its own backyard, rather than alienating Jews — and members of its own congregation alike — with its selective outrage over Israel. The church certainly won’t improve its standing by turning itself into a left-wing political activist group….The United Church should turn away from these politicized endeavours, and seek to rebuild itself by focusing on the day-to-day issues of faith and family with which its individual members struggle. Rejecting the Israel boycott resolution on Friday would be a good place to start. (Top)
If Muslim fanatics cannot tolerate moderate and secular Muslims, why should they be expected to accept those who belong to other faiths?
As all eyes were turned this week toward Sinai, where Muslim fundamentalists killed 16 Egyptian border guards while they were having the Ramadan fast-breaking meal, Christian families were being forced out of their homes in the village of Dahshur, 40 kilometers south of Giza. Hundreds of Christians fled their homes after being attacked by their Muslim neighbors, who also targeted a church and Christian-owned businesses in the village.
The anti-Christian violence was described as the worst since Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected as president in June. But Morsi did not find time this week to visit Dahshur to see for himself how hundreds of helpless Christians were being forced out of their homes.
Instead, he and his security and military commanders rushed to Sinai as soon as they heard about the massacre that was perpetrated against the border guards. The Egyptian authorities did not even hesitate to use heavy weapons against the Muslim terrorists in Sinai. For the first time since the signing of the peace treaty with Israel, Egypt sent military helicopters and armored vehicles to attack the terrorists in Sinai.
But when it comes to dealing with Muslim terrorists who have been targeting Christians in a number of villages and cities throughout Egypt over the past few months, the Egyptian authorities have endorsed a lenient approach. In fact, the authorities, according to human rights activists, have chosen to turn a blind eye to the plight of the 14-million strong Christian community….
In the past two years, tens of thousands of Christians have fled Egypt, mainly due to the rise of Muslim fundamentalists to power. Recurring attacks on Christian families and property and failure of the Egyptian authorities to employ a tougher policy against the fundamentalists have led many Christians to reach the conclusion that they have no future not only in Egypt, but in other Arab countries where radical Muslims are rising to power.
Christian fears are not unjustified. Muslim fanatics will continue to target Christians because they consider all non-Muslims "infidels." If the fanatics cannot tolerate moderate and secular Muslims, why should they be expected to accept those who belong to other faiths? While the number of Christians in the Arab world continues to decline, Israel remains the only country in the Middle East where they feel safe and comfortable…. (Top)
National Post, Aug 15, 2012
Political stances on Israel, pipeline putting United Church at risk: study
JewishPress, August 5th, 2012
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Christians of the Middle East â Endangered Communities
FrontPage Magazine, July 23, 2012
Mark D. Tooley
Church of England Targets Israel
Commentary Magazine, July 6.2012
Jonathan S. Tobin
Narrow BDS Defeat Nothing to Celebrate
FrontPage Magazine, July 9, 2012
The Church of Anti-Israelism Meets in Pittsburgh
Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)
Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)
Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)