antisemitism,  Israel/Palestine

The United Church has a Jewish problem

This is a guest post by Brian Henry

The anti-Israel activists in the United Church of Canada outdid themselves this year. For the church’s national Council, they tabled four anti-Israel proposals that were unrivalled for venom.

Three of the proposals came from Toronto (the fourth from Montreal) and were the work of a small clique of Israel-bashers who use the United Church to promote their agenda. But it’s no accident that Israel-haters find the UC a comfortable home.

Although it recognizes Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state, the UC consistently objects to Israel defending itself against attack. Instead, it spreads the lie that Israel is guilty of “collective punishment and violence … on the Palestinian people.”

There is, of course, one side in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that targets a civilian population, but it’s not Israel.

The UC does call on both the Palestinians and the Israelis to end all violence but the UC blames only Israel. In January, Reverend David Giuliano, Moderator of the United Church of Canada (the church’s highest official) called the violence a “consequence of the hatred and hostility bred by the occupation.”

So, according to the Moderator, not only is Israel responsible for its own deeds, but also for breeding hatred into the Palestinians. Thanks to the Israelis, the Palestinians can’t help themselves; they’re compelled to fire rockets at hospitals and lob mortars at kindergartens.

The Moderator’s stance is bad enough, but even worse, no matter how vile the Israel-haters within the church become, the UC still defends them.

The Reverend Bruce Gregerson, a spokesman for the UC, admits that seeking to undermine Israel’s existence is antisemitic. But, he says, the boycott proposals merely tried to encourage Israel “to make moves toward peace.”

Uh-huh. Israel is a liberal democracy like Canada, committed to the equality of all its citizens. Yet the proposals called Israel “evil” and compared it to apartheid South Africa – a racist state that was removed from the political map.

The proposals called on the people of Israel to be cut off from the rest of humankind, with a boycott of all Israeli athletes, scholars and cultural institutions.

They called for economic warfare against Israel, with a boycott of all Israeli products and of all “companies supporting the Zionist policies of Israel.”

The process boycotters use to identify Zionist companies is mystical but apparently productive, as the proposals listed dozens, including the Arsenal Football Club (owned by Jews, you know), Huggies diapers, and Victoria’s Secret lingerie.

As a resolution to the conflict, the boycott proposals called for the 4 million descendants of Palestinians displaced by Arab wars against Israel to be allowed to settle in Israel and thus end the “evil” of Zionism by transforming Israel into another Arab state.

On the other hand, the boycotters didn’t urge the Palestinians to do anything. They didn’t call on the Palestinian Authority to resume peace talks, even though Israel has repeatedly offered to do so.

Nor did the boycotters urge Hamas to give up on terror, recognize Israel, or even renounce their ambition to slaughter Jews everywhere, as called for in Hamas’s constitution. The boycott proposals didn’t even refer to Hamas except as “the newly elected Palestinian party.”

Moreover, while seeking to wipe Israel off the map and implicitly siding with the terrorists, the boycotters spread the lie that some Jewish members of Parliament are Israeli citizens and implied they’re potential traitors.

As it turned out, the Council rejected the language of the proposals – the references to apartheid, the suggestion that Jews are disloyal and so forth, and it rejected a national boycott as too divisive.

However, the Council did invite member churches to boycott Israel and reaffirmed its stance that Israel is solely to blame for the conflict, calling on its churches to “resist the occupation.”

I’m disturbed that the UC has adopted the language of terrorists.

Moreover, if Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank without a peace agreement, expecting it to become a launching pad for rocket and mortar attacks as happened with Gaza, would this satisfy the United Church?

Not for a moment. The Council declared Gaza still occupied, although every last Israeli left years ago. Apparently, like the rest of the anti-Israel crowd, the UC can’t stand to let the occupation go.

Finally, the Council committed itself to the World Council of Churches’ Amman Declaration, which calls for settling millions of Palestinians in Israel, thus transforming it into an Arab state.

At the Council, many representatives did speak in Israel’s favour, and doubtless these speakers represented the majority of ordinary church members.

However, as an institution, the United Church of Canada used this Council to assert its abiding hostility toward Israel.

Ah, well. I’ll do my bit by spending against the boycott. The kids are out of diapers, but I’m sure my wife would like some Zionist lingerie.

Brian Henry is a Toronto writer and editor and a refugee from the NDP – Canada’s social democratic party.  He blogs sporadically here.  A shorter version of this article previously appeared in the August 20, 2009, Jewish Tribune, a community paper published weekly by B’nai Brith Canada.

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