The Moral Idiocy of the United Church

This is a guest post by Brian Henry

A recent high-level United Church of Canada report recommends that the United Church should confirm its hostility to Israel. Written by three prominent United Church officials, the Report of the Working Group on Israel/Palestine Policy endorses Palestinian “resistance” to Israeli occupation.

The church officials do specify that such resistance should be non-violent, but as with much in their report, the call for non-violence means less than it might.

I’ve never worried about United Church ministers strapping on suicide vests and blowing up busses in Jerusalem. But while officially condemning such violence on the part of Palestinians, the United Church also vigorously promotes the Palestinian Kairos Document. Written by Palestinian Christians, the Kairos Document explicitly okays terrorism, calling it “legal resistance.” (More on the Kairos Document here.)

Do ordinary members of the United Church share the anti-Israel obsession of the clique at the top? Not at all. And I think they’d be appalled if they noticed what their leaders were up to.

In the most offensive paragraphs, the report compares the Palestinians to Holocaust victims. Usually, such comparisons come from obvious antisemites. In this case, I think the church officials are simply so self-absorbed, so wrapped up in anti-Israel politics, so shuttered from reality that they’re unaware of their offensiveness, like a four-year-old who’s overheard the word ‘nigger’ and admires his own cleverness as he runs about shouting it.

On the plus side, the report does notice that the BDS movement – the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel – “sometimes” crosses the line to “delegitimize Israel’s existence,” which the church rejects.

Unfortunately, this again means less than it might. Because in truth, the only point of the BDS movement is to delegitimize Israel.

The BDS movement is purely a propaganda offensive. It has no economic effect and never will. Yet the report recommends joining the BDS movement through a boycott of Israel, specifically of “all products produced in the settlements.”

Does this mean that the United Church will boycott Agrexco, which exports agricultural products from the West Bank? The British BDS movement does – even though the Palestinians are 100 per cent dependent on Agrexco and similar Israeli companies to export their olives and other agricultural products.

While acting in a way that would crush Palestinian farmers if their efforts were successful, the boycotters get to tell themselves they’re fighting the evil Israelis. And this is what the United Church wants to be part of.

The report claims to take “seriously questions about why Israel is the only country in the world being challenged by a global BDS movement.”

Seriously? The report’s rationalizations are laughably thin. It notes that the Israeli occupation has lasted a long time. Well, yes, ever since 1967 when Jordan invaded Israel and Israel occupied the West Bank in its counter-attack.

Israel has a claim to this territory, which Israelis know as Judea and Samaria, but rather than unilaterally exercising its claim, Israel has maintained a perfectly legal defensive occupation while waiting for the Arabs to negotiate.

In 1994, Jordan finally signed a peace treaty with Israel. But Jordan also renounced its claim to the West Bank in favour of the Palestinians, who haven’t been so reasonable.

With the exception of United Church officials, everyone familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict knows that Israel has offered several comprehensive peace plans, but that the Palestinians have refused them all and made no counter offers.

The United Church’s report calls for an end to the occupation. Fine. But talk to the Palestinians. They won’t even discuss peace. And the United Church report doesn’t suggest they ought to.

By way of rationalizing its singling out of Israel, the report also argues that Israel is a democracy, and therefore, should be held to a higher standard than the autocracies that surround it. To me, this seems rather hard on the downtrodden people of the region.

Syrians are being slaughtered in the thousands by their despotic ruler. But the United Church’s stance is that Syria isn’t a democracy, so too bad for the Syrians.

Or what about the Palestinians of Gaza? Ruled by the despotic fanatics of Hamas, Gazans have no free speech or free press and face arrest for crimes such as dressing immodestly.

Does the United Church find this problematic? Apparently not.

The territory is ruled by a terrorist group that’s not just dedicated to destroying Israel, but openly proclaims its goal is genocide against the Jews.

Will the United Church boycott Gaza? Not a chance.

Instead, the United Church proposes boycotting Israel – because it’s a democracy. Well, so is Canada! Also, like Israel, Canada has a long-standing dispute over land claims: Israel with the Palestinians, ours with First Nations. Also, like Israel, Canada is trying to negotiate a settlement.

Seems to me that these similarities make Canada a perfect target for a United Church boycott. Unless of course the United Church really is boycotting Israel just because it’s a Jewish state.

P.S. At least one United Church minister, Rev. Andrew Love, is trying to counter his church’s anti-Israel stance. (See here.)

This piece was previously published in the Jewish Tribune. Brian Henry is a writer and editor living in Toronto. He blogs sporadically here.

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