Why does it have to be this way?
By Alan Simons
AUGUST 16, 2009 – This past week, at the United Church of Canada’s national meeting, delegates rejected a number of anti-Israel resolutions put forward by some of its members, including one that called on the Canadian government to end support for Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinian territories and to boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions in protest.
Earlier in the week, Andrew Steele in an article published in Canada’s Globe & Mail newspaper, refered this way to the Israel boycott proposal put before the General Council of the United Church of Canada (UCC):
Make no mistake. These anti-Israeli resolutions turn their back on the values that underline social justice and, indeed, Christianity as espoused by the United Church.
Instead, it buys into a false logic that the Middle East is an easy situation of white and black hats, that the state of Israel is inherently bad, and that a one-sided boycott will produce peace. At the heart of this “boycott Israel” movement is the severing of dialogue between Israel and Palestine, a hardening of positions into camps of stubborn isolation that is the opposite of peace.
This rejects the embracing of dialogue and freedoms of speech, worship and assembly that are fundamental to the intellectual underpinnings of the United Church of Canada.
Passing them would sever all ties to the Jewish community in Canada, destroying inter-faith discussion in favour of moral righteousness grounded in a troubling world view.
The resolutions veer into a historical fallacy and one-sided demagoguery with claims of ethnic cleansing by Israel, ignoring the avowed aims and continued attempts of neighbour regimes to destroy Israel and its inhabitants.
They employ the language of apartheid and comparisons to South Africa, aiming these barbs at the only stable liberal democracy in its region, a pluralistic nation where electoral franchise and legal rights extend more broadly.
Most troubling, they accuse Canadian MPs of dual Canadian-Israeli citizenship of questionable loyalty. They make dramatic charges against the Jewish community of bribery. While there is nothing inherently bigoted in calling for Israel to withdraw from Gaza or questioning its human rights record, this unfounded attack on Canada’s Jewish community is antisemitism without question. It is ignorant, hateful and wrong.
These bigoted statements have been unanimously denounced by the Synod, although without sufficient vigour or clarity. The background materials accusing Jews of bribery and Jewish MPs of questionable loyalty have been removed from the discussion.
At the end of the day, two Canadian Jewish organisations responded to the Church’s rejection of these bigoted resolutions. One was with reason and respect and the other, a day later, in a sad, yet completely irrational manner.
The first was from the Canadian Jewish Congress:
Aug 13, 2009 – CJC commends United Church for rejecting boycott of Israel
Kelowna, BC—Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) applauds the General Council of the United Church of Canada (UCC) for rejecting proposals that endorsed boycott of Israel.
Delegates to the UCC General Council also passed a motion earlier in the week repudiating language in the supporting documentation which CJC maintained crossed the line into antisemitism.
“We are encouraged that members of the United Church saw through this dangerous and hateful language, and rejected both the background materials and the Israel boycott proposals themselves,” said CJC Immediate Past Co-President Rabbi Reuven Bulka, who attended the General Council.
“Canadian Jewish Congress and the United Church of Canada have worked diligently toward rapprochement over the past several years, largely through the Canadian Christian-Jewish Consultation,” Bulka noted. “We always made clear in these conversations that Israel is central to the Jewish soul and identity. That’s why we felt it was so important to ensure that the UCC understood the repercussions of these proposals.”
“We are pleased that the UCC has rejected these misguided and destructive proposals and we look forward to building on this positive step,” said CJC CEO Bernie M. Farber, who also attended the General Council.
The second response was published a day later by B’nai Brith Canada:
United Church of Canada Resolutions Insult to Grassroots Canadian Jews
TORONTO, August 14, 2009 – B’nai Brith Canada, the voice of the grassroots Canadian Jewish community, was disappointed to learn that resolutions that enable United Church Conferences, Presbyteries, congregations, and community ministries to boycott the Jewish State of Israel, if they so choose, were unanimously passed at the United Church of Canada’s (UCC) 40th General Council. At the same time, the UCC passed resolutions that can best be described as advocating for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Judea and Samaria. B’nai Brith Canada was accorded preferred guest status by the UCC and monitored the proceedings in British Columbia.
“It is with great sadness that the Jewish community has learned that the moral stance in defense of the Jewish State expected to come from our Christian brothers and sisters at the United Church’s gathering did not materialize,” said Frank Dimant, B’nai Brith Canada’s Executive Vice President. “We expected much more from the people who had gathered in Kelowna. We had hoped that they would have had the good judgment to see through those anti-Israel and anti-Jewish motions, including the amendments that were offered and accepted, for what they really were: part and parcel of the campaign to delegitimize the one and only Jewish state in the world.
“The very concept that the United Church of Canada thinks it can predetermine the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is nothing less than an extreme example of chutzpah.
“It is inconceivable that a Christian organization, that should understand G-d’s covenant with the Children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and rejoice in the fulfillment of the prophesy of the return of the Jewish people to the ancestral homeland from which they were ethnically cleansed, has chosen instead to join those forces who are determined to undermine the Jewish State.”
Perhaps, if one wanted to reflect on B’nai Brith’s statement, the French playwright Albert Guinon probably couldn’t have put it better: “There are people who, instead of listening to what is being said to them, are already listening to what they are going to say themselves.”
(Photo credit: jewsandchristiansjourney)
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