The United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant denomination in the land, has approved several resolutions regarding the situation in what the World Council of Churches – reluctant to let the word “Israel” escape its lips – calls in all its official documents “Occupied Palestine and Israel” or “‘OPI.”
Some of these resolutions are rather vague, intended to govern the consciences of members; but one in particular is meant to be implemented by the denomination. This last item is the decision to “boycott” all products made in or linked to Israeli settlements. This refers to the small list of products actually produced under Israeli auspices within the boundaries of that portion of the “West Bank” whose sovereignty remains underdetermined after two decades of off-and-on diplomacy between Israel and the Palestine Authority; and it also refers to items (for instance, products of the Caterpillar Tractor company) which play a part in sustaining and enlarging the Jewish communities in the same area. The actual economic impact of all of this will be miniscule. But the “moral” impact is meant to be monumental.
Reaction of Jewish organizations to this action is irate, and correctly so. But in my experience Jewish organizations tend to get their information on church sociology from printed sources which do not accurately reflect the latest realities about membership and attendance. We have to keep reminding ourselves – since our media make no reference to this reality – that the United Church of Canada, like almost all the other constituent bodies of the World Council of Churches, has been losing members for forty years; its proportion of actual membership and attendance – its actual presence in the religious life of Canadians — has shrunk drastically since sociologists invented the term “Mainline Protestantism” a half century ago. (My friend Dexter Van Zile of CAMERA (The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) suggests that it time to call them the “flat line churches.”)
All the present suffering of the Arab people of Palestine and all earlier suffering has followed from the continued refusal of Arabs and Muslims to accept the division of the Mandate of Palestine in November of 1947 into “A Jewish State” and “an Arab State.” That original decision followed from refusal to accept the right of Jews to exist as a self-governing community within “the Muslim world.” The unhappy consequences of that aboriginal decision have been compounded by regular appeals to the God of War with the purpose of “driving all Jews into the sea.”
Irreparable damage has been done to relations between Christians and Jews by the assumption of the UCC that these resolutions represent a fair-minded approach to the present situation. What is ultimately most shocking about this process is that the United church, which prides itself on being exceptionally sensitive to the moral dimension of human affairs, having scrupulously studied all the matters of conscience before the world today, has concluded that the matter most in need of correction is the behavior of the Jewish State. Make no mistake: in coming to this decision to focus all of its moral outrage upon Israel the UCC decides that what is going on in Syria, where tens of thousands have been murdered by their own government in just the last few months, or in Darfur, or in Tibet and other places within China where minorities are brutally suppressed every day, or in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Cuba – the list is as long as your arm – is not deserving of notice when compared to the sins of Israel!
There is no escaping the conclusion that the UCC has disqualified itself as a voice deserving respectful attention on any and all matters of conscience.
A particularly noxious item in the report that has inspired these resolution is the double-think approach to Israel’s right to exist. In some parts of its report, the Church’s leaders suggest willingness to hold their noses and accept that there is, in some people’s thinking, anyway, a Jewish state; but in passages that will govern the church’s attitude in months and years ahead as the Peace Process drags on, they applaud the tenacity of the Arab side in withholding recognition of the Jewish State.
Among other difficulties raised by this thinking is the consideration that negotiations must always be barren when one party will not allow that the other party exists.
Another difficulty is simply that the authors of the Report never make reference to the fact that the “Palestine”, which the officers of the Palestine Authority claim to be governing today, is itself a declared Muslim state. We quote from the Basic Law on Religion passed by the Palestinian Legislature:
Palestinians are equal before the law, they have the same rights and obligations, their liberty and freedom to worship and practice their religious beliefs are protected. The Palestinian people are also governed by Shari’a law, as the Shari’a law is the law of Islam and is adhered to with regard to issues pertaining to religious matters.
When consulted about this ambiguous passage, PA spokesmen explain that the category of “Palestinian people” who are “governed by Shar’ia law” includes Christians. (This understanding has been confirmed to me personally in private interviews with official spokesmen for the Palestine Authority some years ago in Jericho and more recently by the “Embassy of Palestine” here in Ottawa.)
Despite all the wishful thinking and all the double-talk, it is clear that “Palestine”, an Arab state on probation, is like every extant Arab state, both despotic and Islamic. There is no prospect of changing this reality so long as bodies like the UCC continue their sedulous perpetuation of the Palestinian narrative and their hypocritical vilification of the only democracy in the Middle East denigration of policy of denial.
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