The United Church of Canada got into trouble in 2009 when a small number of anti-Israel activists attempted to hijack the denomination (which boasts half a million members) by convincing its General Council to pass four anti-Israel resolutions, two of which called on the church to boycott products made in Israel.
The background material accompanying one of the non-divestment resolutions suggested that Canadian Members of Parliament were selling out their country to Israeli interests because they accepted free trips to Israel or were themselves Israeli citizens.
The accusation of dual loyalty raised the hackles of the Ottawa Citizen which responded with a scathing editorial that read in part, as follows: “It’s conspicuous that the United Church is not witchhunting South Asian or Muslim MPs to out those who hold dual citizenship. Only Jews constitute an enemy within.”
In the face of criticism like this, which prompted the General Council to repudiate the background materials, the boycott resolutions were defeated.
The contretemps didn’t put an end to the denomination’s focus on Israel, however. Despite the controversy, the church’s General Council established a working group charged with reviewing the denomination’s stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In particular, the working group was charged with “entering into conversations as to how to move [the Israelis and the Palestinians] toward reconciliation (including, but not limited to economic boycott).”
The working group has issued its report, which will be discussed at the next meeting of the church’s General Council, scheduled to take place in Ottawa in August. Predictably, the working group is calling on the United Church of Canada to boycott Israeli goods made in the West Bank.
Such boycotts are all the rage these days. The United Methodist Church passed a similar resolution at its recent General Conference in Tampa, Florida and the Presbyterian Church (USA) is considering approving a similar resolution at its upcoming General Assembly scheduled to take place in Pittsburgh in July.
The United Church of Canada’s working group clearly learned some lessons from the mistakes made by the so-called peace activists at the General Conference in 2009. Their report does not traffic in ugly anti-Semitism. It even acknowledges the existence of the “new anti-Semitism” which demonizes the modern state of Israel and says that criticism of the Jewish state needs to be scrutinized closely.
The working group even goes so far as to affirm Israel as a Jewish state.
Oddly enough, however, the working group would have the United Church of Canada apologize for demanding in previous statements that the Palestinians do the same.
On this score, the report is quite explicit. It calls on the church to “[a]cknowledge with deep regret the past policy of calling on Palestinians to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state.” The working group stated that if the Palestinian Authority were to recognize Israel’s Jewish character, it “could be seen as endorsing discrimination against the Palestinian minority in Israel.”
This passage is one of several instances in which the working group exhibits a fundamental inability to come to grips with the reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The conflict is not caused, as the report states, by the occupation, but by the Arab and Muslim refusal to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Israel’s creation in 1948 is a humiliating violation of the Islamic doctrine demands that Muslims dominate, or eradicate, other religious communities with which it comes into contact.
In light of these beliefs, a Jewish state is an abomination and as a result, Israeli Jews have come to regard the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel’s Jewish character as a sign that the Palestinians are not all that serious about peace.
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