United Church of Canada Meeting, Faces Anti-Semitic Temptation
The United Church of Canada, the biggest Protestant denomination in the Frozen North, is meeting this week for its General Council. Looking at the participants’ workbook, it appears that the UCC has two major tasks on its agenda this week: move deck chairs around on a sinking ship, and demonize Israel.
The UCC is in even steeper decline than the left-wing American denominations, with the average age of its members now 65 and its membership, average attendance, and congregations all less than 50% of what they were in 1965. It is shot through with heresy, and is far more of a political entity than a Christian church. This week, it evidently is planning on joining the ranks of the world’s anti-Semitic organizations as well.
The General Council is taking up ten proposals, including acceptance and affirmation of the anti-Semitic Kairos Document, instituting a BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) policy against Israel, and calling on Israel to dismantle the defensive fence that has reduced terrorist attacks by 90%. Most insidiously, two of the UCC’s conferences propose that the denomination align itself with the most radical elements of the anti-Israel movement, and cease referring to Israel as a “Jewish state”:
British Columbia Conference proposes that: the 41st General Council 2012 recognize the right of the state of Israel to exist and directs the General Secretary, General Council to remove from all future United Church of Canada policy statements and communications any wording which recognizes Israel as a “Jewish state”.
Rationale for this is offered:
Two General Council documents refer to “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state”. (2003 Path to Peace in Israel and Palestine and 2009 Implementation of Measures Towards Peace in the Middle East).
As Christians, as theologians, we understand the importance of words and the significance of language. What are the implications of talking about Israel as a Jewish state? 20% of Israeli citizens are Palestinians, few of whom are Jewish. The Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel (from 1948) includes the statement that Israel “...will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants…” and that it “... will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race, or sex.”
Right. Israel was founded as a refuge for the world’s Jews with the full recognition that a portion of its population would not be Jews, and the founding document both acknowledges that and states that all people would have equal rights. Now, there’s no question that that promise has not always been fulfilled, and that Israel even now has a way to go to ensure that all of its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, have those right guaranteed. In that regard, Israel is no different from any other nation on Earth (including Canada). But this resolution would use that to deny the unique character of Israel in a way that the UCC does not for any other nation.
By taking these words (as a “Jewish state”) out of United Church official policy we signal to the Palestinian community in Israel, in the occupied territories and living in the rest of the world that the church supports their yearning for equal human rights within the state of Israel. We would not want to recognize Canada as a Christian state, nor would we have any reason to recognize particular countries as Muslim states, so there is no reason to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
This is the very definition of disingenuous. I’m sure that the authors are aware that Jews are not just adherents of a religion, but are a historical people. A better question would be, is Canada a Canadian state? Do non-Canadians live there? Are they granted equal rights? Here’s another: do these people refuse call Israel’s biggest threat “the Islamic Republic of Iran”? Have they ever condemned the complete lack of freedom of religion for non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia, or the prohibition on non-Muslims so much as setting foot in Mecca? Or how about this: have they any animus whatsoever toward any other nation besides Israel (and the U.S., of course)?
Here’s the other:
Hamilton Conference proposes that: the 41st General Council 2012 recognize Israel as a state and urge all with whom Israel must be in negotiation for its permanent borders to recognize it as a state.
Our current policy, adopted at GC 2003, recognizes Israel as a Jewish State. Since we do not think of Canada as a Christian State, but as a state that exercises tolerance and extends charter
rights to religions and cultures, it goes against our values to recognize any state in the world as a religious state or a cultural state. Such a position contradicts our core beliefs as people of faith,
and sends a signal of bad faith across the land and around the world.
This is followed by this extraordinary statement:
Policy Reference: “Paths to Peace in Israel and Palestine” (2003; 38th GC, 2003 Records of Proceeding page reference, p 100-101, 601-603 (according to the web page www.unitedchurch.ca/beliefs/policies/2003/p162)):
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the 38th General Council record its conviction that a just peace in the Middle East will require:...
• the recognition by the emergent State of Palestine and other neighbouring Arab States of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state within safe and secure borders;
This proposal amends this resolution to read “state” instead of “Jewish state” and calls for the change to “state” in all United Church documents which use the expression “Jewish state.”
So first they say, “it goes against our values to recognize any state in the world as a religious state or a cultural state.” Then they cite a document that refers to “neighbouring Arab States” and “Jewish state,” and want the latter changed but not the former! And they wonder why people like me call them anti-Semitic!
I understand the General Council will be voting on these items tomorrow. I’ll let you know whether they proudly raise the banner of anti-Semitism, or come to their senses.
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