Main Zionism Boycotts Page The boycotts and the Nazis The Anti Israel Academic Boycott Divestment Initiatives
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By David W. Virtue
Few things, apart from the possible disintegration of the Anglican Communion arouse a firestorm of anger and conflict
than how the Anglican Communion should respond to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.
To divest or not to divest, that is the question.
The Episcopal Church has, over the years, taken a decidedly pro Palestinian stand with General Convention adopting a series of resolutions affirming the right of the Palestinians to a state of their own, protesting the building of the wall, expanding the settlements and destroying Palestinian homes. General Convention has endorsed a two state solution and a shared Jerusalem. These resolutions are essential to the negotiations of a two state solution and a shared Jerusalem, the church argues. "We advocate all these positions to our government," says the church.
But how this should be done is another matter entirely. The Episcopal Church along with the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ have all urged consideration of divestment, at a very minimum economic pressure urging Israel to be more accommodating to the Palestinians, many of whom are Christians.
Some Jewish groups accuse the churches of singling out Israel for blame and failing to address the Palestinians' role in perpetuating the violence. Several have even said they see anti-Semitism behind the churches' moves. Are we for the Palestinians and against Israel; or for Israel and against Palestine? Are we for disinvestment or against it? The issues are complex and grow more complex even as Israel moves out of Gaza.
Behind disinvestment is the notion that peace, love and brotherhood will ultimately reign in the Middle East if Israel is appropriately punished. Many American Jews and not a few Israelis believe it is a not so subtle form of anti-Semitism and a desire to bring Israel to its knees.
At the center of the Anglican controversy over divestment is the Anglican Peace and Justice Network a leftist organization whose most recent statement on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict includes such choice words as these: "We conclude from our experience that there is little will on behalf of the Israeli government to recognize the rights of the Palestinians to a sovereign state to be created in the West Bank - which includes East Jerusalem - and Gaza. Israel, with the complicity of the United States, seems determined to flaunt international laws, whether they are the Geneva Conventions, United Nations resolutions or the most recent decision of the International Court of Justice in declaring the separation wall illegal. In fact, we note that this latter decision is based on building the wall on Palestinian territory, which once again demonstrates the illegality of the Occupation itself."
There would appear to be little objectivity with regard to Israel's right to self-protection from self-immolating bombers and security within their borders. The APJN headlined its statement: "Give Sight to the Blind and Freedom to the Captives" but for whom?
It might be argued that both groups are spiritually blind, both have very little freedom within their geographical confines and both are held captive to each other.
While the APJN says it represents 23 Provinces of the worldwide 75,000,000 member Anglican Communion, it should not be assumed that the APJN speaks for all Anglicans.
The Anglican Communion does have a decidedly strong Anglican presence in the Middle East through its leader Archbishop Riah (Jerusalem) a formidable advocate for Palestinian rights and much more. When the Anglican Consultative Council met in Nottingham recently and the ACC voted to 'commend' divestment from companies supporting Israel's polices, based on a report on Israel by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, Archbishop Riah made it very clear to me that unless the West Bank situation is resolved it will be back to the drawing boards and the suicide killings will start up again.
However not all Anglicans agree with him. The Rev. Tony Higton and his church in the Old City of Jerusalem have gone out of their way to repudiate much of the APJN's claims.
Following a visit to Israel and a particularly sharply-worded condemnation of Israel by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN) that excoriated the government for "the draconian conditions of the continuing occupation under which so many Palestinians live," Higton's Israel Trust of the Anglican Church (ITAC) issued its own statement repudiating the APJN as "biased and unjust."
"How can the visitors on the APJN commission... hope to be taken seriously," the ITAC statement asked, "when they spend a mere eight days in the country, without proper consultation on the Israeli side, then produce a statement, implying they understand the complexities of the conflict, and making pronouncements about it?"
"The APJN statement loses credibility because it contains very inadequate references to terrorism and its effects, and no reference to the need of the Israelis to defend themselves," ITAC continued.
He also went on to say that the church should recognize that the Palestinians experience economic disaster and lack of infrastructure, partly through corruption, injustice and oppression on the part of some of their own leaders.
The ITAC statement concluded that "much of the church is predisposed, on the basis of inadequate information, to accept anti-Israel statements."
Higton, who has lived in Jerusalem with his wife since 2002, told The Jerusalem Post from London that the Anglican Church "needs to be praying for people on both sides, rather than start ladling out condemnation. We need to be more Christian about it."
IN the US a number of Episcopal bishops have criticized the Anglican call for divestment from Israel including Tom Shaw, Bishop of Massachusetts, Ed Little, Bishop of Northern Indiana, Geralyn Wolf, Bishop of Rhode Island, (the latter two have Jewish ancestry) and Mark Sisk the Episcopal bishop of New York who criticized the Anglican Church recently for its divestment proposal. The national Episcopal Church headquarters later put out wrist slapping statement saying that it still supported the divestment call.
But the recent Anglican Consultative Council 2005 Resolution, Peace and Justice Network on Palestine - Israel Conflict put out in Nottingham produced the greatest outrage from across the Anglican Communion prompting the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon to issue a clarifying statement.
He wrote: "There has been much comment, and not a little misunderstanding, about what the resolution said about investments. It did not call for dis-investment in Israel. Instead, it commended the Episcopal Church (USA) for resolving to take appropriate action 'where it finds that its corporate investments support the occupation of Palestinian lands or violence against innocent Israelis' and encourages others to do likewise within the framework of their ethical investment strategies. It further 'encouraged strategies that support the infrastructure of a future Palestinian State', which I understand is Israeli government policy also."
"Jewish-Christian relations, especially within Britain, are much valued by Anglicans, who have always been to the forefront of these dialogues, both national and local. At their best, they are characterized by a willingness to listen to each other and to engage with the context of each. No doubt the ongoing violence, death and destruction from which both Israelis and Palestinians suffer, has been discussed on many occasions, as a shared understanding of the complexities of the situation emerges."
Melanie Phillips a British journalist and author who writes on political and social issues for the Daily Mail ripped the ACC on the divestment controversy calling their statement "a truly egregious conflation of sanctimoniousness, disingenuousness and sheer moral humbug."
She blasted the ACC saying that the ACC's message to Jews is clear: "we value you enormously, just as long as you don't support Israel. If you do support it, we'll treat you as a pariah. In other words, Jews are in one box, Israel is in another. This is to deny Jewish peoplehood. It is also to deny the anti-Jewish nature of its singling out of the Jewish state for pariah status."
"It is too soon to forget what centuries of what is called the "teaching of contempt" towards Jews did to the Christian soul of Europe. It is a religious obligation - or to put it another way, it is what God wants - that Christians should try to undo the consequences of that dark tradition. That means denouncing anything that seems to call in question Israel's right to exist."
In an effort to defuse the anger, Kearon defended the Anglican Peace and Justice Network's (APJN) report from Jerusalem against charges that it offered a biased and dishonest account of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He also criticized Jewish leaders in the United Kingdom as ill informed and aggressive in their criticism of the work done by the APJN.
"I have been saddened by much of the response to the debate and resolution on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict" at ACC-13 in Nottingham, he wrote, "especially among Jewish representatives in Britain. The tone of these responses does little to acknowledge the responsible nature of the debate."
That did not placate Professor Irene Lancaster of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester who disagrees strongly with Canon Kearon. She blasted the APJN report saying, "I am an expert on Christian-Jewish relations over the last 2000 years. I have no hesitation in placing the APJN report firmly within the category of religious anti-Judaism and more modern forms of anti-Semitism. Apart from lies about Jewish history, the idea that Jews living in the 'Holy Land' defile the name of Jesus is particularly offensive to Jews. In addition, the citation of Jewish scripture against Jews is a classic usage in age-old Christian anti-Semitism."
She ripped the 'anti-Semitism' of the report saying the whole tone of it was extremely hostile to both Israel as a Jewish sovereign state and to Jews generally. "The country was compared to Buchenwald concentration camp and Jesus' Jewish antecedents were ignored or overlooked. It is ludicrous to suggest that the meeting of the APJN in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, at Jewish New Year was not held deliberately at that time, to prevent Jewish dialog with the group. It is also not irrelevant that Jenny Te Paa (NZ) complained about the very strong statements made against the report by the Chief Rabbi of the UK and also by our umbrella lay leadership organization, the Board of Deputies, which worked in conjunction with myself. She called this 'lobbying'. What is wrong with that, I wonder?" She also said that the APJN can't possibly have met representative Jews as the delegation visited Israel during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.
But one voice of reason and moderation that has arisen in recent days is that of AMIA Bishop John Rodgers who, on reflecting on the APJN situation wrote, "while it is good to hear recommendations from idealistic "peace" societies such as the Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN) it is never wise to endorse them or to expect from them a wise, practical, balanced solution to international violence. And the latest recommendations about disinvestiture from Israel proposed by them and disappointingly endorsed by the rather liberal ACC, lives up to our worst expectations. Their fact finding trip to Israel, which did not consult with any high ranking officials of the State of Israel but did consult with Palestinian sources, indicates that they had their agenda and recommendations in mind before they came. This was entirely predictable."
"No one should write Israel a blank check, or the Palestinians either. Nor can we write Islamic believers a blank check because they are "religious". Rather as we try to think things through, let justice and mercy be even handed as applied to all parties as best as we are able. However the use of terrorism can never be condoned. It is an entirely unacceptable method of redressing injustice. It is time we say so with no ambiguity."
"Israel has continually said that as terror is held in check and stopped negotiations could and would go forward. They have, time and again, held back in the hopes that the terrorism would diminish and stop. There seems to be some advance at the present, if Hamas and others do not destroy the present opportunity. What a foolish time to suggest disinvestiture from Israel. This is a time to encourage both sides, but by all means to be strong in our condemnation of terrorism. It is also time for the Palestinians and all Muslims everywhere to repudiate it as unacceptable. Had they done so earlier there would be far more justice and economic opportunity for both Israel and the Palestinians than now exists."
Americans for Peace Now Statement on Divestment
Rabbis for Human Rights
Bad Waters: An Open Letter From Rabbis For Human Rights to the Presbyterian Church USA
Meretz USA Condemns Divestment
Letter protests action of General Assembly of Presbyterian Church (USA) to consider disinvestment from companies doing business with Israel
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, The Shefa Fund
Divestment from Israel: Is It An Effective Strategy?
The Shefa fund is a "significant funder of Israeli peace organizations."
Labor Zionist Alliance Opposes Divestment
Statement Against Divestment from a
Group of Progressive Jews in Somerville Mass
Let's Work Together for Middle East Peace, Somerville Journal
Joint Statement to Protestant
Churches on Potential Economic Sanctions against Israel from Five Major Jewish Organizations:
The American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Union for Reform Judaism, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
United Jewish Communities Opposes Presbyterian Church USA Moves on Divestment: Resolution Unanimously Passes
Presbyterians Against Israel Chicago Jewish News, January 28, 2005
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