This morning I got a request from Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (cjpme.org) to respond to a very misleading article in The Ottawa Citizen. Below you will find the hyperlink to the article, and below that, my reply. If you wish to follow the debate going on this week at the United Church’s General Council in Ottawa, consult gc41.ca.
Christian churches poisoning relations with Jews? How about Israel poisoning relations with the rest of the world through its brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories?
The article has a frantic tone, which I attribute to the fact that its authors are realizing that the uncritical acceptance in the West of the Israeli narrative of Israel’s place as “the only democracy in the Middle East” is in serious decline. More and more people are beginning to hear and accept the Palestinian narrative, a story of displacement, occupation and brutality. The churches are in fact finding common cause with those brave Jews and Israelis who are going against majority opinion in their own communities to speak up for justice.
As for the persecuted Christians, red herring, intended to distract us from the main issue. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. The churches of the West which are concerned about the illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories which are putting the realization of a two-state solution farther and farther out of reach are also concerned about the well-being of their fellow-Christians in situations of persecution.
The Jewish state? Sorry, no go. Israel can be either Jewish or democratic, but not both, just as Canada could be Christian or democratic, but not both. What the Balfour Declaration of 1917 advocated was that “a homeland for the Jewish people” should be made possible in Palestine, so long as the rights of the existing inhabitants were not infringed. Those who, as in the United Church this week, are advocating the boycott of products from the settlements erroneously marked as “Produce of Israel,” are perfectly willing to support the project, already well under way, of Israel as a Jewish homeland and a democratic state–but not a Jewish state.
I salute the United Church for bringing these issues to the fore. As an Anglican, I am embarrassed that my own church has been so slow in following suit. But I can assure the authors of this article that we are doing our best to catch up.