Sunday, October 10, 2004

High Church hypocrisy and other humiliations

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly last week, President George W. Bush mentioned with disfavor Israel's 'humiliations' of Palestinians. The irony of the president's misplaced concern (though the speech contained other passages reflecting this country's friendship with Israel) was highlighted when, a day later, a female Palestinian suicide bomber was halted at a checkpoint near a Jerusalem bus stop.

Just before border guards were about to 'humiliate' her by asking questions or searching her bag, the woman exploded her bomb, killing two soldiers.

For all of the outcry about Israeli behavior, few noted that this attempt to question the woman saved the lives of dozens of innocents who might have perished had the soldiers failed to prevent her from boarding a bus.

But the president isn't the only one who has been misled on this issue. Some churches are using the concern about Palestinian sensibilities to push an agenda of anti-Zionism.

Following the outcry about the recent vote by the Presbyterian Church USA to endorse divestment of Israel to express their condemnation of Israeli measures of self-defense, it wasn't clear whether other mainline liberal churches would follow suit -- or listen to the better angels of their nature and refrain from such despicable behavior.

But the Presbyterians' high-church Episcopal cousins seem ready to follow in their footsteps.

The decision to recommend a divestment of Israel was announced last week in Jerusalem by representatives of the church's 75 million adherents. They did so after a ten-day tour of the country which included a meeting with arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah lair but no meetings with Israeli officials other than one with an Arab member of the Knesset who actually opposes the country's continued status as a Jewish state.

They seem particularly unwilling to listen to any evidence -- such as the thousands of dead, wounded and maimed Israelis over the course of the last four years of Palestinian terrorism -- that would justify any measures of Israeli self-defense. They seem especially irate about Israeli moves, such as checkpoints and the erection of a security fence, which hamper the ability of Palestinian killers to move to their targets with impunity.

The motive of the Anglicans (known in this country as the Episcopal church), they say, is to bring an end to the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. But given the nature of their proposed solution, the only thing they seem to really want to end is Israel's existence.

They intend to follow up on this initiative with the Episcopal Church USA.

Given the incendiary nature of many anti-Israel statements made by local and national Episcopal leaders, the chances of this step being adopted must be assessed as good.

It is interesting to note that although the call for divestment from companies that do business with Israel is making progress among church groups just as it seemed to fading on college campuses. That a sector of our society can be found to be more hostile to Israel than American universities really says something about the current state of the Protestant church.

As in the case of the Presbyterians, the drift of Episcopal activists toward support for anti-Israel measures is not necessarily reflected by the general membership of the church. Most ordinary American Episcopalians, like their Presbyterian counterparts, will soon wake up to discover that their representatives have signed on to a measure that obligates them to wage economic warfare on the Jewish state. This will be a surprise to most of them, but that will not make the problem any less serious.

Divestment is just the latest tactic adopted by those who excuse Palestinian terror. They are motivated not by a real concern for the plight of Palestinians, who, it should be remembered, would be living in their own sovereign state by now had their leaders accepted Israel's offers of peace. Instead, the embrace of divestment will send an unmistakable signal that the Palestinian war to exterminate Israel via terror is justified.

This is an act of such blatant immorality so as to render the church unqualified to speak with any moral authority on any topic, even the very real suffering of the Palestinians.

Though American Jews have invested decades of effort in interfaith dialogue with these churches, the Episcopalians and any who would follow them should understand that they cannot continue on this path and still pretend to maintain a friendship with the Jewish community.

The message that they must receive from every sector of responsible Jewish opinion must be clear: Divestment in Israel isn't merely wrong. It is a declaration of war on the Jewish people."