Home  > Historical Perspectives
United Church reputation hurt by report calling for Israel boycott, critic says (NATIONAL POST) Charles Lewis 05/02/12)Source: http://life.nationalpost.com/2012/05/01/united-church-reputation-hurt-by-report-calling-for-israel-boycott-critic-says/ NATIONAL POST NATIONAL POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The United Church of Canada has been hijacked by a small group of anti-Israel activists who have become obsessed with doing harm to the Jewish state and in the process have blackened the church’s reputation, a prominent Jewish leader charged Tuesday.

“Israel has become an obsession for a small vocal group,” said Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “I think frankly it betrays the sensibilities of the vast majority of ordinary members of the United Church.”

The comment came in response to the release Tuesday of a United Church report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that calls for a boycott of Israeli goods produced in what the authors call illegal Israeli settlements, including East Jerusalem.

The report will be voted on at the church’s general council meeting in August.

This is the fourth proposal concerning sanctions against Israel in the past six years.

In 2006 a regional element of the church proposed cutting financial investments in Israeli companies but it was never voted upon by the general council. In 2009, another group suggested a broad boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions at the national and international levels, but it was eventually repudiated by the church as too extreme.

In 2011 a Toronto pastor called for a boycott of six Canadian companies that did business in Israel, but it too was never taken up by the church.

In this case, however, the church’s leadership requested the report to come up with a single, coherent policy about what should be done regarding Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. “We wanted this report to be conscious of the Jewish perspective in Canada and Israel,” said Rev. David Giuliano, the former head of the United Church and one of the report’s authors.

Two years in the making, the report goes into great detail about how many other groups around the world have used criticisms of Israel as an excuse for anti-Semitism and notes that calls for broad boycotts of Israel do nothing to create dialogue to bring Jews and Palestinians together.

The report also tackles the charge, often levelled at the United Church, that it is disproportionately focused on Israel while ignoring other countries in the region.

The United Church’s last boycott was against South Africa in the 1980s during the apartheid regime. Israel is the only other country in which a boycott has been considered.

“The [authors] believe that Israel can and should be held to a higher standard than surrounding non-democratic countries or authoritarian regimes. It’s precisely because of Israel’s close identification with democratic ideals that it needs to be challenged on its policies,” the report says.

Mr. Fogel said that logic makes no sense.

“They’re saying that Israel should be punished because it’s a democracy. Throughout the Middle East there are millions of Christians in grave danger by repressive regimes, but there are no calls for boycotts of those countries. This is just idiocy.”

The report is particularly troubling on two issues, Mr. Fogel added.

Somewhat confusedly, the report says the state of Israel has the right to exist but that its status as a “Jewish state” is not at all clear and adds the Palestinians should not be pressured to “accept Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition of continuing negotiations.”

Said Mr. Fogel: “Israel was created as Jewish state. If it’s not a Jewish state, then what’s the point?”

The report and the subsequent reaction show how far apart the leadership of the United Church and the country’s most prominent Jewish group has grown.

The report references the suffering of Jews in Europe to make the point that the United Church is on the alert to any form of anti- Semitism and would not support anything that smacks of racism.

“The deepest meaning of the Holocaust was the denial of human dignity to Jews.”

But Mr. Fogel called the reference “obscene.”

“The Holocaust was not the stripping of human dignity but the murder of six million people. The road to creating a Jewish state was well underway before the Second World War. If there had been an Israel, there never would have been a Holocaust.” (© 2012 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. 05/02/12)

Return to Top