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United Church blasted over Israel resolution (NATIONAL POST) Charles Lewis 08/18/12)Source: http://life.nationalpost.com/2012/08/18/united-church-blasted-over-israel-resolution/ NATIONAL POST NATIONAL POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The lack of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in the United Church of Canada’s final resolution affirming a partial boycott of Israeli goods has raised the ire of Jewish and Christian critics.

On Friday, the church’s general council, meeting in Ottawa, gave final approval to a boycott of Israeli goods coming out of the occupied territories. How the boycott would work has still to be determined.

The resolution also offers a mea culpa for an earlier church policy that insisted Palestinians should accept the Jewish nature of Israel as a prerequisite for peace negotiations.

Bruce Gregersen, a minister and a member of the Church’s Working Group on Israel-Palestine Policy, said the acceptance of a Jewish state is in a fuller report released in May that was used as the basis for the four-page resolution that was debated this week.

“There’s no easy answer to why it was left out of the resolution. The working group spent a great deal of time on the issue, and I think felt that the depth it went into [the recognition of a Jewish state] in the report — probably the most substantive section — was adequate,” Rev. Gregersen said.

However, stating the main report shows support for a Jewish homeland is misleading, said Andrew Love, a United Church minister in the Ottawa area.

Israel doesn’t require the church’s validation. However, its absence in the recommendations reflects the simplistic and disingenuous nature of the report and its recommended action plan The report states that the church recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state but goes on to say the church has not defined what it means by the term Jewish state. It also said the term “has become confusing and problematic for some partners of the United Church and for many inside and outside the church.”

Said Rev. Love: “There is a disturbing level of arrogance that we would attempt to define the identity to another country.”

He said putting the issue of a Jewish state in the resolution would have opened a great source of contention at the council meeting.

“I think they left it out because I’m not sure they’ve fully come to an understanding of what it means to be a Jewish state. There is an undercurrent of opposition to this whole notion of the Jewish identity to the state of Israel.”

Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said Israel does not need the church’s approval, but the absence of any overt support from the resolution further tarnishes the United Church’s image.

“Israel doesn’t require the church’s validation. However, its absence in the recommendations reflects the simplistic and disingenuous nature of the report and its recommended action plan.”

Meantime, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said the passage of the resolution will hinder the peace process by giving its blessing to the intransigence of one side.

“What this does is further empowers those in the Palestinian camp who say, ‘Why bother to sit down with the Israelis to negotiate anything when there is no pressure to do so?’ Why would they come down to do a final deal when all these other parties like the United Church are doing their bidding?

“It would have been better if the United Church had demanded that the Palestinians teach their children that the Jews have legitimacy and that this is also their homeland.”

The United Church decision to take a stand against Israel is not unique. Last month the Presbyterian Church in the United States voted in favour of boycotting goods made in settlements in Israel, but narrowly voted against divesting holdings in three multinationals that do business in the settlements.

The resolution was opposed by some pro-Israel and Jewish groups, and proved divisive among United Church members as well.

Also this week, the United Church elected its new head. Rev. Gary Paterson, the church’s first openly gay moderator, describes himself as a “passionate preacher” and a “closet poet.” He will be the moderator for a three-year term. (© 2012 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. 08/18/12)

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