Columnists

Rick Salutin
Responding to the United Church position on Israeli settlements

| August 24, 2012
Razor wire wall, Occupied Palestine. Photo: Scott Weinstein

Speaking as a Jew, it feels good to be able to offer to relieve Christian guilt. It went the other way and with reverse traction for millennia, as Christians burdened Jews with guilt for "killing Christ." Real satisfaction comes from not doing to others what they did to you, when you finally get a chance.

I'm referring to the decision by Canada's largest religious organization, the United Church, to take a very mild position on Israeli settlements in occupied territories, as the main cause of Mideast conflict. You can disagree with this but it's hardly absurd and it's solidly grounded in international law. They don't say they'll cancel any investments they have in those settlements, as others have, though they think they'll "study" that. They breathe no hint of a "boycott" of Israel, like the one directed at apartheid-era South Africa. They merely "encourage" their members to "avoid" goods from settlements if they're sure of the source. They condemn any violent opposition to the occupiers and endorse non-violence. Most pertinently, their motion "denounces all questions of Israel's right to exist or that seek to undermine its legitimacy as a state."

They did all this with agonizing and reluctance because the United Church is so nice. They love everybody and want everybody to like them. Their greatest horror is the thought of being called mean, racist or, worst of all, anti-Semitic. They knew with certainty what would come if they did what they did -- and it came. "The only comments I've received so far are those advocating a complete severing of ties with the United Church," said the head of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Israel supporters had issued dark warnings long in advance.

So I'd like to congratulate members of the United Church and say I think they showed real courage, which consists in confronting your own deepest fears rather than fears abstractly or generally defined. This is especially true since there's a backstory here: In the 1960s, the United Church and its newspaper were early supporters of Palestinian rights and attacked by many Jews for undermining Jewish-Christian reconciliation. But that was long ago, well before Canada came to seen as a Judeo-Christian, and not merely a Christian, society.

Let me add that I think anti-Semitism still exists and could be having a resurgence. Some of it may even hide as criticism of Israel, though mostly it's content to exist as outright hatred of Jews and not bother with camouflage. But anti-Semitism has come (or descended) a long way since the 1930s. Then it could be found proudly in the upper classes, reputable intellectuals, political parties and high-level civil servants ("none is too many"). Anti-Semitism has moved way down-market since then. It exists in milieus that United Church members don't aspire to and would be horrified to find themselves lumped with.

I offer this support as a Jew without clearance from the Centre (for Israel and Jewish Affairs), which claims to be the main voice of Jewish Canadians. It took over a year ago from its predecessor, the Canadian Jewish Congress, which it smothered with a pillow. It dropped the "Canadian" part along with "Congress," which had at least implied concern with democratic representation; changed that to "Centre," implying centralized control, and indicated Israel was its priority.

So United churchpeople may find more encouragement in a National Post editorial that said they'd chosen "to put politics ahead of matters of faith. Indeed, it is getting harder to tell where the church ends and a budding left-wing political party begins." I'd take that as encouragement if I were them. Politics is part of religion. Like Jesus, who drove the money-changers and other banksters from the Temple; or the Biblical prophet Amos who said, Let justice well up as waters; or Jeremiah who rebuked the diplomats of his time for crying Peace, Peace, when there is no peace. Religion, when it's strong, is about politics not because it wants to be but because it can't not be if it takes its precepts seriously. That's also true of the vigorous religious right in the U.S., which is active from the Republican party to school boards. Right on, United churchers.

This article was first published in the Toronto Star.

Photo: Scott Weinstein

Comments

That's a poorly written, poorly argued and even ignorant view of Zionism, Israel and Canada.  I'm afraid.

 

How Harper keeps the truth about Israel out of Canada

 

Talks about how Harper’s Federal government routinely denies or is slow to grant VISAs to visitors to Canada who well known to talk about what bad things Isreal is really doing to Palestine.

 

Aljazeera profiles CJPME President Thomas Woodley in documentary.  CJPME = Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.

 

24 min. long

http://youtu.be/a6rTiylyjpg

 

CHRIS HEDGES:  Take the Israel occupation of Gaza.  If I had dinner with *any* Middle East correspondent, none of us would have *any* disagreements about the Israeli behavior in Gaza, **which is a collective war crime.  And yet to get up and write it and say it within American society (or in Canada and England) is not a career enhancer.

 

Because there's a powerful Israeli lobby, and it's a lobby I don't think represents Israel, it represents the right-wing of Israel.  And you know talking about Israel’s bad behaviour is a career killer.  But, the great reporters are brave and still talk about it.  And they're there.

 

http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-capitalism%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98sa...

The idea that being the victim of persecution ***doesn’t excuse persecuting others is completely valid.

 

Norman Finkelstein, who for his writings has been virtually blacklisted, noted in "The Holocaust Industry" the Jewish Holocaust has allowed Israel to cast itself and "the most successful ethnic group in the United States" as eternal victims.

 

(um, shouldn't it be Native Americans being USA's biggest victims?  Then the black slaves?).

 

Finkelstein, the son of Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, goes on to argue this status has enabled Israel, which has "a horrendous human rights record," to play the victim as it oppresses Palestinians or destroys Lebanon. This victim status has permitted U.S. Jewish organizations (the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and others) to get their hands on billions of dollars in reparations, much of which never finds its way to the dwindling number of Holocaust survivors.

 

Finkelstein’s mother, who was in the Warsaw ghetto, received $3,500, while the World Jewish Congress walked away with roughly $7 billion in compensation moneys. The organization pays lavish salaries to its employees and uses the funds to fuel its own empire.

 

For many the Nazi Holocaust is not used to understand and deal with the past, and more importantly the universal human capacity for evil, but to manipulate the present.

 

Finkelstein correctly writes the fictitious notion of unique suffering leads to feelings of unique entitlement.

 

http://www.armenews.com/article.php3?id_article=26124

 

More than 250 academics from 14 different European countries have written to the European Commission urging it to take action to prevent Israeli arms companies and other companies involved in abuse of Palestinian human rights from participating in EU funded research consortia. 

 

http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/news/economy-of-the-occ...

In Canadian first, Carleton University students pass Israel occupation divestment resolution by large margin

 

Graduate students at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada have overwhelmingly voted for divestment from companies profiting from Israeli occupation and human rights abuses.

 

The referendum win is almost certainly Canada’s first such result, and only the second time in the world such a resolution has been passed by a student body-wide vote.

 

http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/world-first-carleton-un...

 

 

 

Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA)

Carleton University Divestment - Join the Movement

 

Two years ago, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) Carleton launched a campaign to get the Carleton University Pension Fund divested from companies complicit in violations of human rights and international law in Palestine or anywhere else in the world, and to adopt a comprehensive and binding socially responsible investment policy.

 

This campaign, which started as simply a SAIA initiative, has grown into a campus-wide movement, bringing together students, faculty, staff, retirees, and alumni.

 

2:20 minutes long

http://youtu.be/xke7SiXjFP4

 

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