The Episcopal Church’s Anti-Israel Media Campaign
The Episcopal Church has approximately 2 million members and 7,200 churches in the U.S. and is part of the 77-million member Anglican Communion. Because of its presence in the U.S., the relative wealth of its members, and its connections to Anglicans throughout the world, the Episcopal Church is in a strategic position to influence attitudes toward Israel on both a national and global scale.
Sadly, the Episcopal Church is not a trustworthy observer of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The church’s leaders and constitutive bodies routinely issue one-sided statements about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and its publications portray Israel as exclusively responsible for violence in the region. Moreover, the church has provided substantial support for anti-Israel activists in both the U.S. and the West Bank. Its so-called peace activism amounts to an ad hoc anti-Israel media campaign that serves to delegitimize Israel’s rightful place amongst the nations of the world.
The Episcopal Church’s antipathy toward Israel has not gone unnoticed within the denomination. Concern about the one-sided condemnations issued by church leaders, staffers and constituent bodies was raised at the denomination’s General Convention held in Columbus, Ohio in June 2006, when three Bishops put forth a resolution calling on the church to apologize for its “consistently unbalanced approach to the conflict in the Middle East.” An explanation accompanying the resolution asserted correctly that “virtually all General Convention resolutions concerning the Middle East – and all public policy statements by Episcopal agencies – have relentlessly criticized the state of Israel, portraying the Jewish state as an oppressor nation and the Palestinian people as victims of Israeli oppression.”
A careful reading of public statements regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict confirms that, indeed, the Episcopal Church has been relentless and unfair in its criticism of Israel.Anti-Israel Resolutions
The Episcopal Church is governed by a bicameral General Convention, which meets every three years and is comprised of the approximately 200-member House of Bishops and the approximately 900 member House of Deputies. Both clergy and lay members of the church serve in the House of Deputies. When the General Convention is not in session, the church is governed by an Executive Council comprised of bishops, clergy and lay members.
Both the General Convention and the Executive Council have exhibited a marked tendency to issue one-sided statements about the Arab-Israeli conflict that hold Israel to a utopian standard of conduct and its adversaries to no standard at all. Some examples include:
• In November 1994, the Executive Council approved a resolution asking Motorola to “establish a policy to prohibit the sale of products or provision of services to any settlement, including persons residing in those settlements, located in the Occupied Territories.” This resolution, passed one month after two Hamas suicide bombings had killed 13 Israelis and wounded 80, did not offer any condemnation of Palestinian violence or call on companies to ensure that equipment they sell to the Palestinians is not used for terror attacks.
• In June 1995, the Executive Council passed a resolution asserting that Jerusalem should be a shared city (ignoring decades of Arab aggression against Israel that make such an arrangement untenable) and condemning the construction of settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem.
• In July 2000, the General Convention approved a resolution affirming the “right of return for every Palestinian, as well as restitution/compensation for their loss as called for by the United Nations.” In fact, under international law there is no such collective “right of return.” Moreover, were such a “right” exercised, the result would be the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. Finally, the resolution offered no acknowledgment of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries who came to Israel after its rebirth in 1948.
• In August 2003, the General Convention approved resolutions condemning the construction of the security barrier and home demolitions without explicitly condemning or calling for an end to Palestinian suicide bombings, drive-by-shootings and other violence.
• In June 2006, so-called peace and justice activists within the Episcopal Church presented draft resolutions to the General Convention condemning the security barrier without asking the Palestinians to stop the terror attacks that prompted its construction.
Other problems with the resolutions as submitted by the denomination’s peace and justice community to the most recent General Convention include:
• Another call for Jerusalem to be a shared city, which denies 58 years of persistent Arab violence and aggression against Israel. It should be noted as well there is no evidence the church ever called for Jerusalem to be a shared city when its eastern half – containing Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount – was illegally occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967.
• A condemnation of unilateral action – a clear reference to the withdrawal from Gaza and the security barrier.
• A failure to call upon Israel’s adversaries to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
• Silence about Palestinian suicide bombing.
• A failure to call upon Hamas to dismantle terrorist infrastructure.
• Silence about anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hate-mongering in mosques, media and children’s textbooks.
After pressure from Christians for Fair Witness in the Middle East, amendments that called for Palestinian leaders to accept Israel's right to exist, greater fiscal transparency in the Palestinian Authority and condemnations of Palestinian terrorism were added to the resolutions. Because of a clerical error, the resolutions were not approved by the General Convention. One question which needs to be asked is why so-called peace and justice activists needed to be reminded of the need to include these changes.Statements from Clergy
Bishops and Priests of the Episcopal Church have also weighed in on the Arab-Israeli conflict in a partisan manner.
• On June 30, 2006, Rev. Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, signed a letter to President Bush asking him to restrain the Israeli government's response to the kidnaping of an Israeli soldier, but did not similarly ask the President to pressure the Palestinians to release the soldier in question or to stop their Qassam rocket attacks emanating from Gaza. This letter, which was also signed by Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, failed to acknowledge other violent acts of war perpetrated by the Palestinians, including other kidnapings and hundreds of rocket attacks from Gaza.
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