4-25-02 - Episcopalians take on their church's anti-Israel stance

From IMRA

BY SETH GITELL April 18, 2002 The Phoenix.com
[IMRA: Text of statement follows]

THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2002 - After the pedophile-priest scandal dogging the Roman Catholic Church, the second-biggest religion story in town is the decision of Episcopal Church bigwigs to use their bully pulpits against Israel. Locally, the Episcopal Church has become one of the sharpest and most vocal critics of Israel's policies in the Middle East. In fall 2001, Episcopal bishop Thomas Shaw led others in a much-publicized protest at the Israeli consulate in Boston, a demonstration that Phoenix writer Dan Kennedy called "one-sided" in a November piece. Local Episcopalians plan further anti-Israel action in May. In the face of this apparent bias by its church, a group of prominent Episcopalians is saying "enough."

"I thought it was important for Episcopalians, in particular, and Christians, in general, to let Jews know that not all Christians agree with the bishop," says Dennis Hale, a Boston College political-science professor and co-founder of the fledgling group, called the Episcopal-Jewish Alliance for Israel. "By taking this position, the bishop gives the impression that he doesn't care what Jews think and that he's not concerned about attacks on Israel."

On April 12, 2002, the group issued a seven-point "Statement of Episcopal Concern for Israel" protesting "the unbalanced condemnations of the Jewish State issuing from the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts." Listed among the group's concerns are the spread of anti-Semitic rhetoric in the Muslim world, the praise of suicide bombers as "holy martyrs," and Israel's "terrible security problem." "Under constant attack, Israel has been forced to take self-defense measures, which our local Bishops portray as an 'unjust occupation' - despite Israel's
withdrawal of its military from Arab villages and towns in the 1990s - turning the victimizers into victims and the victims into aggressors," the statement says.

So far Hale has recruited only a handful of fellow signatories to this statement, but he believes the Episcopal-Jewish Alliance for Israel will grow after it holds a number of events. Hale may be the head of a small movement. But with a loud voice and a clear head, who knows where it may lead?

Hale, Illinois-based cleric Father Keith Roderick, and Rabbi William Hamilton of Kehillath Israel will speak about the actions of Boston's Episcopal bishop on Sunday, April 21, at 7:45 p.m., at an event held at Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel, located at 561 Ward Street, in Newton.

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STATEMENT OF EPISCOPAL CONCERN FOR ISRAEL

April 12, 2002

WE THE UNDERSIGNED members of the community of Episcopalians in America, both clergy and lay, protest the unbalanced condemnations of the Jewish State issuing from the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, and from other parts of our church hierarchy. In doing so, we offer the following PRINCIPLES for the prayerful consideration of all members of our faith:

1. The fundamental cause of the conflict in the Middle East is the Arab refusal to accept the reality of a non-Muslim state in the region. This refusal is expressed not just as hatred for Israel, but as hatred of Jews everywhere, and it has been fostered for many decades by Arab governments and by the current leaders of the Palestinian people.

2. The resolution of this conflict cannot be found until the Arab governments and Palestinian leaders stop fomenting the virulent anti-Semitic hatred found throughout the printed, electronic, and internet media in Muslim communities, which includes "blood libels" as terrible as anything found in Nazi Germany, and open praise of suicide bombers as "holy martyrs".

3. The Bishops' desire for justice for the Palestinians should not obscure the terrible security problem that Israel has faced throughout its existence, surrounded by 22 countries that have sought its extinction, and subjected to a terror campaign against civilians that has gone on uninterrupted for over 50 years. The desire for peace must be accompanied by good judgment, and the judgment of the Bishops has been tragically one-sided.

4. Under constant attack, Israel has been forced to take self-defense measures which our local Bishops portray as an "unjust occupation" -- despite Israel's withdrawal of its military from Arab villages and towns in the 1990s -- turning the victimizers into victims and the victims into aggressors. This is morally confused and dangerous, because it rewards terror with concessions, and in the process encourages more terror.

5. Israel has shown itself repeatedly to be ready for peaceful negotiations, honorable but painful concessions, and further talks. But every concession since 1948 has been met on the Palestinian side by demands for more concessions or, as in September of 2000, open warfare.

6. We lament attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions that rise at an alarming rate all over the world. Just as church leaders helped prevent a backlash against innocent Muslims after the attacks of September 11, they should now speak out against the attacks on Jews and on Israel. By remaining silent they only encourage further anti-Semitic libels and postpone the day when Arab and Muslim leaders finally and truly accept the necessity of living in peace with Israel.

7. We urge all men and women of good will to stand with our Jewish friends at a time when the Arab war against Israel is being advanced by terror and anti-Semitism all over the world. We must not let this darkness fall again.

Dennis Hale
Father Keith Roderick
Adele Travisano

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