At its general council meeting in Ottawa last Wednesday, the left-wing United Church of Canada demonstrated once again why predictions of its eventual disappearance are not to be dismissed. Instead of focusing on spiritual issues, as one would expect a church body to do, the council used its national assembly as a platform to engage in the decidedly less friendly religious activity of Israel bashing.
A report commissioned by the church leadership and presented at the week-long meeting that ended August 18 declared that Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territory is a main reason for the conflict there and calls for a boycott by church members of goods produced by Israeli settlements on the West Bank. This report, a product of the United Church’s Working Group on Israel and Palestine Policy, also wants Israel to dismantle the security barrier it has built to prevent terrorist attacks.
“Simply put, Israel is maintaining a harsh occupation that must end so peace can emerge,” the report stated. “The occupation is damaging both Palestinians and Israelis. The occupation is being implemented by a democratic country and sustained and supported by Western governments, including Canada’s.”
The statements regarding Israel were part of thirteen recommendations that were passed by the council’s 350 delegates in a first vote on Wednesday. Other recommendations, all non-religious, concerned topics like climate change, Canadian mining operations in Third World countries and opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline that would bring Alberta crude to Canada’s west coast for shipment to China.
This is the fourth time the council has called for a boycott, but the first time it has passed in a vote. The anti-Israeli recommendations will receive a second vote on Friday, in which the church will have a chance to redeem itself by rejecting them. But don’t hold your breath.
Once among Canada’s largest churches, numbering more than a million adherents only fifty years ago, the United Church is estimated today to consist of about 500,000 members. The Church was wracked by a crisis in the late 1980s when it adopted a resolution to allow the ordination of gay ministers, causing many members at that time to leave and seek a place in more accommodating, conservative Christian denominations. The United Church was to become so “progressive” that even an atheist became a minister in a Toronto parish.
And like most secular, left-wing political entities, the United Church is very selective about what social and world issues it champions. While it rails against the alleged Israeli “occupation” of Palestinian territory, there is no outrage expressed over Arab occupation and colonization of black African lands in Darfur or southern Mauritania. In both cases, the African populations were violently driven off their patrimonies, which Arabs then settled.
“It was … clear from the start that this military campaign (in Darfur) was going to be much more than just a ‘surgical’ action against specific rebel targets,” writes author Richard Crockett in his book Sudan: Darfur and the Failure of an African State. “The non-Arab Darfuri tribes were to be forced to make way for Arab resettlement.”
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