Skip to comments.The D Word [WCC and Israel]
Posted on 07/25/2005 6:06:38 PM PDT by sionnsar
As might be expected, the World Council of Churches Nobody Goes To Anymore supports divestment from Israel. Last February, their Central Committee passed this resolution:
In the conflict in Israel and Palestine there is a renewal of hope although there is not yet a reduction of the threats that separate the parties to the conflict. Palestinians have now organized two elections with constructive effect, despite continuing occupation, and plan another at mid-year. The churches welcome that momentum is building for peace and for solutions which credibly engage those who must make peace, the powerful as well as the weak.
The churches note the growing witness and impact of church engagement that includes both Israelis and Palestinians. The WCC-led Ecumenical Accompaniment Program (EAPPI) is present and supportive of both Palestinians and Israelis who suffer under current circumstances. There is also growing interest among churches in taking new actions that demonstrate commitment to and enhance prospects for a just, equitable and lasting peace in both Israel and Palestine.
Notable among these are initiatives within churches to become better stewards of justice in economic affairs which link them to on-going violations of international law in occupied territory. The Central Committee takes note of the current action by the Presbyterian Church (USA) which has initiated a process of phased, selective divestment from multinational corporations involved in the occupation. This action is commendable in both method and manner, uses criteria rooted in faith, and calls members to do the "things that make for peace" (Luke 19:42).
The concern here is to abide by law as the foundation for a just peace. Multinational corporations have been involved in the demolition of Palestinian homes, and are involved in the construction of settlements and settlement infrastructure on occupied territory, in building a dividing wall which is also largely inside occupied territory, and in other violations of international law being carried out beyond the internationally recognized borders of the State of Israel determined by the Armistice of 1949.
That would be Israel trying to defend itself and its people. But the WCCNGTA is being a smidge disingenuous here. If an "international law" is directed against the State of Israel and the State of Israel alone, then "international law" permits bills of attainder, something no good democrat should ever support. But since the WCCNGTA has never met a leftist dictator it didn't like(note the fact that the WCCNGTA's "Central Committee" passed this thing), such a triviality wouldn't bother them.
And the international recognition of the "borders of the State of Israel determined by the Armistice of 1949" was rather limited insofar as no Muslim country recognized Israel's existence, even in its reduced 1949 borders, much less its right to continue existing.
Mind you, some of the WCCNGTA's best friends are Jews:
The WCC has called, since 1969, for "effective international guarantees for the political independence and territorial integrity of all nations in the area, including Israel" and restated the concern at regular intervals, most recently in recognizing, in 2004, Israels "serious and legitimate security concerns".
In 1995, the Central Committee established criteria for economic actions in the service of justice, namely, that these must be part of a broader strategy of peacemaking, address flagrant and persistent violations, have a clear and limited purpose plus proportionality and adequate monitoring, and are carried out transparently.
In 2001, the WCC Executive Committee recommended an international boycott of goods produced in illegal settlements on occupied territory, and the WCC-related APRODEV agencies in Europe are now working to have Israeli settlement products fully and properly identified before shipment to the European Community in accordance with the terms of the EUs Association Agreement with Israel.
Yet illegal activities in occupied territory continue as if a viable peace for both peoples is not a possibility. We are not blind to facts and must not be complicit in them even unwittingly. The Central Committee, meeting in Geneva 15-22 February 2005 therefore:
encourages member churches to work for peace in new ways and to give serious consideration to economic measures that are equitable, transparent and non-violent;
reminds churches with investment funds that they have an opportunity to use those funds responsibly in support of peaceful solutions to conflict. Economic pressure, appropriately and openly applied, is one such means of action.
WCCNGTA kahuna Samuel Kobia addressed the International Conference of Christians and Jews a few days ago and with the Presybterians, the United Church of Christ and the Anglicans all going the divestment route or leaning that way, Sam figured he'd try to explain why the WCCNGTA supports divestment. First, he told the conference how gosh-darned much the WCCNGTA likes Jews:
The WCC was among the first, if not the first, major international non-state organization to recognize the State of Israel. It did so at its inaugural Assembly in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1948. That was in the context of recognizing the disorder of humankind in the face of Gods design for the world. A prayer says it in the following words: Your design is the glory of a world reconciled to you and signed by the harmonies in all creation. We wait in hope for it still. The WCC recognized the State of Israel in the context of a conviction that "to the Jews our God has bound us in a special solidarity linking our destinies together in His design. We call upon all our churches to make this concern their own". Although it is true that these words, dense with theological significance, were put in the chapter on a Christian approach to Jews, which did include the call to mission, they nevertheless put on record the inextricable link between Jews and Christians and indicated the need for Christians to seek with Jews reconciliation and healing of memories. The famous call to the WCC member churches remain a motto, which is still valid: We call upon all the churches we represent to denounce anti-Semitism, no matter what its origin, as absolutely irreconcilable with the profession and practice of the Christian faith. Anti-Semitism is sin against God and man.
And we're not telling the Jews what to do or anything. Heaven forfend!
The fact that the Jewish people have suffered so much at Christian lands throughout history has made Christians painfully aware that the latter alone cannot decide on the proper day or time for healing to begin.
Insert "but" here. We'd all be a lot happier, thinks Sam, if, um, certain people wouldn't keep bringing up certain things.
Especially certain European things that happened a little over 60 years ago.
There is a risk with excessive retention of memory, where the past conditions the present. We come across it often in many of our discourses when we label todays events using metaphors from yesterday. One must be wary of simplistic metaphors, dividing the world into good or evil in too facile a way. One must realize that there may come a time when one allows oneself to consciously discontinue remembering. One must realize that there is a relationship between memory and idolatry. When one becomes a slave to ones memory, there is a risk of becoming idolatrous. This is a challenge also in peace-building: In the pursuit of peace, there is a danger in becoming overwhelmed by wrath and anger. Anger can become idolatry, when you lose sight of the living the face of the other. Is there a place for silence or the healing of memory through forgiveness and a letting go?
Sam goes all Anglican for a moment.
These questions, highlighted in a unique dialogue between Jews remembering the Holocaust and Africans remembering Rwanda, tell us something of the particular contribution Africans and Jews make to the Jewish-Christian dialogue. These dialogues teach us something about the risk of too easily falling into the categories of healing, forgetting the need for costly reconciliation. Reconciliation is an act that is necessary not only as an event of the past but as something that Jews and Christians need to embrace, in order not to fall prey to a simplistic use of metaphors.
Uh...okay. God forbid anyone should use metaphors simplistically.
The issue of the churches calling for divestment from companies that profit from conflict in Israel and Palestine, must be seen in this light. I know that this issue has been received as something utterly disturbing by many Jews.
And rightly so since it's directed at Israel.
There is a risk and perhaps a temptation to fall into readily available metaphors, comparing the WCC Central Committee minute on divestment with a call for boycott of Jewish goods and Jewish persons as in Germany in the 1930s.
Since Sam thinks there is a "risk" in bringing up 1930's Germany, that particular metaphor seems to have struck a nerve.
I understand that one is tempted to look upon the minute as something directed against the very existence of the State of Israel.
Which it is.
But the minute is explicit. The churches are to examine whether they are economically linked to illegal activities in occupied territories, beyond the internationally recognized borders of Israel.
Borders which most Muslim countries all over the world haven't gotten around to internationally recognizing yet. As for "illegal," see "bill of attainder" comment above. In other words, the WCCNGTA thinks that churches shouldn't invest in companies who sell stuff to Israel with which Israel defends herself against people who would like to kill every Jew they can and wipe Israel off the map.
There may be those who fear that the minute on divestment is an act of antisemitism directed against all Jews. We can only re-state what we always have stated, antisemitism is a sin against God and man (that is, the human person) and that our member churches are to repudiate antisemitism and all forms of teaching of contempt. I would like to echo what my predecessor, Emilio Castro, once wrote to member churches: "There is a special obligation for Christians to make sure that antisemitism is combated wherever it appears...The Christian churches are still committed to look into their own traditions, where teachings of contempt for Jews and Judaism proved a spawning ground for the evil of antisemitism. This is why I appeal to Christians in countries where the spectre of antisemitism again haunts the Jewish people, not to fail in their resolve to take action against these acts of racism and to be available in human solidarity."
We love the Jews DIS MUCH!!
We just think they'd be much happier on a lot less not all that terribly defensible land. And what do they need a holy city for anyway?
Our concern is peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians. This is our vision and our prayer and our hope. We have in the last months come across Israeli Jews and Palestinian Christians and Muslims who have dared to go beyond their own communities in bold moves and prophetic action. They go beyond just talking about peace, they go beyond just loving peace, they fulfil the words of the Psalm, they seek peace, and pursue it (Psalm 34:9). In a certain way, they are making sure that reconciliation precedes our eagerness for healing. It is a long and arduous road.
Those Muslims Sam's talking about regularly end their days strung up in town squares by the folks with the Arabic copies of Protocols of the Elders of Zion in their back pockets. But it's the thought that counts.
It would be tragic for those who are suffering if the WCC minute on divestment is not recognized for precisely what it says and exactly what it is.
We do recognize it "for precisely what it says and exactly what it is." That's the tragedy here, Sam. Some of us know that it would be staggeringly dishonest, a distortion of the Gospel and a terrible day for the Christian religion if this monstrous idea ever became respectable. This is why many of us want no part of divestment or of churches or Christian traditions that support it.
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