Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan, past chair of the former Committee of the Church and International Affairs of the United Church of Canada, writes in the Ottawa Citizen claiming that the UCC’s proposed Israel boycott was due to its “deep concern” about the “unholy land”.
Re: Why I went to the United Church conference, Aug. 17.
There is no doubt that Israel is the most democratic state in the Middle East, but that isn’t saying much. I was pleased to read Rabbi Reuven Bulka’s reflections on his visit to the general council of the United Church in which he makes the point that Arabs are included in most aspects of the political and social life of Israel. I have been there numerous times and have met openly with Israeli officials as well non-Jewish professionals in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
What Rabbi Bulka totally omitted in his article, and what the United Church, the World Council of Churches as well as the United Nations and now also the United States are concerned about, is Palestine. Nowhere in his article does the rabbi refer to the West Bank, Gaza and the treatment of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
The United Church over many decades has been expressing deep concern about the refugees after their displacement in 1949. A.C Forrest, former editor of the United Church Observer in his book The Unholy Land (UCPH 1971), which won 10 National Best Seller Awards in a very short time, proved to be prophetic. He was immediately and viciously attacked from many sides and not only from Jewish organizations. His critique stands today, and unfortunately Rabbi Bulka did not address it.
A youth delegation from the United Church recently visited the West Bank, and made its first-hand report of the situation to general council. The group’s testimony was downplayed, to put it mildly, by pro-Israeli groups at the council last week in Kelowna, B.C.
Until the Palestinian situation is resolved by a genuine two “free” state solution, there will be no peace in the Middle East. The United Church is not infiltrated by anti-Semitism but rather deeply concerned that the “Unholy land” become truly Holy.
Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan,
Past chair of the former Committee of the Church and International Affairs
The United Church of Canada
On Harry’s Place, Lbnaz comments:
the letter to the Ottawa Citizen from a Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan, “Past chair of the former Committee of the Church and International Affairs”, unsurprisingly, given the activity of the committee he chaired, makes a glowing reference to one A.C. Forrest, a UCC antizionist and Arab nationalist activist who was chief editor of the UCC’s magazine ‘the Observer’ and who from his editorial chair immediately following the 1967 six day war, ensured that nearly every issue of the magazine would contain an article denouncing Israel. Skoutajan says that critics of the UCC resolutions are at fault for never addressing the validated arguments put forward by A.C. Forrest in his book.
In the chapter entitled: ‘A Church Divided: A.C. Forrest and the United Church’s Middle East Policy’ (beginning on page 86), of Canadian political scientist David Taras and David Howard Goldberg’s book: ‘The Domestic Battleground: Canada and the Arab Israeli Conflict’, the authors provide a balanced history and dispassionate account of the history of A.C. Forrest’s and the Committee of the Church and International Affairs’ antizionist campaign.
And it’s all there, by which I mean, the identitical antizionist talking points that A.C. Forrest, the Observer and the Committee of the Church and International Affairs promulgated in the late 1960’s and early 70’s are the ones we read and hear about today: Israel napalms Arab children; Israel’s military efforts are disproportionate; Israel is worse than Apartheid South Africa; Israel can be paralleled to Nazi Germany; UN Human Rights Commission pronouncements are authoritative when it comes to Israel; All UNRWA clients must be repatriated into Israel (aka the one Palestinian Arab Islamic state solution), in order to attain a just peace; Zionists in the form of a “Network”, and in Canada, masterminded and operated by the Mossad and the B’nai Brith, control the media and the foreign affairs of Western states and not only stifle free expression, press freedom and academic freedom through harassment -i.e. critics referring to antisemitism-, but also penetrate every corner of our nation; We antizionists are martyrs for speaking truth against the power wielded by the nefarious Zionist-controlled MP’s and government (of course notwithstanding Taras and Goldberg pointing out that Forrest and the Committee were received warmly by some, but not all bureaucrats serving in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a small coterie of sympathetic MPs).
And from the other side, Taras and Goldberg show that the UCC did not wind up electing A.C. Forrest to be Church Moderator, despite the support he received and the newly elected Moderator got Forrest and his legal counsel to issue a carefully worded apology to the B’nai Brith. We also learn that both A.C. Forrest and an opponent of his, Rabbi Gunther Plaut, required security due to fears, threats and intimidation on whatever side.
In 1972, about 6 months prior to the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics by the Palestinian ‘Black September’, Forrest published an article in the Observer penned by John Nicholls Booth entitled “How Zionists manipulate your news” which accused Israel of…
causing “a trail of global tensions, the longest and blackest record of international censures against any nation, 1,500,000 heartbroken and homeless refugees and three wars.” Booth argued that “the Zionist network” wielded enormous and disproportionate power and that it was disloyal and sinister. His view was that “Israeli intelligence, through B’nai Brith’s A[nti] D[efemation] L[eague], Zionist organizations, temples and rabbis, penetrates every part of our nation.” He believed moreover that anyone who criticized Israel was certain to be labelled an antisemite and that this was a form of “harassment” used by the Anti Defamation League to intimidate potential critics of Israel.
Forrest’s original position was that he would apologize [as a result of a number of suits and countersuits between B’nai Brith and the Observer and UCC], only if “anybody could show me there was anything incorrect or false in it… I refused to go along with the moderator and secretary of the General Council in coming to any sort of agreement.”
Now I haven’t read A.C. Forrest’s book (which I think is also available on line for the interested), but since Mr. Forrest didn’t think there was anything incorrect in the John Nicholls Booth article he published in 1972, perhaps his acolyte Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan, past chair of the former UCC Committee of the Church and International Affairs, might also want to address the points made in Booth’s article since he expects his opponents to address the antizionist talking points in Forrest’s book.
So, given the UCC’s concern for truth and justice, what do they think about Skoutajan recommending A.C. Forrest’s perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?