Category Archives: boycotts

Brian McLaren loves Israelis; promotes White and Ateek

Evangelical theologian Brian McLaren writes:

Please be assured, I love the Israeli people, and I want nothing more than for them to enjoy God’s blessings in a safe and secure homeland. Even in my critique of the occupation by the Israeli government, I’ve tried to be respectful and fair, and careful in my language – although I’m sure I’m far from perfect in anything I say or do. Because I love Israelis and want them to experience true security, I hope they will change certain unjust policies that I believe undermine what they truly want and need.

I suppose that McLaren’s declaration of love for Israelis is welcome, as is his admission that he is fallible in this area.

Perhaps now would be a good time, then, for McLaren to reject his endorsement of Ben White’s call for boycott against Israel. Which other countries would McLaren also recommend boycotting?

McLaren’s endorsement of Ben White is especially worrying given that White seems to think:

Of course, uncritically supporting any Israeli policy for political or eschatological reasons is not the best way to show one’s love for Israel. In the same way, neither is promoting such a polemic thinker as Ben White on the thorny issue of Israel/Palestine the best way to show one’s love for Israel.

I’d like to believe McLaren when he does say he loves Israelis, and he definitely advocates dialogue rather than violence. I hope McLaren could become one of the voices who seeks to find a third way between the polemic talks of Christians boycotting against Israel on the one hand and an overly-romanticised nationalist Christian Zionism on the other hand.

But there’s more.

Now McLaren is warmly speaking of Sabeel’s leader Naim Ateek, despite Ateek’s expressed support for a targetted boycott of Israeli teenage dancers.

So does McLaren love Israelis or not, given that he’s promoting a man who wants to exclude Israeli teenagers from global culture?

In a sense though, it shouldn’t matter. Christian leaders should not need to say they love Israelis. If they teach that Christians should love everyone, then Israelis shouldn’t be a quirky case where the ‘love’ needs some kind of Zionist or anti-Zionist rationalisation.

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Anglican Mainstream on Brian McLaren

Interesting article on Brian McLaren at Anglican Mainstream.

McLaren is an evangelical theologian who calls for Christians to join global anti-Zionist boycott campaigns.

I’ve previously written about McLaren here and here.

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Does Sabeel support boycott campaign against Israel?

This is from the Friends of Sabeel UK website’s Questions and Answers section:

Does Sabeel endorse an economic boycott against Israel?

A: Sabeel does not call for an economic boycott of Israel. It calls for morally responsible investment, ultimately leading to divestment from companies that profit from the Occupation, not from all Israeli companies.

And this is from Friends of Sabeel UK’s summer 2009 newletter: 

BOYCOTT!

The great British public is beginning to rouse itself to boycott Israeli

goods, especially those from the illegal settlements in the West Bank.

The most visible are fruit and vegetables, because we all see them on

the supermarket shelves, but there are many more, hiding behind “Made

in Israel” labels, but made in factories or grown on farms in the occupied

West Bank, on land belonging to the Palestinians

 

 

You can find out from the Gush Shalom website http://www.gush-shalom.org a very detailed list of settlement products, with a list of settlements, and a reasoned Frequently Asked Questions article, written from the perspective of Israeli Jews who oppose the Occupation.

In this country, Friends of Sabeel UK is represented on the Inter-faith Morally Responsible Investment group by Jan Davies and Tony Graham, who will gladly answer questions, both on investment issues, and boycott. The Boycott Israeli Goods and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods campaigns also have a website you can search for information about actions to take: http://www.bigcampaign.org. This includes other forms of boycott, such as academic, cultural and sports boycotts

This information will help you to reach a decision about what you want to do. We encourage you to take any personal action you think is right for you, to join in local and national activities, write to supermarkets and companies, and lobby your MPs. We emphasise that any boycott is to last only until the end of the Occupation. It is not aimed against the Israeli people, but against the Occupation

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Former UCC rep Hanns F. Skoutajan praises A.C. Forrest

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

Ottawa

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?

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More on the UCC boycott

Haskell Nussbaum writes about the failed UCC boycott of Israel in the Jerusalem Post, concluding:

Ultimately, it is a failure of our education, both secular and Jewish, that so many Jews and Christians believe that it is permissible or even mandatory to boycott Israel. And it is a failure of profound proportions that a church committee representing the largest Canadian Protestant community, in a city with Canada’s largest Jewish community, could be so unaware of that community’s normative values that it could believe that it was acting morally, and with Jewish support, by targeting the world’s only Jewish State.

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UCC rejects Israel boycott

Here.

See also:

I expressed concerns about the UCC’s proposed boycott here.

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Limerick 1904/Kelowna 2009

Shame on the United Church of Canada if they follow through with their proposals for a boycott of Israel, which are currently being discussed in Kelowna.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the four resolutions call for a “comprehensive boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions at the national and international levels”. Furthermore, pro-Israel advocacy group Camera complains that UCC members have been pushing a faulty analogy between Israel and apartheid South Africa in order to justify the boycott proposals.

However, the UCC are insisting the proposals are not intended to be antisemitic. Their spokesman Reverend Bruce Gregersen commented:

The Canadian Jewish Congress has consistently argued that language that seeks to undermine the existence of the state of Israel is anti-Semitic. And we would agree with that[…] But these proposals are not meant to undermine the state of Israel but rather calling on them to make moves towards peace. In 2003, the Church said that we affirm the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. And that’s a significant commitment. What is means is that we are strongly supportive of the existence of Israel for the sake of the Jewish people in the world.

The UCC doesn’t seem to grasp a simple point: just because you are not being racist deliberately does not mean you are not being racist.

Does the UCC not realise the history of church boycotts against Jews? For most Jews this boycott will have nothing to do with the Middle East. This policy will be interpreted as the next shameful episode of Christian antisemitism. It will be an embarrassment for the church itself, and will cause more harm than good.

The Kelowna boycott is intended to hurt Israeli businesses. It will also affect Jews with cultural and academic links to Israel, and will lead to the exclusion of individual Israelis who hold similar political views on Israel/Palestine to the UCC. People will be shunned from public life because of where they are born.

As for historical resonances, you can learn about the 1904 Limerick Boycott here, which was inspired by clergyman Fr John Creagh.

Justifying his decision to boycott Jewish business in the Northern Whig, 8 Feb 1904, Creagh wrote:

“…and, as for the Jews in business, I am quite prepared to admit that there are many who are irreproachable. What people have been pleased to call my crusade has been directed only against a class of Jewish traders who grind and oppress those who are unfortunate enough to get into their power – who exact extortionate sums under the instalment system from those who can ill afford to pay them.”

The United Church of Canada should be able to show its desire for peace between Israelis and Palestinians without excluding persons and businesses of either nationality.

Yet clergy-led boycotts of Jews are a part of a shameful history of Christian antisemitism that should be shunned by all churches which are serious about avoiding racism and discrimination.

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