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World Council of Churches Faults Israel By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, February 07, 2008

In a remarkable January 22 letter, the head of the World Council of Churches (WCC) exclusively denounced Israel for the crisis in Gaza while avoiding all mention of Hamas’ misrule and its firing of Qassam rockets into Israeli border towns. Naturally, Kobia did not mention Egypt’s having joined Israel in its partial embargo against Gaza since Hamas’s June 2007 putsch there against the Palestinian Authority.  

“Like many of you, we are receiving alarming reports from Gaza, where people have been suffering for a long time from isolation, siege and collective punishment by the government of Israel,” intoned WCC General Secretary Samuel Kobia. Evidently, the international ecumenist believes that Israel should indefinitely ship supplies into the Hamas-run Gaza even while Hamas plots terror strikes against Israel, which completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

The Rev. Kobia went on to quote an appeal from the heads of churches in Jerusalem, who noted that:   “One and a half million people are imprisoned and without proper food or medicine. 800,000 without electricity supply; this is illegal collective punishment, an immoral act in violation of International Law. This cannot be tolerated any further. The siege over Gaza should end now."

The church heads in Jerusalem at least have the excuse that they preside over a small Christian minority among the Palestinians.  For their own self-protection and for the protection of their dwindling flocks, they bend over backwards to burnish their pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel credentials.  But Rev. Kobia, residing in the safety of the WCC’s offices in Geneva, Switzerland, cannot quite lay claim to the same excuse.

And even from their vulnerable perch, the Jerusalem church heads, representing Catholics, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutherans, still cited the Palestinians’ continued volley of rockets into Israel.  And they called upon the “Palestinian Leadership” to “unite in ending their differences.”  For the Jerusalem prelates to come this close actually to criticizing Palestinian officials is rather exceptional.

But Rev. Kobia, ever faithful to the WCC’s historic biases and double standards, could not bring himself to reference, however obliquely, that Palestinian officials, especially Hamas, have been less than helpful.  “Speak out for the people of Gaza calling for an end to the siege, an end to their collective punishments and a negotiated ceasefire,” Kobia implored.  “Address your parishes, the public, your governments and the embassies of governments most directly involved in the Middle East – the United States, Israel, the European Union and Russia.”

Inevitably, the WCC always claims that endorsement of its far-left Liberationist themes is somehow a boost to vulnerable churches. Help and manifest your solidarity with the churches in Palestine,” Kobia urged.  “Gaza lives under collective punishment, incursions and siege. Churches and related agencies are serving some of the needs.”   How does ignoring the depredations of Hamas, with its Islamist theocratic aspirations and chronic thirst for terror, help Palestinian Christians?   Christians in Gaza were already very few, and they have not fared well since Hamas’ coup d’etat last year.

Kobia lamented that “many churches and ecumenical partners” have told the WCC that they “feel helpless when confronted with the situation in Gaza.”  But the WCC chief, quoting an earlier WCC pronouncement, assured them that, “We will act and pray and speak and work and risk reputations and lives to build with them bridges for an enduring peace among the peoples of this tortured and beautiful place.”

Such impressive words.   But if the WCC were really willing to “risk reputations” and speak truth to power, it would denounce the virulent form of radical Islam that specifically animates Hamas and, more broadly, that fuels much of the Palestinian and pan-Arab refusal to recognize Israel’s existence.   Kobia urged his member denominations to offer their “solidarity to the heads of churches in Jerusalem.  “Solidarity” against what?  Presumably the callousness of imperial Israel, which has declined to fully subsidize the Hamas regime in Gaza. 

Portentously, Kobia concluded his communiqué by insisting that his WCC “has always held that justice among the states and peoples of the Middle East must be based on the international rule of law.”  Of course, his concerns about the “rule of law” are very selective and apply only against the misdeeds, real or perceived, of Israel or its American ally.   In November 2007, the WCC’s representative to the United Nations, Christopher Ferguson, joined in a “solemn commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”  He told his supportive audience that, “Neither Palestinian internal conflicts nor ‘terrorizing’ Qassam rocket attacks justify denying food, fuel, economic livelihood, medical care, freedom to travel and study not to mention the threat to cut off electricity to 1.5 million innocent civilians.”      

Why the WCC quotation marks around “terrorizing” as an adjective for the rockets that Hamas supporters regularly fire into Israeli population centers?  In contrast to the surreal WCC, both Hamas and its intended victims agree that the intent behind the Qassam rockets is indeed to terrorize Israelis.  But at least the WCC’s representative at the UN actually mentioned the rockets, however dismissively.  Rev. Kobia, looking out over the placid waters of Lake Geneva from his sumptuous office, perhaps prefers to remain insulated in his own pseudo-ecumenical cocoon. 

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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