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Mourn for Hamas Leaders, Not Christians By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, January 13, 2009

We have long known the Religious Left is morally indifferent towards the right of Jews to survive in the Middle East, but are they also indifferent about the other targets of Islamist terror, including fellow Christians? Sadly, the answer is yes.

The latest stance on Gaza from the nearly $200 million missions agency of the 7.9 million member United Methodist Church is a prime example. "President George W. Bush of the United States has the opportunity to heighten the moral standing of his administration by using his remaining days in office to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, a ceasefire that will effectively permit humanitarian relief to the civilians whose lives have been disrupted by the Israeli invasion of the Palestinian enclave," intoned a statement from Bishop Bruce Ough and former Bishop Edward Paup, respectively President and General Secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries in New York City. "Military strikes are currently destroying homes, schools, and places of worship in one of the most densely populated places in the world."

There is no mention in the wordy United Methodist manifesto of the hundreds of Hamas rockets fired into Israeli towns from Gaza over the years. Nor is there any mention of Hamas' radical version of Islam, its imposition of theocratic Islamic law, its violent take-over of Gaza, or its steadfast goal of Israel's destruction.  Instead, there is only the assumption that Israeli tanks and planes are assailing Palestinians in Gaza without discernible reason, beyond simply aggression or sadism.

"Both an immediate ceasefire and full and unimpeded humanitarian access are desperately needed in response to this latest outbreak of military action," the United Methodist officials continued. "As bombs continue to explode and Israeli tanks roll across Gaza, diplomatic assessments of blame and stubborn adherence to failed policies are unacceptable. Decisive action is required to stop the carnage and to provide for Palestinians who for years have been virtual prisoners in Gaza, hemmed in by closed military borders on all sides."

It seems a mystery why both Israel and Egypt closed their borders with Gaza. The Methodist statement bewailed "periodic outbreaks of violence," as though like a virus, without human instigation. It cited the Israeli "economic blockade" of Gaza, without explaining that Israel was uninterested in commerce with a terrorist regime attacking it with rockets and devoted to a Jew-free Middle East. "A ceasefire that was agreed to in late June dramatically reduced armed attacks for months, yet humanitarian restrictions were not lifted," the Methodists complained, not mentioning the source or targets of these "armed attacks," an admission that would dusrupt their narrative of Israeli aggression and Hamas victimhood.
According to the clerics, the Bush administration must take "decisive action to persuade Israel to pull back from its massive military initiative" and abide by an "immediate, unconditional ceasefire by all," which of course would include leaving in place the Hamas power and terror structure. "The United Methodist Church has a long heritage of support for international law and equal rights as the basis for just and lasting peace for both Israelis and Palestinians," Ough and Paup concluded. "The church has also gone on record numerous times in support of the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from occupied Palestinian lands."

Of course, church officials are not similarly on record in denunciation of Hamas terror.

United Methodist officials, like most of the Religious Left, never denounce radical Islam. This fall, the same Bishop Ough who refused to criticize Hamas on behalf of the United Methodist missions agency, attacked the film "Obsession," while declining to agree that radical Islam poses any special concerns. Purporting to represent the United Methodists of western Ohio, Ough joined in an anti-"Obsession" press conference with, among others, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which shared his concern about the film's distribution in Ohio, and elsewhere.

According to Ough's statement at the press conference, United Methodist beliefs about "doing no harm, doing good and staying in love with God" are "incompatible with the deplorable DVD entitled 'Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,' and its disingenuous distribution in the midst of a national political campaign." The bishop said his church's "prophetic" tradition demands naming the "harm that is being done to our neighbors," which specifically entailed "Obsession's" dissemination through the Columbus Dispatch and dozens of other newspapers beyond Ohio, plus direct mail, resulting in a scary 28 million free copies of the DVD across the nation. 

The film "links Islamic radicalism with pictures of Hitler and mass rallies of his Nazi followers," Ough complained, to "promote fear of Muslims and dark suspicions about Islam." Trying to sound like the lawyer who stood up to Joe McCarthy, the bishop declared:  "This is a time to ask purveyors of prejudice, 'Have you no shame?'"  He denounced the film as "hate speech" whose aim is to incite "prejudice and fear and with our Muslim brothers and sisters." 

Acknowledging that "Obsession" emphasizes that "most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror," Bishop Ough was still distressed by the film's assertion that 10% to 15% of Muslims are “radicals” or support terror, the film's unremarkable assertion that international polls support. But to point out that extremism exists in any group, other than American Christians or Israeli Jews, is unacceptable in the rarified world of the Religious Left. Identifying the problems of radical Islam, the vast majority of whose victims are themselves Muslim, is to "promote fear of Muslims and dark suspicions about Islam," according to the bishop. So much for thoughtful debate.

The Religious Left would gain more credibility by at least mildly criticizing Islamist movements such as Hamas, which, if fully empowered, would imprison, forcibly convert, or kill most of the preferred victim groups that the Religious Left in the West typically champions. But the Religious Left's extreme version of multiculturalism is so brittle that it cannot admit error by any tormentor that does not fit the contrived narrative of chronic Western oppression. 

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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