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Condemn or Boycott? By: Mark Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, August 13, 2009


The spiraling, left-dominated United Church of Canada (UCC), rather than focus on its membership implosion, is debating this week whether to boycott Israeli products, among other possible anti-Israel actions at its governing General Council.  One resolution even seems to question the loyalties of Jewish members of Canada’s Parliament.  

Surprise, surprise, the Geneva-based World Council of Churches is so excited about the UCC’s potential anti-Israel moves that it has already congratulated the UCC, even before the church convention has officially voted.   

Although still Canada’s second largest religious body after Roman Catholicism, fewer than 10 percent of Canadians now identify with it, down from a once high of 25 percent.  Just in the last 15 years, UCC membership has plunged from nearly 2 million to 1.3 million.  

But like sister left-dominated Mainline denominations in the U.S., UCC elites almost boast of their dwindling ranks as they instead attach their passions to left-wing political activism.   While non-denominational churches are growing in Canada, along with some Baptists and Pentecostals, liberal religionists continue to celebrate their emptying pews.  Unpopularity is apparently the price of truth-telling, such as portraying Israel as the sole villain of the Middle East.  

One resolution before the UCC convention this week advocates a “comprehensive boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions at the national and international levels, including the suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions.”  It also would urge direct “support” for Palestinian academic and cultural groups “without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts.”   Heaven forbid the Palestinians should have to partner with Israelis!  

This resolution claims that Israeli schools and other cultural groups are complicit in Israel’s “exclusionary regime” towards Palestinians, of which the latest example was Israel’s “assault on the population of Gaza.”  It cites a 2005 call by 170 Palestinian civil society groups for a global boycott against Israel, similar to international sanctions against old Apartheid-era South Africa.  

Another resolution affirms the “international campaign of boycott” against Israel, including “divestment and sanctions” until Israel acknowledges the “Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination.”  It also demands that the Canadian government halt all “political and economic support for the occupation.”  Israeli treatment of Palestinians “meets the definition of apartheid in the Convention Against Apartheid,” it claims. And previous “economic measures” have not compelled Israel to stop its “killing, torture and imprisonment” of Palestinians or to halt its “illegal wall on Palestinian land.”   

This resolution enthuses that a boycott against products and companies “supporting the Zionist policies” will help facilitate an “end to oppression in Palestine” and is a “peaceful” international tool for pressure against the “racist state of Israel.”   A “cultural boycott” will ban Israeli films, and a “sporting boycott” will “take action whenever Israeli teams play outside Israel and pressure sporting bodies to end those links.”  

Reassuringly, this resolution, which came from a Toronto church, insists it’s not advocating boycott against “all Jews,” or “any religious or ethnic group,” but only firms “supporting the racist occupation of Palestine.”   The boycott would not “discriminate” among any “supporters of Israel,” and would even target a Muslim company that is “collaborating with Israel.”  How equitable.  

Still another resolution between the UCC convention demands that the Canadian government “denounce” all regimes that “enforce discrimination based on race, religion, or ethnicity.”  Evidently, Israel is the only regime that qualifies for this attention.  The resolution targets the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement and Canada’s tax deductions for charities, which allows groups like the Jewish National Fund to benefit.   It also laments that Canada established sanctions against the “newly elected Palestinian party [i.e. Hamas] after its 2006 election win. 

Sounding an even more sinister tone, the resolution cites Canadian Parliamentarians who have accepted “sponsored trips to Israel,” which “might be called bribes.”  It also warns of  Parliamentarians who are “affiliated” with Israel or are “duel-citizens” with Israel, though it names no names.  Does the resolution mean to imply that Jewish members of Canada’s Parliament are disloyal to Canada?
 

And a final resolution regrets that the Canadian government has “not shown by its words or its actions a commitment to address the illegal occupation of Gaza, the ongoing development of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and other regions of Palestine, the devastating humanitarian needs of Gaza Strip civilians and the blatant Human Rights abuses” in the 2008-2009 conflict, which the resolution laments resulted in 1400 Palestinian deaths and only 14 Israelis.

Reportedly the UCC convention will vote on its anti-Israel resolutions late this week.  But the World Council of Churches (WCC) could not contain its joy that long.  So WCC Secretary General Samuel Kobia on August 10 generously offered “manifest ecumenical and international support for the UCC in its on-going work for peace with justice in Israel-Palestine.”   He hailed the UCC anti-Israel focus as “efforts to speak truth to power and to discern just solutions with love have inspired other member churches of the World Council of Churches.”  Kobia assured the UCC of his ongoing “solidarity.”  No doubt.

Archaic and dying church bureaucracies assuring each other of “solidarity” as they plunge further into irrelevance is tragic and reassuring at the same time.  Canada’s growing evangelical churches, more spiritually focused than obsessed with left-wing causes du jour, will hopefully fill the void of the receding UCC. 


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


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