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Ecumenical Blast Against Israel By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, August 31, 2009

The departing chief of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) slammed Israel’s “sin against God” in his August 26 good-bye to the world’s largest ecumenical group. 

"Occupation along with the concomitant humiliation of a whole people for over six decades constitutes not just economic and political crimes but, like anti-Semitism, it is a sin against God," declared Kenyan Methodist minister Samuel Kobia, during his farewell to the WCC’s governing central committee.  

The WCC was founded after World War II and, in the wake of the Holocaust, robustly denounced anti-Semitism as a “sin against God.”  Evidently equating the Holocaust on some level with the Israeli presence in the West Bank, Kobia asked his international church audience: "Are we ready to say that occupation is also a sin against God?"

On paper, the WCC is important, with 349 denominations as members, representing over 500 million Christians, or about 25 percent of global Christianity.  But in truth, the WCC never fully recovered from its 1970’s alliances with Marxist liberation movements.  Catholics and most evangelicals do not belong to the WCC, which friends and foes alike view primarily as the voice of declining Western left-wing Protestantism.

Kobia is departing the WCC partly because of his own failure to reverse the WCC’s declining organizational and financial fortunes.  But the WCC has learned few lessons, and the Swiss-based group is little interested in Christian doctrine or evangelism.  Instead, it prefers mainly to echo the bland bromides of European left-wing secularists.  More authentic Global South Christian voices, which are overwhelmingly theologically conservative, are typically ignored, with preference instead given Third World activists largely educated in Western universities and protégés to liberal Western church groups.  

Many African Christians, especially in the north sub-Sahara where contact with radical Islam is troublesome, are very pro-Israel.  But naturally, the WCC only recognizes anti-Israel zealots, like Kobia’s, as legitimate.  In his speech, he condemned "dehumanization" of both the occupied and the occupiers in the West Bank, claiming: "The concern is not only for the victims but also the perpetrators," with Israel naturally qualifying as “perpetrator.”

Kobia recalled, seemingly in agreement, that Palestinians regard Israel’s founding as a “catastrophe” and a “form of 'ethnic cleansing' that saw the largest forced migration in modern history."  This claim about “largest forced migration,” is false of course.  Shortly before Israel’s founding, millions of Germans were forced out of East Prussia back to redrawn boundaries for Germany in 1945.  Millions of Pakistanis and Indians similarly relocated during the bloody division of formerly British imperial India in 1947.  Two million Chinese escaped Mainline China for Taiwan after the communist conquest in 1949.  One million North Vietnamese fled communism for the South in 1956, and nearly as many fled the South in 1975 and later after the communist victory there.  And million Cubans have fled Cuba since its 1959 communist “liberation.”

None of these “forced migrations” are commonly discussed as still morally consequential today, much less a crisis.  These immigrants, and their descendants, whatever injustices they suffered long ago, are largely resettled and acclimated into their new homelands. Only the Palestinians are chronically cited as an ongoing victim group because Israel is the “perpetrator” of their relocation.    

"It is estimated that no less than a million people were expelled from their homes at gunpoint, civilians were massacred, hundreds of Palestinian villages deliberately destroyed, mosques and churches profaned, and convents and schools vandalized,” Kobia claimed, although there were not 1 million Palestinians living in pre-1947 Israel.  Apparently not even the sanitized, official Arab version of history is sufficiently negative towards Israel for Kobia.

The outgoing WCC chief continued with his pseudo-historical diatribe:  "What in 1948 was described by Palestinians leaders as 'racism and ghettoizing the Palestinians in Haifa" has by the beginning of the 21st century in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza become a full-blown apartheid system complete with its brand of 'Bantustans.'" He went on to denounce the “unyielding nature of Israel’s occupation and the endless creation of new obstacles to peace,” including the “multiplication and expansion of settlements on land taken from Palestinians.”  Since Kobia theoretically heads a Christian group, he felt obliged to mention that “hundreds of church-owned properties are at risk” by Israel’s occupation.

Revealingly, Kobia’s 14-page good-bye, so verbose about Israeli “crimes,” said nothing about the Christian villages recently destroyed in Pakistan, about the ongoing persecution of Christians across the Islamic world, or the vulnerability of Christians living in China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba.  He did mention Iraqi Christians, but only because their plight could be faulted on the U.S.:  "Iraqi Christians who had been forced to leave their country simply because they were Christians and the occupation of their country was seen as a form of modern day Christian crusade.”  For the WCC, difficulties for Christians are only distressing if Israel and the U.S. are the villains.

Most of Kobia’s farewell speech, which also obsessed over global warming and the collapse of “turbo-capitalism,” could very easily have been delivered by Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or any number of Third World tyrants who deflect from their own failures by demonizing Israel and the U.S.   Thankfully, neither Kobia nor the WCC speak for most of global Christianity, which thrives, even where persecuted, no thanks to its purported representatives in Switzerland. 

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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