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EPISCOPAL-JEWISH ALLIANCE FORMED TO SUPPORT ISRAEL

Special Report
By David W. Virtue

A new, small but fast growing organization, The Episcopal-Jewish Alliance has been formed in Boston for Episcopalians and Jews, and the organization is going nationwide to protest what it calls "the unbalanced condemnations of the Jewish State issuing from the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, and from other parts of the Episcopal Church hierarchy."

Dr. Dennis Hale, 58, an activist Episcopalian and associate professor of Political Science at Boston College, a Jesuit institution, said in an interview with Virtuosity that his organization, which numbers more than a 100 clergy and laity, including two bishops, was formed because the Massachusetts bishops explanation of Middle East events "relies entirely on a view of history that has been crafted by the PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and all their terrorist brethren since the 1920s."

"The starting point of that view is hatred of Jews as a people, and of Israel as a nation, and the belief that there can be no justice for Arabs until the Jews have been driven from the region, or subjected entirely to Muslim rule, as in the heyday of the Ottoman Empire. The Palestinian National Covenant is explicit: the claim that Jews have an historic connection to the lands of Palestine is described in that document as a 'Zionist lie'."

Hale, a vestryman at Grace Episcopal Church in Medford, Mass said the goals of his organization was to show the Jewish community that they are not alone in their struggle to defend Israel against the nations and movements that have sworn to destroy it; to promote a deeper understanding of the conflict among our friends and neighbors; and to open the eyes of our Bishops, members of the community of Episcopalians in America, both clergy and lay.

"We started the alliance less than 10 days ago and we are growing by leaps and bounds," he said in an interview.

What galvanized the political scientist were two things. "I saw the photograph of the three Massachusetts bishops in front of the embassy in full red regalia. They were holding signs saying "Christian-Muslim alliance" and a poster showing the destruction in Bethlehem and a house knocked down."

"I wrote a letter to the Boston Globe saying this is ignorance disguised as benevolence and that it reminds us that there is no more deadly combination in this dangerous world than warm hearts and empty heads."

The letter never immediately appeared in the Globe, only supportive letters of the Arab cause and Episcopal bishops, he said. "I became suspicious that they were not going to publish it."

Hale then sent a letter to Bishop Shaw saying, "there are things you should think about. I sent a copy with a different cover letter to the Jewish Community Relations Council saying that I thought there was something fishy at the Globe." Hale never heard from Shaw but he got a call from the Jewish Temple in Newton, and then suddenly the Globe published his letter.

"I suddenly got inundated with letters, e-mails and phone calls. My colleagues in my department grabbed me by the hands and congratulated me. I even got some responses from Episcopalians supportive of the bishop. I got a lot of responses from Jews and four responses from Episcopalians who told him they sent letters that also did not get published."

Hale said the bishop announced talks to "pray for the Peace of Jerusalem." One speaker was Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian Anglican Christian and a prominent Arafat National Council spokesperson, and a former member of the PLO. "It became clear that her words indicated she was a spokeswoman for victory not peace," said Hale.

Hale then got a call from Fr. Keith Roderick, an Episcopal priest in Spoon River, IL saying "we need to do something." Out of this the Episcopal-Jewish Alliance was formed.

The organization declared the following principles:

  1. The fundamental cause of the conflict in the Middle East is the Arab refusal to accept the reality of a non-Muslim state in the region. This refusal is expressed not just as hatred for Israel, but as hatred of Jews everywhere, and it has been fostered for many decades by Arab governments and by the current leaders of the Palestinian people.
  2. The resolution of this conflict cannot be found until the Arab governments and Palestinian leaders stop fomenting the virulent anti- Semitic hatred found throughout the printed, electronic, and internet media in Muslim communities, which includes "blood libels" as terrible as anything found in Nazi Germany, and open praise of suicide bombers as "holy martyrs".
  3. The Bishops' desire for justice for the Palestinians should not obscure the terrible security problem that Israel has faced throughout its existence, surrounded by 22 countries that have sought its extinction, and subjected to a terror campaign against civilians that has gone on uninterrupted for over 50 years. The desire for peace must be accompanied by good judgment, and the judgment of the Bishops has been tragically one-sided.
  4. Under constant attack, Israel has been forced to take self-defense measures which our local Bishops portray as an "unjust occupation" -- despite Israel's withdrawal of its military from Arab villages and towns in the 1990s -- turning the victimizers into victims and the victims into aggressors. This is morally confused and dangerous, because it rewards terror with concessions, and in the process encourages more terror.
  5. Israel has shown itself repeatedly to be ready for peaceful negotiations, honorable but painful concessions, and further talks. But every concession since 1948 has been met on the Palestinian side by demands for more concessions or, as in September of 2000, open warfare.
  6. We lament attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions that rise at an alarming rate all over the world. Just as church leaders helped prevent a backlash against innocent Muslims after the attacks of September 11, they should now speak out against the attacks on Jews and on Israel. By remaining silent they only encourage further anti-Semitic libels and postpone the day when Arab and Muslim leaders finally and truly accept the necessity of living in peace with Israel.
  7. We urge all men and women of good will to stand with our Jewish friends at a time when the Arab war against Israel is being advanced by terror and anti-Semitism all over the world. We must not let this darkness fall again.

The two men say that forming The Episcopal-Jewish Alliance for Israel is a way to have an open invitation to a real dialogue on the Middle East.

Hale said a forum held in Newton recently at an orthodox temple drew an astonishing 400 persons among whom were a dozen Episcopalians and two priests. "I have not experienced anything like that in my life. We have the Boston Israel Action Committee with a100 people with a mix of some 30 Episcopalians and a number of priests." Hale said a lot of priests from across the country were now active and becoming more so by the day.

If you think you might be interested in this movement write to: epjafi@yahoo.com and request to sign up.

Supporting the Episcopal-Jewish Alliance for Israel is the Institute for Religion and Democracy, (IRD) a Washington DC based ecumenical organization largely made up of Episcopalians but supported by old line Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Evangelicals of all denominations.

Alan Wisdom, vice-president of IRD, said in an interview that his organization was taking a proactive stance on the Middle East.

"We needed a response to what some church leaders were saying. It is so unbalanced and it is divorced from traditional Christian teaching about war and peace. It IS a war situation over there, that we felt a corrective was necessary. We don't pretend to have all the answers, but we felt some correction was needed."

There was a need in line with purposes connecting Christian Faith and Western democracy to speak about the situation, he said.

"It seemed to us that the ECUSA leaders like many other old line Protestant leaders have tended to cast blame exclusively on Israel and have not subjected the Palestinian Authority to the same serious moral examination nor the other Arab governments. It seems to me that they have neglected the traditional teaching of the church on just and unjust wars by trying to place all acts of violence on the same moral level. There is no distinction between a terrorist bombing and apprehending terrorist forces. It also seems to me that they don't appreciate the connection between democracy and human rights. The Israeli system is a democracy that has the means for limiting and checking abuses of human rights. The Palestinian Authority and neighboring Arab nations are authoritarian regimes that have no means for correcting human rights abuses carried out by their governments."

Wisdom cited one example. "As Israelis were carrying out their military incursion, they wanted to bury dead Palestinians in unmarked graves. This was deemed offensive, and an Israeli court invalidated that policy and said the bodies should be turned over to Palestinian authorities and in turn to their families."

"Israel has a democratic system and an independent judiciary, but in no neighboring Arab country would you find a court able to reverse a military decision."

Wisdom said it was important to make a distinction between Arab Christian leaders residing in Israel and church leaders here in the US, including the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem. "It is undeniable that they have taken a pro-Palestinian position. But we need to listen to them with all due respect. I hesitate to tell them they have made a wrong decisions about their own situation."

"We have a separate moral accountability system in the US. We have to view the situation in the Middle East with the knowledge we have with both Palestinians and Jews here and Israelis over there, and then decide what seems to be fair and just."

"When church officials attempt to justify their positions it does not give them complete cover. They are and should be vulnerable to criticism. We need to be fair to all sides," he said.

Originally found on: http://listserv.episcopalian.org/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind0204D&L=virtuosity&P=R3493

 


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