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The United Church of Canada, at its General Council this past Thursday, voted to "take no action" on four proposals that had called for a "comprehensive boycott" of Israel. The vote, which effectively rejects the proposals, came after the church underwent embarassing public scrutiny over the proposed resolutions, which ended up overshadowing the entire Council.
Originally proposed by a Toronto committee of the church, the four resolutions had not only called for a boycott of the Jewish State, but also included background material that was outright offensive to most Canadian Jews and many church members as well. Many Canadian Zionists noted that it was deeply troubling that Canada's largest Protestant denomination was debating these resolutions at all. Particularly after the Church's moderator fell short of advocating that the proposals be rejected outright.
BUT ALTHOUGH these specific resolutions ultimately failed, they are but a symptom of a reservoir of anti-Zionism whose power is so alluring that even some Jews fall prey to it.
In trying to defend itself from charges of anti-Semitism, the Toronto committee noted that they have "a Jewish member in our group" as well as the support of the "Canadian Jewish Women Against the Occupation." Similarly, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel proudly heralds the support of Jewish groups such as the "Independent Jewish Voices Canada," and the Israeli Apartheid Week website notes the support of "Not In Our Name: Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism."
WHILE MANY of these Jewish groups purport to merely criticize Israeli policies, in reality they lend their names to outright anti-Semitism. Boycott proposals, such as those that were debated by the UCC, are inevitably one-sided, singling out Israel for punishment and ignoring human rights violators such as China, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, and others. Citing the history of apartheid in South Africa, they blithely ignore the legal and political gulf between Israel's policies and those of the apartheid South Africa. Using words as weapons, the UCC proposals had accused Israel of "ethnically cleansing" Palestinian villages, conjuring up false images of genocide.
Further upping the ante of Jews who express their support for enemies of the Jewish State, no one can compete with the Neturei Karta, who sent a delegation of about a dozen Rabbis to Iran's Ahmadinijad and conferred upon him kisses, a silver memento, and the hope that he would "peacefully dismantle the Zionist State." How any grey-haired Jew could be so blind to Jewish history and suffering is staggering and the fact that the Neturei Karta is but a marginal Jewish group is of only small comfort.
What all these Jews and the Christians from the Toronto committee of the UCC have in common is a terrible blindness - or indifference - to the very principles they wish to uphold. In the name of compassion, they ignore the suffering they would cause ordinary Israeli citizens if their anti-Zionist agendas would actually materialize.
In the name of defending human rights, they would punish the citizens of the only Middle East country with a Supreme Court that defends those rights. In the name of attempting to humanize the policies of the Jewish State, they would usurp the human rights of citizens to choose those policies in free elections. And, in the case of the Neturei Karta, in the name of Judaism, they would harm one of the world's largest Jewish communities.
Ultimately, it is a failure of our education, both secular and Jewish, that so many Jews and Christians believe that it is permissible or even mandatory to boycott Israel. And it is a failure of profound proportions that a church committee representing the largest Canadian Protestant community, in a city with Canada's largest Jewish community, could be so unaware of that community's normative values that it could believe that it was acting morally, and with Jewish support, by targeting the world's only Jewish State.
The writer is author of 101+ Ways to Help Israel: A Guide to Doing Small Things That Can Make Big Differences.