Anti-Israel proposals dominate church meeting
August 7, 2012 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
TORONTO – The United Church of Canada (UCC) will soon deliberate over at least 10 anti-Zionist proposals, most of which demand harsher measures than those recommended by its Working Group on Israel/Palestine Policy.
The UCC will hold its 41st national General Council in Ottawa from Aug. 11-18.
Nora Sanders, UCC general secretary, said that, of the 600-700 people who are expected to attend the conference throughout the week, 358 will have voting privileges as official church commissioners. They will vote on more than 100 proposals.
At the UCC’s 40th General Council in 2009, Sanders was directed to “engage in consultation, dialogue and study...concerning implications of past and future actions to end the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and enter into conversation as to how to move the two peoples toward reconciliation (including, but not limited to economic boycott....”
At Sanders’ request, a working group was formed in 2010, with which she worked closely. The group’s investigations included a trip to the region and resulted in the report, which will be voted upon at the Ottawa conference.
The report begins its recommendations by laying the blame for Palestinian terrorism on Israel. The first requirement for peace, it says, is “the end of the occupation” and the church must continue “to name the occupation as the primary contributor to the injustice that underlies the violence of the region.”
The report sets out the only condition under which it will be acceptable for the church to refer to Israel as a Jewish state: the phrase must be defined “specifically, as a homeland for the Jewish people and a democratic state that ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or gender.”
It adds, “It is unacceptable to insist that Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition of continuing negotiations” and says the church must apologize for having done so in the past.
In addition to the working group’s report, regional church bodies have submitted nine proposals of their own concerning Israel.
According to Mary-Frances Denis, program coordinator, media and public relations, UCC, these proposals would have been brought forward at the UCC’s regional conferences, which were held between May and July.
The Vancouver-Burrard Presbytery and Hamilton Bresbytery want the church to “remove from all future United Church of Canada policy statements and communications any wording which recognizes Israel as a ‘Jewish state.’”
The Working Group on Israel/Palestine Policy recommends a boycott of “any and all products produced in the settlements” and “a church-wide campaign of economic action directed against one or more settlement products that can be identified as produced in or related to the settlements or the occupied territories.”
However, regional church groups are clamouring for wider-ranging boycotts, divestments and sanctions targetting Israeli and Canadian companies.
The 2009 Kairos Palestine Document, A Moment of Truth, is also up for validation and affirmation by the UCC.
This document, written by Palestinian Christians, declares “that the military occupation of our land is a sin against G-d and humanity,” minimizes and makes excuses for Palestinian terrorism and uses the word “evil” 29 times in its characterization of Israel’s actions. One such example: “The aggression against the Palestinian people, which is the Israeli occupation, is an evil that must be resisted. It is an evil and a sin that must be resisted and removed.”
The UCC’s working group suggests “supporting the campaign through accompanying resources such as... the Kairos Palestine document....”
The Hamilton Presbytery and the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario both want the UCC to “accept the Kairos Palestine 2009 document with gratitude” and “repent of its past indifference to the continued plight of the Palestinians...and of its complicity in accepting the continued occupation of Palestinian land.”
The UCC needs to expand its interfaith dialogue and action with Islamic and Jewish organizations “willing to work in accord” with the UCC’s “evolving policies,” the Comox-Nanaimo Presbytery says. “It is important for the United Church to work with Jewish organizations such as Independent Jewish Voices, which are committed to seeing justice for the people of Palestine.”
It is possible that more submissions may be made during the conference. Denis said voting commissioners are permitted to “introduce new business” at the General Council.