October 27, 2023

Verbatim: Statement of concern by Canadian Rabbinical organizations on a United Church report


A statement of concern published last year by six Canadian rabbinical organizations regarding a United Church of Canada report pertaining to Israel.

As Canadian Rabbis from across the country who span the denominational spectrum, we strongly condemn resolutions on Israel and antisemitism… under consideration by the United Church of Canada preparatory to the 2022 General Council.

We hope for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace, with the legitimate national aspirations of both the Jewish and the Palestinian peoples fulfilled.

We believe that Christian organizations seeking to advance the wellbeing of the peoples of the Holy Land must (ensure)  they acknowledge and recognize historic tendencies that demonized the Jewish people. Purifying themselves of this legacy includes avoiding the use of pejorative language that incites Jew-hatred and reflecting — rather than ignoring — the post-Holocaust Jewish-Christian dialogue work, undertaken in awareness that Christian anti-Judaism was a contributing factor to the genocide.

The Just Peace Task Group report… affirms that it has “zero tolerance for all forms of racism, including antisemitism.” For this statement to have any meaning, it must be respectful of Canadian Jews. The United Church must allow Jews — as it does every other vulnerable group — to define our own oppression….

For the United Church of Canada even to consider telling Jews what we can — and cannot — consider antisemitism is counter-productive and disrespectful. “Nothing about us without us” is a key principle in all allyship work...

It is more important than ever for the United Church to stand with the Jewish community against the hate we face and not presume to know better and more about Jew-hatred than we do.

The lens of “whiteness” and decolonization is misplaced when applied to the State of Israel, which is the successful outcome of the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. It represents the miraculous return of the indigenous inhabitants of ancient Israel and the revival of Hebrew, its indigenous language. For indigenous peoples worldwide, Israel serves as an inspiration never to abandon the struggle for freedom. ...

In Jewish theological terms, the State of Israel is a partial realization of Biblical prophecies of the return to Zion. Every Shabbat in our synagogues we pray for the welfare of the State of Israel, declaring it to be “the first flowering of our redemption.”

For Christians, people of faith, who revere the Holy Word and seek to respect the teachings of other religious traditions, to denigrate a core aspect of contemporary Jewish belief is bewildering and painful. As Christians, the United Church of Canada should consider the multiple expressions of Covenant in the Bible that bind the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.

The Kairos Palestine document justifies all means to achieving Palestinian statehood. It does not place any limits on violence (or) refer to incitement in mosques and Palestinian media. It ignores the wider context of Israeli-Arab relations and the Palestinian refusal to recognize historic and religious bonds of the Jewish people to our ancestral homeland.

By failing to acknowledge those bonds, the resolution altogether ignores the Jewish roots of Jesus. Protestations against antisemitism and advocacy of love included in the Kairos Palestine document, therefore, ring hollow.

The use “apartheid” is especially upsetting to Canadian Jews. As the vast majority of our community supports the existence of the State of Israel, although we may disagree with particular government policies, accusations of apartheid suggest we are de facto racists…. The interests of Palestinian Arabs will not be advanced through the demonization of Israel and its citizens. To be true agents of reconciliation, the United Church can urge an end to the incitement of violence by all parties… by encouraging all relevant parties to return to the negotiating table so that all the peoples of the Holy Land may live together in mutual respect and peace.

January 2022

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