Religious Rally Against Israel

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) tries to organize American religious opinion against Israel with relatively measured tones.  Its participants predictably include officials from the left-dominated Mainline Protestant denominations, liberal Catholic orders, and the Greek Archdiocese of North America, as well as the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the U.S.  Its official “friends” include more overtly anti-Israel diehards like Friends of Sabeel – North America, which essentially wants to dissolve Jewish Israel in favor of a multi-ethnic “Palestine.”   Various advocates of anti-Israel divestment, an otherwise largely defeated cause, are also “friends” to CEMP, including the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, and the Methodist Federation for Social Action.

The star of CMEP’s annual “advocacy” conference in Washington, D.C. starting June 13 will be Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.  Comfortably liberal Episcopal refinement is exactly the sort of tone that CMEP often prefers to mask its more provocative agenda.  Bishop Schori is enmeshed in the melt-down of her own denomination, including lawsuits against departing local congregations, and its schism with the more theologically orthodox global Anglican Communion.  But denouncing Israel still merits her attention.

Last week, she wrote President Obama a relatively long, substantive and, by Religious left standards, temperate denunciation of Israel’s interception of the Gaza-bound flotilla. But the bias and preoccupation with Israeli sins, perceived or real, are still obvious, even if cloaked in Episcopalian politesse.  Admitting all the details of the flotilla event are still unclear, she still insisted:   “It is clear, however, that the deaths of civilians working to deliver humanitarian aid could not have happened absent the counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza.”  Ostensibly there are “far better ways to protect Israel’s security and promote moderate political leadership in Gaza than a blockade that intensifies human suffering and perpetuates regional insecurity.”

What are the alternatives to counteracting Hamas rule in Gaza short of a partial blockade against it?  Like most Israel critics, Bishop Schori does not say.  And as with other professions of supposed concern about Israel’s “security,” Bishop Schori and other clerics who publicly pontificate about the Middle East almost never offer substitute proposals for whatever Israeli defenses they reject.  The security wall is supposedly an outrage, but what else will impede suicide bombers?  Israel’s continued security oversight of the West Bank is purportedly oppresses the Palestinians.  But since most Palestinians still seem to reject a Palestinian state existing peacefully alongside a Jewish Israel, what are the other options?  Religious and secular complainants insist that removal of Jewish settlements from the West Bank is prerequisite for peace.  But the abrupt closure of all Jewish settlements in Gaza hardly generated good will and instead seemed only to stimulate appetite for more Israeli concessions.  Browbeating Israel into endless accommodations that only feed an inexhaustible expectation by Palestinians for further Israeli retreat and eventual Arab/Islamist triumph seems to be the Religious Left’s main strategy for Middle East “peace.”

“Instead of enhancing Israel’s security, the blockade has harmed its international standing and imposed an inexcusable humanitarian toll on the people of Gaza,” Bishop Schori insisted in her letter to Obama.  “While Israel has allowed a very limited amount of humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, the restriction on basic goods for agriculture, fishing, and infrastructure construction has caused poverty and joblessness to soar.”  This may be true, but why is Israel exclusively at fault for Gaza’s suffering?  How was Gaza faring before to the blockade, and under the rule of the Palestinian Authority?  What evidence is there for Palestinian leadership genuinely interested in responsible governance rather than indefinite conflict?

Bishop Schori provided details about the number of trucks with supplies entering Gaza per day. The concern is partly admirable, if sincere.  But why is a U.S. Episcopal Bishop obsessed with living standards for Gaza, or the Palestinians, when hundreds of millions globally live in far greater poverty?  Would Palestinian GNP, in Gaza or the West Bank, interest liberal U.S. bishops at all, absent Israel as the targeted culprit?  How many anti-Western dictators have blockaded or literally starved hostile populations much larger than Gaza, without a murmur from Bishop Schori or the Religious Left?

Rather than tacitly backing an ill-advised blockade, the U.S. should work with its ally, Israel, to promote constructive new policies toward Gaza that serve the aims of peace and security,” Bishop Schori lectured.  The former oceanographer and teacher wants “continued efforts to halt violence, and credible long-term strategies to support Palestinian leaders who are actively working for peace,” while also drawing “support and legitimacy from across Palestinian society.”  She suggests “political reconciliation so that a future Palestinian government can draw strength both from its internal support and from its external actions on behalf of peace.”  How does the Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop, unable to reconcile the divisions within her own denomination of tea sippers and Volvo drivers, propose to reconcile Hamas with other Palestinians, much less Israel?

For Schori, the goals for the Middle East are simple.  The Episcopal Church has “repeatedly” supported a “secure Israel with defined borders, whose right to exist is universally recognized; a sovereign, independent and secure state for the Palestinian people; and shared custody and protection of the holy sites in Jerusalem held sacred by the three great Abrahamic faiths.”  This rhetoric appeals to Episcopalians snugly secure in their New England hamlets.  But how many Palestinians, even outside Hamas, share this vision?

Schori instructed Obama to shift our nation’s posture” towards “lifting the blockade,” while also “robustly” encouraging “long-term peace.”  She also expects “direct negotiation between the parties,” i.e. apparent recognition for Hamas.  How will abandoning the Gaza blockade and recognizing Hamas, which would surely inflate that Islamist group’s prestige and ambitions, advance peace?   In the rarified and often beautiful world of Episcopal liturgy, noblesse oblige, gothic spires, and ancient endowments, simply demanding “long-term peace’ may seem quite attainable over a lunch at the country club.  In the real world of guns, power, and even more ancient hatreds, appeasement often only breeds greater conflict.

Bishop Schori’s pleas to appease Hamas were relatively more thoughtful than other Religious Left voices.  United Methodist lobbyist Jim Winkler histrionically bewailed Israel’s “high-seas piracy” against the “Freedom Flotilla.”  But her appeal to Obama, and her likely commentary to Churches for Middle East Peace later this week, are just as feckless, and, if heeded, just as dangerous.

  • Ex-Episcopalian

    This is a joke coming from a woman who is pillaging her own church and persecuting members who believe in the word of God. She would rather sell an Episcopal church to the Muslims or have it become a bar than sell it to former parishioners who have chosen to break with the Episcopal Church because they can no longer go along with her and other liberal interpretations of the bible and the word of God.

    The church has been pro-Palestinian and anti-Semitic for years…I know as I was a member for 56 years before I left it. Many also don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. I heard a woman priest describe Jesus as a Palestinian of underdetermined parentage. According to Shori Jesus is not the truth, the way or the light. He is just one way to God not the way…I could go on and on but why bother. She is as bad as a mini dictator.

    • guestspeaker

      In my opinion, you did the right thing leaving.
      After 27 in, I left the Non-denom-Evans 'organized church' 9 years ago and never looked back, fearing I would be turned into a pillar of salt!

      The great apostasy is upon us and the great deception has begun. My advice is to stick one's nose deep into the Word of God and be good Berean's.

      The reason these representatives of Hell are able to walk into pulpits and Congressional offices is because of the ignorance of the Body of Christ.
      Elohim (God, creator of heaven and earth) has left us all the answers and instructions and has since given us His Spirit, 'the Spirit of Truth' so that we can understand His Word[s]. Instead of spending time learning from Him, through His word, the sheep are listening to anti-christs! Luke 18.8 "However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"

      • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/internetelias internet elias

        Amen! Again, I say AMEN!

  • Gookle

    Assuming for the sake of argument that Yeshua aka Jesus is the person to face for judgment at the end of history, I wonder if these anti-semitic churchmen have understood that he would be JEWISH. No Jew, Yeshua/Jesus or anyone else would look upon such antisemites with sympathy…

  • John

    "What are the alternatives to counteracting Hamas rule in Gaza short of a partial blockade against it? Like most Israel critics, Bishop Schori does not say."
    She knows, I hope, that the only change that will really promote peace in the region is the conversion of Hamas to belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps she could, or should, be putting her heart and authority into that, instead of pretending to be Obama's political advisor. Why not start with an episcopalian mission in Gaza?

  • Marty

    anti-semites are boring. It's the same uninformed and undocumented crud that has been spewed for centuries. They know nothing about Christianity or Judaism and less than that about the islam death cult they protect and worship. They must be into self-loathing since they apparently can't wait to be destroyed by jihadists.

  • USMCSniper

    She is just another mindless liberation theology lesbian nutcase spewing for her anti semitism.

    • denny

      Amen ! & Amen to that she will have to answer to the Lord some day.

  • LIbby

    Ahh…. And what are their positions on, say, Darfur? What are they doing to prevent the genocide in Darfur?

    Somewhere between 20,000 and 400,000 dead in the past six years. But Jews aren't doing the killing, so it's not worth any effort.

    This is not moral equivalency. This is anti-Semitism.

    What would Jesus do?

  • Rick

    I checked their own list of 'partners'. I did not see any Orthodox officials listed. I would be incredibly surprised if there were. In fact, should any appear, I will personally notify the appropriate Church leadership. We have no interest in 'Christianity Lite' and its misguided social agenda.

  • Jim Johnson

    The Protestants should not allow their tithes and offerings to support the false prophets mentioned in this article.

    Established religion is appealing less and less to it's working members because there is a power structure in their churches. The occupiers of the Power structure leaches off the members labors to support them selves and to propagate their favorite ideology .

    The members do not need these false prophets(sponges). It is the false prophets that need them for financial support.

  • Ex-Episcopalian

    She doesn’t believe in conversion from one faith to another. She thinks that all have their “own way to heaven through their own god” and that is just fine and dandy and the Jesus is only the Christians way to heaven. I’m ok your ok, let’s all get along as we walk the labyrinth or do the sufi whatever…the Episcopal church has two homosexual bishops and many priests. From what I have read unmarried couples (gay or straight) live and sleep together at the seminaries. They have gongs and services for animals not to mention a clown mass held at Trinity Wall Street http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/webcasts/videos/
    She is big into the UN’s millennium goals, suing parishes that have left the church for the property and all items in the church and offices. Social Justice is the buzz word not Jesus or God.
    To see how far the Episcopal church has gone downhill check this out from one of their retired bishops http://www.adherents.com/largecom/epis_12theses.h

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Stephen_Brady Stephen_Brady

      Having read Bishop Spong's "theses", I can see why Episcopalianism is in such a horrible condition, at least, in the United States. The 12 Theses are full of practically every heresy contained within 2000 years of the Christian faith.

  • Big Elk

    Jesus would have thrown this jezebel out of the temple and into the street . And besides, Espiscopalians have always been poor excuses for Lutherans, anyway. LOL

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/RogueWave24 RogueWave24

      I thought we were poor excuses for Catholics. Maybe we are just poor excuses.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/RogueWave24 RogueWave24

    "…her own denomination of tea sippers and Volvo drivers."

    That's funny!

  • ahem

    Correction–There may be one or two deluded crackpots from the Antiochian Church in there, but they by no means represent the whole church, which is extremely conservative. It is the original church of Antioch and, as such, has a large contingent of Syrians and Lebanese, who primarily live overseas. As the only Eastern Orthodox church in the US to encourage Americans to join, the Antiochian Orthodox Church is home to a large contingent of very conservative American Christians, 95% of whom view this with as much distaste and alarm as you do. Unfortunately, the guises of marxism are many, and it has succeeded in wending its way deeply into the cultural fabric of the church under the pretense of being a 'peace movement'. It has already killed the Episcopal Church and is devastating the Roman Catholic church–those are the morons who voted for Obama.

    So, get it straight: the Antiochian Church is most decidedly NOT left-wing, and the vast majority of us support Israel without question.

  • almaskeen

    I second the comments made by ahem (above). The Antiochian Orthodox Church makes a point to be represented in as many venues as possible where they can support the interests of Middle Eastern Christians, regardless of the trite "liberal" or "conservative" labels thrown around so easily.

    Keep in mind Christian Lebanon sided with Israel several times in recent history. In the 1970s the Lebanese fought a guerilla war against Arafat and the PLO. Lebanese anti-Israel foreign policy is largely the result of brutal Syrian domination. So the Antiochian Orthodox have a better clue than most.

    Also, the "antisemitism" label doesn't apply very well to the Orthodox. In addition to Arab, Antiochian Churches comprise Arameans and Russians of Jewish descent. Antiochian Orthodox attend such events to represent the interests of their Palestinian brethren who simply don't like being treated like Blacks in the old South. Political disagreement with Israeli policy isn't antisemitism. The Antiochian Church does, however, need to be very careful about the company they keep.

  • Laurie Davis

    The "Episcopal Church" continues to be a politically activist organization, leaning so far left they make Lenin look good Shori and her crowd believe that 'all white people are born racist', they under the tradition and values that have long been held in that church and mock them publically. I became aware of the 'clown show' at Trinity Wall St. a number of years ago, when I began to wake up to the group that I was supporting every Sunday with my envelope in the collection plate. I have seen youtube videos of the Bishop in San Francisco riding in an open convertible in the gay pride parade, with grown men dressed with leather thongs on their private parts and masks and whips and chains.

    I have heard a priestwrite about bat sh..t on the alter in his Christmas Message letter to the congregation and watched faithful members being forced from a church that they and their ancestors helped build. There is no Christianity in the Episcopal Church….. it has become the antithesis of what Christ taught.

  • Laurie Davis

    The Episcopal Church and the rest who are 'advising' political strategy should lose their Tax status as 'not for profit'. They have enough money to pay a cast of lawyers to take properties away from congregations who actually built them….. let them pay taxes to the government like the rest of us.

    • guestspeaker

      Laurie, not just the Episcopal Church but ALL of THEM!

      Never, never did the 12 teach that this thievery within the Church be acceptable. The lesson in NT was for the 'earning of your keep' or in other words 'room and board' from those who are hospitable within the church. Never did they mean to build giant expensive buildings and leaders going on Cruises on the backs of the flock!

      I go ballistic when I hear church leaders inviting their audience 'to join them for their Winter, Spring, Fall and Summer Cruises (and other world-wind tours)!

      Well the King Clown painted His face with His own blood, the ONE who died on the cross-not to entertain but-to Save His audience and yet most laughed; but He will cause those who 'feign' obedience to……

      "say to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;…." Rev 6.16

      Laurie, let us always remember that Yeshua (Is. 7.14; 'ImmanuEl' ) was born to the House of ISREAL, not the house of the Europe or the United States.

      May the Lord have mercy on us who believe.

  • http://www.toevangelizeepiscopalians.com Tony

    It is obvious that Ms. Shori is either clueless or following the lemmings path to destruction of her own beliefs.

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  • Spengler47

    I'm not sure which is worse, the radical left agendum of Bishop Schori or the really nasty comments by readers of this column about Episcopalians. I am a lifelong Episcopalian and I am by no means radically left. I would describe myself as a moderate conservative. I certainly believe in Israel's right to exist within secure borders as a Jewish state. I am 65 years old and of German descent, so I absolutely do not want to see any repetition of what happened to the Jews in Germany between 1933 and 1945.

  • Lisa Whytock

    I am an Antiochian Orthodox christian in Washington state. I stand with Israel in her fight against the Hamas terror group. I pray for the Palestinian Christians who have gotten caught in the crossfires as Israel attempts to defend herself. Irregardless of the claims of differences between the Jew and the Christian as far as who is really the true part of God or has more rights then another has no bearing here. What has bearing is that both the jew and the christian has something in common. Islam wants them gone. Thankfully, there are those muslims who have not approved over there and have lost their lives unfortunately by trying to help a christian as Hamas used the people as human shields. If islam gets more foothold then they have, there will be a total attack on both jew and christian alike. You see, the muslim sees no difference in the “People of the Book”. their god is not the same god and theirs is supposed to totally control the world. Christ was a jew, I have jewish blood running in my veins as well as my husband and our children. We are Christians as we love Christ and wish to follow his teachings. I do not hate the muslim, but I detest the islam of their god. I detest the destruction of what their cult stands for. I pray that those Christians who have been losing their very existance because of the islamic persecution will get some relief. I pray that islam is stopped before it is too late.