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Earlier this month the Church of England’s General Synod endorsed the World Council of Churches’ “Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).” Essentially this program enlists anti-Israel church activists from the West to “accompany” Palestinian activists so as to “experience life under occupation.” The church ignored pleas from British Jews, including Britain’s chief rabbi.
Why would anyone want to endorse a program of the marginalized and far-left Swiss-based World Council of Churches (WCC), still best and infamously known for largely siding with the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War’s final decades? During the 1970s and 1980s, the WCC strenuously denounced right-wing dictatorships while ignoring the crimes of leftist tyrannies, often even embracing them, including the tormentors of churches. Even the Soviet Union itself was largely immune to criticism from the WCC, which merrily cooperated with Soviet front groups like the Helsinki-based Christian Peace Conference.
Nearly all the world’s rightist dictatorships are long since gone, so for years the WCC has imagined that Israel is the moral equivalent of Apartheid South Africa circa 1970. Israel is virtually the only nation meriting the WCC’s extensive human rights critique, which includes the ongoing EAPPI that the Church of England has now endorsed. Why the specific endorsement was necessary must be asked, since the church, by virtue of its membership and fees, already amply supports the WCC. So evidently the endorsement was for amplification of its moral solidarity with the WCC and Palestinian liberation.
Apparently the anti-Israel vote was not even that controversial within the church’s General Synod. The total vote was 201 votes to 54, with 93 abstentions. Clergy voted 4 to 1 in favor, while the laity voted 3 to 1. Twenty-one bishops supported it while just 3 voted against. The many abstentions maybe indicate many Anglicans were just too befuddled or morally confused to decide or go on record.
Even Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, now cruising towards early retirement, could not help but pile on verbally though himself characteristically abstaining in the vote after supporting an effort to dilute the statement. He shared his “respect and gratitude for the immense courage and dedication of the volunteers” in the WCC anti-Israel program. And he sardonically observed: “There are some people, in their uncritical assumption that the government of Israel can do no wrong, who are clearly going to be very irritated by information being disseminated of the kind that EAPPI does.”
Remarkably, Archbishop Williams even seemed to discern moral equivalence between the Holocaust and the Palestinians’ situation. “Half an hour at Yad Vashem will persuade you, if you need persuading, why the state of Israel needs to exist securely,” he noted of Israel’s memorial to Holocaust victims. “Half an hour at a check-point will persuade you, if you need persuading, that there are forms of security that are indefensible and unsustainable.”
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