Do The U.S. Mainline Protestant Churches Truly Support Palestinian Christians?
Ralph Kostant, who really ought to give up his guest-blogging gig and join this blog as a full-fledged hedgehog, e-mailed me the following:
In the July 11-July 18 issue of The New Republic (TNR), Martin Peretz, its publisher, excoriated the Episcopal Church USA for announcing a policy of exploring divestment of the Church’s investments in companies that, in the words of Bishop C. Christoper Eping, the Church’s Deputy for Ecumentical and Interfaith Relations, “contribute to the infrastructure of Israel's ongoing occupation of the West Bank.” Peretz argued that such an action represented a throwback to historic Christian anti-Semitism. Peretz argued, quite reasonably I thought, that in a world full of cultural and physical genocides against ethnic minorities, such as China’s bloody and suppressive occupation of Tibet; the suppression of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey (at a cost, in recent years, of some 30,000 lives), the iron-fisted Russian campaign in Chechnya, the genocide of Christians and animists in the Sudan, and so many other atrocities, to single out the relatively benign occupation of the West Bank by the world’s only Jewish State might indicate some anti-Jewish animus. That would be true even without an examination of how that occupation came about—as the outcome of Israel’s defense against an Arab attempt in 1967 to destroy the Jewish State; the effect of continuing Palestinian Arab rejection of Israel’s legitimate existence on the prolongation of that occupation; or the historic Jewish claim to Yehuda and Shomron, the lands that the Western world refers to as the “occupied West Bank.”
Nonetheless, in the current edition of TNR, one Jesuit letter writer, Edward T. Oakes from the University of St. Mary of the Lake, makes a compelling argument that the actions of the Episcopal Church USA are best explained not by historical Christian anti-Semitism, but rather by the modern anti-Semitism of the secular Left. Mr. Oakes, who is a witty stylist, writes:After all, one cannot have a theological animus without theology; and, as Peretz showed, the Anglicans have almost none at all. I suspect that Anglicans' vulgar, pseudo-prophetic witness in support of a possible boycott against companies that do business with Israel is but one more sign of their hopeless hankering for
approval from the secular left, whose enmity against Israel (which has now broken out into outright anti-Semitism) can hardly be said to have Christian roots, since it tolerates Christians only when they serve as "useful idiots." I admit, when Presbyterian and Anglican Church bodies indulge in such fatuous politics, they deserve criticism. But, in this instance, they deserve criticism because they are whoring after secular gods, not because they are harkening to Christian Scriptures.
The ever open-minded Martin Peretz simply responded, “Edward T. Oakes is probably correct.”
Bishop Eping, however, not merely disagreed with the charge of Episcopalian institutional anti-Semitism; he was outraged by it. But, to quote Shakespeare, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2. Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2. His letter to TNR goes so far as to say, “Third, it is presumptuous and even outrageous of Peretz to assert the baseless charge that Palestinian Christians don't want to live in a Palestinian state.”
Actually, it is not at all baseless. Evidence abounds, including the tens of thousands of Christian Palestinian Arabs who have fled Bethlehem and other formerly Christian Arab communities in the Holy Land, for the United States and other non-Arab countries, since the Palestinian Authority assumed control over their home towns following the Oslo Accords. Indeed, a number of Arab towns (to be fair, including Moslems as well), have protested their location on the Palestinian side of Israel’s security fence precisely out of the fear that they will eventually be included in a Palestinian state, rather than Israel.
Finally, Bishop Epling might ponder this article from the September 5, 2005 Jerusalem Post, reporting how a Muslim mob ransacked Taiba, a Christian village near Ramallah, from the previous Saturday night through Sunday morning. The riot occurred after the “honor killing” of a 30-year Muslim woman by her family, in the nearby village of Deir Jarir, for the unforgiveable offense of a romance with a Christian Arab man from Taiba. Her family apparently poisoned her and secretly buried her. When the Palestinian Authority initiated an investigation into her death, and proposed exhuming her body for an authopsy, the family protested, fearing that the forbidden relationship would be exposed, to their shame. The natural reaction of the Muslim villagers of Deir Jarir to all this was to pillage and burn the homes of their Christian Palestinian Arab neighbors in Taiba. [Oh, did the Los Angeles Times miss this story? How surprising?]
Yes, Bishop Eping, no doubt Palestinian Christians eagerly look forward to life in a Palestinian state.
Ralph B. Kostant