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Anglican Disinvestment

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Isn’t it interesting that the Christians who are most sympathetic to Jews nowadays are either the Catholics or the Southern Baptist Fundamentalists on the Protestant side? You would have thought that the more liberal, open Protestant Churches such as the Anglicans would be more understanding. After all Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, started off very sympathetic to the Jews. He criticized the Pope for being so anti-Semitic. But he had an agenda. He wanted the Jews to convert to his new modified version. When he realized they wouldn’t, he turned into the most virulent of anti-Semites himself. The same thing had already happened with Mohammad. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts! And, of course, the Baptists only love us because they want us all to gather in the Jezreel Valley when Armageddon happens so that we either get killed off or convert, to herald the Second Coming (of Jesus, not the Lubavitch Rebbe). Cannon fodder. In the meantime we are doomed to Hell and eternal suffering. Nice!

Last week the Anglican Consultative Council commended divestment from Israel on the basis of a totally one-sided report by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Without doubt the American branches will follow suit. For years now the World Council of Churches has consistently taken a one-sided position, but now it seems to becoming the official policy of all “moderate” Protestants. This is, in effect, disinvestment from a relationship with the Jews. The writing is on the wall.

Once again I must go through the mantra that I accept that Israel has a lot to be criticized for. But as always I am totally amazed at the absence of reciprocity and proportionality. Nothing was said about the victimization of Palestinian Christians by other Palestinians, or the fact that more Palestinians have been killed by Muslims than Israelis, or why there was no campaign to disinvest from far, far worse regimes.

It must be said that the current Archbishop of Canterbury has strongly opposed this move and there is an absolutely super article by a giant (literally) of the Anglican Church who works tirelessly to mend fences and build bridges, Canon Andrew White (who, in addition to his “day job” in Coventry Cathedral, is also the CEO of the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East). I quote:

The Telegraph editorial summed [the Anglican Peace and Justice Network’s recommendation to the ACC to encourage that provinces disinvest from Israel] with the words “Sanctimonious Claptrap” and that is exactly what it was. . . .

I spend much of my life in Israel and Palestine, every month I sit with those committed to working for peace on both sides of the divide. I know the pain and hurt of both communities. I know it is not possible to understate the pain and suffering of the Palestinians and know too the pain and fear living under the threat of terrorism that the Israelis have experienced.

Making peace is hard work. It is not for the faint hearted and it always requires working with both sides. If this group is really about peace why did they not even bother to go and see anybody from the Israeli Government?

Or are they like so many other so called peace groups who only talk to those they like. That such a group should function in the name of the Anglican Church is a tragedy and that the ACC should pass this resolution is an even greater tragedy. As far as Government of Israel is concerned the work of reconciliation that Lord Carey courageously began happens in the name of the Anglican Church. All that has been happening since the signing of the First Alexandria Declaration for Peace in the Holy Land is now at risk.

This is not a prophetic action but the corporate action of a group of people who are too scared to take seriously the challenge to be true peace makers. This action will be seen as being not only anti Zionist but also anti-Semitic and I know for certain I will never be party to such action.

Interfaith activity is a minefield. Under the late Chief Rabbi Jakobovits, z’’l, I was heavily involved, but over time I have largely withdrawn. Mainstream Orthodoxy has always been ambivalent. The official position is that there should be no theological discussion but it is fine to work together on common political and social goals. You can relax with Muslims because they are monotheists but Christians are idol worshippers because they believe in three Gods (or Shituf, Partnership—but by that token, of course, one shouldn’t talk to Kabbalists!).

Last week my brother-in-law, pointed out a responsum of Maimonides to me, which says you can study Torah with a Christian because he (or she) respects our common Biblical texts, but not a Muslim because Islam claims our holy texts are forged lies! Ho hum. You can’t win.

There is already a flood of offended Jewish polemic in the press over this disinvestment decision. But I wanted to point out that, with Anglicans like Andrew White and the immediate past and present Archbishops of Canterbury, we should realize what good friends we have in the Anglican Church and not go overboard in tarring all Anglicans with the same brush.

Nevertheless this does illustrate why I gave up interfaith for other priorities. I realized that it was too often open and like-minded individuals from across the religions talking politely to each other and getting on like a house on fire while at grass roots the old antagonisms continued to smolder unabated. I confess it’s too easy to give up and we should applaud people like my brother David who keep on working so hard at it.

After all, I am keeping on bashing my head against a brick wall with my priority–my constant battle to assert that to be Orthodox does not require one to be a narrow minded, insensitive fundamentalist who makes life difficult for all but that portion who sees religion as a masochistic obligation.

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