Sunday, December 05, 2004

Thought for the Day: ECUSA and Anti-Semitism

The following is a letter/editorial from the Rt. Rev. Edward Little, bishop of Northern Indiana. As this is something near to my heart, I felt like I needed to post it here on my blog. While I agree that Israel is no paragon of domestic peace and tranquility, I do have to agree that I think part of what Little talks about here in the church is modivated perhaps by benign anti-semitism. I have certainly heard some border line slurs here at Seabury at various "Peace and Justice Ministries" programs when on the issue of Israel is brought up, which troubled me greatly. I amnot going to name any names or specific events, but I have since refused to go to any such activities here at Seabury since. I've been to Israel, I've seen a lot of stuff including a suicide bombing amongst other things. I don't know what the answer is, frankly. If I did I would run for God. I do think that to simply blame Israel is simplistic. Both sides are right and both sides are wrong here.
I do take issue with the idea of divestiture (that is to say removing investments from Israeli companies, etc.) Its my experience that the small companies are the ones actually trying to make a living and promote peace and prosperity. I don't see why embargoing trade with Israel is going to bring peace, it just makes the problem worse, and will force Israel into even further
xenophobia. Case in point: Cuba. Embargoing Cuba has not done one thing to hurt the power structure we were trying to undermine, all it did was make the common man suffer. Is that not anti-thetical to what "social justice" ministries are supposed to be about? Well, anyway, I will end my rant. Here is the article:


By Edward S. Little II
I know how anti-Semitism feels — its alluring tones, its subtle and varied shades. When I was 7 years old, my family moved from New York City to Fairfield County, Connecticut. You may remember the 1947 movie Gentleman’s Agreement. Gregory Peck stars as a Gentile newspaper reporter investigating post-war anti-Semitism. And so he presents himself as a Jew and watches people’s reactions. At one point he visits a posh country club in Darien, Conn., and attempts to register at the desk. “Does it matter that I’m a Jew?” he asks the clerk. Indeed it does. Suddenly the clerk discovers that the club’s guest rooms are filled. I grew up only a few miles from Darien.
My gene-pool is quintessentially American: Potato Famine Irish and Puritan Blue Bloods on my father’s side, Lithuanian Jews on my mother’s. When my family moved to Connecticut in 1954, my mother said to my sister and me, “Don’t tell anyone that I’m Jewish.” We had no idea, of course, why she made that request, but we honored it. I listened to my friends and neighbors and met genteel and sophisticated anti-Semitism. I learned about “restricted” clubs, about ethnic stereotyping (“Those Jews — they’re so good with money!”), about veiled hostility (“Watch out for the Jews, they’re pushy”). You didn’t find skinheads in Fairfield County, or members of the Aryan Nation, or neo-Nazis. No one burned crosses or desecrated Jewish cemeteries. But everyone knew that Jews had their place; and that place, clearly, was not in our neighborhood.
To my shame, I remained silent. Now, 50 years later, I meet that same genteel and sophisticated anti-Semitism — in the Church which I am privileged to serve as a bishop. Its form has changed. Gone, on the whole, are ethnic stereotypes (though I have heard one Episcopal leader warn of the danger of the “Jewish lobby” in Congress and another assert that “Jewish financiers” raise enormous sums of money for the state of Israel). Indeed, we give lip-service to Jewish-Christian dialogue. Our hostility has morphed. Today it wraps itself in the mantle of “peace and justice.” It claims to side with the oppressed. I refer to the Episcopal Church’s relentless hostility to the state of Israel, a hostility that’s expressed in General Convention resolutions, in Episcopal News Service (ENS) press releases, in Episcopal Life articles, and in pronouncements from the Episcopal Church Center. This time I will not be silent.
Make no mistake about it. For Jews, the state of Israel represents hope in a world where — within living memory — their very existence was endangered. To hate Israel is to hate what is precious to our Jewish brothers and sisters. All Jews, from the ultra-Orthodox to the most secularized, see in the creation of a Jewish state a sign that finally they have a place; a sign that finally they are safe; a sign that finally they are home.
I keep a folder in my computer of every piece of e-mail I receive from Episcopal cyberspace on the subject of the state of Israel and the tragic conflict in the Middle East, and a file in my desk for clippings from Episcopal Life and other sources. To read document after document is to be overwhelmed by consistent antagonism to the state of Israel. Normally Anglicans nuance their response to significant issues, seeking balance and perspective. Not so with the Middle East. For example, in June 2004, Episcopal Life ran three articles on the Middle East conflict, all hostile to Israel, one of them dismissing even moderate Christian support of Israel as “Christian Zionism” motivated by fundamentalism.
Another example: ENS on Sept. 24, 2004, ran a release from the Anglican Peace and Justice Network at the conclusion of an eight-day visit to the Middle East. The release is entirely critical of Israel and makes no mention of terrorist acts by groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. One would never know, reading this release, that Israelis are routinely blown up on buses, at Passover suppers, in cafes. The release was signed by representatives of 23 Anglican provinces, including the director of Peace and Justice Ministries for the Episcopal Church. The Jerusalem Post, commenting on the APJN’s release, noted: “The irony is that by visiting Yasser Arafat and not with Israeli officials or anyone who could remotely present our case, the Anglican delegation seemed to indicate that its animosity for Israel exceeded its concern for Palestinians … Israel wants peace more than itinerant ‘peace’ activists can imagine. By giving moral encouragement to terror, they are doing a disservice to Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans.” Israelis, and Jews in general, perceive our attitude as utterly hostile. I believe they are right in doing so.
And now the most recent outrage: ENS on Oct. 1 issued a follow-up to the statement of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network. It deals with the subject of “divestment.” While the APJN release did not specifically recommend that Anglican provinces divest themselves of stock from firms that do business with Israel, it will ask the Anglican Consultative Council in June to inaugurate discussion on such a possibility. The Socially Responsible Investment committee of the Episcopal Church, in response, will ask Executive Council to spend a year “investigating what corporate actions might be appropriate with companies that contribute to the ongoing Occupation.”
There’s a kind of inevitability here. Our ecclesiastical machinery is moving, inexorably it seems, toward one more expression of animosity toward Israel, an expression that will take us to new depths of hostility. I am saddened, but not at all surprised, by SRI’s request. We know where the “investigation” will lead — unless the Church rises up and demands that we cease our one-sided and unbalanced approach to the tragedy in the Middle East. By the Church I mean you: ordinary Episcopalians, lay and clergy alike, who will contact Executive Council representatives and plead for an end to the current policy, plead that we not take this next and even more dreadful step. This article is intended to provoke just such a revolt.
Is the Episcopal Church anti-Semitic? I don’t know a single leader in the Episcopal Church who would consciously embrace anti-Semitism. Yet our words and actions are perceived as deeply hostile by our Jewish brothers and sisters. They know how anti-Semitism feels — as do I. They know that genteel and sophisticated anti-Semitism can mask itself in apparently benign garb. They know that we Christians are often blind to our anti-Semitism. For the sake of Jesus, our Jewish Lord, I entreat you, my Christian brothers and sisters, to help turn our Church away from this disastrous course.
The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II is the Bishop of Northern Indiana; This article was originally published as a ‘reader’s viewpoint’ on pages 13-14 of the November 28, 2004 issue of THE LIVING CHURCH magazine, an independent weekly serving Episcopalians since 1873. The reader’s viewpoint article does not necessarily represent the editorial opinion of The Living Church or its board of directors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Anti-Semitism? While I applaud Ed's thoughts, I find it striking that this man would (rightly) challenge benign anti-Semitism while, at the same time, cutting his support of Seabury Western because they hired Ellen Wondra as professor of theology - agree with Ed or get the ax, I suppose...