The following article originally appeared on the FrontPage Magazine website, and is reproduced with permission.
Anti-Israel Divestment measures have mostly been defeated or preempted throughout the nearly 80 million member global Anglican Communion. But chronic anti-Israeli bias among Western church elites lives on. A global Anglican governing body early this month denounced Israel’s stance towards Palestinians as a “physical form of apartheid.”
For many on the Religious Left, fighting apartheid-era South Africa’s racial injustices was the last truly joyful and successful crusade. So, imagining that “apartheid” still exists is a useful dream for many diehard church activists. For the Religious Left, only Israel and the United States are acceptable national targets for denunciation, so by default the “apartheid” allegation attaches to Israel.
By comparison, an Anglican resolution on Korea lamented “political division” on the Korean peninsula and “starvation” in North Korea. But it somehow never empathized with the victims of North Korea’s brutal tyranny. Apparently that couldn’t compare to apartheid, since North Korean communists grandly starve, persecute, imprison, torture and murder without regard to ethnicity.
The Anglicans, meeting in Jamaica for their international Consultative Council, ritualistically denounced “current Israeli policies in relation to the West Bank, in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions, [which] have created severe hardship for many Palestinians and have been experienced as a physical form of apartheid.”
Arab League pleas for peace were praised by the Anglicans, of course, while Israel was sternly instructed that it must “end its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” “immediately” freeze all settlement activity in “preparation” for a Palestinian state, remove the “separation barrier,” end Palestinian home demolitions, and close all military checkpoints in the Palestinian territories.
And what did the Anglican elites demand that the Palestinians and their Arab patrons offer in return? Apparently nothing.
The final Anglican statement was watered down from an initial broadside against Israel proposed by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, which condemned Israel’s “portioning of the West Bank into bantustan-like areas” and its “judaization” of Jerusalem. Complaining about Jerusalem becoming too Jewish apparently ignited alarm bells among more media savvy Anglican bishops, like Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who urged the incendiary language’s deletion.
“Judaization is a word that I cannot, in conscience, accept,” Williams opined, according to the Anglican Journal, because such language equates “the political machinations of the Israeli government” with “people of faith” in Jewish society. “It’s clear that we cannot rise in good conscience without saying anything about the level of injustice and the level of suffering” by Palestinians, he admitted. But he urged gentler verbiage that would not imperial the Anglican Communion’s interfaith dialogue with Jews.
Besides complaining about the Jewishness of Jerusalem, the original resolution slammed Christian Zionists, who “purport to give divine legitimacy to Israel’s claim over the land of Palestine and that encourage Israeli violence against Palestinians, contradicting our faith in the God who loves all people equally and unconditionally and calls us to do justice for the oppressed and blesses us when we are engaged in peacemaking.” The Anglican Journal added that an Anglican interfaith official suggested a sweeping denounciation of pro-Israeli Christians might unnecessarily distract from the issue of demonizing Israeli Jews themselves. The language was removed.
Denouncing Israel is mostly a preoccupation of left-wing prelates from the West, as well as clerics who in political submission to the Palestinian Authority. But South Africa’s Anglican primate, whose church is far more liberal than Christians elsewhere in Africa, joined in the anti-Israel chorus. According to Episcopal News Service. Archbishop Thabo Makogba told his fellow Anglicans that “Having lived under apartheid and knowing the pain of apartheid,” he readily recognized “the brutality” in the West Bank and Gaza that “segregates God’s people.” The Anglican anti-Israel resolution was “our Christian duty of ensuring that peace abounds in Jerusalem,” he declared. Anglican primates from places like Sudan and Nigeria, contending against the violence of radical Islam, almost certainly would differ. But their voices were not present at the Jamaica meeting.
Of course, Egyptian Bishop Mouneer Anis told his fellow Anglicans that Palestinians “are living in a very big prison,” though he did not list which peoples in the Middle East have managed to secure freedom. An Episcopal suffragan bishop from New York interjected her wisdom, proclaiming that “the average American thinks that the conflict in the Middle East is even…I think it falls to Christian minds and to this communion to point out that it is not 50-50.” After all, Israel has tanks and Palestinian insurgents only have stones. And, according to ENS, they have turned to human suicide bombers out of the desperation Israeli apartheid forces upon them. “It should not cause us to be surprised when as a last resort people strap explosives to themselves and use themselves as human bombs,” she observed with all the sagacity that the modern U.S. Episcopal Church often has to muster. “I decry all violence, but unless we are willing to speak for justice…these tensions will continue to increase.”
Compare all this Anglican fire against Israel with a nearly concurrent Anglican Consultative Committee resolution about Korea, whose regime in the North often makes the West Bank seem like Club Med. It urged Korean “reunification,” commended Anglican relief for the “starving population in North Korea” without explaining why they are starving, lamented that the “political situation” in the Korean peninsula had “worsened” without explaining how, implored that “all countries” “desist from confrontation,” and urged a “permanent peace.”
Unlike in the Middle East, where Israel is clearly the aggressor and the Palestinians merely hapless victims, in Korea there are no obvious villains, only an unfortunate situation needing compassionate redress. Perhaps the absence of Jewish influence in Pyongyang explains the lack of Anglican indignation over what is possibly the world’s most squalid regime. And clearly the Anglicans needed all their liturgical energy to denounce the “apartheid” fomented by Israel.
Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.