Friday, August 24

United Church bravely opts for boycott

By Ted Schmidt
(He's the editor of New Catholic Times)

Look for the full court press of the pro-Israel faction in 
Canada to go into hysterical overdrive as the UnitedChurch bravely has put modern Israel on trial with its decision to boycott of goods produced in the OccupiedTerritories. The usual chorus of the Toronto Sun and National Post, Israel firsters both, will raise the heat and avoid the light. Many local Jewish organizations sadly will opt for tribalism and reflexively condemn the motion in near apocalyptic terms and with the flimsiest of reasons. the worst of these is: How about SyriaIran? Hezbollah or “sure I am guilty but how about those other guys!”

The fact remains that this 60 year occupation is intolerable. It continues for many reasons. First, because it can due to the overwhelming military superiority of 
Israel’s firepower. Secondly, the craven and idiotic politics of theUSA backed by the blinkered fundamentalist religious support which conflates “the Land of the prophets” with the modern oppressive state. The US government could force the Israelis to bargain seriously if they turned off the financial tap. It is mind boggling to think that a developed country like Israel consumes one-third of US foreign aid. This has allowed Israel to add 650,000 of these illegal settlers since the mid 90s. One wag asked the impertinent question: How can you negotiate over a whole pizza while one side is already eating it?

What has consistently stunned me as a committed friend of 
Israel is the refusal to see, the adamantine resistance for Canadian Jews to go to the West Bank and see for themselves the daily, crabbed and impoverished life of the Palestinians. They simply have no “blood knowledge” of the effects of Occupation. Secure in their privilege as Canadians, they think they are being loyal to Israel while in fact they are betraying her and doing irreparable harm to Judaism. Meanwhile hundreds of church sponsored exposure tours such as the United Church (forget the somnolent Catholics) has wakened the biblical prophetic conscience

The gut loyalty of Jews to 
Israel I understand. I have no problem with the emotional link to Eretz Israel. But it’s like having an alcoholic brother: if you really loved him, you’d get him help, try and bring him to his senses. Canadian Jews in larger numbers are simply feeding their drunken family member more alcohol.This is eminently tragic in the extreme.

For religious Jews a blinkered loyalty never trumps shalom and sedeqah---peace and justice. Tribal values must give in to the universal values of human rights and justice. And indeed many Jewish critics of 
Israel do state this.
Why can’t they see asked the brilliant israeli journalist Amira Hass in 2006. Hass who for years has lived both inGaza and the occupied Territories wrote:

Could it be that you do not know what is happening 15 minutes from your faculties and offices? Is it plausible that you support the system in which Hebrew soldiers, at checkpoints in the heart of the West Bank, are letting tens of thousands of people wait everyday for hours upon hours under the blazing sun, while selecting: residents of Nablus and Tul Karm are not allowed through, residents of the Salem village are not even allowed to be here, a sick woman who skipped the line must learn a lesson and will be purposefully detained for hours.Machsom Watch's site is available for all; in it are countless such testimonies and worse, a day by day routine. But it cannot be that those who are appalled over every swastika painted on a Jewish grave in France and over every anti-Semitic headline in a Spanish local newspaper will not know how to reach this information, and will not be appalled and outraged.

Hass has lived in the 
Occupied Territories, the sole Jewish journalist who does this since 1996. She sees. Those who live 15 minutes away are not interested in seeing.

And those in 
Canada? Where are the rabbis like Lynne Gottlieb of the Jewish Voice for Peace who encouraged the United Church to pursue the boycott as a loving gesture of true solidarity .Gottlieb wrote:

I speak for hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world from a wide spectrum of affiliations who oppose
Israel’s policy of settlement expansion and military occupation. We want to see real change. By supporting Palestinians in their struggle for justice, you are also supporting us, the Jewish people, because the fruit of justice is peace. Peace for everyone in the region,” Gottlieb said. “Now that 171 Palestinian organizations and scores of Jewish groups have called for a boycott of settlement products, I am standing with them. The boycott aligns my values with right action. It accords with my religious beliefs.”

The rabbi explained that the boycott of settlement products has come about because all other avenues of nonviolent struggle have failed to end 
Israel’s policy of settlement expansion, which lies at the heart of the conflict. She pointed to the fact that prominent Israelis including Miko Peled, Avrum Burg, Neve Gordon, Dalit Baum, Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom and thousands of others believe that Israel’s policy of settlement expansion enforced by military occupation is delegitimizing the country.

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