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Middle East Issues





The World Council of Churches Broadcasts a Lethal Narrative


The World Council of Churches, founded in 1948, has had a troubling attitude toward the state of Israel. The WCC's animus has been documented by CAMERA analyst Dexter Van Zile in an article published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The article, "Broadcasting a Lethal Narrative: The World Council of Churches and Israel," is available here.
 
On Oct. 4, 2011, Van Zile sent the following letter to the World Council of Churches:
 
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit
General Secretary
World Council of Churches
Geneva, Switzerland

Dear Rev. Dr. Tveit:

My name is Dexter Van Zile. I am a Christian who resides in the United States.

In my professional life, I am the Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). CAMERA monitors media coverage of the Middle East, especially of the Arab-Israeli conflict. I write this letter after completing an analysis of the WCC's “witness” about the Arab-Israeli conflict that was recently published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. A copy of the article is enclosed.

During the course of preparing this analysis, it occurred to me that the god that inheres in the WCC statements about the Middle East is obsessed with Jewish sin and scared to death of Muslim extremists. Such a craven and anti-Semitic god is not worthy of worship, but that is the god implicitly proffered by the WCC in its public witness about the conflict and about the region as a whole.

The WCC's obsession with Jewish sin can be seen in its commentary about the Arab-Israeli conflict. The World Council of Churches speaks about the modern state of Israel in a manner similar to the way Christians spoke about Jews in Medieval Europe – as a uniquely sinful nation worthy of contempt from all right thinking Christians.

By depicting Israel in such a manner, the WCC assists in the demonization of the Jewish people. Only a monstrous and hateful people could support Israel as it is falsely depicted in WCC materials.

I know that the WCC has forcefully condemned anti-Semitism on a number of occasions and in a number of different venues. I know that the in 1946 the Provisional Committee of the World Council of Churches, which laid the groundwork for the WCC's founding in 1948, expressed a “deep sense of horror at the unprecedented tragedy which has befallen the Jewish people” as a result “of the Nazi attempt to exterminate European Jewry” and called on Christians to testify that anti-Semitism violates “the spirit and teaching of Jesus Christ.”

I also know that in 1948, the WCC's First Assembly passed a resolution admitting that the church had “helped to foster an image of the Jews as the sole enemies of Christ, which has contributed to anti-Semitism in the secular world.”

Sadly enough, these historical condemnations of anti-Semitism can be used to highlight the anti-Semitism of the WCC's current witness about the Middle East in general and the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular. In sum, The WCC's witness about the Arab-Israeli conflict has helped to foster an image of Israel and its supporters as the sole enemies of world peace. This narrative has contributed to anti-Semitism in the secular world and is contrary to the spirit and teachings of Christ.

The WCC and its institutions offer up an anti-Semitic witness in four major ways. [1]
 
First, it uses a troubling double standard when assessing the behavior of Israel and its neighbors in the Middle East. The actions of Israel, the Jewish state, are subjected to intense scrutiny and regularly condemned with accusatory language and inflammatory rhetoric.

By way of comparison, the actions of other countries, political leaders and movements are often ignored.

When they are mentioned, they are addressed in an apologetic and appeasing language. Authoritarian regimes murder their own citizens and the WCC offers words of admonition and prayers for peace. Christians are murdered and oppressed by Muslim extremists in Iraq and Egypt and the WCC speaks in a conciliatory manner about the need for peace between the world's religions.

By way of comparison, Israel kills civilians in the context of a defensive war and the WCC screams bloody murder and portrays the deaths as an assault on the Holy Land itself.

Secondly, WCC materials demonize Israel. WCC materials routinely criticize Israel's efforts to defend itself without providing any reference to the threats it faces. The impact of Israeli security measures are depicted in lurid and inflammatory language and treated as insults against the landscape of the Holy Land itself.

On this score, the WCC's Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine Israel (EAPPI) and the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) are particularly guilty. EAPPI materials portray Israeli policies in a pornographic manner that invites readers to yield themselves over to unreasonable contempt and hostility toward Israel the Jewish state. PIEF materials do the same thing on a theological level. The PIEF's support of the Kairos Document, which portrays Palestinian terrorism as “legal resistance” is just one example of the PIEF's role in this process.

Thirdly, the World Council of Churches has, in some instances, de-legitimized Israel's existence as a Jewish state. Yes, there are times when the WCC has affirmed the right of the Jewish people to a sovereign state of their own, but these affirmations are contradicted by other messages that portray Israel's creation as a mistake or irredeemable injustice against the Palestinians. Here, it is useful to quote Canadian scholar Paul Charles Merkley, who writes: “Invariably in WCC documents, the creation of the State of Israel appears as a complication, never as an answer to a problem.” Merkley may be overstating the case with the use of the words “invariably” and “never,” but not by much.

Lastly, the WCC offers up an anti-Semitic view of the Arab-Israeli conflict by downplaying or denying Arab and Muslim hostility toward Jews and their state. Non-state actors such as Hamas and Hezbollah that have openly expressed genocidal hostility toward Jews and a desire to destroy Israel merit little attention or condemnation from the WCC. You can search the WCC's website for yourself to see what I mean.

Instead of acknowledging the religious and theological component of Arab hostility toward Israel and Jews in the Middle East, the WCC portrays the Arab-Israel conflict as an easily resolved fight over territory that can be brought to an end with a treaty – if only those obdurate Israelis were to come to their senses and make peace with the Palestinians, as if Palestinian leaders were wholly innocent of wrongdoing and as if Israeli withdrawals have not already been met with increased violence, and as if Israel hasn't made peace offers only to be rebuffed by Palestinian refusals or silence.

In proffering this distorted narrative, the WCC encourages Christians to be bystanders to the anti-Semitic hostility directed at Israel by its enemies in the Middle East and to view Israeli Jews with contempt. In the WCC's narrative about the Arab-Israeli conflict, all of humanity's worst traits are projected onto Israel while its adversaries are portrayed as forced into wrongdoing by Israeli policies, as if they have no moral agency, will or agenda of their own. This is dishonest.

The WCC demonstrates its fear of Muslim extremists in its failure to confront the ongoing campaign of religious cleansing that is taking place in Muslim-majority countries throughout the world. Christians are being murdered and oppressed on a daily basis by Muslim extremists in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa and the World Council of Churches offers nary a word of criticism regarding these acts. Christians are being driven from Iraq and Egypt by acts of violence and the WCC cannot speak up forcefully on their behalf.

When the WCC is forced by events to acknowledge barbaric acts against Christians (and others) perpetrated by Muslim extremists throughout the globe, they are depicted in benign and diffuse terms that leave readers wondering exactly who is responsible for the violence. The WCC, an institution that has subjected Zionism and its supporters to intense scrutiny, has failed to speak in a forthright manner about how Muslim theology regarding non-Muslims encourages terrible acts of violence and oppression against Christians.

To make matters worse, the WCC has invoked the fear of “islamophobia” to stifle honest discussion of Muslim mistreatment of non-Muslims throughout the world. Given the current reality, this makes about as much sense as calling 19th Century abolitionists anti-white racists.

The World Council of Churches has also failed to acknowledge or confront the suffering endured by women living in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East. Women, like Christians, suffer under the lash of shariah law in Muslim-majority countries and yet the World Council of Churches does not object in a meaningful way.

If Christ would not remain silent about these problems, then why does the WCC?

Sincerely,

Dexter Van Zile

Boston, Massachusetts


[1] This analysis is reliant on Natan Sharansky, “3D Test of Anti-Semitism: Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization,” Jewish Political Studies Review 16:3-4 (Fall 2004), www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/showpage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=84&FID=625, accessed 4 May 2011.


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