Unable to find it in a revitalization of religious belief, it has somewhat foolishly turned to finding common cause with radical political movements. In what could be mistaken for an ecclesiastic pantomime of a G20 protest, environmental extremists, anti-Israel fanatics, Omar Khadr aficionados, and immigration reform opponents have all been courted by the current United Church leadership. The result was not new adherents so much as alienating a large number of the rank-and file and continuing the exodus away from the Church's thinning pews.
One of the most controversial and potentially self-destructive moves the United Church has made has been to engage in yet another foray into the quagmire of the Israeli-Arab dispute, with a decidedly anti-Israel bias. Ironically while striving to demonstrate how "progressive" it is, the United Church's embrace of radical leftist ideology has returned it to the ancient, anti-Semitic roots of early Christian theology. The United Church's Working Group on Israel Palestine, whose report recommends a boycott of Israeli settlement goods, heavily draws upon the so-called Palestine Kairos document. That treatise denies a special relationship between Israel and the Jewish people, places all the blame on Israel for its ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, and refers to "the Israeli occupation" as "an evil and a sin that must be resisted and removed." The document, which says of Israelis, "they must liberate themselves from the evil that is in them and the injustice they have imposed on others," is considered by many to be inherently anti-Semitic.
Among the most insidious aspects of the new leftist Jew-hate is its tactic of trotting out ridiculous Jewish anti-Zionist fanatics and displaying them like comical banners at the front of an April Fool's parade. In that vein, the United Church's of Canada's Comox-Nanaimo Presbytery's declaration that they "work with Jewish organizations such as Independent Jewish Voices, which are committed to seeing Justice for the people of Palestine" is less offensive than if Shutzstaffel leader Heinrich Himmler had said "we are working with our Jewish labor camp kapos, who are committed to seeing justice for the Aryan people," but we are only talking about degrees.
Independent Jewish Voices is headed by a 9-11 conspiracy theorist named Diana Ralph. After 12 years hard work of being on Disability Leave from her position of Associate Professor of Social Work at Carleton University, Ms Ralph, who seemed to get around a lot for someone on disability leave, retired from that institution in 2011. With all that additional extra free time, she can now devote herself exclusively to eradicating Jewish national self-determination.
As one might expect, Ms Ralph is not the only 9-11 conspiracy theorist in the organization she co-founded. Her co-Chair and fellow Independent Jewish Voices founder Sid Shiniad shares her views and the organization of fringe radicals is liberally peppered with adherents to a movement that proposes the attack by Muslim terrorists on the World Trade Center and Pentagon was actually the work of "neo-cons and Zionists."
Independent Jewish Voices are, as the National Post's Jonathan Kay observed:
an extremist group whose leaders support a total economic boycott of Israel, defend the UN's original anti-Semitic Durban conference, support the destruction of the Jewish character of Israel through the influx of millions of Palestinians, spread conspiracy theories about the "Israeli lobby," promote the blood libel that Israel deliberately targeted "children playing on roofs" during the Gaza conflict, and cheered on the illegal occupation of the Israeli consulate in Toronto..If the United Church's leaders think they can shield themselves from being perceived as anti-Semitic by playing footsie with a small group of fringe Jews whose actions and statements could easily be interpreted to suggest serious, unresolved psychiatric issues, they will find themselves sorely mistaken.
Yet in the ranks of the United Church there are still voices of sanity and reason. Reverend Andrew Love of Grace St. Andrew's United Church in Arnprior has launched a campaign to counter the noxious agenda of the denomination's leadership. He says that "there remains an undercurrent of anti-Semitism" in the church. Love has warned that if the recommendations of the Working Group on Israel/Palestine's report are adopted, the United Church, rather than advancing the cause of peace, will destroy its relationship with the Jewish community and render itself irrelevant to playing any role in helping resolve the Israel/Palestine question.
That's an insightful assessment that towers above anything the United Church's leaders have offered on the issue to date. Whether it is one that the Church's leaders heed at its General Council next week will decide less about the future of the mideast than it will about a United Church that is in danger of loosing its bearings.