Episcopalians take on their church’s anti-Israel stance
BY SETH GITELL
THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2002 — After the pedophile-priest scandal dogging the Roman Catholic Church, the second-biggest religion story in town is the decision of Episcopal Church bigwigs to use their bully pulpits against Israel. Locally, the Episcopal Church has become one of the sharpest and most vocal critics of Israel’s policies in the Middle East. In fall 2001, Episcopal bishop Thomas Shaw led others in a much-publicized protest at the Israeli consulate in Boston, a demonstration that Phoenix writer Dan Kennedy called "one-sided" in a November piece. Local Episcopalians plan further anti-Israel action in May. In the face of this apparent bias by its church, a group of prominent Episcopalians is saying "enough."
"I thought it was important for Episcopalians, in particular, and Christians, in general, to let Jews know that not all Christians agree with the bishop," says Dennis Hale, a Boston College political-science professor and co-founder of the fledgling group, called the Episcopal-Jewish Alliance for Israel. "By taking this position, the bishop gives the impression that he doesn’t care what Jews think and that he’s not concerned about attacks on Israel."
On April 12, 2002, the group issued a seven-point "Statement of Episcopal Concern for Israel" protesting "the unbalanced condemnations of the Jewish State issuing from the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts." Listed among the group’s concerns are the spread of anti-Semitic rhetoric in the Muslim world, the praise of suicide bombers as "holy martyrs," and Israel’s "terrible security problem." "Under constant attack, Israel has been forced to take self-defense measures, which our local Bishops portray as an ‘unjust occupation’ — despite Israel’s withdrawal of its military from Arab villages and towns in the 1990s — turning the victimizers into victims and the victims into aggressors," the statement says.
So far Hale has recruited only a handful of fellow signatories to this statement, but he believes the Episcopal-Jewish Alliance for Israel will grow after it holds a number of events. Hale may be the head of a small movement. But with a loud voice and a clear head, who knows where it may lead?
Hale, Illinois-based cleric Father Keith Roderick, and Rabbi William Hamilton of Kehillath Israel will speak about the actions of Boston’s Episcopal bishop on Sunday, April 21, at 7:45 p.m., at an event held at Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel, located at 561 Ward Street, in Newton.
Issue Date: April 18, 2002
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