The resolution on peace and justice in Palestine and Israel, passed by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada at its Ottawa meeting earlier this month, has met with mixed reactions from Palestinian and Israeli organizations.
The resolution reiterated the church’s established positions, recognizing “the legitimate aspirations, rights and needs of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace with dignity within sovereign and secure borders; condemning the use of all kinds of violence, especially against civilians; call[ing] for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories…”
It also called on Canadian Anglicans to take some new steps to:
- enable deeper church-wide awareness of and response to the call of the Kairos Palestine document: A Moment of Truth
- educate the church about the impact of illegal settlements on the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis; about imported products identified as produced in or related to the illegal settlements and misleadingly labelled as produced in Israel; about the complexities of economic advocacy measures
- explore and challenge theologies and beliefs, such as Christian Zionism, that support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories
- explore and challenge theories and beliefs that deny the right of Israel to exist
- and strengthen relationships with Canadian Jews and Muslims, to resolutely oppose anti-Semitism, anti-Arab sentiments and Islamophobia.
In response to the passing of the resolution, Nora Carmi, project co-ordinator for Kairos Palestine-not to be confused with the ecumenical social justice organization Kairos Canada-wrote to Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. On behalf of the Palestinian group, which she described as euphoric upon hearing the resolution, she thanked and congratulated the church for “managing to raise a prophetic voice and courageous…stand, at least on several issues, despite 27% of voters against.”
Her letter also stated that the Kairos Palestine group hopes the church will move toward the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” stance. The Kairos Palestine group recommends such action as an “important element and non-violent tool” to accelerate ending the occupation of Palestinian territories. “These advocacy campaigns must be carried out with courage, openly sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both perpetrators and the victims of injustice,” she added, quoting from A Moment of Truth: Kairos Palestine.
Israel’s ambassador to Canada Miriam Ziv met in Toronto with Hiltz as well as the Anglican Church of Canada’s general secretary Michael Thompson, special advisor for government relations Laurette Glasgow and global relations co-ordinator Andrea Mann in the week following the General Synod meeting. When asked about the reason for the meeting, Hiltz emphasized to the Anglican Journal that the ambassador had planned to meet him prior to the Ottawa General Synod, but other commitments delayed the meeting.
Hiltz said that the meeting, which was closed to press, “was an initiative on her part to meet me in the interests of beginning to build a relationship.” He acknowledged that Ziv “was well aware, of course, of the resolution that was passed by the Synod.”
“It was a good conversation,” Hiltz said, “in the sense that we, all around the table, recognized the importance of relationships and conversations in which we’re all learning something from one another about the complexities of the situation and the process to a lasting peace in the Middle East.” They also discussed the upcoming visit of Bishop Suheil Dawani, Diocese of Jerusalem, to Canada in October, and the role the embassy might have in arranging meetings for him.
The Journal contacted the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which issued sharp criticism of a 2012 resolution from the United Church of Canada that recommended a boycott of products produced in the occupied territories. Of the Anglican resolution, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the centre, responded in an email: “We welcome any and all positive efforts by our Christian neighbours to contribute to regional peace, including measures to improve the well-being of the average Palestinian. In the case of the Anglican Church, there is a huge opportunity to get involved through practical programs that make a real difference on the ground, such as micro-grants to Palestinian small businesses, reconciliation programs that bring the two sides together, or joint educational programming for Israeli and Palestinian children. In a letter we recently sent to Archbishop Hiltz, we expressed our desire to discuss how we can advance this important effort together.
Fogel added, “We don’t believe this issue is a zero-sum game-one can be pro-Palestinian without being anti-Israel. The litmus test is whether one applies principles of fairness and expectations on both sides, and whether one calls for solutions that build up the Palestinian people rather than tearing down Israelis.”
“Sadly,” he continued, “the General Council of the United Church last year decided to go down the path of punitive measures rather than positive action. We are very disappointed that, despite some positive aspects in its recent resolution, the Anglican General Synod has edged towards this same negative approach.”
Aside from the resolution’s focus on products produced in the occupied territories, Fogel said the centre opposes the Kairos Palestine document, “which offers a terribly distorted, one-sided narrative; fundamentally failing to recognize that both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered alike and that both sides will have to offer meaningful compromises in order to resolve this painful conflict.”
Fogel added that he had raised concerns in a recent letter to Hiltz about the document being used as a “blueprint” for Christian engagement in peace building because it “serves as the exact opposite of that objective. CIJA will continue to dialogue with the Anglican community in the hope of providing insight that will both resonate and steer its membership towards more constructive opportunities to offer true service to peace for the Holy Land and its Peoples.”