United Church of Canada Minister Stands Against Divestment Fever

The National Post reports of one Canadian minister, Rev Andrew Love,  kicking against the wave of one-sided anti-Israel sentiment sweeping through mainline Protestant denominations, including his own, the United Church of Canada.

A United Church of Canada minister has started a campaign to get rank-and-file members to reject a proposal from the church’s hierarchy to launch an economic boycott against Israel.

“I really want to believe this is the workings of a very active minority in the church,” said Andrew Love, a pastor at a parish in the town of Arnprior, 55 kilometres west of Ottawa.

“The vast majority of people in the pews are not ready to embrace this kind of extremist and radical agenda from a small minority. There is a real disconnect between the leadership and its people.”

He said the proposal contains “elements of anti-Semitism” by minimizing the importance of the Holocaust.

Last week, a working group of the United Church released a paper that called for a selective boycott of goods coming out of what the authors call illegal Israeli settlements, including East Jerusalem. The authors said that legitimate criticism of Israel is far different than anti-Semitism and that the United Church condemns anything that smacks of anti-Jewish bigotry. The report, two years in the making, will be voted on at the church’s general council in August.

This is the fourth proposal concerning sanctions against Israel in the past six years but none was ever voted on by the general council. However, this is the first proposal requested by the church leadership. Other proposals came from grassroots initiatives.

Rev. Love said he will launch a website in the next few days that will ask for support from co-religionists who are also concerned about calls for a boycott and anti-Israel sentiment in the church.

“This report is biased and one-sided and will erode a commitment we made as a church in a [2003 report] to strengthen ties with the Jewish community,” he said.

In 2009, Rev. Love said he travelled to Israel and spent time on the West Bank speaking to families who were having a tough time under Israeli rule. He said at one point he was pelted by stones by Israeli settlers because he was speaking with Palestinians.

“So it’s not that I’m blinded to the plight of Palestinians,” Rev. Love said. “But where is the sense of balance in this report? Once again we are isolating Israel for all our moral condemnation. Shouldn’t we hold to the same fashion other countries in the Middle East? It’s absurd that Israel is singled out because it’s a democracy.”

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