Jewish Group Condemns WCC 'Anti-Israel' Peace Week

( [email protected] ) May 29, 2010 05:15 AM EDT

A Jewish human rights organization denounced an upcoming World Council of Churches’ peace event as “blatantly anti-Israel.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center was referring to the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, which begins Saturday and will run until June 4. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center, accused the WCC of never standing up for Israel in the 62 years of its existence but being “fixated” on the plight of Palestinians.

“It (WCC) never issued a single response to Arab attempts to annihilate it (Israel), to drive the Jews into the sea, to mass murder Jews at prayer through suicide bombings,” said Cooper. “It is remarkably fixated on the single democracy in the Middle East, while it cannot find its voice in countries that criminalize the practice of Christianity and tolerate the murder of Christians.”

Cooper said the “hate-fest” against Israel this coming week will not improve the life of Palestinians because it fails to bring the two people together for genuine negotiations.

“Christians are the ones who should be worrying even more than Jews,” added Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the interfaith affairs director at the center. “The WCC evangelizes a gospel of political activism, not Christian love and understanding. Protestant leaders and laypeople should be wary of an organization that seeks to hijack their faith, and ask themselves whether they should continue to support the divisiveness of the WCC.”

During the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, the WCC invites member churches and organizations to advocate for just peace in Palestine and Israel. The WCC website says participants will seek justice for both Palestinians and Israelis, but highlighted the partitioning of Palestine and the “permanent nightmare” that Palestinians live under.

Last year, WCC supported a “just peace initiative” proposed by the United Church of Canada that requires Israel to recognize a fully sovereign state of Palestine that would encompass the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In return, Palestine and other Arab states must recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Under the proposal, Israel also needs to dismantle its settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while Palestinians need to end their suicide bombings and other violent attacks on Israel.

But some of WCC's rhetoric does not sit well with Jewish groups. Last year, former WCC general secretary the Rev. Samuel Kobia called Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories “a sin against God” in a report to the group’s main governing body. He noted the WCC’s stance that anti-Semitism is a “sin against God,” and asked WCC leaders if they were “ready to say that occupation is also a sin against God?”

The American Jewish Committee, one of the oldest Jewish advocacy organizations in the United States, condemned Kobia’s statements for ignoring the root cause of Israel’s presence in the West Bank.

“Israel does not seek to govern another people,” Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s international director of interreligious affairs, maintained. “Rather, Israel has offered in direct negotiations with the Palestinians repeatedly to withdraw from most of the West Bank in exchange for peace and security.”

Rosen criticized Kobia for repeating the “same hypocritical statements” about Israel that the WCC has regularly issued.

WCC has had a long troubled relationship with Jewish groups, which criticize the ecumenical body for favoring Palestinians and ignoring constant terrorism threats against Israel in its Middle East policies.

The WCC is the largest Protestant organization in the world, claiming to represent more than 560 million Christians. The ecumenical body brings together 349 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories in the world.