Episcopal Bishops Reveal Hamas Bias in Middle East War

david at virtueonline.org david at virtueonline.org
Wed Jan 14 22:09:38 EST 2009

Episcopal Bishops Reveal Hamas Bias in Middle East War

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue 

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has condemned Israel calling its military reaction to Hamas as "violent" and "disproportionate." 

In a press release from the church's headquarters in New York, Mrs. Katharine Jefferts Schori said the response to the rockets being fired into cities in the Gaza might well encourage violence beyond Gaza and Israel.

"The high number of civilian deaths and injuries, which continue to include noncombatants, women, and children, will only prolong the violence years into the future. Israel's disproportionate response to the rockets being fired into its cities may well encourage violence beyond Gaza and Israel. The first steps toward peace will only come if all parties unite behind an immediate ceasefire. Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded the world that "an eye for an eye soon leaves the whole world blind. " May we seek to end this blinding violence."

Addressing what she called "the ongoing violence in Gaza," Jefferts Schori said, "We are deeply saddened by the first-hand reports we are receiving from Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza about the casualties they are treating under the most horrific circumstances. Not only do they lack basic medical supplies, but with windows blown out they are even struggling to keep patients warm. January 5, 2009."

This of course begs the question, what IS a "disproportionate" response. Hamas is a terrorist organization firing rockets at no particular targets - in order to kill Jews. What then is a "proportionate" response? Numbers?

John Chane, the Bishop of Washington, in a sermon delivered at St. Columba Church late last year, said his eyes were opened to Israel's persecution of Palestinians by his recent trip to Palestine. In his sermon he called on "politicians seeking the highest office in  land" to find the courage to "speak out and condemn violations of human rights and religious freedom denied to Palestinian Christians and Muslims" by the state of Israel.

Bishop Chane's call was to no avail. On December 27, Israel began a massive air attack on the Gaza Ghetto --, an area of 139 square miles where some 1.4 million Arabs live tightly controlled lives. The State of Israel determines the inflow of all are sources - food, medicine, water, and energy. 

Massachusetts Episcopal Bishop Thomas Shaw is described as "an active witness and voice for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel." He travels frequently leading groups to the Holy Land, Africa and Central America, in what is called "the church's work of reconciliation and service to the world." 

He has been an outspoken critic of the State of Israel. Less than one month after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Shaw previously made news when he caused a furor by protesting in front of the Israeli consulate. In 2008, Shaw stood outside the Israeli Consulate in Boston to protest the war in the Middle East.

Since then, he has argued that the Episcopal Church should divest itself from companies doing business with Israel. He has shuttled himself back and forth to Israel and the West Bank more than a half dozen times, while attempting, to some extent, to stay out of the headlines.

In a case of very bad timing, Shaw chose to publicly protest Israel's strike on Gaza in the wake of the Hamas kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit. That was after hostilities with Gaza had begun, but before Hezbollah's Katyushah rockets began raining down on Israel's North. Bishop Shaw's defenders say that he was prompted by the plight of Gaza's Al Ahli Anglican Hospital, which lost power during the offensive.

The bishop issued a somewhat nuanced statement explaining his actions."We pray for Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit and for an immediate and peaceful halt to the hostilities raging for the past two weeks in the Gaza Strip," the statement read, in part.

"Never mind whether Israel's response to the kidnapping of its soldiers could be considered disproportionate. That's just part of a larger picture in which Palestinians elected a terrorist-led government dedicated to the destruction of Israel," wrote Seth Gitell for the New York SUN. 

"There's no nuance in images. Bishop Shaw's presence at the protest with Israel in harm's way overshadows any diplomatic objective that he and his supporters say was the goal of the protest," he wrote. One blogger wrote, "Unless Shaw believes that Israel ought to hand over all of its territory to Hamas, then it's hard to understand precisely what it is he's protesting. And, well, what about it, Bishop Shaw: Is that what you believe?"

It is interesting to note that Israel's incursion into Gaza has met with so little government-led protest around the world. Most Arab nations are silent. Egypt has closed its borders to Gaza except for medical emergencies and there have been pauses in the war to allow relief and medical supplies in to meet the needs of ordinary Palestinians. 

Rocket attacks on Israel have been, for the most part, ineffectual only a dozen lives versus over 800 Palestinians lives lost in the 11-day offensive. Yet Hamas continues to shoot rockets and missiles into Israel. Nobody, it seems, likes Hamas, except apparently The Episcopal Church. 

The White House put the blame squarely on Hamas. The British government has also blamed Hamas. Latest newspaper reports say that Hamas, with training, has used the last two years to turn Gaza into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs. Weapons are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian clothes. 

The militants emerge from tunnels to shoot automatic weapons or antitank missiles, then disappear back inside, hoping to lure the Israeli soldiers with their fire. To its credit, Israel has dropped leaflets warning Gaza residents that it would intensify its military campaign against Hamas. 

The Israeli West-Bank barrier, Israel is constructing out of a network of fences with vehicle-barrier trenches, surrounded by an average of 60 meters wide exclusion area, has been described by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter as apartheid even worse than that that once held sway in South Africa. Other critics of Israel liken the occupation of Palestinian lands to what the Nazis did to the Jews in 1930's Europe.

Writer and critic Harold Pinter in referring to the Israelis cries, "How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal?" 

According to Pinter, Israel has been in violation of international law since 1967, protected by the United States' veto of UN resolutions condemning Israel for its violent, inhumane, barbaric, and illegal acts. 

But Israel is strongly supported by legions of American Evangelical Zionists who believe that America must support Israel out of Biblical prescription. Not to do so might bring the judgment of God on this nation. Other thoughtful Christians, including Evangelicals, believe Jesus is forsaken as Christians swallow whole the Israeli line.

In a statement on the war in Gaza, The Rt. Rev. Suheil S. Dawani, The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, said, "The heavy loss of Palestinian lives and the serious wounds and injuries to many hundreds of innocent bystanders require the immediate cessation of hostilities for the well being and safety of both the Palestinian and Israeli communities, and especially for Gaza and the nearby Israeli population centers. The gravity of the situation threatens to engulf this entire region and we ask the Palestinians and Israelis to return to active negotiations for the well being and safety of both communities. 

"The world waits in eager expectation for people of good will, courage and vision to set aside personal agendas, to encourage the change of heart, to empower all people of faith to tear down the walls of cruelty, fear and hatred. We cannot diminish or escape from the challenges before us which are very real and confront our people. Peace, a just durable peace, is rooted in the reconciling love of God for all the people of this land". 


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