Bishops: Divestment Not in our “Best Interests”

by James M. Wall36-Gaza-Child-Shareef-SarhanCAFOD-v2

The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops on Thursday condemned the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) strategy. 

The bishops spoke the language of the market place. They made no effort to theologically justify their condemnation.

Instead, they were pragmatic, not prophetic. Why? Because they have invested in institutions.

Matthew Davies, reporting for the Episcopal News Service (ENS), issued the official word from the Bishops in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Episcopal Convention is currently in session.

Davies reported that the bishops sent “a strong and clear message that divestment from companies and corporations engaged in certain business related to the State of Israel is not in the best interests of The Episcopal Church, its partners in the Holy Land, interreligious relations, and the lives of Palestinians on the ground.”

That chilling passage is painful in its honesty. To the bishops, property and institutional structures, and the ability to operate Christian services within those structures, determine “the best interests of the Episcopal Church”.

Notice their pragmatic shopping list: Partners in the Holy Land, interreligious relations back home, and the lives of Palestinians “on the ground”. 

The Episcopal Church has invested itself in an area in which it provides religious care, both spiritual and physical, to the local residents. Experience has shown church leaders throughout history that it is not in their “best interests” to go against the controlling power. 

Some religious leaders have refused to accept that compliance. Others have compromised to keep their institutions as effective as possible.

Those in power know how to manipulate the powerless.

You want to enlarge or at least maintain your services, both spiritual and physical? You will need the permission of the ruling occupying power, in this case, an occupying military power, that governs your every institutional need.

The Episcopal lay and clerical delegates meeting in Salt Lake City this week, know this all too well.

In another corner of the Christian institutional world, the third denomination meeting this week voted to punt.

The New York Times reported Friday morning:

Delegates to the Mennonite Church U.S.A.’s convention in Kansas City, Mo., decided to postpone a vote on a similar resolution until its next convention in 2017.

Sponsors of the resolution said it had become clear during a debate on Wednesday that a number of delegates had questions about the resolution’s scope and intent.

“I think people were speaking out of a variety of fears,” Tom Harder, a pastor from Wichita, Kan., who had helped draft the resolution, said in a telephone interview.

“I think there are folks in the denominations who continue to believe that we need to support Israel at all costs, and so a resolution that is advocating for the Palestinian people specifically and the injustices they are facing — that is a vote against Israel and against the Jewish people,” Mr. Harder said.

He said supporters of the resolution would work over the next two years to amend it in ways “that address some of the concerns that we heard.”

The “concerns that we heard”?

The 95,000 member Mennonite Church has a long history of involvement in the region. Their leaders need to “study the situation” more?  

They will study for two years and meet again in 2017.

Those Palestinian mothers, fathers and children. who do not die from Israel’s constant military assaults, or who fail to survive the occupation’s economic stranglehold, will be two years older in 2017.

It is this reality the BDS strategy seeks to expose in order to end the evil of an occupation which Mennonite and Episcopal leaders still need to study.

The fact remains: Israel occupies Palestine. In this half-century established evil act, the occupiers have converted and/or bought allies who endorse their rationale for evil because it is to their pragmatic interests to do so.

These allies are in the halls of Congress, in the local pews and governing structures of religious institutions.

These allies include Jewish-American financial tycoons like Sheldon Adelson (below), who purchase Israel supporters in the Congress and the White House with dollars and media pressure.Bloomberg China 2012

These allies are currently in the majority of the Episcopal House of Bishops and in the leadership structure of the Mennonite Church.

Rarely has such a pragmatic rationale been so openly acknowledged as it was this week when the Episcopal House of Bishops essentially acknowledged that their prophetic voices are silenced by their investment in institutions they require to service the needs of their people.

This admission followed by two days an entirely different response from delegates to the United Church of Christ General Synod, meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, who accepted divestment from businesses profiting from occupation, as a peaceful, but clearly effective, strategy, to use against the repressive conduct of the state of Israel.

For their prophetic stand, the United Church of Christ has been condemned by Jewish organizations in the U.S., whose path to interfaith cooperation demands capitulation to the Israeli narrative.

How did the Episcopalian ruling body bring their church to this sad moment in the life of their particular home of U.S. Christians. They did it with legislative maneuvers and defensive language clothed in religious piety.

The official Episcopal News Service announcement explained:

“The bishops rejected Substitute Resolution D016, which would have called on the Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to develop a list of U.S. and foreign corporations that provide goods and services that support the infrastructure of Israel’s Occupation “to monitor its investments and apply its CSR policy to any possible future investments” in such companies”

That D016 Substitute Resolution was the legislative compromise the Episcopal convention had developed in an effort to get sufficient votes to pass the best prophetic stand it could find. 

This obviously watered-down compromise was a last minute effort to support “divestment” without naming it. No one seeking the sanction of the Israeli government wa buying it.

The ENS reported further:

“Although the resolution didn’t use the word “divestment,” some bishops expressed concern that it was heading in that direction”.

Outsiders, with no responsibility on the ground where institutions are forced to work under a military dictatorship, are asked to understand what locals must endure.

For Episcopalians, Archbishop Suheil Dawani is their leader in the line of fire.

“Others reminded the house that Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has urged the Episcopal Church not to adopt a policy that would make it more difficult for him to manage his congregations and the more than 30 social service institutions throughout Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories. Those institutions include schools, hospitals, clinics and centers for people with disabilities and serve people of all faiths.

“Any hint of divestment will hamper the ministry of Archbishop Suheil Dawani and his priests and congregations in the Middle East,” said Bishop Jay Magness, bishop suffragan for Federal Ministries who served on the Legislative Committee on Social Justice and International Policy that considered the resolutions.”

“We were assured by the treasurer that we don’t have any direct investments in the usually named companies,” such as Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, G4S, and Motorola Solutions. Bishop Prince Singh of Rochester, chair of the committee, also confirmed that The Episcopal Church currently has no investments in corporations that negatively impact Palestinians on the ground.

Bishop Ed Little of Northern Indiana said the text of the resolution “clearly and unmistakably advocates boycott and divestment, and we must reject it.”

Then the Bishops’ official news release fell back on the Israeli narrative they have accepted, the accepted “truth”  that insists that “what we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Communication between unequals is always in one direction, where soldiers terrorize Palestinian children, (right) because they have the power to do watan Jerusalem

The Bishops, in their stumbling effort to justify their pragmatic relationship with evil, fell back on religious language they have already demeaned with their pragmatism.

“As Anglicans, we have the gift and ability to reach out to people on both sides in the conflict. That is what The Episcopal Church is doing in the Middle East. Our current leadership under the presiding bishop is allowing us to be peacemakers.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in January led an interfaith pilgrimage to the Holy Land as recommended by Resolution B019 from the 2012 General Convention that called for positive investment “as a necessary means to create a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure” in the Palestinian Territories.”

To the homeless in Gaza, to the Palestinians in Israeli prisons for no reason other than their failure t0 adhere to the powers that control the occupation, the best way to “create a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure”, is to be released from incarceration.

Did the interfaith pilgrimage led by the presiding bishop know that while they were on their pilgrimage, the number of Palestinians forced into Israeli prisons had increased by 26% since 2011.Eyal Warshawski

To the mothers who fear that at any moment their children will be shot for walking in the wrong direction, “a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure” are words utterly without meaning.

Sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure in the Palestinian Territories?  

Leaders of the Episcopalian institutions in Palestine must be aware of the words from Corinthians, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”?

The Bishops’ final statement was far more honest, albeit pragmatic, though entirely without any sign they engaged in serious theological reflection to reach that honesty.

The Bishops have said, in effect, to their fellow Christians who favor divestment, “if you had invested in ministry and service inside this prison, you would have some understanding of how we must live under this dictatorship.”

They dare not say it that way, else their prison keepers would cut off their water supply, or keep their new medical equipment blocked at the border, or simply go hunting for more Palestinian children to shoot.

This is what happens when the prophetic voice confronts the reality of prison life. 

The progressive wing of the Episcopal Convention has labored for years to reach a point where prophetic voices could be heard over the religious establishment’s pragmatic investments.

They did their best in Salt Lake City. And they will not stop now, as the conciliatory words of one leader indicated after the House of Bishops vote.

Donna Hicks, convener of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network, said after the Bishops voted to condemn divestment:

“We’re encouraged by the fact that bishops and deputies understand that this is a pressing issue, and that the discussion at this convention focused not on whether to take action, but rather what action would be most effective … We’re optimistic that today’s vote is just another step in our own process to ensure that we are not profiting from the occupation, and that divestment will pass at a General Convention in the near future.”

The Episcopalian progressives will be back. The arc of justice demands it.

The picture at top is of a Gaza child one year after the 2014 Israeli military assault on Gaza. The picture is from The Independent. It was taken by Shareef Sarhan. The  picture of the Palestinian man in prison is from Ha’aretz. It was taken by Eyal Warshawski.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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29 Responses to Bishops: Divestment Not in our “Best Interests”

  1. Richard Falk says:

    Thanks, Jim, for this illuminating commentary on this development within the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. It does set up, as you suggest, a clarifying contrast with the stand on divestment taken by the UCC. Best, Richard

  2. Samia Khoury says:

    Thanks Jim, and how different from your previous article on the UCC vote on divestment. Truly very very sad, because the logic it uses for its action reflects that the church has lost its soul. Gone are the leaders of that church who never hesitated to speak truth to power as early as the times of the British Mandate.

  3. Rabbi Steven Ballaban says:

    Sorry, Jim but I’m going to call it as I see it. Your comments show that you have no understanding of the realities of life in Israel beyond the well spun propaganda of the anti-Israel machine here in the US. The fact that you don’t show even the slightest respect for the Palestinian bishop who lives and works there is a sign of your arrogance. Moreover, your picture of the fat rich Jewish capitalist and your reference to “buying” US government officials shows that you are an anti-Semite. You show no regard for the fact that The ONLY country in the Middle East in which Christians are safe and protected is Israel. It is also the only middle eastern country that guarantees women, minorities like the Druze and Baha’i, equal and full civil rights. Shame on the institutions you list in your bio for not preparing you to be a critical and objective thinker.

  4. Fred says:

    If a church can’t stand up to injustice and oppression, it has little value as a moral force in the world, and betrays a hollowness of spirit.

    All Israeli products and companies need to be boycotted to end Israe’s brutal oppression of those who were not born Jewish in Israeli/Palestine. A Jewish Supremacist state is a great danger to the region, and a blight on Judaism as well. The Episcopal churches decision showed a lack or moral backbone and courage.

  5. Robert says:

    Most curious that they can determine what is best for Palestinians “on the ground” despite, the churches on the ground unanimous endorsement of Kairos Palestine calling for BDS.

    Ultimately, this needs to be laid at the feet of Bishop Suheil, whose lead the US bishops are following, and who wants to protect his own privileges.

  6. Pauline Coffman says:

    I absolutely love your line that says: Those in power know how to manipulate the powerless.” Thanks so much for expressing the anger and frustration we feel, and doing it so articulately.

  7. I am writing in answer to Rabbi Steven Ballaban’s comments that Christians are safe and protected in the country. I have lived in parts of Jerusalem and Bethlehem for three and a half years and I did not observe that Christians were safe and protected. Christian clergy have problems getting visas and seminary students at the Catholic Beit Jala Seminary were prohibited from getting to Nazareth, where Jesus was born. Christians in Bethlehem, who we knew, were not allowed to get to churches in Jerusalem even on religious holidays. We knew a Palestinian Christian, married to an American, who could not get to Jerusalem to get his airplane tickets. Many Christian sites have been destroyed. I would also beg to differ in Israel being the only country in the area protecting Christians and keeping them safe. Jordan is doing a wonderful job in this regard.

  8. Patricia says:

    Supporting Israel’s terrorism toward the Palestinians with this decision. Probably the churches support racism in the US and elsewhere with their investments. I long ago quit supporting the hypocrisy of Christian Churches for the lack of moral action. Thanks for an excellent article.

  9. abunaalgodon says:

    It’s no surprise, Jim. We have all known that as long as Bishop Katharine was presiding, all divestment resolutions would be DOA at our triennial General Convention. In this arena she has made unholy alliances which insure that nothing will go forward that challenges her or those alliances. Bishop Jefferts Schori is not without worthy accomplishments, but you are right, she is a master at manipulation. Sad, indeed.

    Suheil Dawani, Archbishop of Jerusalem, is a good and kind man. But he has walked so carefully to protect Episcopal ministries that he has betrayed the Palestinian people. That too is sad.

    There is, however, a core of faithful laity and clergy who, at GC and in their home parishes and dioceses, witness faithfully on behalf of a just peace in that most unholy land. The institutional church is, by and large, a weak reed upon which to depend for prophetic leadership. There are rare and wonderful exceptions, but … they are rare and wonderful. It is ironic that this Sunday’s lectionary includes a most pertinent passage from Ezekiel (2:1-5). After commissioning Ezekiel to speak prophetically to the people of Israel, God concludes: “I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.”

    We owe much to those who witnessed at GC – loyal Episcopalians and our JVP friends – and were, once again, denied. Our prophetic voice has not been silent, nor will it be. May we all pray that this “rebellious house” (church, Congress, White House, State Department) wakens to the cries of our Palestinian brothers and sisters.

  10. abunaalgodon says:

    One more observation, Jim. If getting what we used to call a good wuppin’ at General Convention doesn’t deplete one’s reservoir of hope, it’s a miracle, and they are to be numbered among the saints. Donna Hicks put the very best possible face on the outcome, evidence of the resolve demonstrated by many that is a byproduct of enduring hope.

  11. Vicki Gray says:

    Thank you so much, Jim, for telling it like. What happened in Salt lake City was shamefully immoral. I guess I won’t be numbered among the saints, for my reservoir of hope – at least in TEC – has run dry.

  12. Sami Joseph says:

    Sorry all because I am going to call Rabbi Ballaban’s comments as I see them: a load of balderdash. The headlines from the Holy Land in the last week alone were:

    June 27th: No More Christian Events in Jerusalem Without Rabbi’s Approval After Orthodox Jews Accuse Christians of ‘Forced Conversions’!!!

    June 29th: Church-run schools in Israel face ‘death sentence’. Community leaders fear that Netanyahu’s party is seeking to curb educational opportunities for the Palestinian minority.

    July 1st: Israeli Police Invades Church, Confiscates Furniture

    The loose touting of ‘anti-Semitic’ accusation when the truth is told about Israel has long lost its sting. As for the reprehensible attitude of people who prefer to act like the three wise monkeys where abuse of the most basic human rights of people under Israel’s occupation is concerned and the fully documented barbarity dished out to Palestinians is tantamount to complicity.

    Lastly, I find it very hard to believe the supposedly Christian clergy would have the audacity to put their “interests” above their moral obligation. Are they totally oblivious to the tenets of their faith including the parable of the good Samaritan?

  13. Tom Getman says:

    Jim: Thanks once again for your long prophetic faithfulness in the direction of justice. As one who worked both in Congress and the NGOs with certainty of victory in South Africa even in the darkest hours of the 1970s-80s I can declare again, always with the then welcome support of Christian Century and the Episcopal Church, that history turns on surprises…the unexpected. The screw turns toward justice on the diligence of the minority who stand against the tyranny of the powers and the marketeers especially when the voices of those most effected oppressed declare “please embrace the tools of BDS” as the suffering poor did in the anti-apartheid era.

    The unfaithful church will one day grow silent accept to lament its support of apartheid and its complicity in the brutal crimes again “the least of these my brothers/sisters”. The blind will see and as Archbishop Desmond declared “come over to the winning side!” In the meantime as with the declaration of the world Church that declared the Dutch Reformed Church in “status confessionis”, our heresy will grieve the hearts of those who love the church that has nurtured us. Courage. Peace in our time, Tom

  14. Roy Hayes says:

    I would like to speak a word to Rabbi Steven Ballaban. Learn from Betty Jane Bailey and Sami Joseph. Your cheap shots don’t work as well as they used to.

  15. Rabbi Dr. Steven Ballaban says:

    Rev Dr. Betty, you seem to confuse “safe and protected” with “non-citizens granted full and equal rights as citizens.” You were a Christian. You were a resident in the country as a US Citizen. Palestinians who are NOT Israeli citizens are not granted equal status as Israelis. Is this really a surprise for you?? Palestinians claim that they are a nationality; that nation is – through its elected government of Hamas – at war with Israel. Their chosen tactic for waging war is terrorism. Firing over 40,000 rockets targeted at civilian areas. Suicide bombers who kill children and non-combatants in pizza parlors, at a passover seder in a hotel, in synagogues in Turkey, France and who slaughter old men in wheelchairs on an Italian cruise ship. I don’t think that they US grants free and full rights to all who hold a Syrian passport, or who pledge their allegiance to ISIS. What Israel DOES do is arrest Israeli terrorists who murder a palestinian teenager, within hours of the crime. It prosecutes them and imprisons them. It does NOT hold parades in their honor, and paint murals glorifying their horrific acts. When a church or a mosque burns, the police investigate immediately, and hold those guilty accountable. My synagogue in Bloomington Indiana was burned over 30 years ago. Hate crime. No charges were ever brought.

    As for your time in Israel, you were free to teach and practice your faith. No one was allowed to threaten to murder you, or your family. Try doing that in North Korea, or Iran. Or Nigeria, Tunisia, Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon. If you didn’t agree with the government, you could protest. In public. Try that in Jordan, and see how long your visa is good.

    As for you, James and the others in these postings; your protestations of being the “real” Christians rings hollow. Real Christians would have written at least ONE blog posting about Christian women and children being seized by the thousands in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria and sold into slavery. Real Christians would have written at least ONE blog posting about the 3 MILLION Syrian children who are refugees, or the millions of African-Americans who face discrimination and lack the freedoms you demand that Israel grant you – a foreign citizen – while YOUR government denies it to their own citizens! A REAL Christian would lament the hundreds of thousands who have been maimed and slaughtered by other Christians in South Sudan, in a civil war that began only months after independence.

    A REAL Christian would also truthfully acknowledge that Israel exists because of the 2000 year history of oppression and brutality of other REAL Christians and Muslims in their treatment of Jews. You see, the good Christians of Poland gleefully massacred my family, stole our property and drove us into “exile” while the good Christians in American told us, “no room at the Inn.” And the Muslims in the middle East drove out 850,000 Jews who came to Israel because none of the good Christian European countries would take them in. So please, spare me your righteous indignation about Israel. A REAL Christian would live into the teachings of your faith: You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5 I have known many real Christians in my life. They don’t sound like the judgmental, self-righteous angry pack of frustrated anti-Semites that you represent.

    And Jim – as a Methodist, you seem to love to attack the Episcopal Church, the Mennonites, Jews, and others. Does this mean that the Methodists have resolved all of their own issues, and now it is time to share that wisdom with others?

  16. Pearl McElheran says:

    “Experience has shown church leaders throughout history that it is not in their “best interests” to go against the controlling power. ”

    Is that what Bonhoeffer said? what Martin Luther King said? what Bishop Tutu said? The list could go on and on. Good Grief! what a statement! Change does not come by knowingly being co-opted. I”m embarrassed that Episcopal Church leaders would make such a statement.

  17. John Kleinheksel says:

    I just finished watching a fireworks display – a lot like the sound and fury of our conversations with the good Rabbi – signifying nothing.
    People of goodwill and strong conviction convictions talk passed each other too often and do not hear each other, and are not willing to give any substance to others points of view.
    How many of us have not acted like Bishop Dawani who doesn’t want to jeopardize the detente he has with the occupation forces? How many of us accuse others of wrongdoing and see no wrongdoing from our side?
    We too easily slip into demonizing of one another and demeaning each other. We show very little vulnerability.
    I applaud the Jews who put together the PBS documentary, shown this past Monday, called 1913: Seeds of Conflict. I think it is meant to open the eyes of American and global Jewry who are wedded to the predominant Jewish narrative. This prevailing view has left little room for the legitimate grievances of the indigenous people. Jews and Gentiles and Arabs should all see and discuss it for the truth it discloses to all the participants in our tortured region. It is available for home viewing from PBS for $19.95.

  18. Roy Hayes says:

    Rabbi Balliban…. Episcopal Priest here. You’re obviously in an argumentative mood today. So am I. From my perspective, the time has come for Jews to apologize for what the Talmud teaches about Jesus.

  19. Rabbi Dr. Steven Ballaban says:


    If you doubt the overall effect of the BDS movement, you can read the following incidents at some of this country’s top institutions of higher learning:

    UCLA – Rachel Bayda:

    Stanford –

    Vassar – SJP tweets a Nazi cartoon:

    Various campuses – including students in Boston yelling, “Jews back to Birkenau” :

    As I said before, the BDS movement is NOT simply a group of peace loving people pursuing equality and security for Palestinians. It is the left’s version of Nazism. While such behavior would never be tolerated if it came from student groups like the Young Republicans, or conservative Christians who condemn homosexuality and Gay marriage, it is roundly embraced by the left and “liberal” Christians, to their enduring shame.

  20. Chips Shutt & Cassandra Naylor says:

    Sadly, the Bishops who condemned the non-violent BDS strategy have insulted the teachings of Jesus Christ. Shame on them.

  21. J. Martin Bailey says:

    Thank you, Jim, for your clear and thorough report on actions by several Christian denominations. I am also grateful that you permit persons who disagree with you to “have their say” in response to your thoughtful and well-researched essay on BDS.

    The long responses of Rabbi Steven Ballaban says more about him than about you. Having traveled with you on several occasions in Israel and Palestine, I know that you are neither of the insulting slurs that he uses. I know you to be a competent journalist and a fine gentleman; I have observed your friendly relations with both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Christians. In fact I recall with pleasure the conversations that I helped arrange for you with two Chief Rabbis as well as prominent public figures in Israel.

    Rabbi Ballaban’s statements show his lack of understanding of the diversity of religious expression in Palestine and he fails to understand how the policies of the current government of Israel is turning those who have supported Israel in the past into critics. World public opinion is rapidly shifting among those who honestly seek justice and pursue it.

    The global political and religious leaders take no pleasure in criticizing Israel; they are people who supported Jews when they were the oppressed in Germany and elsewhere. Their courageous actions in those dark days has only made them more sensitive to oppression wherever they see it today. They learned in the ’30s and ’40s that to be silent was, in fact, collaboration with the Nazis. Now they rise to support another oppressed people. I am glad that you and I are clearly in that circle today. Carry on!

  22. Lillian Rosengarten says:

    I am ashamed as a Jew that Rabbi Ballaban does not yet understand this is not a balanced issue and his explanations are out of context. There is one country and one government in Israel that practices colonialism, racism and oppression. The difference between Jewish and the country Israel must be differentiated. Zionist Israel is an ultra Nationalist regime that has contributed greatly to the steady growth of ant-Semitism created by it’s racist apartheid crimes against Palestinians who have been deprived of their rights. When Palestinians are free, Israel too shall be free but not until then. Zionism is a catastrophe and blind Jews who support this, are doing a great disservice to what it means to be a Jew.

  23. Clyde Farris says:

    Pontius Pilate is alive and well in the Episcopal church.

  24. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Jim, Thank you for your tremendous article. For me, you bring to mind examples of how the role of Roman Authority Pontias Pilate, like some of our churches and synagogues, today, washed his hands to let the special interests determine the policy of the day. It goes on to the evil power of SILENCE which the Jews of today rightly condemn, when they were left on their own during the horrid Nazi era. You remind me of the Jewish Voices of Peace who refuse, under duress, to succumb to the Rome of today, which is apartheid, colonial, Zionist-clad Israel,

    To Rabii Balaban, I say: Drop off the armour of the Roman Legions and join the true Judaic believers who are today in Jewish Voice of Peace.

    As Palestinian Christians, we pride ourselves on being part and parcel of the Palestinian native people of the Holy Land. We do not differentiate between us and the Muslim Palestinians and the Jewish Palestinians and the Druze Palestinians. We are one people and we reject having “preferential” treatment manipulated by the Israeli authorities. Israel is attempting in every way and angle to create divisions among the Palestinian sects, in order to give it the pretext to take the role of “protector”, after creating its criminal incitements in the first place.

    The time has come for the world to know that BDS should be applied on Israeli products and services, not only on settlements that can be easily disguised and manipulated by the bigger settler-state of Israel.

  25. Ben Tua says:

    I am sorry that Rabbi Balaban, a teacher, is setting such a poor example.

    His postings are replete with accusations and insinuations; and his assertions are often false, inaccurate or misleading as well as thoughtless and one-sided.

    I sense that he is in denial and simply not interested in any kind of dialogue with those with whom he disagrees regarding Israeli behavior vis a vis the Palestinians in Israel and the territories Israel occupies.

    Rabbi Balaban clearly sees the BDS movement as a threat, which I believe it is. But it is not a threat to Israel. Rather, it is a threat to unjust Israeli policies that are very much out of sync with the glorious contributions that Jews have made to humankind over many centuries.

    Lillian Rosengarten gets it right when she says in her thoughtful post, ”When Palestinians are free, Israel too shall be free but not until then.”

  26. abunaalgodon says:

    I appreciate John Kleinheksel’s reminder that with regard to Rabbi Ballaban’s comments we’re talking past each other. We are, but we will not correct that on a blog. In at least one point the Rabbi is right. The Christian community in which I claim membership has much to atone for – and our centuries of anti-Semitism are just the beginning. If we had to wait, though, to be guiltless before we could speak against injustice we would all be silent. Why I so regret my church’s continued rejection of resolutions of even BDS Light is that I believe Israeli oppression has now become totally systemic. It is present in every policy relating to both West Bank and Israeli Palestinians. In May I sat in a military court in an Israeli prison and watched as a 14 year old boy was tried for throwing stones. Though he may well have, he denied it. He was convicted and given a five year suspended sentence of one year in prison. Which means he – and his family – will live under the threat of imprisonment throughout his adolescence. All that has to happen is that he is again accused. In these courts the word of an IDF soldier, with no other evidence, will always win over that of a young Palestinian boy.

  27. Rabbi Dr. Steven Ballaban says:


    Your response that you are “ashamed as a Jew” and that Israel’s policies have “contributed to the “steady growth of anti-Semitism” are precisely my point. You don’t have to be ashamed as a Jew. But you know, deep down, that Jews continue to be seen as “other” by Christians, even your liberal Christian friends in the UCC. In their mind, there is justification of collective retaliation against all Jews for the actions or beliefs of some, or even a few. No one says that Christians should be ashamed “as a Christian” for the behavior of Christians in South Sudan. No one expects Muslims to be “ashamed as Muslims” for ISIS. And yet, as John and Awad expect, if I want to show that I am a “good Jew,” the kind who is tolerated (but never truly accepted as an equal) I have to disavow the “bad Jews” who don’t have the decency to turn their fate over to others. You don’t have to be ashamed – you can simply disagree with me, or any other believer of any other faith. If you feel the need to see yourself as part of a collective, then you can be proud. Proud that the Jewish people has produced more Nobel prize winners than any other nationality. Proud that Israel, a nation that has been under siege by its Arab neighbors since the idea of a Jewish state was first accepted in the Balfour declaration, has produced thousands of technologies and patents that benefit all humanity, not just Jews. Proud that Israelis adhere to a standard of ethics in war not followed by Russia, China, Iran, Canada, Mexico, or the US.

    To Awad, I say that your accusation of me wearing the “armour of the Roman legions” is one step short of accusing me of Deicide. A Christian anti-Jewish slur that justified the murder and mistreatment of Jews for 2000 years. And telling me I should join the “true judaic believers” is truly chutzpah. In other words, you know more about my faith than I do? And as far as the respect that Palestinian Christians and Muslims have for “Palestinian Jews,” where was that respect in 1921 during the Jaffa riots in which Jewish homes and businesses were looted and Jews slaughtered? That was 27 years BEFORE the Jewish state that you hate so much. Where was the respect for Palestinian Jews in 1929 in Hebron, when Jewish rabbinical students were massacred? Or during the Arab revolt in 1936-39? Where was that respect when Hajj al-Amin collaborated with the Nazis? All of this BEFORE Israel was established.

    Where was that respect when the Fedayeen were murdering women and children in the 1950’s, 17 years BEFORE the 1967 “occupation” that you claim is the real reason for Palestinian terrorism. The 400 Jewish souls who were murdered were not selected because they were “occupiers” or because they were legitimate military targets. They were killed because they were Jews. Period.

    Where is the Palestinian condemnation of the murder of French Jews in the cafe bombing in Paris in 1981, or the murder of Leon Klinghoffer in 1985, or the bombing of TWA flight 841? Or 3 Jewish teens – two of them US citizens – who were murdered on the orders of Hamas on the West Bank last summer? You can spare me the, “It is not Jews we hate, it is Israeli occupation” line. It rings hollow when Palestinian terrorists target Jews worshipping in synagogues in Turkey, visiting a museum in Brussels and when the French police have to surround synagogues in France. Palestinian terrorists murder Jews. Because they are Jews. And because they hate Jews. They hated them BEFORE Israel existed, and killed them (check the British mandate investigations, which all say it was racial violence against Jews as Jews) for being Jews. They killed them at the moment that Israel was declared a state, BEFORE the “occupation” that you claim to be the source of the strife. They hate them when they live in France, or Belgium, or Turkey, or Poland, or Iraq, Iran, Lebanon (my uncle lived in Lebanon until he was forced to flee for his life, leaving his home and property behind). And they hate them and murder them for being Jews, for being “other.” I would also point you to a conversation I had with Hussein Ibish, who told me in no uncertain terms, “Jews are NOT Arabs, and Arabs cannot be Jews. Even Jews who lived in Arab communities for 2700 years, spoke and wrote in Arabic, are not Arab.”

    The Palestinians who attend American Universities and who have engaged in disgusting and shameful displays of anti-Semitism, as in UCLA, Stanford, Vassar and the other examples above, did not attack Israelis. They did not attack people who were Zionist. They attacked Jews. Just because they are Jews, and they HATE Jews. And hate, my friend, is not a part of any Christian value system that I am familiar with.

    While Jewish Palestinians were making advances in medicine and science, economics and literature, art and music, Palestinians were concentrating on perfecting suicide vests, hijacking strategies, Qassam rockets and terrorism. Sorry, but that is the legacy of the Palestinian people and their contribution to civilization. And now Arab populations are suffering horribly because of the spread of those very technologies, because hate knows no boundaries and has no true alliances. It is a virus, and that virus is consuming the middle east and much of the world.

  28. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    To Rabbi Ballaban, I say, your language is that of a shotgun approach, parroting Israeli and Zionist propaganda since Israel’s conception. This is what is rightly called, Chutzpah.
    There is a huge difference between a “Jew” and a “Zionist”. An analogy is to compare it to distinguishing between a “Cuban” and a “Communist”, or a “Southerner” and a “KKK”.
    Some members of my family were forced to flee because of “Jewish terrorism”. They lost all their livelihood, back in 1948, when Israel was created on Palestinian lands. Others were not as “lucky”.
    The British brought into Palestine the “Jewish Regiment”, from the outset, in order to carry on the Zionist Plan. Militant Zionist immigrants, who poured into Palestine, (Imagine if that were to happen here in the US?!?!) were mostly military-trained in World War II. They instantly formed infamous terrorist gangs that were the first to introduce and launch terrorism, as a “strategy”, in Palestine. From blasting King David’s Hotel, to the massacre of Deir Yassine, to Rabbi Dr. Barukh Goldstein, the grizzly terrorist who slaughtered 29 Muslim worshipers in their mosque in Hebron, as they were praying. That was before any suicide bombings ever occurred.
    Terrorist Zionists coldly planned massacres and manipulated them, in order to terrorize people out of their homeland. Why? Simply because they were Palestinian. No other reason whatsoever.
    It is ironic that, in the eyes of non-religious, non-practicing Jews, “Zionists” wanted to void the land from all “non-Jews”. They wanted to evacuate Palestine from its native Arab Christian and Muslim population, in order to bring in masses of “Jewish” immigrants to replace them.
    As world famous British historian, Arnold Toynbee, stated in his world famous “A Study of History”: What the (Zionist) Jews did to the Palestinians was, qualitatively, as heinous as what the Nazis had done to the Jews, and for them to do so to people who had done them no harm, at the very first opportunity after their liberation in Europe…..
    Rabbi Ballaban, Jewish Palestinian Arabs were Arab and remain Arab, as do Christian and Muslim Arabs. It is the Zionists who came in from Europe who deliberately tried to insert this criminal wedge because of their warped, alien ideology.

  29. Sr. Elaine Kelley says:

    It has always been thus: “The Church is the cross on which Christ was crucified.” –Hans Kung

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