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UM Pastor Objects To Church's Anti-Israel Bias At "Peace Conference"

March 22nd 2008


Northern Illinois Conference United Methodist Reporter

Subject: United Methodist Reporter (March 14, 2008 edition)

I read with interest the Christian Peacemaking Conference which was held recently. I wish I had been there for David Wilman's presentation so I could have responded to his quote. "Critics who try to equate any criticism of Israeli practices with anti-Semitism, tend to pursue top leaders to adopt blind affirmation of Israel and to repudiate any nonviolent human rights-based actions." I'm wondering if that comment is a response to the growing outcry that United Methodism is in fact promoting anti-Semitism. I am an ordained United Methodist Elder who is a strong advocate for human rights and who also has studied the Israeli / Palestinian situation closely. I have also been following closely the study materials which our denomination has been offering as a means to inform United Methodists about the present situation in Israel. I personally find much of the study material to be biased against Israel and misleading. I believe it in fact promotes bias against and bigotry towards Israel. And while it might contain truthful facts about the terrible conditions under which the Palestinians live it seems to ignore the Palestinian's role in causing many of their own problems. The important facts which seem to be missing concern things like: The continuous rocket attacks which go further into Israel with every additional return of land to the Palestinians; Past bombings of crowded places in Israel targeted not at the military but at innocent civilian targets; Snipers shooting at Israeli farmers from across the present border; Finally and most importantly the Palestinian's staunch refusal to affirm Israel's right to exist. What about taking those things into consideration when we start talking about human rights abuse and including them in our discussions? What about talking about how those things are motivating Israel to take the actions is has in the past to protect its people.

I really appreciated Bishop Kyung Ha Shin's quote: "What God wants is peace, but we choose hatred and hostility, and we justify it as security and safety." I'm assuming its a subtle reference to Israel and the military actions they have taken. I believe that its legitimate to disagree on whether Israel is justified or not in the particular actions they have taken to protect themselves from outside attacks. The thing I don't understand is why It doesn't seem to be recognized that much of the "hatred and hostility" is in fact aimed at Israel by the Palestinians. Perhaps if the Palestinians stopped attacking Israel then peace would have a chance.

Reverend / Chaplain Kent Svendsen
1st UMC of Forreston / Leaf River UMC
Co-operative Ministry Church Website

Panama Mission Web Site

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