Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Methodist voices, reasonable and unreasonable

Susanne Garrison Hoder bill herself as "the founder of the Interfaith Peace Initiative in Providence, R.I., and a member of the Divestment Task Force of the New England Conference". On the one hand, she seeks peace by bringing people of different religions together. That's admirable. On the other hand, she's part of the "task force" driving the United Methodist Church's anti-Israel activism. That's reprehensible.

For one person to fill these two contradictory roles could present certain difficulties. How can someone, on the one hand, bring conflicting parties together to work for peace, and, on the other, advocate against one of the parties? And how does this dilemma play out in the area of religion, where humanity's highest aspirations mix with its worst prejudices?

Of course, dealing with those difficulties require consciousness of them, and, judging by what she's written here, that may not be a burden Ms. Hoder has borne heavily. She has just published a piece called "American tax dollars supporting apartheid" on the United Methodist Reporter website, which is an official arm of that church. The factual distortions in the piece are many, her bias is palpable and her view of the conflict completely one-sided (although she does insert in her diatribe the non sequitur that she "celebrated Rosh Hashana with a rabbi" to reassure those who may be put off by her rancor).

But let me draw your attention to what she appears to advocate. She says "(p)eople from all over the world with Jewish ancestry are invited to live on property taken from Palestinians. Yet Christians and Muslims whose ancestors have lived in the Holy Land for 2,000 years and 1,300 years, respectively, cannot return." Hodor seems to advocate the "right of return" for descendants of Palestinian refugees from Israel, and oppose the right of return for Jews. This runs contrary to two-state solution which has been the goal of the "peace process" and provides the only real hope for peace in the region. Hers is a recipe for continued war and killing in the name of a radical, unachievable peace. That kind of peace advocate Israelis and Arabs don't need.

Here's a letter from David Preston of Jacksonville, Florida published by the United Methodist Reporter in response to Hodor's commentary:

Israel, South African "apartheid" cannot be compared

To compare a system which oppressed those who were ostensibly powerless (apartheid) with a system in which one is surrounded on vitually all sides—including within your own borders—by enemies who have as their stated goal your destruction (Israel) is nonsense and is morally indefensible.

In South Africa, blacks had very little power, military or economic, and the white government was all-powerful. In Israel, the Palestinians have routinely demonstrated their power through bombings, rocket attacks and the pressure of international governments and the press.

The Palestinians have been kept in their miserable conditions by the greed and corruption of their own leaders: Arafat, Hamas and the PA. Arab governments in the region have refused to allow the resettlement of the Palestinians in their lands in order to keep the Palestinians as a useful tool to weaken and destroy Israel.

Nelson Mandela preached reconciliation and cooperation. The Palestinians and their Arab supporters continue to advocate violence, even conditioning their own children to hate from birth. Look at some of the images of children being taught to hate Israelis, and the culture of violence and death against Israel, America and the West in general, which dominates the indoctrination they receive.

Israel is fighting for its life against a sea of violent, hate-filled people that are stuck in the 7th century. To allow Israel's destruction in the face of the genocide being waged against would be immoral.

As United Methodists, it's time to get beyond this infantile notion that holding hands and talking about peace will actually bring about peace. World War II should have taught us that lesson for all time.

UPDATE: Hoder's group promotes book by Holocaust denier Michael Hoffman II. Read about that here.

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