The objective of the Feb. 17 to 28 mission, participant Bruce Gregersen said, was “to listen and try to understand the reality of the situation with a central concern about what we might offer as a Canadian church to contribute toward reconciliation.
“A key part of this exploration will include the effectiveness of our past policies and actions and exploration of future policies as a contribution toward ending the occupation of Palestinian territories begun in 1967,” according to Rev. Gregersen, lead staff of the church’s theology and inter-church interfaith committee and former interfaith officer specializing in Jewish and Muslim relations.A guy who spent years on the interfaith falafel and tasty samosas circuit; who thinks that the dreaded "occupation" is the be-all-and-end-all; who sees a place for his church, with its history of anti-Jewish bigotry/Zionhass (see this, by the infamous A.C. Forrest, UCC Reverend and editor in the 1960s of the United Church Observer), in "reconciling" Israelis (stiff-necked descendants of Old Testament Jews, them and their anachronistic Jewish nation state) and Palestinians (who want to consign Jewish sovereignty over "their" land to history's dust heap)--for that guy to have anything of value to contribute would require not merely a paradigm shift, but a quantum vault from his worldview into a completely different one.
The Ceej chief, ever the optimist and convinced of the sheer force of his personable personality to be able to smooth ruffled feathers and bring people together, may see that as a distinct possibility. Me? While I think anything's possible, I see it as the remotest of prospects. That said, were the UCC to decide to finally butt out of the "reconciliation," I'd be willing to take that as a major victory and see this trip as a great success.
Update: The current issue of the United Church Observer (I wonder how much readership has declined from its heady A.C. Forrest days?) has this about the UCC mission to Israel--merely one of several of the church's groups devising policy re Israel and the Palestinians:
Meanwhile, a group made up of immediate past and current moderators, general secretary Nora Sanders and two members of the General Council Executive continues to develop Middle Eastern policy recommendations to be presented to the 2012 General Council. The group plans to visit the Middle East for eight days this month. Gregersen will go along as a staff resource person.Hands up anyone who thinks Israel is going to come out well after all these groups get through with it. (A "social justice" church group looking into whether Jews "need" land for their Jewish identity? Really? Does the church have any business at all weighing in--butting in--on such matters? Who are they to tell Jews what we do and don't "need"?) Hands up anyone (aside from Jew-know-who) who really cares what this church thinks.
Another group, the General Council’s theology and interchurch interfaith committee, is looking at the issue in the context of the theology of land. Rev. Arlyce Schiebout, who chairs the committee, says it will look at “the right of entitlement or righteous living, to be tenants in God’s land,” plus questions such as “Who are the first peoples of Palestine and Israel? Does this question matter? Is land necessary for Jewish identity?”
Former moderator Very Rev. David Giuliano chairs the group heading to the Middle East. He won’t comment on its progress so far or speculate on possible conclusions. Its tasks, outlined by General Council’s sub-Executive last year, are daunting.
The group has to build on previous General Council actions on the Middle East, which include calls for an end to the Israeli occupation and withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, an end to violent attacks by Palestinians, and recognition “by the emergent State of Palestine of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state within safe and secure borders” — in other words, a two-state solution. It must consider United Church-Jewish relationships as outlined in a 1997 paper called Bearing Faithful Witness, while also taking into account ecumenical partners’ actions and statements, including the Kairos Palestine document. After listening and talking to other “Palestinian, Muslim, Jewish and Israeli organizations,” the group will bring a report to the spring meeting of the General Council Executive.
Already, the group has held meetings with representatives of organizations ranging from the CJC to the Toronto Conference-based Holy Land Awareness and Action Task Group (which backed the Israel boycott call at the 2009 General Council)...
Update: Gee, I wonder who's likely to have more influence on the UCC Israel mission folk--the Jews, or the church's Holy Land Awareness wing, which is working for a "just" peace via BDS initiatives? (BTW, I just love it when Christian social justice types use Jewish scripture to slam Israel, as the Holy Land Awareness Zion-loathers do via this quotation: "The Sovereign Lord said: "You have sinned too long, you rulers of Israel! Stop your violence and oppression. Do what is right and just. You must never again drive my people off their land. I, the Sovereign Lord, am telling you this."— Ezekiel 45:9 The Good News Bible. Considering that the Jews were there first, and the rest of the Middle East is pretty much Judenrein, these UCC bleeding hearts might want to reassess who's been driven off whose land.)