The American Jewish Committee, one of the oldest Jewish advocacy organizations in the United States, denounced a statement made by the World Council of Churches General Secretary the Rev. Samuel Kobia who called Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territories “a sin against God.”
“Rev. Kobia parrots the same hypocritical statements regarding Israel that the WCC regularly issues, ignoring the root cause of Israel’s presence in the West Bank,” said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s international director of interreligious affairs, in a statement issued Friday.
The prominent rabbi pointed to the Six-Day War in 1967 when Israel battled against Egypt, Syria and Jordan to protect the Jewish state from being destroyed. As a result of the war, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Sinai desert and the Golan Heights all fell under Israel’s control. The Sinai Peninsula was later returned to Egypt after a peace treaty was signed.
“Israel does not seek to govern another people,” Rosen maintains. “Rather, Israel has offered in direct negotiations with the Palestinians repeatedly to withdraw from most of the West Bank in exchange for peace and security.”
Kobia, who will step down as WCC general secretary at the end of the year, made the statements while giving his report to the group’s main governing body, the central committee, last Wednesday.
In his presentation, Kobia said the occupation and humiliation of the Palestinian people in Israel-controlled territories is like anti-Semitism in that it is “a sin against God.”
The WCC during its founding assembly in 1948 had declared that anti-Semitism is a “sin against God,” but Kobia last Wednesday asked if the group is “ready to say that occupation is also a sin against God?”
He recalled his experience visiting Palestinians in the areas controlled by Israel and later told reporters about the “dehumanization” of the occupied and occupiers in the territories, according to Ecumenical News International.
“The concern is not only for the victims but also the perpetrators,” he said, referring to Israel.
He talked about the million Palestinians who were forced to migrate after the founding of the State of Israel, the “largest forced migration in modern history,” Kobia noted.
Weeks earlier, the WCC had supported the “just peace initiative” proposed by the United Church of Canada. The church’s proposal states that its convictions would lead it to believe that just peace in the Middle East would require Israel to recognize a fully sovereign state of Palestine that would compose of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as the state of Palestine and other Arab states to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
The proposal also says Israel needs to dismantle its settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while Palestinians need to end their suicide bombings and other violent attacks on Israel.
The United Church of Canada’s “just peace” ideas are similar to that of the WCC.
Given the history of WCC and Jewish groups, it is not surprising that AJC made such a statement against Kobia. Jewish groups have repeatedly criticized the WCC for their Middle East policies, which the groups see as favoring Palestinians and ignoring the constant terrorism threat against Israel.
On Sunday, Kobia was honored by central committee members with a farewell service in Geneva where the meeting is taking place. His report last Wednesday was his last one to the committee as general secretary.