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The Politicization of Cucumbers

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A full page ad by B'nai Brith in the National Post on the weekend asked in headlines "Why is the United Church obsessed with Israeli cucumbers?"

That was merely the catchy phrase to persuade readers to continue. What bothers B'nai Brith is a vote at the denomination's 41st General Council in Ottawa, August 11-18, to consider boycotting Israeli goods that come from the occupied West Bank -- which, presumably, includes cucumbers.

The ad poses the rhetorical question, "Why is the United Church of Canada obsessed with Israel when it all but ignores Christians being victimized by Arab/Islamic regimes throughout the Middle East?

It's a good question. Why indeed?

The United Church, which was formed in 1925 with the amalgamation of four Protestant denominations, is the largest Protestant congregation in the county. Invariably, it adopts for its own what it sees as popular causes.

The church rejects no one, sanctions same-sex marriages, has opened its ministry to gays, supports abortion; it opposed conscription in the Second World War, was against the Vietnam war, gave emergency aid to draft dodgers, basically uncritically supported China, turned against residential schools it once supported and apologized to First Nations.

Its peak membership of over one million has since shrunk to under 600,000. So the United Church blows hot and cold on issues, and isn't afraid to change its mind or adjust to the mood of the times.

The 26-page report that will be voted on next week is based on a 12-day visit of a working group to the Middle East where Israeli, Christian, Muslim communities in Israel and the West Bank were consulted.

The report says: "Simply put, Israel is maintaining a harsh occupation that must end so peace can emerge... the occupation is being implemented by a democratic country and sustained and supported by Western governments, including Canada's."

This seems typical United Church thinking -- that if Israel ends its occupation of the West Bank, peace is inevitable. If only it were that easy.

The United Church might recall that Israel was attacked from the West Bank and won the territory. In negotiations, it had agreed to return 95 per cent of the land, but this was rejected by the late Yasser Arafat

Israel has already given up Gaza -- and look at how that has resulted in subversion and rocket attacks on Israeli settlements.

The UC report says the occupation is the "primary contributor" to the violence of the region. Wrong. Israel's existence is what provokes violence. It supports "non-violent resistance" to the occupation (don't we all!), but that's more pie-in-sky.

Calling for an economic boycott of products from the West Bank (including cucumbers), but not against products produced in other parts of Israel, seems a gesture to present themselves as fair and balanced. More United Church juggling.

Cautiously, the report supports Israel as a homeland for Jewish people but it also advocates a homeland for Palestinians. "The future of Israel and of Palestine are intimately intertwined," says UC Moderator, the Very Reverend David Guiliano.

Tell that to Hamas and Hezbollah.

The sincerity of the United Church is not in question -- just its judgment and intelligence. The church does not have a good record in some of its decisions. In the Middle East and elsewhere, it might reconsider its view on the origins of violence.

More Muslims have been slaughtered by other Muslims than by any other group.

Surely the impetus for a peaceful West Bank should come from Palestinians -- but they are manipulated by militants whose goal is the extinction of Israel. Pity the United Church can't see this.