United Church reveals obsession with Israel

As this column went to press, it was announced that the United Church of Canada had voted in favour of boycotting Israeli settlement products.

On the very day that the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation expelled Syria for its ongoing butchery and torture of its citizens, and during a time when Iran supports this carnage and also threatens – while it races to develop nuclear weapons – to annihilate Israel, all the church could concern itself within foreign affairs was to denounce the Jewish state. Psychiatry has a name for this – obsession.

As reported in the Toronto Star, Bruce Gregersen, a United Church general council officer and spokesperson praised the church’s decision while criticizing efforts to have it go the other way: “If there was any sense that all the [anti-report] lobbying was going to have an effect, the council made up its own mind, irrespective of the lobby,” he said.

So “the [Jewish] lobby” was not going to have its way with the church.

How very brave.


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One of the limitations of According to Reports is that since it’s written a week before it appears in print, events may well outstrip what’s been analyzed in it.

Given the speed of developments in Egypt, it’s not surprising that this was the case in the Aug. 16 edition of The CJN. The column reported that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was under the gun for having cozied up with the Hamas leadership from Gaza just days before extremists from the coastal territory, under the watch of Hamas, made their way to Egypt’s Sinai, where, on Aug. 5, they murdered 16 Egyptian border guards. The outrage was such that Morsi was warned against attending the guards’ funerals.

The assumption at that time, in virtually all media circles reporting on these events, was that in the ongoing tussle between Morsi (together with the Muslim Brotherhood, to which he’s connected) and the military, it’s the military that would be strengthened at Morsi’s expense.

Yet just a week later the same media were reporting the “shock” in Egypt when it was revealed that it was Morsi who had the upper hand after all. Which means the Brotherhood. What happened has been described as a “civilian counter-coup.” Morsi dismissed Gen. Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and Chief of Staff Sami Enan, and he also reversed an order previously issued by the SCAF that had severely limited his authority.

Morsi appointed Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, someone assumed to be sympathetic to the Brotherhood, as defence minister and head of the army. But it was the “civilian” Morsi who was clearly in charge and al-Sisi would be answering to him.

Still, with so much of the army brass, current and retired, heavily invested in a sizeable chunk of the economy (figures ranging up to 40 per cent have been cited frequently), it remains an open question about just how much Morsi plans to alter the deeper structure of the military, an institution that’s highly respected by ordinary Egyptians.

What is also an open question is just how much power Morsi seeks. The Aug. 15 Globe and Mail carried a story by the Associated Press’ Cairo-based Hamza Hendawi under a headline that pulled no punches: “In Egypt, signs point to tyranny retooled: New Islamist president grabs Mubarak-style powers.”

Hendawi wrote that in addition to his shake-up of the military, Morsi has also “moved to silence influential critics in the media.” He has replaced scores of editors with others more to his liking. “The question now is whether there is any institution in the country that can check the power of Morsi and the Brotherhood and stop them from taking over the nation’s institutions and consolidating their grip.”

Crucially, Hendawi observed that “there are fears Morsi and his fundamentalist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, could turn the clock back on the country’s tumultuous shift to democratic rule and pursue their goal of someday turning the most populous Arab nation into an Islamic state.”

Paul Michaels is director of research and senior media relations for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.