A prominent Canadian Jewish organization is lashing out at the United Church of Canada, saying the church's decision to allow individual members to enact Israeli boycotts is an "insult," even though it was commended by a second national Jewish group.
The statement by B'nai Brith Canada puts it at odds with the Canadian Jewish Congress, which applauded the United Church's decision to reject calls by some of its members for a national boycott of Israeli products and academics, and instead leave it up to individual churches.
The church voted Thursday to encourage its members to "enter into consultation, dialogue, study, and prayer, and then undertake appropriate action toward ending the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory," according to a summary on its website.
It asked member churches to think about "how to move the two peoples toward reconciliation, including, but not limited to, economic boycott."
In a statement late Friday, B'nai Brith said the resolution amounted to supporting "ethnic cleansing" of Jews, presumably because it questions the presence of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.
"The UCC passed resolutions that can best be described as advocating for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]" the statement read.
"We had hoped that they would have had the good judgment to see through those anti-Israel and anti-Jewish motions, including the amendments that were offered and accepted, for what they really were: part and parcel of the campaign to delegitimize the one and only Jewish state in the world," added Frank Dimant, B'nai Brith Canada's executive vice president.
That statement caught Bruce Gregersen, UCC's general council officer for programs, off-guard. He pointed out that it came one day after CJC president Bernie Farber (who earlier spoke out strongly against some proposed motions that ultimately weren't passed) gave his blessing to the UCC resolution. And in 2003, the UCC passed a motion supporting the existence of a Jewish state.
Representatives from both B'nai Brith and the CJC were invited to the UCC meeting as guests, though only the CJC immediate past co-president, Rabbi Reuven Bulka, had speaking privileges.
"I am quite disappointed [with B'nai Brith] I think what they're doing is frankly using what they saw happening for other purposes. I'm not sure what it is. But I think what they said is not helpful," Mr. Gregersen said in an interview from the UCC's 40th general council.
"Frankly, I don't think [UCC will do]anything unless they want to talk to us."
The UCC also supports an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, and pushes for a two-state solution to the Middle East crisis based on pre-1967 borders. But its rejection of a national boycott was applauded by Mr. Farber less than a week after he called it "anti-Semitic."
"We are pleased that the UCC has rejected these misguided and destructive proposals and we look forward to building on this positive step," he said in a release Thursday.
The UCC general council wraps up Saturday, the first day on the job for newly elected moderator Mardi Tindal. Ms. Tindal will serve a three-year term after her election Friday.