This is a letter by Rev. Richard Toll, National Chairperson of
Friends of Sabeel sent to The Living Church, an Episcopal
Church publication.


Letter to the Editor of The Living Church, submitted January
17, 2002

I want to thank Gardiner Shattuck, Jr. for raising an issue
that has been an extremely difficult one within the history of
Christianity.  The Christian church has added to the burdens
of Jewish people throughout the centuries and in what occurred
in WWII.  Anti-semitism is an issue that must definitely be

But, I want to raise a large flag on his concern.  We as a
church and as a nation have oversimplified the issue of
anti-semitism with regard to the State of Israel to the point
that people cannot criticize Israel without being accused of
being anti-semitic.  The convention of our church in 1991
passed a resolution on this subject:

Resolved that the 70th General Convention of the Episcopal
Church recognizes that a distinction exists between the
propriety of legitimate criticism of Israeli governmental
policy and action, and the impropriety of anti-Jewish
prejudice.  And be it fuller resolved that the 70th General
Convention of the Episcopal Church deplores the expression of
anti-Jewish prejudices (sometimes referred to by the imprecise
word anti-semitism) in whatever form on whatever occasion and
urge its total elimination from the deliberation of the
Episcopal Church, its members, and its various units.

In other words we must be able to separate legitimate issues
involving criticism of the State of Israel.  And I believe the
Bishops in Massachusetts were expressing this discernment in
criticizing the state of Israel.  One of the historical
perspectives we need to pay attention to is the fact that
Zionism first arose at the end of the 19th century with
Theodore Herzl and was supported by so-called Christian
Zionists who wanted to support the return of Jewish people to
the Land of Promise.  The Christian Zionists had their own
agenda.  Their belief then and now is to return the Jews to
the Land of Promise so that scripture can be fulfilled
(scripture as they read it), Armaggedon will occur if the Jews
don't convert to Christianity and the second coming will come
about.  In other words, by getting Jews back to the Land of
Promise, Christian Zionists believe it will force the second

It's rather bizarre.  When one thinks about it, it's really
not sympathetic of Jewish people, but Israel takes its support
from wherever it can get it.

And Christian fundamentalists are hoping for the second coming
sooner than later.

It certainly leaves out justice issues, and dismisses
confiscation of Palestinian land and property, and human
rights abuses.

It's complicated.  But because of Zionism the return to the
Land of Promise became an issue in the early part of the 20th
century.  It was suddenly an answer to what could happen to
Jewish refugees after WWII.

Countries refused to take boatloads of these Jewish refugees.
We in America refused to allow an increase in our immigration
of these same refugees.  We along with other countries
promoted the State of Israel as an answer, and in 1948 the
State of Israel became a reality.  It became a reality at the
expense of about one million Palestinians being forced off
their land, their homes confiscated, 450 towns and villages
completely destroyed.  There has never been any compensation
for any of those confiscations.  There is no compensation for
the continuing confiscation of Palestinian property in
Jerusalem and the West Bank even today.  And Israel refuses to
acknowledge the right of return for refugees, which is at the
very heart of international law and is a part of UN Resolution
194, passed in 1948.

The argument of the extreme Zionist is that God gave them the
land 3000 years ago and they want it back.  With no reference
to justice or international law the State of Israel has
violated and continues to violate the rights of the
Palestinian people.  To say we cannot criticize them and raise
issues of justice and human rights is wrong.  In effect our
complicity in this injustice is the same as those who allowed
what happened in Europe during WWII.  I'm also aware of many
Jewish people in this country and elsewhere who refuse to
identify with the actions of the State of Israel and its
policies relating to the Palestinians.  A group in Chicago,
"Not In My Name," is a specific example of many Jewish people
who refuse to accept what Israel is doing.

It is not a matter of anti-semitism; it is a matter of

What is occurring in the State of Israel and the West Bank is
an incredible injustice to a people whose land has been and is
being confiscated by a people who had an incredible injustice
occur to them in WWII.  But the answer to one injustice is not
to inflict a new injustice on a people whose land and property
are being confiscated.  One of the perspectives that seems to
be a part of this whole complicated issue is that the
Palestinian people are paying for the sins of the anti-semitic
behavior in Europe during WWII.  They don't think it's fair!
And they dislike that America helps fund it with five billion
dollars in taxes yearly.

The Palestinian people have suffered because of the sins of
anti-semitic history over the many centuries.  Many people in
our country and in the world are trying to heal their guilt
over WWII by supporting the State of Israel as though they are
beyond criticism.

The State of Israel needs to continue to prosper and its
existence needs to continue as a nation among other nations,
but it must come to terms with its need to apologize to and
compensate the people whose land and villages have been
confiscated.  There needs to be a Palestinian state that is
viable and is not occupied by Israel.  The present occupation
that has lasted for 34 years breeds the violence that
continues to occur.  It is important that the occupation end
soon with a complete withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza and
East Jerusalem.

We also must remember that the Christian denominations that
exist in Israel and the West Bank, including the Anglican
Church, are Palestinian Christians who trace their roots back
to Pentecost.  They feel terribly abandoned by other
Christians throughout the world who blindly support Israel.
The Christian presence is one of non-violence and the
Christian organization of Sabeel in Jerusalem, under the
leadership of The Rev. Naim Ateek, an Anglican priest, even
now is promoting a just and non-violent solution to the
problem that exists there.

As national chair of Friends of Sabeel North America I would
hope that we would become better informed on this issue of
Palestine/Israel and find a way to allow a United Nations
intervention to protect Palestinians and Israelis and stop the

The Rev. Canon Richard K. Toll, D.Min, D.D.