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Wiesenthal Center accuses Episcopal bishop of anti-Semitism

Wiesenthal Center accuses Episcopal bishop of anti-Semitism

July 28, 2018

In debate at the recently concluded General Convention. Bishop Gayle Harris (Massachusetts - suffragan) recounted a personal experience of a trip to Israel as a teenager, and also relayed a story concerning an attempted arrest of a three year old as part of the church's deliberations on whether or not to divest from Israeli investments.

In a statement, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations, condemned her statements, alleging that they were "fabrications" and "absurd allegations."

We have been unable to corroborate the bishop's stories, though there was a report from March of this year of a three year old who was temporarily detained, but in Hebron, not Jerusalem. We have reached out to the bishop's office and will update this post with any response.

Here is the statement from the Wiesenthal Center:

The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemns the outrageous fabrications made from the floor of the recent General Convention of The Episcopal Church by Bishop Gayle Harris of Massachusetts. In speaking in favor of a punitive measure against Israel, Harris claimed, "I was there a couple years ago on the Temple Mount. A three-year-old little boy, Palestinian, with his mother was bouncing a rubber ball. The ball happened to sort of roll away from him and go over the side down to the Western Wall," leading to Israeli soldiers charging the Temple Mount and attempting to handcuff the child.

This is an absurd allegation. There is a high stone wall on top of the Temple Mount that blocks balls and people from going over the side. Nonetheless, Harris' charge was met with many "aye" votes, and no challenge of her facts.

Harris also fabricated another story. "I've been there when a teenager, I think he was fifteen, was walking down the street and asked a military vehicle...a question... not one to the liking of those soldiers, he began to run as they threatened him, and they shot him in the back four times. He fell on the ground, and they shot him another six." There was no such incident. Harris did not respond to inquiries about her sources. Inventing lies to suit an agenda is appropriate for Iranian ayatollahs, not Episcopal clergy.

"Christian Churches and their leaders have a historic obligation to fight anti-Semitism, not spread blood libels, invented to stir up animosity against Jews," remarked Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Wiesenthal Center. "If Harris speaks for her denomination, then The Episcopal Church belongs on the short list of enemies of the Jewish State and her supporters."

"Further, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, pushed for his church to take a new, anti-Israel position, with more than a dozen resolutions hostile to Israel tabled, leading Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton from Maryland to decry the 'piling on' Israel, and asking, 'Why the fixation on Israel?'

"We applaud the efforts of some valiant voices to restore some balance, but they were too few. We also recognize that -- contrary to the claims of BDS activists -- TEC voted against divestment, and in favor of continuing its previous policy of select investment. But the new direction of the church was unmistakable."

"The hatred of Israel by many in this church is so severe, that a measure that would have reintroduced medieval Replacement Theology was defeated only by the slimmest of margins," added Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Center's director of interfaith affairs. "It was only a confused last-minute about-face that stopped the church from removing the word 'Israel' from a Eucharistic prayer, and replacing it with 'all nations' or 'our ancestors in faith,' thereby rewriting the Bible. This is a sad indicator of the deep hostility to Israel in evidence at General Convention."

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