August 17, 2018 — Boston
AJC New England welcomes Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris’ apology for a statement made last month at the 2018 General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Austin, TX. While advocating for a resolution condemning Israel, Bishop Harris presented two stories that alleged extreme brutality by Israeli soldiers towards Palestinian children. Both stories were inflammatory and implausible. Subsequently, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts issued a statement acknowledging that Bishop Harris had not witnessed either incident and had heard the stories from people she had met on trips to Israel.
AJC New England Director Robert Leikind commented that:
We learned about Bishop Harris’ remarks with dismay and sorrow, but have since had the opportunity to speak with her. There is little doubt that she deeply regrets comments that she said were made in the heat of a debate. We accept her apology. This said, Bishop Harris’ remarks did not occur in a vacuum. For more than a decade, we have witnessed some Church communities embrace resolutions critical of Israel that were based upon false, one-sided and/or partial information. The result is that Israelis and sometimes those who support Israel have been the subject of malignant characterizations that, for some, have become assumed truths. If there is a lesson from this unfortunate incident, it is that those interested in peaceful co-existence need to make room for serious and informed conversation that is guided by a quest for understanding, not the impulse to indulge emotionally charged and unsubstantiated claims.
According to AJC New England President Jonathan Dorfman:
Let’s hope that this incident inspires greater willingness to forego simplistic narratives that portray Palestinians as innocent lambs and Israelis as violent oppressors. This is a false narrative that provides cover to extremists and undermines those who promote conciliation and peaceful co-existence. We need to create space for serious conversations rooted in a desire to understand and to embrace the complexity of this longstanding conflict. Failing that, we can anticipate more unfortunate incidents that will polarize our community and undermine the cause of peace.
AJC New England is the local gateway to AJC’s global advocacy network that works to safeguard Israel and Jews around the world and promote democratic values for all.