Mark Oppenheimer, in Tablet Magazine, extensively interviews The Rev. Bruce Shipman, the former chaplain of the Episcopal Church at Yale University, who in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, wrote that “the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.”
The title of the piece is way over the top, but the interview itself is insightful for numerous reasons.
Mark Oppenheimer: I have an open-ended question. What happened?
Bruce Shipman: The response astonished me. I mean, it dismayed me. And, I think the first shock, on top of the personal letters that came to me in email and of course, the website of ECY [Episcopal Church at Yale] was easily accessible, and my phone number and email address were both right there for all to use. But to find in the Yale Daily News, on the 28th, just two days after my letter was published in the Times, this very inflammatory guest editorial, which I think is really out of proportion, and that’s an understatement, you know. I don’t think my letter was hateful, I think people read things into it that I did not intend. And I can understand why it did offend some. But the fact that there is such a disconnect between a great many who found nothing offensive in the letter and those who did—that’s an issue that needs to be addressed, I think.
Because most people that I’m similar to say, “What’s the fuss? What’s the fuss? You know, we see this illustrated in the news and we see what’s happening, and it’s pretty obvious that the escalation in anti-Semitic violence had some connection to what’s going on in Israel and Gaza.” That’s pretty obvious. That’s no explanation to the deeper problem of anti-Semitism—that’s another subject. But what I was saying was not plumbing the depths of Semitism in its own right. But rather that there is a correlation between what’s happening in Israel and, um, some resentment against the Jews is manifested in violence. That’s happening. I mean that is happening …
There were some anti-Zionist websites that enjoyed using your case as, “The Jews drove you out.”
It wasn’t. It was my own board that failed to back me up, for their own reasons. And that was very disappointing.
Not that AIPAC can’t drive people out. I just didn’t see any evidence that they did that to you.
No, no. I wouldn’t, no. As I say there was, I believe within the first couple of days, the chaplain’s office and the president were involved in trying to get me out. I believe that. But you’re quite right that, had the board supported me, and the bishops, as they should have really … But the principle of free speech, and the principle of the integrity of the chaplain’s office—the chaplain needs at times to say things that are unpopular.
If what you’ve said is true, it sounds like they’re trying to controversy-proof the chaplaincy.
Yes. I believe that that is the policy of the administration. I believe that that is Sharon’s understanding of her role, to avoid controversy, and the chaplaincy is essentially pastoral. And to avoid the controversy.