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Wiesenthal Center accuses Episcopal Bishop of anti-semitism

Wiesenthal Center accuses Episcopal Bishop of anti-semitism

Bishop Gayle Harris. phot from Dio. Mass.

In debate at the recently concluded General Convention. bishop Gayle Harris (Suffragan, Massachusetts) 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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Doug Desper

You may not like the Wiesenthal Center as the messenger but that’s not the point. The condemning accusations by an Episcopal bishop are the point and have yet to be addressed by a response. BTW: the Wiesenthal Center has much greater credibility and far more respected achievements than many of its critics could hope to match.

RJ Barham

I am an Episcopal here in Binghamton, NY Christ Church. I am Jewish and I am from Palestine. I am Hebrew of the tribe of Naptalie (spelling off) the 6th son of Israel. I am Sephardic. Where did Bishop Gayle Harris get these false statements?

Daniel Sevitt

This is a very serious accusation and one that bears investigation. The Bishop has been accused of fabricating a story that a teenager who was unarmed was shot repeatedly by soldiers in broad daylight.

Unless she can produce some kind of corroboration for this fantasy, she must rightly be labeled a propagandist. The next question MUST be, what would motivate her to lie in this fashion?

There are many ways that people can help the Palestinians. Making up stories should never be one of them.

This can be resolved simply. Until it is, the Bishop’s every statement on the subject must be suspect.

Philip B. Spivey

Beginning an investigation about what Bishop Harris saw and said is a mission of determining Fact. The implication being that she is a liar. But the Truth about Palestine, of which Bishop Harris spoke, is writ much large: In the past seventy years, the world has been witness to the wholesale appropriation of Palestinian lands without recompense. We’ve witnessed Palestinian youth that were throwing rocks, shot and killed by Israeli soldiers. Most of us don’t need to revisit the litany of atrocities. However, these atrocities are not singular; they represent policy, pattern and practice of the Israeli government. Nothing our Bishops could say, would prove more libelous than the Truth about what has–and is— happening in Palestine.

The fault does not lie with Bishop Harris or any other spiritual leader who dares rent the curtain of apartheid in the Holy Land. In this instance, the fault lies with a right-wing ideology that seemingly permeates the Wiesenthal Center these days.

Prof Christopher Seitz

Why not a concern for what was said actually having happened?

That is for the accuser to establish surely.

Linda Gaither

I shared this Episcopal Cafe article with a Jewish Voice for Peace comrade and, after reading it, she said “Yuck! That Center is so anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic. I used to sometimes get their mailings, and they were always disturbing.” It is indeed disturbing to read this article, with its accusations and innuendos about the members of our House of Bishops. I thank all of our Bishops who voted on Friday the 13th to join ELCA, our partner in the Concordat,
to create a human rights investment screen to help us avoid any complicity through our church investments, whether in Palestine/Israel or anywhere, from companies that profit from human rights abuses.

Tom Downs

I’m not sure this is the best way for the Simon Wiesenthal Center to make friends with the Episcopal Church. They have slandered our bishops and it’s up to them to prove their accusations are factual.

Daniel Sevitt

Surely that’s not how it works. The Bishop has made two statements which seem to be false, based on all other evidence and historical records. The burden of proof is hers to show that her stories actually happened and are not a fabrication.

Prof Christopher Seitz

Now let’s not ruin the matter by asking for facts and corroboration.

Obviously that would put everything completely to rest.

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