Episcopal speech named among 2018’s most anti-Semitic incidents

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has published its list of 2018’s 10 worst anti-Semitic incidents, and eighth on that list is statements given by Suffragan Bishop Gayle Harris of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts at General Convention in July which included fabricated stories of Israeli violence against Palestinians.

From the report, which can be found online here:

During a speech in Massachusetts last July, Bishop Gayle Harris reported that she witnessed an Israeli soldier arrest a three-year-old Arab child on the Jerusalem Temple Mount and gun down a 15-year old Palestinian teen in the back. After the Simon Wiesenthal Center exposed the claims as fabrications, Harris, the #2 Episcopal clergy in the state, backtracked, saying that she had only heard the stories from a third party (a Palestinian). “The fault is solely mine,” Harris said. “I was ill-advised to repeat the stories without verification.”

Those fabrications generated widespread outrage in the Jewish community. In an accompanying statement, Bishop Alan Gates acknowledged that “for Christian leaders to relate the unsubstantiated accounts awakens traumatic memory of a deep history of inciting hostility and violence against Jews – a history, the echoes of which are heard alarmingly in our own day.”

Numerous American church leaders have embraced the Palestinian narrative in the Holy Land, often to the detriment of the 8.9 million Jewish, Christian, and Muslim citizens of Israel. The Jewish state protects the rights and holy sites of all religions and is the only Middle East nation where the Christian population is increasing.

The full list:

  1. The shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October
  2. An October speech by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan
  3. Anti-semitic vandalism at American colleges and universities including Columbia, Duke, Cornell and Penn State
  4. UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-Semitism
  5. Curriculum control exercised by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
  6. AirBnB’s delisting of 200 rentals in Israeli communities on the West Bank
  7. Actions by German bank BDS
  8. Bishop Harris’ October speech
  9. Discrimination and anti-Semitic speech from the Swedish Karolinska Institute, which announces the Nobel Prize in medicine each year
  10. Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters’ rehetoric

We covered Bishop Harris’ remarks and the Simon Wiesenthal’s response in July, and Harris’ statement, released in August, as well as a statement from Bishop Alan Gates, of the Diocese of Massachusetts, here.

From Bishop Harris’ statement:

Our society is experiencing a rise in public slander, anger and bigotry, where civility and respectful dialogue on different perspectives has been sidelined for invective and condemnation.  In this context, I am now painfully aware that my words in the House of Bishops caused pain for many.  I am committed to share my concerns in ways that do not simplistically demonize others and cut off discussion, and I hope for the same in return.

Again, for the hurt I have caused, I do apologize.  It is my hope, and my commitment centered on our baptismal vows to continue to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” (from The Baptismal Covenant, The Episcopal Church, The Book of Common Prayer).  May there be such equality and respect between Israelis and Palestinians, and may there be among us all justice, in order to bring God’s peace.

Shalom and Salaam,
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

Image: By Alexisrael – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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