And what to my wondering eyes should appear, at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church this month, but a heap of painful evidence that the foreign policy of the United States isn’t in disarray solely because of Donald Trump.
Practically no substantial number of Americans seems capable these days — in contrast with the Cold War era — of figuring out for long who the good guys are, and aren’t. It used to be so easy. The commies were bad. Then we beat the commies, and… and…
I intrude mention of the Episcopal Church here because of my presence at the late convention — where what could have been taken for the third, perhaps second, cousin of old-fashioned anti-Semitism prowled like a ramping and roaring lion, snarling at Israel, clapping its paws for the Palestinians.
Resolution after resolution targeted Israel for its apparently endless failures to bestow full rights on Palestinians in the so-called “occupied” territories. Resolution authors wanted the church, through its investments, to pressure Israeli acquiescence in a pro-Palestinian policy.
A convention deputy from Hawaii spoke of Israel’s “brutal occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza (from which, actually, Israel withdrew formally in 2005), saying, “We as a church are complicit in the occupation. We have money invested in it.”
The resolution’s authors desired an “investment screen” to make sure Episcopalians, bless their compassionate hearts, refuse help to the Israeli oppressors, affirming that “Palestinian lives matter.” As they do: just as Israeli lives matter — lives menaced daily by the Hamas terrorists whose anger breaks out whenever there seems any chance of getting away with it.
The resolution passed the convention’s House of Deputies 619-214, only to stall in the House of Bishops. Six other resolutions, out of 15, passed both houses: all of them critical of an advanced, thoroughly civilized (however much the Palestinians dispute it) ally of the United States in efforts to stabilize a volatile region of the world.
How much more confused is it possible to get? As confused as President Trump appeared in Helsinki, batting down suggestions that the Russian government really isn’t very nice, or for that matter amenable to American desires to live in peace and freedom?
A morally confused world is what we inhabit — made no more crystalline in aspect by the president’s twists and turns of logic.
I return to the so-called Israeli question: the acid test of logic, saying nothing of decency and generosity. The infection of anti-Semitism appears to be spreading. As if “the Jews” somehow — as used to be asserted by the brain-deprived — league and conspire and plot and plan to take over the world. I think we must not tax my fellow Episcopalians — at this present time —with outright anti-Semitism; that is, with the desire to put the Jews in their place. At General Convention, they affirmed, formalistically, Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. Then, without a sideways glance at Palestinian vows to eradicate Israel, and at the street violence constantly to be feared, and often witnessed, the Episcopal resolutions slammed Israel for measures intended to keep the peace: measures sometimes violent, sometimes ham-handed but generally efficient.
The problem is not American in isolation. It is international. It is political. In the July/August issue of Commentary, Melanie Phillips, the British journalist, asks whether the Jews of Europe should ponder leaving — given the recrudescence in their homelands of squalid anti-Semitism, practiced by the left. The same left, more or less, that dominates the national hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. “The symbiosis,” she writes, “between hatred of the Jewish state and hatred of the Jews is now part of the DNA of the progressive world.” It arises “because the West is in trouble. And a society in trouble always turns on the Jews.”
The Phillips thesis delves deeply into the moral flabbiness that seems, in 2018, to characterize judgment of rights and wrongs in the relationships of nations and people jostling each other in the communist twilight, seeking to distinguish friend from adversary and competitor.
A certain clarity in foreign policy — so he claims — lights up the mind of Donald J. Trump. More than anything else, it underscores the unclarity, the confusion muddying up 21stcentury life.
William Murchison’s most recent book is The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson.
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