TORONTO — The moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada is being accused of employing antisemitic language in criticizing Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.
Canadian Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement that Rev. Rick Horst repeated “a common antisemitic canard, attributed ‘injustices’ perpetrated against the Palestinians to ‘Zionist and Jewish lobbies in the west.’”
“The Presbyterian Church of Canada’s allowing itself to be a vehicle of antisemitism and the enabling of terrorism is something to be condemned in the strongest terms,” the Wiesenthal Center said on its website.
Rev. Horst categorically rejected any suggestion his remarks were anti-Semitic.
“Clearly they were not,” he told The CJN. “I quite love the Jewish community. I always have and I always will. It doesn’t mean you can’t love the Palestinians as well.”
Rev. Horst said his comments expressed his concern over an “imbalance of power” between Palestinians and Israelis. “My concern is to see an redress of a balance of power that would allow both Jews and Palestinians to live with security.”
Rev. Horst’s controversial remarks were delivered Dec. 15 at St. Andrews Church in Toronto, during a noon-hour reflection that looked back on his recent trip to the Middle East. The trip, in which he and other church leaders toured Israel and the Palestinian territories, followed publication in 2009 of the Kairos Palestine document, which described the creation of Israel as an injustice and which advocated “resistance” against Israel.
In his remarks, Horst said, “Palestinians are daily harassed and abused and treated with indignities that are simply not allowable under international law, yet it continues to persist because of, frankly, the power of the Jewish lobbies both in America and frankly, all around the world, including Canada.”
“Palestinians are in fact not a terrorist nation but a terrorized nation,” he went on to say. “Too many uncritical, simplistic, level Christians around the world believe that Israel’s claim as God’s chosen people allows it to do virtually anything under the guise of security in Israel/Palestine to protect their land.”
Rev. Horst said he was “musing out loud” when he delivered his remarks. “I’m wondering how [Israel] has such a powerful impact and such a small voice for Palestinians.”
Writer and consultant Richard Klagsbrun said, “I was very surprised at the type of terminology used.”
Writing in his blog, Eye on a Crazy Planet, Klagsbrun said, “According to the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, the plight of the Palestinians isn’t due to their ongoing attempts at terror, or their failure to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The fact that Palestinians impose the death penalty on anyone who sells land to a Jew doesn’t make them an apartheid state. It’s because of an evil Jewish plot.
“And our politicians’ support for Israel, like that of the prime minister of Canada… or Liberal party leader Bob Rae isn’t because they have sided with a free, liberal democracy that provides equal voting rights to all its citizens over an undemocratic entity devoted to terrorism. Horst’s implication is that it’s because Canada’s political leaders are under the influence of the Jews and Zionists.”
Klagsburn suggested elements in the Presbyterian Church, along with members in other “leftist” churches, side with the underdog in disputes with more powerful opponents, regardless of the moral case for each side.
“For them to equate the sides and to put moral superiority on the side of the Palestinians because they are less powerful militarily is a reprehensible manifestation of moral relativism,” he said.
The 2001 census found 409,830 members of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
— With files from JTA