“Rev. Kobia parrots the same hypocritical statements regarding Israel that the WCC regularly issues, ignoring the root causes of Israel’s presence in the West Bank,” said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s international director of interreligious affairs in a statement released in New York and made available in Geneva on August 28.
Two days earlier in Geneva, Kobia said, “Occupation along with the concomitant humiliation of a whole people for over six decades constitutes not just economic and political crimes but, like anti-Semitism, it is a sin against God.”
Kobia had been giving his final report to the main governing body of the WCC as the grouping’s general secretary, before he steps down at the end of 2009. Kobia noted that at its founding assembly in Amsterdam in 1948, the WCC has declared that anti-Semitism is a “sin against God,” Kobia said, “Are we ready to say that occupation is also a sin against God?”
The AJC’s Rosen stated, however, “Rev. Kobia willfully ignores the violent rejection of Israel’s very existence that is at the root of the conflict and makes no mention of the terrorism and incitement that has prevented the realization of the aspiration of the vast majority of Israelis, as well as of most Palestinians, to live in peace based on a two-state solution.”
The U.S. Jewish leader added, “Let’s remember that the West Bank came under Israeli rule as the result of the attempted extermination of the Jewish State by the Arab nations in 1967.” Rosen said, “Israel does not seek to govern another people. Rather, Israel has offered in direct negotiations with the Palestinians repeatedly to withdraw from most of the West Bank in exchange for peace and security.”
The American Jewish Committee is one of the oldest Jewish advocacy organizations in the United Sates having been founded in 1906, to rally “all sections of American Jewry to defend the rights of Jews all over the world.”
In his speech, Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya, referred to areas he visited during his tenure and noted the need for urgency in seeking peace for the Middle East region. “In the context of war and violence in the region, people are desperately searching for security for themselves and their families,” the WCC head said.
The WCC governing body on August 27 elected Olav Fykse Tveit, a Norwegian Lutheran theologian, to be Kobia’s successor as WCC general secretary.
The WCC groups 349 churches, principally Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox.
The Roman Catholic Church does not belong to the WCC but has members on some of its committees.
In remarks to journalists after delivering his report, Kobia referred to the “dehumanization” of both the occupied and the occupiers in the Palestinian territories. “The concern is not only for the victims but also the perpetrators,” he stated, referring to Israel.
In his report to the WCC governing body, Kobia said that the “the ongoing construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories” needed to be seen “within the broader historical context of ethnic upheaval in Palestine that paved the way for the creation of the modern state of Israel”.