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January 20, 2010

Kairos Gets Its Close-Up

The controversy in Canada provoked by a speech given by Jason Kenney, Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism in December needs a bit of unpacking, particularly in light of recent Ynet article which stated that the Canadian government had recently decided not to fund Kairos, a welfare agency supported by Canadian churches, because of its support for efforts to promote divestment from Israel.

The YNET report states:

The Canadian government has recently decided to cut back or entirely withdraw the funding to organizations that encourage a boycott of Israel or Israeli products, including pro-Palestinian and Christian groups.

One such organization is the Kairos welfare agency, which lost $7 million – half of its annual budget. Kairos is a social apparatus serving 11 Catholic and Protestant groups and churches promoting the "liberation theology" within the Canadian legal and educational establishments.

Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said that the agency's budget was cut back in light of its anti-Semitic positions, adding the group preaches for recognition of such terror organizations as Hamas and Hezbollah while rejecting the Jewish people's right for a state.

In fact, the Canadian government did not cut the organization's annual budget, but denied a grant application filed by Kairos. Moroever, the government's decison was not related to the organization's anti-Israel stance but was largely due to funding priorities of the Canadian government.

Nevertheless, the controversy over Kenney's speech in Jerusalem did, thanks to the work of Canadian journalists, draw attention to the organization's discriminatory attitude toward Israel, which the organization's leaders have apparently tried to obscure.

What Kenney Said In Jerusalem.

Jason Kenney, Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, set off a firestorm of protest when he addressed the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem on Dec. 16, 2009. At the forum, organized by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenney announced the following:

We have articulated and implemented a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism. What does this mean? It means that we eliminated the government funding relationship with organizations like for example, the Canadian Arab Federation, whose leadership apologized for terrorism or extremism, or who promote hatred, in particular anti-Semitism.

We have ended government contact with like-minded organizations like the Canadian Islamic Congress, whose President notoriously said that all Israelis over the age of 18 are legitimate targets for assassination. We have defunded organizations, most recently like KAIROS, who are taking a leadership role in the boycott [of Israel].

[The full text of the speech is available in a number of locations on the Internet, including here.]

Please note that the sentence regarding Kairos’ support for an anti-Israel boycott has been reported elsewhere as "We have de-funded organizations, most recently, like KAIROS who are taking a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign." (Additional words in bold.)

Kairos Pushes Back

According to an editorial condemning Kenney (published in the Toronto Star on Dec. 30, 2009), the speech did not provoke much of a response until the text was posted on the Internet.

Kairos Executive Director Mary Corkery responded to Kenney’s speech in a Dec. 18, 2009 article in the Toronto Star on Dec. 18, 2009:

Executive director Mary Corkery said Kenney's statement was based on incorrect information about her group's positions and raises serious questions about the politicization of the aid process by the Conservative government.

"If any group that criticizes an action by the government of Israel is called anti-Semitic by the government of Canada, that's very serious."

"You cannot label someone anti-Semitic because they criticize a government," she said.

"That's outrageous."

KAIROS was stunned by Kenney's remarks because International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda told the public and Parliament the group lost its funding because of shifting priorities at the Canadian International Development Agency.

On Dec. 21, 2009, officials from the Canadian Council for International Co-Operation issued an open letter to the Candian International Development Agency. The letter reported that “Kairos policy documents, available on their website, explicitly indicate that the organization does not support a boycott against Israel.?

On this score, the CCIC is correct. Kairos did in fact, issue a document that recommended against boycotting Israel. But digging a little deeper (as some journalists have done – see below) reveals that Kairos has provided financial, logistical and public relations support for Sabeel, an organization that has been at the center of the BDS campaign targeting Israel for several years.

Kairos Defunded?

On Dec. 24, 2009, Brian Lilley, writing in the Canadian Politics Examiner, reported Kairos was not "defunded." Instead, Canadian officials “turned down […] a request for government funding of a four-year project. They did not lose core funding that has put them on the brink of bankruptcy or closing up shop as the NDP claimed, they simply were turned down on a project proposal …?

Lilley provided another bit of important detail about the project proposal:

The project that Kairos submitted, and the government rejected, was a four-year plan that would have cost $9 million dollars, of which, $7 million was to come from government. That is a remarkably high level of government money, more than 75% of total costs, going into projects that claim to have the support of Canada’s largest churches.

Lilley’s reporting reveals the group was not “defunded" as Kenney reported, but merely had a grant application turned down. "Kairos made a pitch and they were turned down,? he wrote.

As to whether or not Kenney accused the Kairos of being anti-Semitic, Lilley concludes that he “did not explicitly call Kairos anti-Semitic but the flow of the speech definitely leads [readers] to that conclusion.? He also concludes:

Over the years, Kairos has made the right noises about supporting the State of Israel’s right to exist and defend itself while also supporting all the fashionable causes of the left that are at the fore of the new anti-Semitism. I think the group remains shy of taking the full step into anti-Israeli crackpottery, I also think that Kenney overplayed his hand a touch while trying to play to the crowd in Jerusalem.

In sum, the Canadian government's decision to turn down Kairos' grant application appears related to the group's ongoing conflict with Canadian politicians, not Israel.

What Kenney Wrote In Canada

In response to the Dec. 18, 2009 article in The Toronto Star, Kenney wrote a Dec. 24, 2009 letter to the editor which confirmed Kairos’ assertion that “International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda told the public and Parliament the group lost its funding because of shifting priorities at the Canadian International Development Agency.?

Kenney wrote that Kairos’ stance toward Israel was not the reason the organization was denied funding. He also reported that “International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda – not me – is responsible for the Canada International Development Agency. And she has been clear that a cost-sharing program with KAIROS was not approved because it did not meet CIDA's current priorities, such as increased food aid.?

Kenney also stated that he did not accuse Kairos of being anti-Semitic:

What I said was that KAIROS has taken "a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (against Israel)." In fact, Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno's own research led her to the same conclusion. She wrote that KAIROS has taken "a leading role in divestment, sanctions and targeted boycotts of Israel," and said those who deny that are "disingenuous and dissembling."

Kairos’ Record

The Rosie DiManno article that Kenney referenced appeared in The Star on Dec. 21, 2009. Here is an excerpt of she wrote:

Corkery and other KAIROS officials outright deny that the agency favours a boycott of Israel or advocates divesting funds from Israeli corporations.

This is, at the very least, disingenuous and dissembling. While KAIROS has a more narrowly focused activist agenda, it has launched highly partisan attacks on the government in the past. The Tories, with their long memory and punitive trigger finger, are now pushing back.

KAIROS is intimately aligned with other groups, internationally, that have aggressively called for economic and academic boycotts against Israel. The most notable of these is the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Center of Jerusalem, a Palestinian Christian organization dismissed by its critics as a "fraudulent peace group" with a "racist road show."

Indeed, in 2005 KAIROS was among the co-sponsors that hosted a controversial Sabeel conference in Toronto on "Morally Responsible Investment" (MRI), which is another way of saying disinvestment, which is another way of saying targeted boycott.

On this score, DiManno is on target. Sabeel has been at the forefront of the BDS campaign against Israel. Sabeel’s “Morally Responsible Divestment? document (which is displayed on Kairos’ website) is a convoluted, but unmistakable call for churches to divest from Israel. Kairos has done more than post Sabeel documents on its website, but has also been a significant supporter for Sabeel’s activism in Canada. For example, when Sabeel held a pro-divestment conference in Toronto in November 2005, Kairos was one of the co-sponsors of the event.

When challenged on its decision to co-sponsor the event, Kairos issued a statement declaring that the conference “did not issue any statement or formal consensus of participants with regard to policy issues.?

Sabeel did, however, issue a “conference report? that stated attendees “recognize the beginnings of a global movement on Morally Responsible Investment and related economic strategies to bring a just peace in Israel-Palestine.? It also states that Canadian Friends of Sabeel will work with CROs (church-related organizations) to promote “economic strategies to achieve this end (including shareholder initiatives, partial divestment and boycotts.)?

Kairos’ assertions notwithstanding, the Sabeel event co-sponsored by Kairos was part of the campaign to isolate Israel with a BDS campaign.

In defending its affiliation with Sabeel, Kairos mischaracterized Sabeel’s attitude toward the state of Israel, stating that if Sabeel had “any agenda to disparage the Jewish/Israeli people or to deny them a state within the pre-June 4, 1967 borders, [Kairos] would not be in a partnership with them.?

In fact, Sabeel and its founder, Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, have persistently disparaged the Jewish state and the organization itself supports a one-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Disparagement of Israel

One of the most egregious examples of Sabeel’s disparagement of the Jewish state appeared in Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek’s Easter Message of 2001. At the height of the Second Intifada, Sabeel’s founding leader Rev. Dr. Ateek stated “The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.?

As stated on CAMERA’s main website, “[l]anguage like this is not the stuff of peacemaking, but demonization that fits the working definition of anti-Semitism issued by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) in 2004 which mentions the use of “symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.?

In 2005, the organization issued a liturgy titled “Contemporary Way of the Cross – A Liturgical Journey along the Palestinian Via Dolorosa? which portrays Palestinians as innocent, Christ-like victims of a crucifixion perpetrated by Israel, the Jewish State.

Clearly, this rhetoric is part of a campaign to disparage the Jewish state, contrary to Kairos’ assertions.

Denial of Jewish State

Kairos’ assertion that Sabeel does not support efforts to deny the Jewish people a state is also false. In 2004 Sabeel issued its Jerusalem Document that calls for the creation of ‘[o]ne state for two nations and three religions.? This phrase, by the way, appears in another Sabeel document about Christian Zionism posted on Kairos' website.

Sabeel's one-state formula is recapitulated in Mark Braverman’s recent book, Fatal Embrace(Synergy Books, 2010). In this text, Braverman, a member of Sabeel’s steering committee, paraphrases testimony from Sabeel activist Nora Carmi as follows:

[Carmi] said that … Sabeel supports the ideal of one state in which Jews and Palestinians could live together as equals, even though she is not optimistic about this coming to pass.

At best, Sabeel’s support for Israel’s existence is provisional and temporary, a fact detected by Chicago Tribune reporter Manya Brachear in 2005. Covering the group’s October conference at The Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago in October. Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Brachear reported: “Ateek said that for the time being Sabeel promotes a two-state solution—a Palestinian state alongside Israel.? (Oct. 9, 2005)

Kairos’ Website

As noted by Lilley, Blogger Ezra Levant has, albeit in a rather polemical fashion, documented a number of instances in which Kairos has apparently attempted to downplay its role in anti-Israel activism in light of the scrutiny caused by the funding controversy.

According to Levant, Kairos has deleted a Facebook page which reveals troubling anti-Israel attitudes. (Unfortunately, the Googlecache is no longer available). Kairos has reportedly also deleted a page of Midlde East related resources from its own website and has added a disclaimier to another page stating that the material listed below was not written by Kairos. All these changes, Levant reports, apparently took place after the controversy surrounding Kenney’s speech in Jerusalem became evident.

Levant also provides links to a number of newspaper articles that reveal the organization’s anti-Israel bias.

Here's KAIROS condemning Israel's attack on the leader of a terrorist group -- telling a newspaper it was "incredibly stupid". Here's KAIROS sucking up to the terrorist Yasser Arafat. Here they are blaming Saddam Hussein's militarism on -- you guessed it -- Israel. Here is their opposition to Canada cutting off aid to Hamas. Here is a great one: KAIROS demanding that Canada no longer be neutral between democratic Israel and its terrorist and dictatorship enemies, and demanding that Canada take sides against Israel. There are more, but I'll stop because I'm sure you're quite bored with all the Judenhass by now.

Levant's use of the word "Judenhass" is excessive. Kairos does not exhibit "hate" toward Jews, but merely manifests indifference toward Muslim and Arab hostility toward Jews and Israel -- a problem exhibited by a number of progressive CROs in Europe and North America.

But even with Levant's polemics he has a point. Kairos’ anti-Israel bias is clearly evident in the articles to which he links. In sum, the organization regards Israel – not hostility toward it – as the problem peacemakers must address in the Middle East.


In light of the evidence it's reasonable to conclude that Jason Kenney overstated the role Kairos’ hostility toward Israel played in the Canadian government’s decision to deny the organization’s grant request.

Fortunately, some outspoken Canadian journalists delved past the controversy surrounding Kenney's contradictory statements and provided their readers wtih information about Kairos which its leaders attempted to obscure: It has been an active supporter of anti-Israel divestment activism and has demonstrated a persistently discriminatory attitude toward Israel in its public statements regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Posted by dvz at January 20, 2010 11:59 AM


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