United Church vows more care in funding
Criticized for grant to group challenging Israel
The United Church of Canada said it should have exercised “greater scrutiny” before approving funding for the event that founded a controversial alternative Jewish group, according to an email sent to its congregations over the weekend.
The statement, which has since been posted to the United Church’s website, came after the National Post revealed the United Church’s $900 contribution to the March 2008 event that created Independent Jewish Voices, a group that challenges mainstream Jewish views and supports a boycott of Israel.
“We recognize there are extreme positions on all sides of this issue, and acknowledge that greater scrutiny may have been necessary in this case,” the statement said. “We are examining our approval mechanisms to ensure that all grants are consistent with our values and goals.”
Bruce Gregersen, spokesman for the United Church, said the organization received a number of emails and phone calls from concerned members about the published views of Diana Ralph, founder of the IJV and the event organizer who solicited funding from the United Church.
Ms. Ralph, a professor of social work now on leave from Carleton University, contributed a chapter to The Hidden History of 9-11, in which she argues that the Sept. 11 attacks were an American and Israeli conspiracy to “seize control of Eurasia, and thereby the entire world.”
“It is difficult to draw another conclusion than that Bush’s associates organized the 9/11 attacks to kick-start popular support for this war,” she wrote. “The ‘war on terror’ is a concept modelled on Israel’s assaults on Palestinians to provide a cover for campaigns of territorial conquest.”
Said Mr. Gregersen: “Clearly, as a church we would not be involved in any way in suggesting that Sept. 11 was a plot perpetuated by the American government against its own people. Frankly, among the network of the Independent Jewish Voices, I suspect that not everybody agrees with Ms. Ralph.”
Howard Davidson, member of the IJV steering committee, said Ms. Ralph’s past has “nothing to do with the IJV.”
“The positions of Diana Ralph stated in those articles do not represent the positions of the IJV,” he said.
Ms. Ralph, who was reached in Ottawa yesterday, declined to comment.
She is quoted in the Jewish Independent in April 2008 saying that terrorist attacks in the Middle East were likewise part of an Israeli conspiracy.
“I think there’s lots of evidence that suicide bombings and violence coming from Palestinians are often planned, and directly provoked, by the Israeli government,” she said, according to the newspaper.
“And when they react, the Israeli government uses that as an excuse to massively overreact. So I think taking down the wall would actually increase Israeli security. Obviously, Israel is the instigating power.”
Mr. Gregersen said Ms. Ralph recently left a message asking to speak with him, but said he has yet to return her call.
“I plan to read portions of her text and then enter into conversation and ask questions about what they mean,” he said, adding that the United Church plans to implement stronger “monitoring” of its grant process.
Ms. Ralph, who holds a PhD in psychology, made headlines five years ago when she offered $10,000 toward bail for a suspected terrorist who was considered a national security threat.
Hassan Almrei, who has since been released under house arrest, was held on a rarely used national security certificate after the courts ruled that he “supports the extremist ideals espoused by Osama bin Laden” and “was involved in a forgery ring with international connections that produced false documents.”
Ms. Ralph also reportedly spent upwards of $30,000 refurbishing her basement in case of Mr. Almrei’s release, and told the courts she would host the Syrian-born man, who came to Canada as a refugee in 1999 with a false United Arab Emirates passport.
IJV founder Diana Ralph