United Church vows more care in fund­ing

Crit­i­cized for grant to group chal­leng­ing Is­rael

National Post (Latest Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - BY KATHRYN BLAZE CARL­SON

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.

CANWEST NEWS SER­VICE

IJV founder Diana Ralph

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