The best thing one can say about Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, the Episcopal chaplain at Yale, is that he does not bother to disguise his beliefs. In response to a New York Times article describing the rise of violent anti-Semitism in Europe – including attacks on synagogues and the murder of children at a religious school – Rev. Shipman opined, in a letter to the editor, that the trend is a consequence “of Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza.” Without even a word of condemnation for the treatment of Jews, Shipman argued that the best “antidote to anti-Semitism” would be for “Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.” In other words, the Jews in Europe will not be safe until the Jews in Israel (and their “patrons”) start behaving themselves.
It is hard to say whether Shipman’s tolerance for the current outbreak of anti-Semitism is worse than his ignorance of history, but he ought to know that violence against Jewish individuals and institutions long predates the current fighting in Gaza. Consider, for example, shootings or bombings at synagogues in Paris (1980), Rome (1982), Istanbul (1986 and 2003), and Tunisia (2002) ; a delicatessen in Paris (1982); the Jewish community centers in Buenos Aires (1994), Seattle (2006), and Mumbai (2008); the murder of Leon Klinghoffer for the crime of cruising while Jewish (1985), and enough other incidents to fill this page.
In any case, imagine how any decent person would respond to a similar outbreak of anti-Muslim violence in the United States – say, a series of armed attacks on mosques or halal restaurants. No responsible clergy member would blame other Muslims for Islamophobia in the way that Shipman has blamed anti-Semitism on Israel. And Shipman certainly would never hold Christians responsible for the repeated attacks by gunmen on Coptic churches in Egypt. Attacks on places of worship need to be condemned by clergy of every persuasion. Period. No matter what is going on in other parts of the world.
There is a long tradition within Christianity of blaming Jews for their own victimization, but this seems to have eluded Shipman as he rationalized the murder of Talmud-Torah students in Toulouse and museum-goers in Brussels. In his world view, the fault is evidently Israel’s and not the shooters’. It must be comforting to believe that such virulent anti-Semitism can so easily be cabined, but Jews have never had that luxury.
According to the website of the Yale Religious Ministries, Shipman has taken a pledge to “respond to individuals in need of my compassion and advocacy beyond, as well as within, my own faith community.” His compassion for Palestinians is admirable, but it is truly a shame to see a Yale chaplain become an apologist for anti-Semitism, and thus incapable of extending that same principle to the besieged Jews of Europe.