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August 19, 2018 12:28 pm

Massachusetts Bishop Accused of Anti-Israel ‘Blood Libel’ Offers Full Apology

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US Episcopal Church Bishop Gayle E. Harris (center). Photo: File.

A US Episcopal Church bishop has apologized for an incendiary false claim about Israel made at a meeting of senior church leaders in July.

Bishop Gayle Harris said in a statement that she had presented evidence of an alleged killing of a young Palestinian by IDF troops as if she personally had witnessed it.

“After reviewing my words in the House of Bishops from a transcription, I now acknowledge that I reported stories which I had heard and unintentionally framed them as though I had personally witnessed the alleged events,” Bishop Harris said. “I sincerely apologize. I now understand how the framing of my words could and did give the wrong impression.”

At the meeting of the House of Bishops on July 13 – the top body in the Episcopalian Church – she said she had seen “a teenager, I think he was 15, was walking down the street and asked a military vehicle … a question.”

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Massachusetts Bishop Harris claimed that the Israelis then angrily confronted the youth, without saying when and where the incident took place.

“He began to run as they threatened him, and they shot him in the back four times,” Harris claimed. “He fell on the ground and they shot him again another six.”

Many commentators pointed out that such an execution in broad daylight, had it taken place, would have been widely reported around the world. Some accused Harris of perpetrating an antisemitic “blood libel.”

Harris said she acknowledged “that I did not take the opportunity to verify these stories.”

“I was speaking from my passion for justice for all people, but I was repeating what I received secondhand,” she said. “I was ill-advised to repeat the stories without verification, and I apologize for doing so.”

Affirming the apology from Bishop Harris, the Rt. Rev. Alan Gates – Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts – said that “We grieve damage done to our relationships with Jewish friends and colleagues in Massachusetts, and rededicate ourselves to those partnerships, in which we are grateful to face complexities together.”

Gates continued: “We reaffirm our condemnation of violence on all sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We uphold the Episcopal Church’s longstanding position of support for those who strive towards the goal of a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.”

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