Yale Episcopal chaplain Rev. Bruce Shipman digs deeper

August 27

Time to revisit Rev. Shipman, the Episcopal Chapman at Yale.  Readers will recall that Rev. Shipman wrote a letter to the N.Y. Times, responding to an op-ed about growing violent anti-Semitism in Europe, suggesting that the “best antidote would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.”  I pointed out that by holding Jews responsible for anti-Semitism, Rev. Shipman was engaging in unacceptable victim-blaming. Let me put it even more bluntly now: he is blaming the victims of racism for the existence of racism.

A few updates.

First, my disgust at Rev. Shipman’s letter has been widely shared, but not by some who want to turn this into another opportunity to debate Israeli policy.  Most of those people, not being anti-Semites themselves, but rather due to ideological blinders being immune to recognizing anti-Semitism when it arises in a context related to Israel, would recognize the appalling nature of Shipman’s letter if the context was different.  Imagine, for example, a right-wing Christian who, following an attack by “Christian Identity” type on a synagogue, wrote the following: “Critics of the synagogue attack and other manifestations of anti-Semitism make far too little of the relationship between the immoral trash that Hollywood produces and growing anti-Semitism in the U.S. and beyond…. the best antidote would be for all Jews of goodwill to press their friends who run major studies to stop using movies to push an anti-Christian agenda that mocks traditional moral values.”  I use this example, by the way, because I actually once read an article making exactly this argument in a right-wing Catholic newsletter I happened upon in a student lounge at Marymount University in Arlington.  The message, from that article and from Rev. Shipman, is “if you want me to be your ally on combating anti-Semitism, you had better adopt my ideological agenda; otherwise, while I’m not necessarily saying you get what you deserve, that kinda is what I’m saying.”

Second, Chabad of Yale released the following statement: “Reverend Bruce Shipman’s justification of anti semitism by blaming it on Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza is frankly quite disturbing. His argument attempts to justify racism and hate of innocent people, in Israel and around the world.  One can and should study the Israeli policies regarding human rights, and the honest student will realize the painstaking efforts undertaken by Israel to protect innocent civilians.  Hamas, ISIS and other radical groups make it their mission to torture, rape and kill as many civilians as possible. Yet, no moral person however, would attempt to justify blatant global anti-Moslem hatred in light of these atrocities. I call upon Bruce Shipman to retract and apologize for his unfortunate and misguided assertion. Instead of excusing bias and hatred against others, he should use his position to promote dialogue, understanding, and tolerance.”  Rabbi Shua Rosenstein, Chabad at Yale University

Third, a reader points out that while Yale disclaims responsibility for Rev. Shipman because he’s not on staff, in excusing anti-Semitism he seems to have violated several clauses of the Yale Religious Ministries Agreement, violation of which “may result in exclusion from YRM and loss of standing as a member of YRM.”  It would behoove someone at Yale to file a complaint with the Chaplain’s office at Yale, and the university itself, about Rev. Shipman. Or the Episcopalians themselves could toss him out.

Fourth, here is how the Yale Daily News reported Rev. Shipman’s reaction to the controversy.  I note not just the absence of an apology, but his decision to reiterate his point: “The turn to the right of the Israeli government and the magnitude of the civilian casualties in Gaza, the loss of hope among so many Palestinians and the continuation of annexation policies in the West Bank have some relation to the deplorable anti-Semitic crimes that we deplore.” Yes, Rev. Shipman, we all know that the fighting in Gaza is “related” to anti-Semitic crimes.  But only someone who is anti-Semitic to begin with would think to himself, “Israel is doing what I consider bad things in Gaza; therefore I will beat up the next person I see wearing a yarmulke in Brussels, or try to storm a synagogue in Rome, or rampage through a Jewish neighborhood in Paris.”  Jews (like everyone else) have an absolute right to be secure in their persons and property regardless of whether people agree or disagree with the policies of a state or organization that claims to speak in one’s group’s name, or of people who are members of the same group. It’s amazing that seven decades after the Holocaust one needs to even point this out to certain “progressives” like Rev. Shipman.

David Bernstein is the George Mason University Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA.
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