Assoc. Prof. Dennis Hale (Political Science) has made his academic name largely in the realm of American citizenship and political thought, with a particular focus on Massachusetts politics. But recent months have seen Hale, who has written on subjects such as Proposition 2 1/2 and the gubernatorial administration of William Weld, take on an unexpected role as a commentator on the Middle East crisis.

Dennis Hale
Hale is a leader of the Episcopal-Jewish Alliance for Israel, comprised of Episcopalians who banded together last fall in opposition to statements made by the church leadership, notably Bishop Thomas Shaw, the head of the Massachusetts Diocese, against Israel's military actions in the West Bank. Last month, the group issued a seven-point "Statement of Episcopal Concern for Israel," which protested the "unbalanced condemnations of the Jewish State issuing from the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts."

Among other concerns, the statement noted the proliferation of anti-Semitic rhetoric in the Muslim world as well as the use of terrorist acts against Israeli citizens: "The fundamental cause of the conflict in the Middle East is the Arab refusal to accept the reality of a non-Muslim state in the region. This refusal is expressed not just as hatred for Israel, but as hatred of Jews everywhere, and it has been fostered for many decades by Arab governments and by the current leaders of the Palestinian people."

News of the alliance and its statement has appeared in such publications as the Boston Phoenix and the Jerusalem Post. The group, which is co-led by Fr. Keith Roderick, an Episcopal priest from Illinois, also has an increasingly national profile, according to Hale.

"I can't track it any more," said Hale last week, discussing the response the group has generated. "Every day, I get 10 to 20 e-mails from people who have heard about the group and want to know more, or just want to comment on what we've said.

"At this point, we're not even so much an organization as we are a mailbox and, shortly, a Web site."

He may be taken aback by the notoriety, but Hale - who had also published a letter in the Boston Globe last fall decrying the church's anti-Israel statements - sees a link between his activism and his vocation as a political scientist interested in liberal democracy.

"The kind of terrorism represented by the PLO and Hamas offers the biggest challenge to liberal democracy since the Soviet Union," said Hale. "This is not just an argument about who can build a settlement where. Those who threaten the security of Israel and its citizens, and those who applaud such actions - like al-Qaeda - have also denounced the United States.

"My initial involvement came because of anger at the bishops for advancing an argument against Israeli policy that was essentially the PLO's. The position they expressed pays no attention to history and is not particularly helpful to a complicated situation. The desire for justice for Palestinians should not ignore the terrible security problems Israel has faced from the beginning.

"We wanted to say to our fellow Episcopalians that the desire for peace must be accompanied by good judgment, and the judgment reflected in those statements was tragically one-sided."

-Sean Smith