From Jane Clements
Sir, - Before readers dismiss Dr Irene Lancaster's astonishing article (
"Anglicans have betrayed the Jews",
19 August), permit me to point out that Dr Lancaster is by no means alone
in her views.
Countless articles have been written and emails exchanged from this
perspective recently, and, as an Anglican working in this field, I have
frequently been told that the Anglican Consultative Council is inherently and
totally anti-Semitic. This is, of course, absurd, as well as offensive. But we
ignore these sentiments to our own detriment.
We must hear, beneath the tones of outrage and accusation, the expression of
a very real sense of fear. Many Jews who would not agree with all Dr Lancaster'
s assertions admit that the fact of increasingly racially motivated attacks and
graveyard desecrations are making them wary of society as a whole. Quite
rational Jews have been shocked at how the climate of fear has changed for
their community over the past decade. It is easy to dismiss this as unfounded
or irrational, but working to allay the fear seems a much more positive
The whole situation of Israel adds an extremely complex dimension for
relations with British Jews. Criticism of Israeli governments and concern for
the plight of Palestinians is not anti-Semitism, and we have to reiterate this.
But if we really want to be heard, we have to do this sensitively. Anglicans
have produced many documents, reports, and even liturgies designed to stir up
righteous anger at Israeli policies and actions. A single sentence condemning
suicide bombings buried somewhere therein will not reassure many British Jews
that we also care about their own families, friends or co-religionists - many
of whom are also afraid.
Furthermore, if British Jews, as part of the wider society, are unaware that
Anglicans speak out about problems in other parts of the world, then that is
clearly our own fault.
There have been many positive initiatives over the years, but currently
Anglican-Jewish relations have reached a nadir. Unless we can make it clear
that we do not consider Jews to be irrelevant or worse, there is a danger of
further estrangement from those who were first, in Paul's words, "entrusted
with the oracles of God".
The Council of Christians and Jews, 1st Floor, Camelford House
89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP
From Canon Paul Oestreicher
Sir, - Not even the Holocaust has sufficed to put an end to 2000 years of
Christian anti-Semitism. Its remnants continue to plague our society. The
Churches have good reason to hang their heads in shame. That has always been a
betrayal of the rabbi Jesus of Nazareth.
Dr Irene Lancaster is right to remind Anglicans of this on-going tragedy
19 August). For me, as an Anglican priest, this has a profoundly personal
dimension. My much loved Jewish grandmother was a victim of the Holocaust. So
were my wife's grandparents.
Our marriage was blessed by my closest friend Rabbi Albert
Friedlander, closer to me than any Anglican colleague. When Jews are hated, it
is not they but we. I was the Jewish child in Hitler's Germany with whom other
children were not allowed to play.
But Dr Lancaster is profoundly mistaken in her denunciation, claiming that
rejection of anti-Judaism by today's Christian leaders is so much eye-wash. To
reject the unjust policies and actions of the state of Israel, which tragically
provide the real anti-Semites with so much ammunition, has nothing whatever to
do with hatred of the Jewish people. Quite the opposite. It is to support the
courageous Jewish minority who, in the spirit of the prophets, themselves
challenge Israeli violations of human rights, and do so at the cost of being
treated as traitors by many of their fellow Jews.
Even today, I stand by the three BBC programmes I made in Israel in the
1960s. Despite the terrorism and ethnic cleansing that accompanied the creation
of modern Israel, I rejoiced at its achievements, and passionately
affirmed the right of its people to live within secure borders.
Sadly, the policies of successive governments and the racist sentiments of
many Israelis are the greatest threat to Israel's security and, more
importantly, to its very soul. The perverse suicide bombers are a tragic
product of a cruel occupation. It is my love of the Jewish people that forces
me, with an increasing number of Jews inside and outside Israel, to protest.
To regard the affirmation of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people
as anti-Semitism is as understandable, given Jewish fears, as it is untrue. The
admirable organisation Jews for Justice for Palestinians is an effective answer
to this charge.
The desecrators of Jewish graves will not be found among the Anglicans Dr
Lancaster charges with betrayal.
The Chaplaincy, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9RH
From Dr Martin Henig
Sir, - I cannot let Dr Lancaster's article go without voicing a protest. I
am now proud to be an Anglican, but I was born and brought up as a Jew, and I
have a deep, lifelong respect for both faiths.
I have never in my life encountered real anti-Semitism, and I now have a
pretty extensive church acquaintance; indeed, the case is very much the
opposite. The Jewish background of Jesus, his family, and all of his
disciples is stressed both from the pulpit and in study groups.
Jewish cemeteries and other buildings are from time to time desecrated, but
so are Anglican churches - often, in inner cities, with alarming frequency. The
reason is surely the vandals' lack of any religious knowledge and faith. The
answer lies with all of us whose task is to proclaim the love of God. It is
primarily a matter of education.
As for Israel and Palestine, surely we have to empathise with both sides,
but neither as a Jew nor now as a Christian am I prepared to endorse Israel's
actions "right or wrong" in face of the suffering of ordinary Palestinians. As
a human being, not as a Jew or a Christian, I have to agonise over the rights
and wrongs of boycotts. I think the AUT and the Anglican Peace and Justice
Network were probably misguided in their proposed actions at this time, but
these will always be matters of opinion. As far as I can see, the basic
Anglican position will now and ever be to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem".
I might disagree with some aspects of church teaching, but not with regard
to attitudes to Judaism, which seem to me to be well-nigh universally
civilised, scholarly, and sympathetic.
16 Alexandra Road, Oxford OX2 0DB
From Wendy R. Leibowitz
Sir, - Thank you for printing the
article by Dr Irene Lancaster. As an American Jew long involved in peace and
reconciliation activities between Jews and Arabs, I have bristled at those who
are intolerant of criticism of Israel. Israel, like any country, should be
criticised when her actions warrant it.
But the silence afforded Arab human-rights violations is unfathomable.
Apparently, the Anglican Church doesn't care about the so-called honour
killings of women, the persecution and execution of homosexuals, the lack of
freedom of expression or of the press, the virulent anti-Semitism, and the lack
The Christian community generally is inexplicably silent about the horrible
treatment of Christians in much of the Arab world. Criticism is directed almost
entirely at Israel. "People just hold us Jews and the Jewish state to a higher
standard," I told myself, "and that's a compliment, in a way."
The calls for boycotts and divestment, though, shook me out of my
complacency. Israel and the Palestinian territories desperately need investment
to bring a measure of peace and prosperity (the two are linked) to the region.
There is no reason to single out Israel - the country in which, ironically,
most Arabs enjoy more human rights and protections than they do anywhere else -
for such condemnation.
The divestment will do no good, and could do much harm. I hope that articles
like Dr Lancaster's will cause some in the Anglican community to be
constructively involved in, say, Israeli-Palestinian business partnerships.
WENDY R. LEIBOWITZ
Legal Technology Columnist
1140 23rd St NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA
From Mr Gary Shapiro
Sir, - Thank you for printing Dr Lancaster's article. Not long ago, I was
called by Christians to help counter what was thought would be an anti-Israel
production in Exeter Cathedral. The Bishop was in attendance at a Beyond Belief
roadshow - a multimedia presentation of life in the West Bank, written by
Martin John Nicholls, Christian Aid area co-ordinator for Devon and Dorset. It
was beyond belief. I got sick, and a Messianic Jewish lady went outside and
Goebbels would have been proud of this propaganda. It was done
professionally. No questions were allowed during this lengthy presentation. For
effect, the lights were turned off and on. Loud explosive noises were used to
drive the party line home in song and group dynamics, misinformation and
half-truths. For years, I have been chasing around to meetings where this sort
of activity is happening, mostly in churches.
The boycotts are not aimed at all the countries where Christians have been
massacred and enslaved for years, but against the Lord's very own people and
land. Do not these types of programme lead to pogroms? Aren't they inciting
people to hate the Jewish people?
Why, when a Christian friend of mine and I were leaving a local synagogue,
and as he was helping elderly Jewish people into his car, did I notice written
on his windscreen an anti-Jewish slur? Why, two weeks later, when walking along
the busy seafront with some Jewish friends, did we see two Jewish men ridiculed
For centuries, villainous preaching by church Fathers against the Jewish
people was aimed at their annihilation, and almost finished the job. Now we see
a returning to this vomit on a worldwide scale.
17 Highfield Grove, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex
From Ms R. L. Hart
Sir, - The Jewish community has been getting ready to mark 2006 as a
celebration of 350 years since the resettlement of 1656. I was prompted to
explore the history of my own ancestors, the Mendes Coutinhos, who arrived from
Portugal, via Amsterdam, in the 17th century. They were fleeing the fires and
torture of the Inquisition, and finally found a safe haven in London. (Other
branches of the family were not so fortunate.)
One hundred years ago, my maternal grandparents arrived, escaping the rabid
and lethal anti-Semitism of eastern Europe. My grandmother would describe how,
at Easter time, no Jew in her little town in Poland would dare go into the
streets. Church sermons demonised the Jews, who could be beaten and killed with
I did not imagine that within my lifetime, in the shadow of the Holocaust, I
would have to confront anti-Semitic activity in this country. But Dr Lancaster
has got it right. Visits to local churches, for meetings and social events,
have revealed horribly one-sided anti-Israel literature and films. Constant
exaggerated criticism of the Jewish state cannot but influence the way Jewish
people are regarded.
With regret, I am now among a growing group of Jews who feel uneasy, less
secure than before. I did not expect the Church of England to be among the
sources of anti-Jewish feeling.
R. L. HART
200 Falloden Way, London NW11 6JE
From Mr Neil Solden
Sir, - On behalf of the Leeds Jewish community, I have sent out letters to
more than 700 local churches seeking to discuss the subject of Israel. I have
had just four replies.
For Anglicans to have taken an anti-Israel stance is unfortunate. For
Anglicans to refuse to engage with those concerned about that stance is
Middle East Education, 311 Stonegate Road, Leeds LS17 6AZ
From Mr Ian Mordant
Sir, - Dr Irene Lancaster's article made a point too seldom made, namely,
the relative silence of the BBC on negative things that go on within the
Palestinian authority, such as killing of people after kangaroo court trials,
and so on.
Her article, however, misses a necessary point, and that is why anti-Zionism
is ultimately anti-Semitism. The Jewish diasporas outside Israel are declining
and, within a generation or two, will hardly exist. Only in Israel are Jews
continuing to thrive as a nation. If Israel were to be destroyed, the Jewish
people would be, too.
Only a two-state solution with a viable Israel and a viable Palestine is
halfway just to both peoples, who have suffered so much.
80 Hendon Lane, London N3