A MOTION on Palestine and Israel which has caused dismay in
sections of the Jewish community was carried by the General Synod
on Monday afternoon, but with an unusually high number of
abstentions after an attempt to remove criticised parts of it
Introducing his private member's motion, Dr John
Dinnen (Hereford) said that he was "not a starry-eyed
idealist", and referred to his life in Northern Ireland, a "deeply
He wanted to encourage members to study the situation in Israel
and Palestine, listen to Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Christian,
and Muslim views, and pray for and support those who worked for
peace and justice. He went on to outline the hardships faced by
both Palestinians and Jews, including the claim that, since 1967,
Israel had "demolished 27,000 Palestinian homes in the West Bank,
Gaza and East Jerusalem in violation of international law".
Clause (a) of his resolution called on the Church to support the
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).
It had been claimed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews that
EAPPI was "anti-Israeli". The information on the website of the
Board was "very misleading", he said.
He quoted Canon Paul Oestreicher, a cleric of Jewish origin, who
had said that the attempt of the Board to "derail" the Synod motion
"dishonours the memory of my Jewish grandmother and the many who
died with her in the Holocaust". Jews had "suffered so long at
Christian hands"; but Christian guilt would be "compounded" if the
Church "now retreated into silence".
Dr Dinnen said that EAPPI was already supported by many of the
other Christian denominations and organisations, and that the
Church of England had already offered its support through its
membership of the World Council of Churches and Churches Together
in Britain and Ireland. Referring to the clause in his motion
calling for support of Palestinian Christians and organisations
that work for their continu- ing presence in the Holy Land, he
warned that the number of Palestinian Christians had fallen
"drastically" in recent years, owing to emigration.
The Church of England must "show that it cares for peace and
justice, and not keel over and pass a truncated, feeble
Canon Kathryn Fitzsimons (Ripon & Leeds)
encouraged members of the Synod to support the motion in its
current form. The accompanying paper suggested that the C of E
expressed its support through the ecumenical instruments, but this
was "a cop-out". The situation in the Holy Land was "dismal"; could
the Synod not speak into it?
The Revd Dr Alan McDonald (Church of Scotland)
said that he had met a number of people who had worked with the
EAPPI. All "spoke about the wonderful training, [and] opportunities
to speak to Israelis and Palestinians", and to stand in "that gap"
between people in a conflict zone, and try to bring some peace. "It
would be seen as extraordinary by your partner Churches in these
islands if you were not to declare your support for it."
The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel
McCulloch, who chairs the Council of Christians and Jews, spoke to
his amendments. He said that he wanted to support the "main thrust"
of Dr Dinnen's motion: standing by Israelis and Palestinians to
seek a just peace. The purpose of his amendment was "to strengthen
that purpose by deleting the names of the organisations
Singling out organisations for special attention was "a
departure from the General Synod motion of July 2002", which
preferred recommending a category of organisation rather than
specific organisations. The decision to name organisations in the
motion "is already embroiling the Church of England in unhelp- ful
controversy", and was "in danger of taking attention away from the
motion's main and laudable purpose".
The EAPPI, Bishop McCulloch said, was "perceived by many Jews
and Christians to be biased and partisan. So it seems odd to seek
the imprimatur of Synod for this particular organisation." If the
motion was carried in its present form, "relations between Jews and
Christians in this country could be seriously impaired . . . The
Jewish community would perceive the Church of England to be taking
sides unfairly, when previously they feel we have tried to be fair,
even though they may not always agree with our conclusions."
The Revd Jonathan Alderton-Ford (St
Edsmundsbury & Ipswich) said that the Church was "going to
sleep about Palestine": "We are forgetting that every day our
brothers are going without. If EAPPI remind us of that, that's a
good thing. . . We need the Israelis to tell us why they are so
kind to us in parts of Israel and so unreasonable in others."
The Revd Jeremy Fletcher (York) highlighted the
work of Machsom Watch, elderly Israeli women who monitored the work
of border guards at checkpoints. "Many soldiers are teenagers, and
you'd be careful if your granny was watching you. Scrutiny is
welcome where the conduct is right."
He said that Israel regarded it as a "foreign-policy win" that
the Palestinian question was off the world's agenda. "That the
motion has attracted the attention it has is a win," he
Jennifer Humphreys (Bath & Wells) had
received two emails urging her to support the motion. Although she
had no "in-depth" knowledge, she had been on a pilgrimage to the
Holy Land and had spent a day in Hebron with an EAPPI group. She
would "quibble" with the idea that EAPPI was a "specific body",
because they were "ecumenical", "global", and the Church of England
was already involved through the World Council of Churches and
other bodies. She endorsed the original motion, and asked the Synod
to support it.
There were two amendments in the name of the Bishop of
Manchester to clause (a) and clause (c). He formally moved his
amendment to (a).
Dr Dinnen said that it would be a "shame" to drop the reference
to the Families Forum, of which the Archbishop of Canterbury was
one of the patrons. He wanted to "resist" that. With regard to
concern about referring to EAPPI, he suggested that this was a
"figleaf" and "almost cowardly". The Synod's not having previously
referred to specific organisations did not mean that it never would
do so. EAPPI was "not exactly a random organisation", but one
already supported by the Church of England through other bodies. By
not stating support for it, the Church was "standing out from other
Specific organisations had been singled out in the past,
including Christian Aid, the Church Urban Fund, and the Jubilee
Debt Campaign. He denied that ecumenical accompaniers were
"anti-Israeli". It was important to "resist [this] strenu-ously"
and "vote the whole thing straight through".
The Archbishop of Canterbury declared an
interest as one of the patrons of the Families Forum. But he wanted
to "pause" before the Synod turned down the amendment. He was "not
disposed to be worried about the kind of campaign we have
received", but he was "concerned" about the "effect on local
dialogue with Jewish communities". He wanted to "understand" why
they were "so worried" by the EAPPI and to "challenge where
The amendment could serve as a "holding action . . . a tactical
solution which may help rather than hinder the engagement we need".
Supporting the amendment would not deny the support the Church of
England already gave to EAPPI, and would not involve the Church in
accepting "misleading and negative characterisation" of it. Nor
would it allow the Church to deny the "urgency" of the situation or
the "severity" of the problems that faced all populations in the
Because the Church wanted a secure Israel, it had to be
"concerned about behaviour that alienates and dehumanises
Palestinians". Some forms of security, such as checkpoints, were
"unsustainable". "We wish the State of Israel to be held
accountable like all other states to constructive, legitimate
It was important to "work with the creative grain of what is
going on in the Holy Land along the lines that the motion says",
but also to "reflect on the question why it is that the motion in
its original form has caused such a problem, not just with those
whose opinions we may very well decide we can ignore, but our
neighbours we need to engage with".
Jacob Vince (Chichester) also spoke in favour
of the amendment. He referred to the organisation Open Doors'
handbook of prayer for the world Church, which listed the top 50
countries where Christians were most persecuted. Israel was not on
the list, but the Palestinian territories were. Hamas in Gaza was
"seen as the primary culprit", and also discrimination against
Christians by those in the Palestinian territories themselves.
He had lived in the area in the late 1970s and early '80s, and
after 20 years had participated in a "balanced tour" led by Canon
Andrew White during the Second Intifada.
Against this background, he had long been struck, he said, by
the "polarisation of views which appear to not adequately
understand the situation on the ground". The amendment was based on
a "thoroughly written paper" by the Mission and Public Affairs
Council, which explored the criteria by which to judge
organisations, including reputation.
He had had meetings with the co-ordinator of EAPPI teams in
Jerusalem and with returning participants. Although they had been
"sincere and committed to a better future", and did not, "on the
face of it", bear "any ill-will to Jewish people", he suggested
that "sincerity is not enough."
Both of the presentations he had seen from returning EAs had
given an "unhelpfully one-sided picture": one was "vehemently
anti-Israel" and "verging on anti-Semitic". Others had drawn
similar conclusions after seeing presentations. Thus, he did not
think that EAPPI met the reputation criteria, and approving the
Measure unamended risked damaging the Church of England's
The Revd Dr John Perumbalath (Rochester)
referred to appeals for balance, but argued: "There is nothing
called neutrality; no one is neutral; neither am I, neither the
Lord in whom I put my trust when it comes to questions of justice
and human suffering. . . Let us not hide behind the idea of
neutrality." Dr Perumbalath went on to say that Jewish members of
the interfaith council he chaired "have told me I must support this
Canon John Witcombe (Gloucester) said that he
had been in Israel/Palestine last month, and had gone into the
segregated area in Hebron. He noticed that EAPPI volunteers'
cameras were "in a sense . . . their weapons". The "primary
function" of the EAPPI was "to bear witness. . . If they appear to
speak more of suffering on one side, that is to reflect the
situation." The Bishop of Manchester's warnings of the dangers of
controversy, and saying "that we should do what we can", made him
sound "enthralled to those in positions of power".
Mary Judkins (Wakefield) said she was extremely
disappointed that the Bishop of Manchester's amendment had failed,
as the motion now did not acknowledge the work of other
organisations, including that of Medical Aid to Palestinians. Her
husband, a doctor, regularly volunteered for this NGO, which did
far more than "accompany."
"The problem is that checkpoints and blockades become death
sentences for those who need medical treatment. Seventy
Palestinians have died since 2008 because their permit for
treatment outside Gaza was delayed."
The Revd Stephen Trott (Peterborough) said: "By
definition, there aren't any Jewish speakers among us at a
Christian Synod; and I hadn't understood what it is to be a Jew
until I had visited Israel, until I visited Yad Vashem, and until I
understood the severity of the security situation there."
He said Israel was a small country, about the size of Wales,
with a population of just under eight million. Three-quarters of
the population were Jewish, he said, "and they face an existential
threat of the kind that we can't comprehend; at least, I myself
"They are surrounded by neighbours who have repeatedly invaded
their country with the declared intention of removing the State of
Israel." This had begun the day after Israel had been founded, he
said, and had continued to this day with a new threat of nuclear
confrontation. He urged the Synod to understand the sensitivities
of that situation, and to pause and hear from both sides.
A procedural motion from the Revd Jonathan
Clarke (Ripon & Leeds) that the Synod move to next
business was lost. He was concerned that the Synod would be
misunderstood if it carried the motion without "hearing from the
As Bishop McCulloch's amendments were lost, the Synod voted on
the unamended motion, which was carried in all Houses: Bishops: 21
to 3, with 14 recorded abstentions; Clergy: 89 to 21, with 44
recorded abstentions; Laity: 91 to 30, with 35 recorded
That this Synod affirm its support for: (a) the vital work
of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accom- paniment
Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), encouraging parishioners
to volunteer for the programme and asking churches and synods to
make use of the experience of returning participants;
(b) mission and other aid agencies working amongst
Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere in the
(c) Israelis and Palestinians in all organisations working
for justice and peace in the area, such as the Parents Circle -
Families Forum; and
(d) Palestinian Christians and organisations that work to
ensure their continuing presence in the Holy Land.