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Israel, the Council of Christians and Jews, and anti-Semitism

by
16 November 2012

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From the Revd David Gifford

Sir, - Canon Paul Oestreicher's letter ( 9 November) was somewhat confusing. Admittedly our mission has always been to address anti-Semitism in the Church, and this has met with a measure of success in our 70-year history. But nowhere will he see CCJ stating that criticism of the policies or the actions around the settlements or at the crossings is tantamount to being anti-Semitic.

Indeed, within CCJ there are many Jews and Christians who are robust in their criticism of the abuses that we see in Israel. Similarly, those of us who work daily with members of the British Jewish community are well aware of their own criticism of some of the goings-on in Israel and the Palestinian territories .

So Canon Oestreicher's comment is wrong. It is unfortunate that he has chosen to position his own criticism of CCJ in this way. Our call is for the Church to exercise greater generosity in the language that we choose to use in matters relating to the Israel/ Palestine conflict. The Church's apparent insensitivity to the current anxiety of the British Jewish community only exacerbates the feeling among Jews of an attack on their identity, and a growing conviction that the Church chooses to be deaf to their calls for balance in the criticism of Israel and an exploration for peace for all in the region.

We saw the withdrawal of the Bishop of Newcastle and the RC Bishop of Hexham & Newcastle not as succumbing to pressure, but as demonstrat­ing that highly charged and potentially negative gatherings rarely achieve much in the way of understanding and progress to peace and reconciliation.

DAVID GIFFORD
Chief Executive
The Council of Christians and Jews
21 Godliman Street
London EC4V 5BD

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