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Synod motion on Israel and the Palestinians

by
29 June 2012

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From Dr John Dinnen
Sir, - I have proposed a private member's motion asking the Church of England to support peace groups working for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine. This motion is due to be discussed in the York Synod on the 10 July. I have been dismayed by the distorted reaction to my motion in The Jewish Chronicle.

I grew up in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, and am aware of what life is like in a divided com­munity, and also knew personally eight people killed in terrorist incidents. The division in the com­munity in Northern Ireland had been ignored by Great Britain for decades till it blew up in 1967.

As a member of General Synod for seven years, I was concerned that there had been little discussion of the situation in Israel and Palestine, an area that is the birthplace of all three Abrahamic faiths.

The purpose of my resolution is to encourage the Church of England to study the situation in Israel and Palestine; to listen to Israeli, Pales­tinian, Jewish, Christian, and Mus­lim views; and to pray for peace and justice for all in Israel and Palestine, and to support those who work for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.

My resolution calls for support for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme (EAPPI) in particular. This scheme sends human-rights monitors to the West Bank to observe what goes on at checkpoints and agri­cultural gates, and to accompany children going to school in areas of conflict.

It is claimed by the Board of Deputies that EAPPI is one-sided and ignores the plight of Israel. In fact, the monitors are carefully selected and trained by the British Quakers. They visit and speak to Jewish settlers and to Jewish people in Israel. They also visit the Holo­caust memorial in Yad Vashem.

It is vital that the Church of England shows its support for those who work for peace and human rights for all in Israel-Palestine. Many of my Jewish friends support the work of EAPPI, and also Israeli organisations such as B'Tselem.

John Dinnen
Hereford General Synod member
The Hawthorns, Madley
Hereford HR2 9LU

From Sharen Green
Sir, - Some articles have appeared in The Jewish Chronicle and on other websites saying that the motion asking the Synod to endorse the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel should be opposed, as it will whip up anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli feeling. And a campaign has been launched. Unfortunately, the criticism is based on inaccuracies.

I have served twice as an EA, for whom a week hearing a variety of Israeli perspectives was pro­grammed. We spent a day at an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank. We also visited a kibbutz, and many of us travelled down to Sderot, a town where the Qassam rockets rain down from Gaza.

We are encouraged to spend our 12 days' leave in Israel, where many stay with Israeli friends and rela­tives. We stay in tourist resorts, and have plenty of opportunity to ab­sorb the Zionist narrative.

It has been suggested that we receive only two hours' education about Israel during our two weeks' training in London. In fact, we have to read an enormous amount of historical material before we begin training, and the first week is devoted to the conflict, listening to speakers with a variety of perspec­tives.

As an EA, I am well used to the charge of being anti-Israel and even at times anti-Jewish. This is not how EAs see themselves. We aspire to practise principled impartiality. We are not neutral when it comes to human-rights abuses, however, and all our work is predicated on inter­national (IL) and international humanitarian law (IHL).

The selection procedure, training, and debriefing are all very rigorous. Great care is taken to make sure that we do not give our own views or step outside an EA's remit. Our presentations are based on our own experiences, underpinned with IL and IHL. We quote facts and figures overwhelmingly from either Israeli sources or bodies such as the UN, Defence for Children International, and Amnesty International.

It would be a pity if the Synod motion fell because people were misinformed.

SHAREN GREEN
61 Gravel Hill
Wimborne BH21 3BJ

From Dr Elizabeth Stewart
Sir, - The Church's possible sup­port for the EAPPI programme is due to be debated at the General Synod. The EAPPI agenda is vehemently anti-Israel, and gives participants a biased, one-sided, and distorted attitude to the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.

Everyone wants peace, including Israelis and Palestinians. Everyone wants the stalled peace process to move forward again. But indoc­trinating well-meaning but ill-informed church members with a blatantly anti-Israel agenda does nothing to advance the cause of peace.

I hope and pray that the Synod will throw the issue out, and that those concerned with Middle East peace instead adopt an attitude of understanding and reconciliation towards both sides in this situation.

ELIZABETH STEWART
1 St Mary's Close, Weston
Spalding, Lincolnshire PE12 6JL

From Mr Jeremy Moodey
Sir, - The revelation that the UN has cut funding to the Anglican hospital in Gaza (News, 22 June) is very troubling.

The Ahli Hospital has been a beacon of Christian care and compassion in the Gaza Strip since it was established by CMS in 1907. Over the past year, it has had to endure electricity cuts of up to 20 hours a day because of the power crisis in Gaza. BibleLands has just sent £15,000 to help with the enormous fuel bills, as the hospital tries to run its own generators. The cancellation of the UNRWA con­tract, and the potential staff cuts, have hit the hospital very hard.

One aspect of the story which has been overlooked is the funding crisis at UNRWA, the UN agency that provides humanitarian support for Palestinian refugees. This crisis may well be linked to attempts in the US Senate to reduce UNRWA's funding by redefining Palestinian refugee status so that it is attached to the 30,000 Palestinians still living who were displaced in 1948, not the five million descendants of those displaced, many of whom still languish in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon.

Since the displacement of more than 750,000 of their number after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, Palestinians have been unable to return to their homes, because Israel will not let them. This in­ability applies to Palestinians and their descendants because the refugee problem remains un­resolved.

Surely, all those five million Palestinians, descendants of the original 750,000, who have not settled permanently elsewhere deserve humanitarian support and ultimate justice. This is why Bible­Lands works with the Middle East Council of Churches and the Ahli Hospital to help such refugees, many of whom live in dire con­ditions, as a recent independent report on Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon showed.

The Senate legislation, if con­firmed, will make peace in the Middle East harder to achieve, not easier. It will not just be the patients at the Ahli Hospital who will suffer.

JEREMY MOODEY
Chief Executive
BibleLands
24 London Road West
Amersham
Bucks HP7 0EZ

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