From Canon Paul
Sir, - That the Bishop of Newcastle
and his Roman Catholic colleague cancelled their attendence at a
meeting on "Justice and Peace in the Holy Land" (News, 2
November) organised by members of the Ecumenical Accompaniment
Programme was a predictable, but very sad, sign of the times.
The Board of Jewish Deputies,
supported by the Council of Christians and Jews and equivalent
bodies in the United States and across Europe, has seen to it that
any public criticism of Israel's policy is decried as proof of a
revival of anti-Semitism. It is usually, as in this case, nothing
of the kind.
A whole series of German churches have
recently been leaned on to cancel their support for an exhibition
that shows the past and present suffering of the Palestinian
people. Only one version of a complex history is deemed to be fit
for public consumption.
No charge is more painful to sensitive
Christians than that of anti-Semitism. It is a highly effective
weapon, silencing even those with a proven record of fighting
against anti-Semitism. The two Bishops, with the best intent in the
world, were intimidated, not to say blackmailed, because they had
been told that "many Jewish people in the north-east were angry and
What they were not told is that other
Jewish people in Britain and in Israel with no official voice are
deeply ashamed of many aspects of Israeli policy. They are usually
dismissed by the Jewish establishment as self-hating Jews, a
History repeats itself in strange
ways. When Hitler's persecution of the German Jews began in the
1930s, their best friend in our Church was Bishop Bell of
Chichester, who roundly condemned Nazi policies. Even some of his
fellow bishops then accused him of being anti-German. Later events
proved him to be the very opposite, when he was a lone voice
protesting against the blanket bombing of German civilians.
Why will this issue not leave me
alone? Because of my Jewish heritage, because of my grandmother,
who was one of Hitler's victims. I care passionately for the future
of the people of Israel, but, if that future is to be bought at the
price of the continuing suffering of the Palestinian people, then
it flies in the face of all that is good in Judaism.
Critical solidarity with both Israelis
and Palestinians need be no threat to Christian-Jewish friendship.
On the contrary, it should strengthen our common struggle against
the dual poisons of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
97 Furze Croft, Furze Hill
Brighton BN3 1PE
From Mr John Pearson
Sir, - Last Saturday, I attended the
event referred to in your article (2 November). It attracted some
140 or so members of the public, together with a number of clergy.
We were served a diet of most informative main sessions and
workshops, addressing the treatment of Palestinians and their
property within the Occupied Zone.
We were shown, together with some
historical data and current evidence, visual images, both videos
and still. For me, one shot was particularly poignant. Palestinians
wishing to cross frontiers are herded through a tight corridor made
of steel bars, a kind of elongated cage, for inspection purposes.
The faces of the people in the photograph, apprehensive,
oppressed-looking, reminded me strongly of similar photos of 70
years ago, showing the vast armies of the innocent being herded
into captivity, and worse.
In these over-PC times, there is the
ever present suggestion that those who dare to criticise such
treatment of Palestinians, thus criticising Israelis, are being
anti-Semitic. I am not. I greatly admire the work being done by,
for example, Rabbis for Human Rights. I suggest, rather, that the
situation in Palestine is an affront both to international law
(which appears to be flouted daily) and to common humanity. I am
appalled to see the people of any nation, whoever they may be, so
mistreating those of any other.
A strong theme underlying the
conference was that we avoid "blame" on religious or sectarian
grounds, looking instead for a just humanitarian solution. The fact
that three mainstream religious leaders, Jewish, Church of England,
and Roman Catholic, were absent was the only negative feature of
the day, as remarked upon by Nora Carmi, a Palestinian Christian
speaker. Those who chose not to attend missed the opportunity to
help further an urgent cause.
Chair of Trustees, The Sea of Faith
3 Belle Grove Place
Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4LH
From Frances Waddams
Sir, - The Bishop of Newcastle's
withdrawal from the EAPPI-organised conference to be held in his
diocese is to be welcomed. At last, an Anglican leader has listened
to the concerns of local Jewish communities.
Your report (News, 2 November) omitted
crucial context, however. The Bishop of Hexham, the Rt Revd Seamus
Cunningham, who also withdrew from the conference, told
The Jewish Chronicle that Jewish community
leaders felt that "EAPPI speaks for only one side of a complex
situation and that, as the conference is to be held on a Saturday,
they could not attend and present an alternative view."
The failure of the Church of England
to recognise that the Palestinian narrative of the Middle East
conflict is highly contentious, together with a reluctance to
afford opportunities for alternative views to be heard, has caused
widespread dismay within the UK Jewish community.
Since the Synod's decision to adopt
EAPPI, Anglican Friends of Israel has been contacted by Jewish
individuals and organisations frustrated at being excluded from
conversations about Israel, to which many are deeply linked by
faith and family ties. Many of them are hurt and angered by a
perception of increasing Anglican hostility towards Israel, which
has occasionally spilled over into wider hostility towards
They are baffled that Anglican leaders
have remained silent about (or in some cases defended) inflammatory
language and methods used by some Anglicans campaigning against the
Jewish national home in the name of peace and justice for
Seventy years after the foundation of
the Council of Christians and Jews - formed in reaction to the last
great assault upon European Jewry - will we now see all that has
been achieved between Jews and Christians through interfaith
dialogue founder on the rocks of Anglican disdain and
Anglican Friends of Israel
27 Old Gloucester Street
London WC1N 3XX