From Linda Pitt and
Canon Trevor Pitt
Sir, - How soon disillusion sets in! Days after his
enthronement, the Archbishop of Canterbury "regrets" casting a
positive vote on ecumenical accompaniers at Israeli checkpoints (
News, 28 March). He is not the first bishop to draw back under
pressure from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, as you also
reported when north-eastern bishops withdrew from a conference last
October for the same reason.
Yet, in his first
Thought for the Day (Radio 4, 29 March), he said: "What
you see depends on where you stand." We hope he can stand
unannounced at a military checkpoint himself when he visits
Israel/Palestine in June.
We have visited the Holy
Land many times, and have seen how things really are at
checkpoints, even when people are permitted to travel to work and
return home, which is not always the case. Just a few weeks ago, we
saw a young Israeli soldier all smiles for British visitors at one
checkpoint, only to turn threatening when she discovered a resident
of Bethlehem among us. Her permit was demanded and examined at
length, and then brusquely thrown back at her when, after a lengthy
search, no infringements were found in her record.
Permits are very difficult
to obtain if you are not an Israeli Arab, and the risk of
confiscation for the slightest infringement of any kind (and
therefore permanent loss of livelihood) is a constant daily threat.
I hope that the Archbishop will have conversations, as we did, with
some of those who, like her, live in such constant hopelessness.
Bethlehem under the present occupation is now little more than an
We doubt that Archbishop
Welby will ever see what goes on that the authorities do not want
him to see. The work that EAPPI does is to bear witness at these
checkpoints - that is all. Of course, the historical and political
aspects of the situation are complex, and none of us should be
taking sides. We hope that the Archbishop will visit Bethlehem
Bible College and explore its work on "Christ at the Checkpoint".
What you see depends on where you stand indeed.
LINDA PITT, TREVOR
Hamsterley, Bishop Auckland
Co. Durham DL13 3QF
From the Rt Revd Richard
Sir, - I was deeply saddened to read your report that the
Archbishop of Canterbury, in an interview with The Jewish
News, has said that he regrets that he did not vote against
the motion supporting the work of ecumenical accompaniers in the
occupied West Bank.
He is, of course, right in
saying that the situation in the Holy Land is so complicated; but
complexity should not blind him or any of us to the plain truth
that the Israeli occupation is both illegal and increasingly harsh.
The work of ecumenical accompaniers is simply to live alongside
Palestinians in their continuing plight, to monitor and report
abuses of international humanitarian law on both sides, and to
press for an end to this 45-year occupation, which is not only
paralysing Palestinian society, but doing grave harm to Jewish
The Archbishop is looking
forward to meeting some of his "Jewish cousins" when he visits the
Holy Land later this year: absolutely admirable. But I hope that he
will also seek out some of his Palestinian Christian brothers and
sisters, and listen to their remarkable stories of exactly the kind
of "holy courage" that he advocated so strongly in his enthronement
An ecumenical accompanier
193 Ashford Road,
Canterbury, CT1 3XS