From the Rt Revd Stephen Platten
Sir, - Sir Vincent Fean's excellent article (Comment, 29
May) is more than timely. As he notes, the Israel-Palestine
conflict is both a moral and a political issue. Indeed, almost
certainly it is the key to unlocking peace in the wider series of
conflicts in the region.
Few would have quibbled with the fact that Saddam Hussein's
regime was both tyrannical and brutal. Twelve years ago, wider
support for the US-led coalition might have been found, had Western
powers - and notably the UK - worked harder for an
Israeli-Palestinian settlement first. Over the past generation, the
Churches have been leading advocates for a just and balanced
solution to this continuing violation of human rights.
Sir Vincent's call for Britain to recognise Palestine has
further resonances. It was the Balfour Declaration that first gave
legitimacy to the establishment of Israel as an independent state.
If we recall the terrible history of anti-Semitism over more than
1000 years and culminating in the Shoah, it was important that a
proper initiative be taken to establish a stable and secure state
for the Jewish people.
That has not yet been fully achieved: Israel's own sense of
insecurity continues to determine much of her foreign policy and of
her stance in relation to Palestine and the Palestinian people. The
two elections that Sir Vincent mentions offer a real opportunity to
seek new directions towards peace.
It is unlikely that any progress will be made without a wider
recognition of the State of Palestine. Every effort should be made
to persuade our Government to recognise Palestine at the same time
as working further for the security of Israel. Throughout the past
50 years, the UK has often taken a more nuanced line on Israel than
US foreign policy has displayed.
In his excellent contribution to the debate on the Queen's
Speech, the Bishop of Southwark emphasises the importance of a
two-state solution. The Bishop of Coventry, as the C of E's lead
bishop on foreign affairs, spoke in support of this; and, as Sir
Vincent's article notes, other Churches also press for recognition
by the UK of the State of Palestine.
Visitors to the Palestinian Territories occupied by Israel in
1967 will know just how hemmed in the Palestinian people
understandably feel. This in itself can lead only to further
insecurity for the Israelis. What with the allegations of double
standards flung at the West, the suppression of Palestinian rights
is the best recruiting sergeant for extremism across the Middle
East and North Africa.
Our Government, with France, Ireland, and other European
partners, should recognise Palestine now, as a step towards a just
and lasting peace in the Holy Land.
St Michael's Rectory
St Michael's Alley
London EC3V 9DS
From the Revd Dr Adrian Whitehall
Sir, - Sir Vincent Fean assumes that awarding Palestinians
statehood alongside Israel will bring peace. I believe that this
would be an unwise and dangerous step at present, and create a
scenario for further conflict.
It is a fallacy to think that Palestinian statehood would lead
to peace while Hamas is the ruling party. Hamas and its supporters,
notably Iran, fail to recognise Israel and seek her total
destruction. It is a terrorist organisation, has no regard for
human rights, and refuses to remove from its charter the aim of
liquidating Israel or, to use the Iranian mantra, "wipe Israel off
Israel has on occasions agreed to exchange land for peace. In
2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, uprooting Jewish
communities. This move for peace resulted in the barrage of rockets
and missiles fired on Israel. In 2008, Israel offered Palestinians
93 per cent of the territory they desired, including 98 per cent of
the West Bank; but they refused. In 2009, Israel complied with the
Palestinian Authority request to stop settlement-building for talks
to continue, but then the PA refused.
The nations have divided up this land despite the warnings of
scripture. A particular warning is given to those who meddle with
the destiny of Jerusalem (see Zechariah 12.2-5). Let us pray and
work for peace and reconciliation, but remember that it is God's
land, and he has revealed in his word that he determines its
ultimate destiny and lasting peace. In my view, all humanistic
plans and solutions to the conflict will continue to fail.
Meadow House, Ashbourne Road
Belper, Derbyshire DE56 2DA
From Mr Alan Bowell
Sir, - I agree that the "two-state solution" is probably the
only viable solution to the Israel/Palestine problem, but surely
one of the prerequisites for this is for the two parties to
recognise each other's right to exist. Both the Palestinian
Authority and Hamas have resolutely refused ever to recognise the
existence of Israel as a state, referring to it as "the Zionist
Until they are prepared to give a little rather than just to
demand that they take a lot, progress will be impossible. How can
you negotiate with somebody who refuses even to recognise your
right to exist?
The recognition of Palestine as a state is an empty gesture at
best, and will just lead to even more intransigence on the part of
the Palestinians by giving them the misleading impression that they
are "winning" while they continue to vilify Israel rather than
direct their efforts to at least building a society that could
survive and function as a state, should that day ever arrive.
4 Pinewood Close, Southwell
Nottinghamshire NG25 0DD
From Mr Chris Ryecart
Sir, - Your report (News, 8
May) referring to the tweet by the Revd Dr Stephen Sizer
"linking Israel to the 9/11 attacks in New York" (News, 13
February), for which the Archbishop of Canterbury apologised to
the Jewish community, gives the false impression that the 9/11
attacks were wholly disconnected from events in the Middle East at
the time, and, specifically, from US foreign policy on Israel.
For weeks before 11 September, the Arab News had portrayed on
its front pages graphic details of Palestinians killed or wounded
during Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's brutal response to the Second
Palestinian Intifida, which he himself had provoked, and which
claimed the lives of 3000 Palestinians. Only a few days before 11
September, the King of Saudi Arabia had in desperation contacted
President George Bush, confessing his fears that he would no longer
be able to exert control over his own people if the US failed to
restrain Israel from further atrocities.
Sadly, his message proved to be of no avail, even though it
turned out to be prophetic. Nineteen of the hijackers implicated in
the 9/11 attacks were Saudis.
Shortly after 9/11, during my first computer lesson at the Saudi
university where I was teaching, one of my Saudi students alerted
me to a logo that had come up on his screen. It showed very
graphically, and in close proximity, a representation of the Twin
Towers, an aeroplane, and the star of David. The message to me was
a very simple one: Israel from the Saudi perspective was a key part
of the 9/11 equation.
Bin Laden confirmed Israel's part in the 9/11 equation in the
video message he released soon after the terror attacks in the US.
He spoke of avenging the humiliation of the Palestinians and the
illegal military occupation of Palestinian lands.
Weinberg 4, Kefermarkt 4292