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Letters to the Editor

by
22 December 2023

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Political background to the Israel-Gaza crisis

From Charlotte Marshall, Miranda Pinch, and Lynn McAllister

Sir, — In his letter (1 December) accusing us of propaganda, the Revd Dr Ian Duffield makes three points that we would like to address.

First, Dr Duffield suggests that we imply that Israel does not have the right to self-determination. It is important to distinguish between the internationally recognised borders of Israel and the land that it belligerently occupies. No one is suggesting that the area recognised as Israel (within the “Green Line”) should not have self-determination and security for all its citizens (including, of course, the 20 per cent Arab citizens of Israel); but why is the same right denied to the Palestinians? Wanting self-determination for one people should never be at the expense of another.

Second, he suggests that it is the Palestinians’ fault that they do not have a state of their own, having rejected several proposals for one. Peter Shambrook’s book Policy of Deceit contains records of all British parliamentary debate and relevant correspondence, where it is shown that Palestinians were promised self-determination on all the land then called Palestine. In 1937, with the Peel Commission, the British reneged on this offer and proceeded to put forward partition plans for the land. Quoting the late British author and journalist Arthur Koestler: “One nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third.”

In 1947, another partition plan was proposed by the United Nations. At that time, 68 per cent of the total population was Arab and 32 per cent Jewish, and yet 55 per cent of historic Palestine was granted for a Jewish state and 45 per cent for a non-contiguous Arab state. Is it surprising that Palestinians rejected a plan that took away significant amounts of their land and resources?

Dr Duffield fails to mention the Oslo Accords of 1993, when the Palestinians agreed to a state on 22 per cent of historic Palestine, in itself a huge concession. Israel reneged on its commitments, and, six years after the agreement, there were more Israeli settlements (the settler population increased from 110,000 to 185,000 between 1993 and 2000), which undermined rather than facilitated a Palestinian state. Palestinian lives were restricted and controlled in every way, and this resulted in worsening economic conditions and despair across the West Bank and Gaza.

The 2001 “offer” did not address the concerns of the Palestinians in relation to the above, and also sought to reverse some of the interim steps leading to a Palestinian state as agreed in the Oslo Accords.

Third, Dr Duffield suggests that we are excusing the anti-Semitic and “Islamo-fascist” charter of Hamas to give them a “get-out-of-jail-free card”. We would like to point out, first, that we have unequivocally condemned the attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas in all our statements since 7 October. It is, however, now common knowledge that Hamas was created and funded to destabilise Palestinian politics and suppress Palestinian statehood aspirations, and that Israel also bears responsibility for creating the conditions that led up to 7 October (see the article in The Times of Israel: “For years, Netanyahu propped up Hamas. Now it’s blown up in our faces”, by Tal Schneider, 8 October). Israel’s 17-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has left 80 per cent of the population reliant on humanitarian aid, one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, and conditions impossible for any governing body to cope with have contributed to the situation we see today.

Whatever one’s political views concerning Israel/Palestine, this should not stop the House of Bishops or anyone else unequivocally and explicitly condemning the current atrocities inflicted on the innocent men, women, and children of Gaza. The current desperate attempts by the UN to call on the international community to act and avert a humanitarian catastrophe should be a wake-up call to everyone, before we find ourselves on the wrong side of history once more.

CHARLOTTE MARSHALL, MIRANDA PINCH, LYNN McALLISTER
Sabeel-Kairos UK, PO Box 18336
Birmingham B31 9FY


No volcano: Rwanda is stable, secure, and safe

From Mr Sallum Henderson

Sir, — The Revd Dr David Bagnall’s article on Rwanda (Comment, 15 December) is a far cry from the reality of Rwanda today. Setting aside the moral argument on the UK’s rejecting those who have suffered or are in danger of suffering trauma and persecution, the arguments concerning Rwanda as a destination are very wide of the mark. I have been visiting and working in Rwanda for 24 years, and the country is stable, secure, and safe. Of course, at the genocide-memorial time, people are emotionally sensitive, as memories of horrific events and the loss of loved ones surface; but that is a far cry from “sitting on a volcano”.

I work closely with genocide survivors’ groups, and their approach is of healing and reconciliation. One of the most remarkable things about Rwanda is the commitment of ordinary citizens to the unity and progress of the country. It is they, not just the President and leaders, who talk of being “BanyaRwanda” (people of Rwanda) and neither Hutu or Tutsi. Despite protestations to the contrary, at the last Presidential elections, the African Union election-observation mission declared: “Based on its observations and its findings, the AUEOM concludes that voting took place in a peaceful, orderly and transparent manner.”

I was there in the run-up to the elections. Every person I spoke to wanted Kagame to continue because of what he had done to bring peace and hope and stability to Rwanda. Compared with the countries surrounding Rwanda, it is a haven of peace and a beacon of hope.

As a matter of interest, Dr Bagnall’s use of 800,000 as the death toll is in itself inaccurate: census data and counts of bodies indicate 1,117,000 were killed and it is time that out-of-date figures from decades ago were replaced with more accurate ones. While I am more than happy to concur with Dr Bagnall on the moral absurdities of sending people seeking safety back across half the world, let us please stop Rwanda-bashing: it is a wonderful, safe, and beautiful country.

SALLUM HENDERSON
Director
Comfort International
14-15 Carron House
Cumbernauld G67 1ER


Unwise to proceed with prayers before ‘provision’

From the Revd James Dudley-Smith

Sir, — The Prayers of Love and Faith are now commended for use (News, 15 December), in spite of the fact that more than 47 per cent of the clergy and more than 49 per cent of the laity in the General Synod voted against the motion there, and 11 bishops voted against doing so at their recent meeting (24 in favour, 11 against, three abstaining). Truly, the Church of England is seriously divided at every level on a very major ethical and doctrinal issue. No wise incumbent would force through significant changes at parish level in a context of such vehement division.

Meanwhile, the House of Bishops says that it will graciously “consider” making some “provision” for the protection of consciences; why, why, why are the prayers commended for use before this provision is made? The watershed moment was 12 December; some of us need provision for our consciences right now, and will — most reluctantly — have to look somewhere other than our Bishops to provide it.

The Bishop of Leicester is reported as saying that sharing the Prayers will be “a blessing to the whole Church”. I tremble to say it, but that comment is not only profoundly insensitive, but wrong.

JAMES DUDLEY-SMITH
The Rectory, 41 The Park
Yeovil BA20 1DG


Christian Legal Centre and its influence

From Mrs Andrea Williams

Sir, — I was surprised to see Andrew Brown parroting criticism from The Guardian of the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) (Press, 1 December).

It appears that he agrees with the judges in some of our cases that it is in the “best interests” of some people to die rather than to be allowed to pursue alternative treatment being offered by competent medics at no cost to the NHS. The public sympathy for these cases is evidenced by multiple front-page headlines about them in the past few months alone. Far from putting people off Christianity, this defence of the most vulnerable in society attracts people to the faith.

As Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

ANDREA WILLIAMS
70 Wimpole Street
London W1G 8AX


Plough Sunday best

From the Revd Geoff Dodgson

Sir, — I was delighted to see an image of a large drainage machine on the front cover of your 8 December issue. Editors of Farmers Weekly have told me that a photograph of a large shiny tractor or combine harvester on the cover can raise weekly sales by 5000-10,000 copies. I wonder whether the Church Times has seen similar success.

GEOFF DODGSON
Honorary Chaplain, British Guild of Agricultural Journalists
c/o Lavenders, Cootes Lane
Fen Drayton, Cambridge CB24 4SL


Interests in the Gulf

From the Revd Dr Ian K. Duffield

Sir, — Christian Aid calculates that the economic impact of a 3°C rise in temperature on Saudi Arabia and the UAE would result in a reduc­tion in GDP of 72 per cent by 2100 (News, 15 December). I suspect those oil-producing nations will be more worried by what their reduc­tion in GDP will be if the goal of end­ing fossil fuels is achieved.

IAN K. DUFFIELD
Urban Theology Union
Victoria Methodist Hall
Norfolk Street, Sheffield S1 2JB

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