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Uneasy Dean pulls out of pro-Palestine protest

28 June 2024

Peterborough Cathedral

THE Dean of Peterborough, the Very Revd Chris Dalliston (right), withdrew from speaking at a “March for a Free Palestine” rally in the city on Sunday, uneasy that he might be appearing to endorse the view that Israel had no right to exist.

In a statement, initially published on the Cathedral’s Facebook page on Saturday, the Dean said: “I am sorry to have to withdraw my agreement to speak at the rally on Sunday. I want to make it clear that I continue to believe there is no moral justification for the unrelenting violence and bloodshed that is devastating the lives of so many innocent civilians, children, women and men in Gaza.

“I firmly believe that there should be an immediate end to hostilities, the release of hostages, and that work should commence towards a diplomatic solution that enables all people, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims to live in peace, dignity, safety. Along with many others, I believe that only a two-state solution can ultimately guarantee a future in which all can hope to flourish.

“It is for that reason that I would not want to appear to endorse the view that Israel has no right to exist, let alone share a platform with those who might think it possible to justify any kind of violence or incite hatred.”

Thousands of people joined the peaceful rally in Cathedral Square. Patrick Brooks, a member of one of the organising groups, the Peterborough Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told the BBC that they were sorry the Dean had pulled out, and said: “The slaughter of citizens of Gaza is our driving force.”

Speakers included Louise Regan, an executive member of the National Education Union (NEU), which at its annual conference in Bournemouth, in April, voted for a motion calling for solidarity with Palestine and decrying the Israeli government as racist.

The motion, which reaffirmed the union’s support for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War Coalition, drew fire from the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, who said that it reflected the NEU’s “divisive ideology”. The NEU said that there was nothing in the motion that attacked Jewish people or the Jewish religion. It noted “the eruption of deadly violence between the Israeli state and Hamas in October 2023”, and efforts by the UK Government to “criminalise peaceful tactics of boycott, divestment and sanctions, and to stigmatise solidarity historians”.

Peterborough’s first Muslim Poet Laureate, Malika Speaks, was another speaker, along with Hafiz Ubaid, from the Faizan E Madina mosque, and Rabbi Elhanan Beck, from the Neturei Karta group of Haredi Jews. The latter declared in a YouTube video, earlier this year, that Israel was “the most dangerous place for Jews to live. . . Zionism is basically built up on mistrusting God. Judaism is built up on trusting in God. The state of Israel is a a rebellion against God. It will not succeed. They will come to an end.”

The Dean concluded his Facebook message: “The prophet Micah writes: What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? These must be the guiding principles for any future settlement. The cathedral community will continue to pray for peace with justice for all.”

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