Is this the best that Christianity can do?
The Holy Land needs advocates for the truth. “It is the truth, and only the truth, that will lead to peace and justice”
While the Jewish state was putting its finishing touches to Operation Cast Lead (the horrific blitzkrieg launched over Christmas-New Year 2008/09 against Gaza’s civilians, including the Christian community there), the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, joined Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on a visit to the former Nazi camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau to demonstrate their joint solidarity against the extremes of hostility and genocide.
“This is a pilgrimage… to a place of utter profanity – a place where the name of God was profaned because the image of God in human beings was abused and disfigured,” said the Archbishop. “How shall we be able to read the signs of the times, the indications that evil is gathering force once again and societies are slipping towards the same collective corruption and moral sickness that made the shoah [holocaust] possible?”
Complicity through silence
Read the signs? He needed to look no further than the hell-hole that the Holy Land had been turned into by Israel’s occupation and unfettered aggression, with Britain’s blessing… and, dare one say, without too much fuss from England’s established church either.
If ever there was a place where “the name of God was profaned” the so-called Holy Land is it.
And in 2010, just a year after that slaughter, the archbishop announced he was planning a visit to Gaza. I asked his Lambeth Palace office if he would sit down and talk with the elected prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, man of God to man of God (for Mr Haniyeh is an imam). Would he do Gaza (and all of us) proud by spending a generous amount of his time with senior members of the Islamic faith?
His office didn’t reply.
According to the archbishop’s website he did none of those things. And on his return he said nothing about Gaza in the House of Lords, where he had the ear of Parliament and the support of 25 other Church of England bishops.
Yet he began his Ecumenical letter that Easter by declaring: “Christians need to witness boldly and clearly”….
I was told afterwards that the Israelis initially refused the archbishop access to Gaza and only at the last minute granted him a piddling 90 minutes, just enough for a hurried visit to the Ahli hospital and no more.
But this didn’t stop him hobnobbing with the chief rabbinate, paying his respects to Yad Vashem and the holocaust, and talking with the president of Israel. Didn’t Lambeth Palace realize that his meekly accepting a situation where Israel’s thugs prevented him seeing what horrors they had inflicted, only served to legitimize the Israelis’ illegal occupation and give the Anglican Church’s stamp of approval to the vicious siege, the continuing air strikes, the persecution of Muslim and Christian communities and the regime’s utter contempt for international law and human rights?
When is ethnic cleansing not ethnic cleansing? When it’s “Newtonian energy transfer”
In June 2011 Kairos Palestine, the voice of Palestinian Christians, felt it necessary to give the archbishop of Canterbury a strong ticking-off for remarks he made during a BBC interview.
Rifat Kassis, coordinator of Kairos Palestine, said he was “deeply troubled” by the archbishop’s “inaccurate and erroneous remarks” about the situation of Christians in the Middle East. He called the archbishop’s failure to mention the Israeli occupation and the regime’s oppressive policies “shocking”.
In a letter to Williams, he said:
You know very well that in the Bethlehem area alone there are 19 illegal Israeli settlements… and the wall that have devoured Christian lands and put Bethlehem in a chokehold. You know well that only 13 per cent of Bethlehem area is available for Palestinian use and the wall isolates 25 per cent of the Bethlehem area’s agricultural land. Not to mention the situation of Christians in Jerusalem, which you know very well, since you should have received reports from the Anglican bishop in the city whose residency permit was denied by the occupying power.
Mr Kassis ended by saying: “We would like to remind Your Grace that Christian Palestinians need advocates for the truth. It is the truth, and only the truth, that will lead to peace and justice in our home.”
So what did Archbishop Rowan Williams say to the BBC that so infuriated his Palestinian brethren? Apparently, it was his remarks about the ethnic cleansing of Christians, referring to extreme pressure in Iraq while suggesting that the exodus of Christians from Palestine was due to much more “un-dramatic” pressure. Williams seemed happy to use the term “ethnic cleansing” in connection with Iraq but not Israel’s programme to dispossess and terrorize Palestinians.
He was also content with the UK government’s attitude. “I think the issue of religious freedom in general has very high priority in the Foreign Office at the moment. So I hope that continues.”
The truth is that the British Foreign Office is infested with pro-Israel placemen and has not lifted a finger to ensure religious or any other freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Williams went on the say:
I think there are still perhaps too few people in this country who are aware of the haemorrhaging of Christian populations from the Holy Land. The fact [is] that Bethlehem, a majority Christian city just a couple of decades ago, is now very definitely a place where Christians are a marginalized minority. We want that to be a little bit higher on people’s radar…
Interviewer: Would you see what’s happening in Bethlehem as another example of what you’ve described as ethnic cleansing?
Archbishop: It’s not ethnic cleansing exactly because it’s been far less deliberate than that I think. What we’ve seen though is a kind of Newtonian passing-on of energy or force from one body to another so that some Muslim populations in the West Bank, under pressure, move away from certain areas like Hebron, move into other areas like Bethlehem. And there’s nowhere much else for Christian populations to go except away from Palestine.
The Archbishop’s comments were “faulty and offensive”, according to Kassis, especially his claim that Muslims coming into the Bethlehem area, where space is limited, were forcing Christians out.
And I daresay exiled Palestinian Christians will be relieved to hear that their misfortune is all down to Newtonian energy effects.
Now that Williams has gone, what are we to make of the new archbishop, Justin Welby, who came from nowhere and has Jewish immigrant roots? He was “accelerated” up the ladder and served as Bishop of Durham for barely five minutes before landing the top job. It makes you wonder what influences are at work behind the scenes. Welby is touted as an expert in conflict resolution although he is not known for his concern about the Holy Land. Indeed, the Jewish Chronicle reported that Welby helped mount a Holocaust Memorial Day exhibition in Liverpool Cathedral and abstained in the vote at the Anglican Synod which endorsed the EAPPI, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel which provides protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitors and reports human rights abuses, and supports Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace.
Frankly, anyone who cannot bring himself to give wholehearted backing to a worthy humanitarian project like EAPPI, shouldn’t be leading a great Christian church.
It’s a religious war
The residency permit issue mentioned by Rifat Kassis referred to the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, who is a classic victim of the evil machinations of the occupation. The Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem covers Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Dawani was installed in April 2007, but in March 2011 Israel cancelled his residency permit, making it impossible for him to carry out his duties properly. As a non-Israeli he needed a temporary residence permit. The Israelis played silly-buggers, initially granting one then turning him down.
Here’s the explanation.
The bishop is a native of the Holy Land and has spent most of his life and ministry there, but cannot obtain either citizenship or legal residence in Israel, since he was born in Nablus, in the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967, but has not been annexed to Israel. East Jerusalem, on the other hand, where the Anglican Cathedral and Diocesan offices are situated, was also occupied at the same time, but Israel annexed it and considers it part of its national territory (although no other country in the world recognizes this annexation). Therefore, Bishop Dawani is considered by Israel to be a foreigner who can only visit – let alone live in – East Jerusalem with a special permit, which the Israeli authorities can either grant or deny at their sole discretion.
Dawani was wide open to this sort of dirty trick. After six months of aggravation and international pressure the illegal occupiers granted residency permits to the bishop and his family. But here’s the catch: those permits will have to be renewed when they expire, whenever that may be or whenever the Israelis choose.
Do Christian clergy need an army thunder flash up their collective cassock before they understand there’s a religious war going on in the Holy Land and the churches of Western Christendom, regrettably, are not engaging in it, even though the source from which they draw their authority, inspiration and teachings is right there? They much prefer to appease the invader regime and leave their brother churches in Jerusalem and the Middle East to fight alone.
The Zionist wing of the Church of England?
Ever heard of the CMJ (the Church’s Ministry among Jewish People)?
Apparently, it has a proud 200-year history and feels a need to provide in-depth teaching on the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. In its statement of faith the CMJ says Christians have “a special responsibility to love, defend and share the Gospel with God’s historic, chosen people, the Jews”. (See this and that.)
And this is the CMJ’s attitude to the Israel-Palestine struggle:
- CMJ believes that both Jewish and gentile believers (including our Palestinian brothers and sisters) are united in the one “olive tree”. In fact, Jesus has made Jew and gentile believers one “and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…”
The reality is that the Israelis are still building the hated barrier and love nothing better than destroying whole groves of olive trees.
- Gentiles are “fellow-citizens with God’s people”… God loves all people equally. This means that he loves the Israelis and the Palestinians equally.
So, we can safely ignore all claims, including those made by the CMJ, that Jews are God’s “chosen ones”?
- “CMJ… has always seen the return of the Jewish people to their ancient land, and on a national scale to their Messiah, as a precursor to the return of Jesus in glory.”
Their return is achieved by expelling the Arabs (whom God loves equally), slaughtering those who resist and trashing just about all of God’s commandments. Jesus is really going to be impressed when he arrives.
- “CMJ rejoices that, after 2000 years… the Jewish people now, at last, have returned to the land from which the majority were dispersed in AD70…”
Rejoice in the Jewish occupation and you rejoice in the murderous crime spree that goes with it.
- “CMJ recognizes that the state of Israel was set up as a result of a majority vote of the United Nations in 1947… However, the ministry does not hold any official position as to the appropriate location of the borders of the state. “
If CMJ recognizes the UN’s 1947 Partition Plan, then it should also accept the borders on which it was based. Instead, the CMJ appears to advocate a “blank cheque” for the Zionist entity’s territorial greed
- CMJ ministry recognizes that the Israelis, after 2,000 years of anti-Semitism, face a resurgence of anti-Semitism, a military threat from various nations, Palestinian terrorism and a threat to the stability of their safe homeland through demographic factors.”
Is it any wonder? Israel, with its nuclear arsenal and American-supplied state-of-the-art weaponry, easily outguns its neighbours in the Middle East and even threatens Europe. Its lack of restraint and contempt for international law, demonstrated repeatedly, makes it the prime menace to the region. Meanwhile Palestinians have every right to defend their homes as best they can.
It’s obvious that the CMJ adopts the Zionist position and encourages the physical restoration of the Jewish people to the biblical land of Israel, regardless of the suffering and injustice this causes. Nevertheless, the CMJ was adopted as an official ministry of the Church of England in 1995, Archbishop George Carey presiding, and has been operating in the shadows all this time. Is this the Church of England’s official Zionist wing?
Carey is remembered for opposing the Church of England’s divestment from companies, such as Caterpillar, which profit from Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, saying he was “ashamed of being an Anglican”.
Signs of hope from Scotland
Altogether it’s been a dismal performance by most (though not all) churches. But this week, hopefully, the Church of Scotland will give a new lead at its Assembly in Edinburgh to stop the rot.
Although under great pressure to rewrite the Church’s report The Inheritance of Abraham?, which challenges the Jews’ claim to a divine right to the Palestinians’ homeland and is condemned by a furious Jewish lobby as a “truly hurtful” and “inquisition-era” document, they actually beefed it up! For example, the revised version restates emphatically that they do not support the idea that ancient scripture offers anyone a privileged right to territory, and it not only urges the UK government and the European Union to use pressure to stop further expansion of Israeli settlements, but also to remove the existing ones.
- Stuart Littlewood, “Church of Scotland unmoved by Zionist bullies“