This is a guest post by Anglican Friends of Israel
In July 2010 the Church of England updated the list of resources which formed part of the appendices for its 2001 report DEMANDING PEACE: A CHURCH RESPONSE TO THE AL-AQSA INTIFADA. This list included books, organisations and travel companies was compiled for use by clergy and lay people wanting to understand the conflict both from a historical and contemporary context.
A brief glance at the list reveals an almost uncritical acceptance of the Palestinian narrative – Palestinian victimhood and Israeli aggression. Most organisations and books listed present Palestinians as having neither agency nor responsibility over their circumstances. Arab anti-semitism and Muslim aggression towards Arab Christians is ignored and Jewish Israelis presented as colonial interlopers whose presence is the cause of the conflict.
One might think that a Christian Church would sympathise with Israel, the one small island of freedom in a sea of despotic states, the one Middle Eastern with a free press and vibrant public discourse, the one nation in the Middle East that attempts to enshrine in law the rights of women, homosexual people and minority religions.
Sadly that would be a mistake. Archbishop Williams may claim that he supports the right of Israel to exist. But the majority of organisations and authors on this resource list don’t share his view.
Perhaps, too a Christian Church should take seriously the overarching Scriptural theme that God would one day bring His covenant people back to their Promised Land from the four corners of the earth.
But Archbishop Williams has dismissed that approach as aberrant . And his description is mild compared to how some of the authors on the booklist describe Christians who take their Scriptures seriously.
Below is a sampling of what an Anglican dipping into this cauldron of resources might find. It makes distasteful reading.
It is time for Anglican leaders to admit that Israel, besieged by regional enemies, exists under a state of war brought about by Arab aggression.
They should understand that criticising Israeli actions and policies whilst remaining silent about Arab aggression and anti-Semitism is hypocrisy – particularly in the context of far greater human rights abuses elsewhere in the region and in the world. The sheer disproportion of criticism against Israel is beyond reason.
Finally they should acknowledge that their criticisms of Israel are directed solely at her Jewish citizens, not Christian or Arab Israelis who are assumed to be victims of the Jewish state as well.
And they should beware, reflecting on centuries of institutional Christian anti-Semitism, and how long such institutional racism can take to be purged.
Christian organisations that embrace uncritically the so called ‘Palestinian narrative’ of the conflict and its history.
Living Stones – founded by late Professor Michael Prior, hater of Israel and opponent of Israel as a homeland for Jewish people.
Pax Christi – whose website promotes the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, whose members help organise demonstrations in which marchers carry placards proclaiming ‘We are all Hizbollah now!” and whose members have tried to drive the Jewish Israeli shop ‘Ahava’ out of business
Quaker Ecumenical Accompaniers. Quakers – supposedly pacifist – regularly permit their premises to be used by jihadist speakers and their supporters for demonising Israel,
Amos Trust (Just Peace for Palestine) which – amongst other distortions – airbrushes out the millennia-old Jewish roots in the region portraying Jewish Israelis as interlopers and colonialists and at the same time ignores Arab aggression towards Jews.
Sabeel – Naim Ateek’s organisation which promotes the Palestinian narrative within the framework of Liberation Theology.
Non-Christian Palestinian Organisations
The Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between people has a media arm, International Middle East Media Center which describes those who recently murdered four Israeli civilians as they travelled to their homes and wounded two more as ‘Palestinian Fighters’.
Jewish organisations that oppose Israeli defence policies
Jews for Justice for Palestinians – implacably opposed to any form of Israeli defence against Arab terrorism
Btselem – an Israeli organisation which interprets all Israeli defensive actions as aggression whilst minimising Israel’s concerns about continuous Arab aggression. NGO Monitor reports that ‘in April 2010, B’Tselem staff member and NGO activist Lizi Sagie resigned after the organization came under pressure for statements made on her personal blog, including: “The IDF Memorial Day is a pornographic circus of glorifying grief and silencing voices,” “Israel is committing Humanity’s worst atrocities…Israel is proving its devotion to Nazi values…Israel exploits the Holocaust to reap international benefits.”’
Rabbis for Human Rights – promotes a narrative of Palestinian victimhood and Jewish injustice, ignoring Arab aggression and Israeli security concerns.
Christian organisations that attempt a balanced approach
Forum for discussion of Israel and Palestine – some excellent articles.
Prayer for Peace.org – Tony Higton attempts a balanced approach and has an admirably detailed history of the region which denies neither Jewish nor Arab history in the Holy Land.
International Centre for Bethlehem now called Diyar – whilst attributing Palestinian problems to ‘the occupation’ (and understandably silent about the pressure placed on Palestinian Christians by their Muslim neighbours and authorities) Diyar does acknowledge that Palestinians must see themselves as having agency to improve their lives rather than wallow in victimhood.
Musalaha.org – does admirable work promoting honest and painful dialogue between Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian communities. Makes a real attempt at impartiality although their newsletters quite often focus upon Palestinian perspectives of injustice and victimhood rather than the Arab aggression which is a major factor at the heart of the conflict.
Most of the books on the list present only the Palestinian narrative. This is not the balanced approach that we expect from the Anglican authorities. One notable exception is The Palestine-Israeli Conflict’, Rabbi Prof Dan Cohn-Sherbok & Dr Dawoud El-Alami .
This is the only example of any resource which gives a voice to an Israeli who dissents from the Palestinian narrative.
Anglican leaders claim they have left Supercessionist (Replacement) Theology behind. Yet this booklist recommends several authors whose approach to the conflict is framed firmly within the paradigm of Replacement Theology, such as
Stephen Sizer (2)
Naim Ateek of Sabeel
Colin Chapman (2)
Michael Prior (see previous notes)
It even recommends a book by the discredited ex-bishop of Jerusalem Bishop Riah, currently under investigation for the misappropriation of $1.5 million paid in school fees.
The list includes several books that insult Christians who support the Jewish people’s right to self-determination on their ancient homeland and/or view the restoration of the Jewish people to the land covenanted to them by God, characterising them as heretics and warmongers.