We are honoured to publish the following statement from Canon Andrew White, a true friend of all those in the Middle East who desire peace, who has asked that we circulate this.
More Sanctimonious Claptrap from the C of E
by Canon Andrew White, Baghdad, Iraq
Last year I wrote about the “sanctimonious claptrap” of the Anglican Consultative Council after they called for the disinvestment from the state of Israel. This week the General Synod of the Church of England has called for the same thing. This time though they have targeted a particular company “Caterpillar” for allowing its products to perform the so called evil deeds of the Israeli Government. This is the same company involved in the reconstruction of the Gaza and West Bank, that I have seen doing amazing work even in the past few weeks. Fortunately Caterpillar does not rely on their funding from the C of E to perform. At the moment I am in Iraq. Here we move around in heavily armored buses called rhino buses. They happen also to be produced in Israel by the same company that produces Israeli Defense Force equipment. I have not seen here the refusal of any British or American staff to use these vehicles. After all they are a matter of life and death and they have protected many lives.
This action has put back many years the attempts to deal with anti Zionism and anti Semitism in our own nation. For whether we like it or not anti Zionism is seen here by the majority of British Jews as anti Semitism. If we are to take seriously this issue we have to also hear the voice of Jewish people both in Israel and the Diaspora. What are we, the Church doing? Do we not realize that far more Jews have been killed at the hands of Christians than of Muslims? This is the 350 year anniversary of Jews being allowed back into the UK, it should be a time for rejoicing at the great Jewish contribution to our nation. Most Jews though are scared; scared at what is happening to world Jewry led not just by the Church of England but also established Churches in the US.
It is now nearly four years since the Israeli Government came to me saying they needed the help of the C of E to create a religious track of the peace process. Lord Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury, led the process which has continued to this day. Just before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was taken ill I was summoned to his office, to give account for the attitudes of the C of E. Then I was able to explain that this was the action of the ACC and not the C of E. There was considerable assurance that as Lord Carey was no longer the Archbishop the process could continue. It was all very difficult. Where do you take things from here? There is some hope in the fact that I no longer work for the Church of England, but the reality is that I feel very angry. Angry at the lack of compassion shown to Jews both in Israel and our own land and angry that such a decision should put the real work of peace making in jeopardy in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Things are already really difficult with a terrorist group having been elected to run the PNA. We do not know what the future of peace and reconciliation will be in land that is called Holy. We do know now that the job will be even more difficult. Once again I am sure I will be summoned by the Israeli Government to give account for the actions of what for the first time I am ashamed to call my Church.
The Church has fallen into the trap of thinking that you must be either pro Israeli or pro Palestinian. The reality is that we should be pro both people. Both have suffered and both need our support, love and understanding. When I return to Israel and the Palestinian Territories in just over a week my main duty will be to help with the opening of a major Cardiac Surgery Hospital in Bethlehem. This will be paid for by Christian’s in the USA. Christians who love Israel and the Palestinian People, this should be a lesson to the C of E. What the Palestinian people need is action not just talk. The Synod voting for disinvestment in Israel will not help the Palestinians, but it will make the search for peace even harder and it will diminish any positive role that the C of E could have played in the region.
Things are now more than desperate in the region. In the last five years alone Hamas has killed Hundreds of Israelis, they are now the PNA. Is the Church of England going to say anything about that! The fact is the Lord Carey and I am the only Church of England Clergy working intimately with both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We were never consulted. If the concern was for the Christians of the Land I doubt if there are any people working so closely with the Palestinian Christians as us. \raising funds for needy Christians in Gaza and the West Bank, helping schools, hospitals and churches.
I despair at my own Church, but the reality is that it causes me to ask questions about the Church rather than Israel. We will press on with our work, fortunately it is no longer the work of the C of E and we will continue loving both peoples and seeking truth and justice for all and never falling into the evil trap of anti Zionism and Anti Semitism.
Canon Andrew White is the Chief Executive of the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East