Anglicans, Israel and Zionism – they just don’t get it
That the Archbishop of Canterbury and others succeeded in suppressing a resolution which the Bishop of Bristol described as approaching ‘pretty angry’ in tone and volume, comes as some relief. However, the resulting Resolution still indicates that the leadership of the Church of England has not really grasped the roots of the conflict in the Middle East where they seem incapable of looking beyond the misleading paradigm of Israeli oppression and Palestinian victimhood.
For instance, the Resolution now adopted ‘deplores violence wherever it is used’ but identifies only Israeli use of force. Are ACC delegates really unaware of the 10,000 rockets which have rained down on Israel’s cities and villages from Gaza since September 2000? Or of the arms and explosives bound for terrorist operations against Israelis that are regularly intercepted at checkpoints in the Palestinian territories and at Israel’s security barrier?
Poverty exists in both Israel and the Palestinian territories, but the Resolution mentions only Palestinian poverty, and Israeli policies alone are blamed for it. Are Anglican leaders not even a little troubled by the billions of dollars of aid which are squandered on propping up corrupt Palestinian leaders and nourishing terrorism instead of being channelled into Palestinian infrastructure, education or jobs? Are they perturbed by UN-funded Palestinian schools which teach children to hate Jews and dedicate their lives to Israel’s destruction?
If they are, they are not telling.
The long history of Arab aggression towards Israel’s Jews, and the very real determination among many Arab leaders to witness Israel’s eradication, is consistently ignored for it cannot be forced into the current Anglican framework of Palestinians as victims of Israel. So, ignoring oft-repeated Arab statements calling for the end of Israel as a Jewish state and the string of failures by Palestinian leaders to honour any of their responsibilities under existing treaties, such as the dismantling of their terrorist infrastructure, the Resolution ‘calls on the Israeli government to respond favourably’ to Arab peace proposals.
Coincidentally, only two days before the Resolution was passed, Abbas Zaki, Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, expressed the hope that the two-state solution would result not in the Anglican dream of two states living side by side in peace and prosperity, but in Israel’s collapse.
Zaki continued: “...when the ideology of Israel collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem... Allah willing, and drive them out of all of Palestine.”
This was just the latest statement in a long line from Arab leaders from Hamas to Hezbollah and from Iran to Libya. When have Anglican leaders even acknowledged such statements, let alone responded to them?
No-one suggests that all Israeli government policies are just or righteous. But it is manifestly unjust that so many official Anglican pronouncements reference Israeli security measures only in the context of Palestinian inconvenience and humiliation, divorcing them from the context of the widespread Arab refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist and the continuing threat of Arab terrorism.
This imbalance in the Anglican response is both unhelpful for Palestinians who need friends to be honest about the root causes of their suffering, and unjust to Israel which has repeatedly demonstrated willingness to make concessions for peace, but nevertheless refuses to leave her citizens to the mercy of Arab leaders, at the behest of a deeply hostile UN.
It is heartening to learn that the Archbishop of Canterbury is overseeing ongoing dialogue between Anglicans and Jews. The refusal of Anglican leaders to allow the ACC meeting to be used by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network to platform their fury against Israel is a relief. But more is needed.
Anglican leaders need to confront the uncomfortable fact that they have adopted a narrative framework of the conflict that is historically flawed and ideologically skewed. That is why it is imperative that Claire Amos’ suggestion that the Anglican Church explore its understanding of Zionism should be taken up very soon.