Welby: "Israel has the same legitimate rights to peace and security as any other state"
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has issued a statement on the Israel/Gaza conflict:
“You can't look at the pictures coming from Gaza and Israel without your heart breaking. We must cry to God and beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace and justice and security. Only a costly and open-hearted seeking of peace between Israeli and Palestinian can protect innocent people, their children and grand children, from ever worse violence.It is a carefully-worded equilibrium, offering compassion and understanding to the peoples of Israel and Gaza, and calling on both the Israeli Government and Hamas to pause, reflect, do penance and make reparation. And that requires humility: political dialogue requires peace, and peace demands justice and security.
“My utmost admiration is for all those involved in the humanitarian efforts on the ground, not least the medical team and staff at Al Ahli Arab Hospital. Providing relief and shelter for those displaced is a tangible expression of our care and concern, and I encourage Church of England parishes and dioceses, as well as the wider Communion, to pray for them and support the Diocese of Jerusalem's emergency appeal.
“While humanitarian relief for those civilians most affected is a priority, especially women and children, we must also recognise that this conflict underlines the importance of renewing a commitment to political dialogue in the wider search for peace and security for both Israeli and Palestinian. The destructive cycle of violence has caused untold suffering and threatens the security of all.
“For all sides to persist with their current strategy, be it threatening security by the indiscriminate firing of rockets at civilian areas or aerial bombing which increasingly fails to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, is self-defeating. The bombing of civilian areas, and their use to shelter rocket launches, are both breaches of age old customs for the conduct of war. Further political impasse, acts of terror, economic blockades or sanctions and clashes over land and settlements, all increase the alienation of those affected. Populations condemned to hopelessness or living under fear will be violent. Such actions create more conflict, more deaths and will in the end lead to an even greater disaster than the one being faced today. The road to reconciliation is hard, but ultimately the only route to security. It is the responsibility of all leaders to protect the innocent, not only in the conduct of war but in setting the circumstances for a just and sustainable peace.
“While it is acceptable to question and even disagree with particular policies of the Israeli government, the spike in violence and abuse against Jewish communities here in the UK is simply unacceptable. We must not allow such hostility to disrupt the good relations we cherish among people of all faiths. Rather we must look at ways at working together to show our concern and support for those of goodwill on all sides working for peace.”
Many will find Archbishop Justin's words sapless and vexing: an irritatingly Anglican via media which offers succour to both sides while reproaching them equally for their humanitarian failures and transgressions of the "age old customs" of Just War theory. But there is nothing in the Archbishop's lament to which Israel could reasonably object: the bombing of schools and hospitals and the killing of children is indeed appalling. But if civilians are being used to shield rocket launches and if mosques are being used to conceal stockpiles of deadly ordnance, what is one supposed to do?
Israel is blamed by many of the newspapers, broadcasters and intelligentsia for slaughtering the children Gaza. In truth, Hamas is killing its own. What kind of government hides its aggression behind the smiles of babies? What kind of leadership cloaks its terrorism beneath the innocence and laughter of its children?
But before you leap on the Archbishop's inept even-handedness or condemn him for his maddening moral equivalence, consider the paragraph on his website which follows this statement, for it tells us: "He fully accepts that Israel has the same legitimate rights to peace and security as any other state and to self-defence within humanitarian law when faced with an external threat."
This is unequivocal, but it is an offensive dogma which neither Hamas nor Fatah will accept. To them and their defenders, followers and supporters, Israel has no legitimacy and so no rights: jihad must be waged until every last Jew is cleansed from the land they call Palestine. To Archbishop Justin, this is a moral abhorrence.
Of course, all Christians prefer peace and long for justice and reconciliation. But if Israel has the same rights to self-defence as any other state, it has a moral right and an ethical obligation to wage a "war on terror". When did you last hear an Anglican bishop, let alone the Archbishop of Canterbury, support Israel's historic and legal rights? When did you least hear a bishop of the Church of England advocate militarised self-defence as the only rational path to peace when confronted by murderous Jew-haters who conceal their bombs below hospitals, their rockets in clinics, and their guns and grenades in schools and mosques?
The destructive cycle of violence must end. Archbishop Justin yearns and prays for the peace of Jerusalem.
So must we all cry to God.