The end of interfaith relations?

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 22, 2012

I told you so.

In this column, on December 5 2008, I considered what we might learn from the fact that an anti-Zionist carol service had been hosted by the fashionable St James's Church, Piccadilly. I observed that, in response to this event there had been a deafening silence from the Bishop of London (Dr Richard Chartres), and - ominously - from his boss, Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. And I concluded by characterising the entire squalid incident as proof positive of an "officially sanctioned Anglican hostility to the Jewish state".

This was not the first time I had used this column to shed light on the anti-Zionism that has become, under Rowan Williams' leadership and - evidently - with his unctuous blessing, a distinguishing hallmark of the Anglican Communion. On September 16 2005, for example, I drew attention to Dr Williams's silence over the persecution of Palestinian Christians by Palestinian Muslims and to the endorsement by the Anglican Consultative Council of a resolution calling on good Anglicans everywhere to support economic sanctions against Israel.

The fact is that none of us should be the least bit surprised that, at the General Synod of the Church of England last week, well over half of the assembled bishops, clergy and laity voted to endorse the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. We might also note that the balance of anti-Zionist opinion within the Synod was far worse than a superficial consideration of this result might suggest, because the proposition to bestow the official imprimatur of Anglicanism to the EAPPI was actually opposed by a mere 16 per cent of Synod members.

The picture becomes even bleaker when we paint into it some of the remarks made during the debate. Forget for a moment the nature and work of the EAPPI, whose volunteers effect to act merely as passive, self-appointed guardians of Palestinians under Israeli jurisdiction. Forget for a moment that (in the words of Melanie Phillips) the EAPPI is "a one-sided organisation which presents Israel entirely falsely as the regional aggressor and the Palestinians as its victims". Forget EAPPI's refusal to condemn Palestinian acts of so-called "resistance" that include mass murder. Forget its silence in the face of the corruption, homophobia and misogyny that are all too prevalent in Palestinian-controlled territories. Forget the laughable protestation in its code of conduct that it does not "take sides" in the conflict.

Concentrate instead on what was actually said at the Synod in support of the motion to endorse EAPPI's malevolent activities. During the debate there were references to "Jewish lobbies", to money allegedly spent by Jews on lobbying against the motion and to "Jewish sounding names". The Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, who happens to chair the completely useless Council of Christians and Jews, was apparently moved to explain that: "A few people said that all the lobbying from the Jewish side led us to vote the other way" and that there was "over-lobbying" by some members of the Jewish community". What precisely is "over-lobbying?" And what about the lobbying that was presumably conducted by supporters of the motion and their Anglican apologists?

Consider this and then agree with me that the JC's editor was only too right when he concluded that the Synod debate was not about Israel, but about Jews. It was about Jews because the Anglican Communion has - insofar as its attitude to Jews and to the Jewish state is concerned - returned to its Augustinian roots: the Jews are an accursed people; the promises the Almighty made to them have been transferred to the followers of Jesus; Jewish self-government in the Holy Land is an affront to the Christian spirit.

We must ask how we propose to react. The Board's president Vivian Wineman was right to condemn unreservedly the motion. But deeds must now follow words. The Synod must be made to understand that attached to its motion is a price-tag.

What that might be certainly requires careful thought. But, as a minimum, I would have thought that the CCJ should be wound up, the Three Faiths Forum disbanded, and that the "Jewish lobbies" of which the Anglican Church is apparently so fearful should campaign for its early disestablishment.

Last updated: 3:45pm, July 22 2012