Church leader links Israel to apartheid

Accusation: Archbishop Morgan

Accusation: Archbishop Morgan

The head of the Anglican Church in Wales has received a barrage of criticism after comparing the situation between Israel and the Palestinians to apartheid in South Africa.

Dr Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, was accused of damaging interfaith relations after an address to the governing body of the Church in Wales last week in which he described the situation in "Israel-Palestine" as appalling.

He said that conditions in Gaza resemble "the apartheid system in South Africa because Gaza is next to one of the most sophisticated and modern countries in the world - Israel. Whereas Israel has excellent technology and infrastructure, in Gaza people carry goods by horse and cart. Whereas Israel has an educational system second to none, next to it children live who are denied a basic education because their schools have been bombed."

He declared: "I realise, that whenever I say anything about this matter, I will be accused of being antisemitic, but our own Prime Minister has described Gaza as a prison camp."

Our Prime Minister has described Gaza as a prison camp

Rabbi Barry Marcus, who oversees the Israel portfolio in the Chief Rabbi's cabinet, called the remarks "blatant and perverse. Does he not know Israel withdrew from Gaza and they now live under their own enlightened Hamas leadership?

"He only mentions Israel's right to defend her citizens almost as an afterthought and there is no mention or questioning of the Egyptian blockade of Gaza. This is shameful, cowardly and irresponsible for a man of faith in his position to mimic the Hamas-Hizbollah rhetoric."

Board of Deputies' chief executive Jon Benjamin commented: "These trite comments display a lack of understanding of the true situation. Anyone who knows Israel knows that the cultural, religious and ethnic mix and the rights and freedoms available to everyone are the very antithesis of apartheid."

Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg, of Cardiff Synagogue, found it "very sad that the Archbishop presents such a one-sided view of the Middle East, recycling tired old cliches. Apartheid comparisons, while grabbing headlines, are simply untrue. The state of Israel affords equal rights to its non-Jewish citizens, a level of equality which can certainly not be ascribed to other states in the region."

Rabbi Wollenberg said the Archbishop had also ignored "Hamas's stated aim to wipe Israel off the map, which has nothing to do with the post-1967 border changes which he blames for the current conflict. Perhaps it is this which holds up peace, rather than the Israeli presence in the West Bank."

He went on: "Wales has excellent relationships between faiths and the Archbishop's comments can only serve to damage those good relationships. His comments feed into the hands of those who seek to demonise Israel and, by extension, the Welsh Jewish community, and places us all in danger of increased attack."

    Last updated: 11:08am, October 14 2010