A pro-Palestinian platform is to be launched later this month at a Christian festival, whose invitation to an American Jewish critic of Israel to speak has already troubled the Council of Christians and Jews and Board of Deputies.
CCJ chief executive, the Reverend David Gifford, said it was “concerned” by the programme at the forthcoming Greenbelt conference in Cheltenham, which is expected to be attended by 20,000 people and is seen as a Christian equivalent to Limmud.
Pro-Palestinian campaigners plan to use the event to publicise a formal response to the Kairos document, which was issued by Palestinian Church leaders in 2009 and has since proved influential in mobilising Christians worldwide.
The Kairos document calls Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land “a sin against God and humanity” and supports boycotting “everything produced by the occupation”.
Guest speakers at the festival include Mark Braverman, author of Fatal Embrace, who describes himself in the book as “a Jew who is overwhelmed by the reality of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine”.
Earlier this year, Greenbelt rejected requests from the Board and CCJ to invite other speakers who could present a different opinion.
Dr Braverman’s views were widely cited in a recent critical report on Israel from a Church of Scotland committee which caused outrage.
But his stance was attacked by the Reverend Patrick Morrow, the CCJ’s programme manager, in an article in the new edition of its magazine Common Ground. His book, Mr Morrow wrote, “says merely that any account of the Jewish people’s specialness before God… is immoral and leads to violence, the kinds of violence which Israel alone in the region is to blame”.
Greenbelt has previously been accused of fostering “anti-Israel sentiment” by Rabbi Natan Levy, the Board’s interfaith consultant, who has visited the festival.
In a blog on the Board’s website, Rabbi Levy said that he had found “an awful lot of sessions and presenters portraying an awful image of Israel”.
Defending the invitation to Dr Braverman, Greenbelt’s creative director, Paul Northup, said that it reflected the organisation’s aim to “give a voice to the views of those struggling for justice and equality”.