Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has intervened to prevent a resolution highly critical of Israel being passed by an advisory committee of the Anglican Church.
The Archbishop’s contribution to the debate succeeded in softening the language of the resolution passed, although it still links Israel to an “apartheid” policy in the West Bank and makes no mention of Hamas.
The resolution, passed last weekend at a conference of the Anglican Communion’s consultative committee in Kingston, Jamaica, was condemned this week as “legitimising terrorism” by Simon McIlwane, head of the Anglican Friends of Israel.
The resolution “laments the fact that current Israeli policies in relation to the West Bank, in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions, have created severe hardship for many Palestinians and have been experienced as a physical form of apartheid”.
It criticises Israel’s action in Gaza, calls for the dismantling of the separation wall and says that Jerusalem should “not be the monopoly of any one religion”. It states: “A just peace must guarantee the security and territorial integrity of both Israel and the future state of Palestine.”
In his closing address to the conference, Dr Williams referred again to the debate, stressing the need for reconciliation and putting the focus on victims from all sides.
He told the delegates from 160 countries about his meeting with bereaved relatives from Israeli and Palestinian backgrounds. “Something begins to shift when people who bear the heaviest cost on both sides of the conflict are somehow able to recognise one another,” he said.
Canon Guy Wilkinson, the Archbishop’s secretary for interfaith relations, said that the resolution eventually passed was “dramatically different” to that originally proposed, thanks mainly to the Archbishop’s intervention.
“It was much more careful in its choice of words than the original resolution. The resolution absolutely does not say that Israel is operating the equivalent of an apartheid state.”
A copy of the original resolution was not available.
Mr McIlwaine was critical of the amended resolution, and said: “Once again, Anglican representatives have singled out Israel for criticism without placing her actions in context or directly addressing the Palestinian contribution to the conflict.
“Israel is falsely accused of imposing an ‘apartheid’ system on Palestinians while the education of Palestinian children to hate Jews, and give their lives in the cause of Israel’s destruction, is ignored.”
Last September, Dr Williams signed a joint declaration with the chief rabbis of Israel setting out a framework for continuing dialogue. He described this agreement as “a most significant step in developing mutual understanding and trust between the Anglican communion and worldwide Judaism.”