Over the holiday season we’ve had to endure once again the anti-Jewish antics of the fashionable St James’s Church, Piccadilly. Five years ago this church hosted an alternative carol service, at which were sung bowdlerised carols castigating and condemning Jewish national aspirations. From the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, there was a deafening silence and from his boss, the then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, there was not so much as one word of criticism. I remarked at the time, and later, how, under Williams, the Church of England had become much more confident in the public display of its anti-Jewish credentials. The latest goings-on in Piccadilly have served only to emphasise this truth.
On December 23 St James’s Church launched what was termed a “Bethlehem Unwrapped” festival, characterised by a distinct lack of goodwill towards Jewish people in general and Israeli Jews in particular.
The centrepiece of “Bethlehem Unwrapped” was a replica of part of the security wall constructed by the Israeli authorities on the West Bank to deter those intent on murdering and maiming Jews.
That the wall/barrier/fence — call it what you like — has acted as a deterrent is beyond doubt. Granted, it cannot guarantee 100 per cent deterrence. Nothing can. But the instances of Islamic terrorists murdering Jews in Israel and the Liberated Territories have decreased dramatically since the fence/barrier/wall was built.
Of course, other factors have been at work here, primarily the efficiency and resourcefulness of Israeli military and intelligence organs. But Islamists themselves have paid tribute to the part played by the wall in deterring them from realising their murderous ambitions. In 2008, for instance, Palestinian Islamic Jihad boss Ramadan Shalah publicly bemoaned the fact that this structure limited “the ability of the resistance [that is, terrorist cadres] to arrive deep within [Israeli territory] to carry out suicide bombing attacks.”
You might suppose that such news would be welcome if not in Islamic circles then certainly in Christian ones. But if you did so suppose, you’d be wrong. In certain Anglican circles this news was far from welcome, because according to their lights the more secure Israeli Jews feel, the less likely they are to grant any of the demands of the Arab world in relation to the Jewish state.
Writing pseudo-apologetically in the Guardian on January 2, the Rector of St James’s, Lucy Winkett, while stressing that she and her colleagues supported a “peaceful Palestinian principle” apparently known as “beautiful resistance”, waxed eloquently on the subject of her empathy with “the ordinary people of Bethlehem at Christmas because we believe it would be wrong to sing about the town … without acknowledging the grievous situation its citizens find themselves in today.”
The “grievous situation” that the dwindling Christian community of Bethlehem finds itself in is due entirely to the policies of successive Palestinian administrations, and mirrors the far larger “grievous situation” that confronts Christians throughout the Muslim world. On January 8 the Christianity Today website named and shamed the top 50 countries “where it’s hardest to be a Christian.” While North Korea was predictably top of the list, every other country, without exception, was either Muslim or was experiencing significant civil strife involving Muslims and Christians. The Palestinian Territories naturally feature on the list, therefore. But not Israel.
I understand that the installation of the replica wall at St James’s cost around £30,000 — money that could have been put to far better use, I would have thought, in alleviating Christian suffering in the Muslim world. What angered me most was the failure of Winkett’s boss, Bishop of London Richard Chartres, to publish even a mild reproach at her deliberate prostitution of her own church in the service of blatant political ends. From Archbishop Justin Welby there was, naturally, a deafening silence.
But since Winkett is being tipped as the first female bishop of the Church of England, what other reaction could we expect?