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Pro-Israel Christians stage anti-bias protest

    Israel supporter Joanna MacDonald protesting at the Greenbelt festival
    Israel supporter Joanna MacDonald protesting at the Greenbelt festival

    More than 100 Christian supporters of Israel staged a demonstration outside a religious festival on Sunday in protest at its stance on the Middle East.

    Waving Israeli flags and banners, they read biblical texts on the Jewish link to Israel at the entrance to the annual Christian Greenbelt festival in Cheltenham which attracts up to 20,000 participants.

    The festival’s programme this year included the launch of a document calling for sanctions against Israel as well as the appearance of American Jewish activist Mark Braverman, who describes himself as a Jew “overwhelmed by the reality of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine”.

    A group called Embracing the Middle East also set up an interactive floor game called “Occupation”, inviting participants to “roll the dice and make your way through checkpoints and challenges, permit denials and poverty” in order to learn about Palestinian experience.

    Pastor Mike Fryer, the leader of an independent congregation in north Wales, who organised the pro-Israel protest on behalf of Christians for Zion, said that around 150 had turned up to oppose Greenbelt’s “anti-Israel” position.

    “Even Greenbelt has agreed they have seen another voice from the Christian community that would not have been seen if we had not done what we did,” he said.

    The demonstration was also supported by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and Christian Friends of Israel.

    Steven Jaffe, consultant to the Board of Deputies on Israel engagement, said that the demonstration was “an important stand against bias and demonisation. I very much hope festival organisers will take heed of the views of the demonstrators”.

    A group of pro-Palestinian campaigners launched a pamphlet at the festival, Time for Action, calling for a “commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation” and a boycott of Israeli cultural and academic insitutions “complicit in the occupation”.

    Earlier this year, Greenbelt rejected a request from the Council of Christians and Jews for a speaker with an alternative view of Christian-Jewish relations to that of Dr Braverman.

    In a statement issued on the first day of the festival, Greenbelt said that it gave a platform to voices “struggling for peace and justice” and that its programme highlighted issues surrounding Israel’s “illegal” occupation of Palestinian territories, settlements and separation wall.

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