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Monday, November 28, 2005

Cyrus to Kirk: beam me up, Scottie!

A letter sent in response to this item (hat tip: Christian Attitudes...)


The Right Rev David W. Lacy
Moderator of the General Assembly
The Church of Scotland
121 George Street
Edinburgh
EH2 4YN
Scotland


22 November 2005


Dear Mr Lacy,

I write as a lay Christian with a particular concern about the churches’ response to the conflict in the Holy Land (a concern which has led me to set up a ‘blog’ on this topic at www.christianaidwatch.blogspot.com). I am an expatriate member of the Church of England, but I can make some claim to neighbourly relations with the Kirk having been baptized in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and God willing I will be celebrating Christmas with my sister who is a committed member of the Kirk.

I have read your reactions to your visit to the Holy Land as reported by Scotland on Sunday. I treat anything I read in a newspaper with caution, and I would hope that the article does not fully represent your views, and that you have taken or will take steps to clarify your position.

I am however deeply concerned that you are quoted as saying the following:-

"I was very much in sympathy with why the Israelis built a wall here, and still am to a certain extent… But when you actually see where it is, you see that it's not for security, it's for making political statements. It's theft of land and I don't know how you can justify it on the grounds of anti-terrorism".

Are you really meaning to say that the barrier would still have been built if there were no terrorist threat to Israel? I cannot see what justification you require beyond the fact that, as the article points out, the incidence of suicide attacks on Israel has fallen dramatically since it was in place. I entirely agree that its presence is a tragedy, and I hope and pray that it will not be long-lasting, but surely the primary responsibility lies with those who organize and commit terrorist attacks.

You have every right to be unhappy about the siting of the barrier, but again this needs to be coupled with condemnation of the terrorists whose actions have led to its being built at all. It would, after all, have inflicted much hardship on ordinary Palestinians even if it had kept strictly to the pre-1967 border – the Palestinian economy is never likely to thrive in isolation from Israel. I find it particularly unfortunate that such a loaded term as ‘theft’ is used at a time when there is real movement on the territorial issues dividing the two sides, with the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and now Ariel Sharon’s decision to break with the Likud hardliners and form a new party. Christians can help matters best by encouraging those on both sides committed to dialogue and compromise.

To dismiss Israel’s security needs, which are about safeguarding the lives of innocent civilians, and infer that her primary motivation is theft is a grave slur on her people, both devaluing them and demonizing them. The fact that they are, of course, predominantly Jewish makes this doubly unacceptable. Countless Christian leaders have stoked the fires of anti-Jewish prejudice over the centuries – do you really want to join their number? I appeal to you to reflect on the wider implications of your remarks and think again.

Yours in Christ,

3 comments:

Neal said...

Cyrus,

This is one of your best letters and posts. I am truly impressed.

Neal

Paul M. said...

Cyrus,

Thank you again for yet another very articulate response to Church demonisation of Israel. It is all the more important and all the more appreciated because your words, as a practicing Christian, carry a particular weight that words from Jews and others cannot.

One of several issues that the Moderator's attack raises is the way he and much of the West accept the Palestinian (and general Arab) self-serving interpretation of the Green Line. The Israeli decision to put the barrier within the disputed territories is labeled "theft" because it is not on the Green Line. So what is the Moderator doing? Without reflection he is aligning himself with the Palestinian demand that the Green Line is to be the border and everything to its West is "Palestinian land." This too is an appropriation of territory—precisely the sin he condemns Israel for.

The Israeli view is not so much as mentioned, let alone considered, even though it is based on facts that should be uncontroversial: The Green Line is not, and never was, a border. It was an armistice line only; the place where opposing armies agreed to stop fighting. During the entire time that it served as such, no Arab party ever agreed that it was, would or should be a border. The Arab signatories, in fact, demanded specific wording in the armistice agreements: "No provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question" (the exact phrasing varies slightly from one agreement to another), specifically to allow them to keep open their claims against Israeli territory. And Resolution 242, both by the explicit word of its authors and by the Security Council's rejection of more restrictive language, declines to make the Green Line the final border between Israel and any Arab entity.

A public figure who chooses to pronounce on this conflict ought to be expected to know these basic truths and—if he claims to approach the issue out of a concern for justice—ought to take care to respect them. Since he does not, it is entirely fair to suspect that the Moderator is either uninformed or biased.

Paul M. said...

"He can compress the most words into the least idea of any man I know" - Abe Lincoln

I know. I'm working on it.