As Hamas prepare to abandon their ceasefire (meanwhile enjoying the prospect of sweeping electoral gains), I have a message of seasonal cheer for them, for Islamic Jihad and for the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland wants to make it easier for you to kill Jewish children!
I have received a reply to the letter I sent to the current Moderator, David Lacy, and it makes grim reading. He restates his condemnation of the Israeli security barrier and pointedly refuses to balance it with condemnation of Palestinian terrorism. One might be able to take comfort from the fact that his term of office is just 12 months – but he encloses a policy document which makes it plain that he does indeed speak for the General Assembly, and I find this is confirmed by the Kirk’s website.
The details are drearily familiar. For those who prefer to be spared them I begin with a summary.
- The Israelis – to be precise, Israel’s Jews – are made the scapegoats for the conflict between them and the Palestinians. Bland and perfunctory condemnations of violence, typically not referring specifically to terrorism at all, are followed by lengthy denunciations of Israel’s attempts to defend its people.
- Israel is turned into a rogue state, uniquely deserving of a political campaign against it.
- Whereas empathy and compassion are shown towards the Palestians, there is a complete failure of empathy and compassion – a hardening of heart – towards a people whose identity has been shaped in an unparalleled way by the experience of racism and ultimately genocidal violence.
The following assertion will strike some as being over the top, but I really can find no other way to do justice to what is at stake: the Kirk’s public stance on this issue makes it institutionally anti-Semitic.
I will deal with the policy document and the website in subsequent postings. Here I address the Moderator’s letter.
The Moderator’s letter
The substantive content is as follows:-
‘I have to tell you, first of all, that the article in Scotland on Sunday to which you refer is entirely representative of my views.
‘I do not believe, as you say, that the “primary responsibility for the wall lies with those who organise and commit terrorist attacks”. [note: this is a misquotation of my letter - unlike the Church of Scotland I do not use the word “wall” to describe something which is in fact a fence for 95% of its length] That could only be said if the wall followed the Green Line. But, of course, it doesn’t but makes large incursions into Palestinian territory. I have never dismissed Israel’s security needs: I just question where their defence becomes attack.
‘The Church of Scotland has consistently rejected the idea that criticism of the policies of the state of Israel is in any way anti-Semitic. Both before and after my recent trip to Israel, I consulted with the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks and with Jewish community leaders in Scotland, all of whom fully understand that the Church of Scotland’s position is against some of the policies of Israel and has nothing to do with the anti-Semitism you suggest.’
Right Reverend Sir, ‘the idea that criticism of the policies of the state of Israel is in any way anti-Semitic’ – ipso facto - formed no part of my letter, and I challenge you to find any statement in this website that supports it.
I do say that such criticism plainly may be anti-Semitic, given that it often emanates from unashamed anti-Semites.
I do say that the nature of the criticism may be such as to constitute at least unconscious anti-Semitism and to legitimize prejudice against the Jewish people, even if it is made by people who strongly deny being anti-Semitic.
I do say that this is the case where the criticism persistently focuses on measures taken by Israel to protect its civilian population from being murdered, and where there is no balancing criticism of those doing the murdering.
I do say that this is the nature of the criticism of the security barrier made by you personally and the Kirk collectively.
The implication of the second paragraph quoted is that Israel has to be beyond criticism before you will even consider criticizing its enemies. And in fact you do not go so far as to say you would support the building of the barrier if it followed the Green Line. Judging by the ‘report of the Church and Nation Committee to the 2004 General Assembly’ which you enclosed, the policy of the Kirk is explicitly that it would not. You tell me you ‘have never dismissed Israel’s security needs’, without telling me how you think they can be met. You do not respond at all to the argument that the barrier has saved dozens, maybe hundreds, of lives. Is it that you feel they are lives not particularly worth saving?