Latest posts on Christian Aid

Why 'Christian Hate?'? An introduction to the blog

Places Christians shouldn't go A quick tour of Christian Hate?'s case against Christian Aid

Christians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Read all my posts on this topic

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Archbishop speaks

In writing my last post I didn't particularly have the Archbishop of Canterbury in mind, but the statement he issued yesterday turns out to be a good example of what I was complaining about: the cheap occupation of the moral high ground without confronting the moral issues.

The fact that the conflict began with an unprovoked attack by one side on the other is apparently of no significance to the Archbishop at all. The basic moral questions are dodged. Does Israel have the right to defend itself? Is that right circumscribed by the imperative never to risk killing civilians? If so, does it meaningfully exist at all?

Critics of a different persuasion would doubtless object that he has dodged the issue of proportionality, and I think they would have a point too. If he would first say clearly that the Hezbollah attack was indefensible and that Israel has right on its side in seeking to remove a serious threat to its security (and ultimately its existence), he would then be fully entitled to express concern about the way the exercise of that right is working out in practice. But nothing rises above the easy platitude of 'six of one, half a dozen of the other'.

There's one passage in the Archbishop's meassage that particularly bothers me:-

'I offer you every support in your efforts to bring it to an end and allow Lebanon to be, once again, a living message of co-existence and solidarity between different religious communities.'

A living message of what? This about a society in which an organization committed to wiping out the Jewish state not only has seats in the government but is permitted to maintain a private army, equipped with missiles to fire at Israel courtesy of a state headed by a Holocaust denier.

And what about the place of Lebanese Jews in that 'living message'? Lebanon had an estimated 20,000 Jews in 1948. Now there are a handful of old ladies. One of the final nails in the coffin of the Jewish community was the kidnapping and murder of prominent Jews in the 1980s by... Hezbollah. (source here)

Of course Lebanon has suffered an appalling setback in the past few days, but the Archbishop's view of what came before is absurdly rose-tinted. To have earned his encomium, the country would need to have summoned up the will to confront Hezbollah. To offer it regardless to a nation in which anti-Semitic violence is institutionalized is insensitive, to say the least.

The pattern has become familiar to me. On Holocaust Memorial Day Dr Williams says all the right things. But then he turns to his big project of Christian-Muslim dialogue, and they seem to get forgotten. On the one hand he is happy to help the project on its way by liberal application of the airbrush to Islamic realities. And on the other hand Jews become invisible except when they are tiresomely getting in the way. I just wish Dr Williams would spend a bit more time trying to put himself in Jewish shoes.

PS There's some good sense on the ethical issues here. And a good fisk of some nonsense from someone who should know better here.

No comments: