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

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Anglican Consultative Council passes disinvestment resolution

As an Anglican I note with deep concern that the following resolution was passed unanimously at the meeting in Nottingham last week of the Anglican Consultative Council:-

The Israeli Palestinian Conflict

The Anglican Consultative Council:

a) welcomes the September 22nd 2004 statement by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict (Pages 12 - 14 of the Report)

b) commends the resolve of the Episcopal Church (USA) to take appropriate action where it finds that its corporate investments support the occupation of Palestinian lands or violence against innocent Israelis, and
i) commends such a process to other Provinces having such investments, to be considered in line with their adopted ethical investment strategies
ii) encourages investment strategies that support the infrastructure of a future Palestinian State

c) requests the Office of the Anglican Observer to the United Nations, through or in association with the UN Working Committee on Peace in the Middle East, as well as through this Council, and as a priority of that Office, to support and advocate the implementation of UN Resolutions 242 and 338 directed towards peace, justice and co-existence in the Holy Land.

(text from Anglican Communion website)

Some comfort can be taken from the fact that the original wording was watered down, but even in this form it raises all of the three basic concerns that I have about Christian Aid’s stance on the conflict.

  1. The singling out of Israel. Although the ACC passed other resolutions on political issues, and notably on the situation in Zimbabwe, none calls for economic pressure to be put on any other state.

    There is a deep irony in the timing of this. Specific concern has been raised about the Church of England’s £2m investment in Caterpillar. Caterpillar supplies Israel with the bulldozers which it uses to demolish the homes of suicide bombers.

    Since the beginning of the Intifada a few thousand houses have been razed. It is an attempt to mete out posthumous punishment against those who kill Israeli citizens – and in my view a misguided one. But now let us turn our attention to another part of the world. In an orgy of destruction lasting just a month Robert Mugabe’s regime has left one and a half million Zimbabweans homeless, according to the UN’s estimate. Their crimes? Poverty, powerlessness and voting for the opposition. The ACC's resolution has strong words about the regime's record, but, to repeat, no suggestion of disinvestment or any other form of economic pressure. And it "asks" the government to mend its ways - a courtesy not extended to Israel.

    Whilst on the subject of double standards, the Episcopal Church (USA) deserves a special mention. This is the church whose liberal majority affects to care so much about gay rights that they are prepared to bring the Anglican Communion to the brink of schism for the sake of consecrating a gay bishop. It does nothing to increase my respect for this stance when they then join with conservative homophobes in the vilification of the only country in the Middle East where gays have any rights whatsoever. Do they know which companies have helped to build and equip the prisons in which the rest of the region accommodates gays? Do they care? This looks more like a butterfly flitting from one fashionable cause to the next than a joined-up Christian witness.

  2. The one-sided apportioning of blame, manifested in the assumption that only one side needs to be pressured into seeking peace and justice. Yes, there is the phrase about “violence against innocent Israelis”, but what an empty gesture of even-handedness that is – as if the C of E might have investments in companies that deal directly with Islamic Jihad! Much more to the point is that investment in “a future Palestinian state” is commended without any suggestion of its being made conditional on an end to terrorist violence.

    And note that, whereas the right to their land is asserted for Palestinians collectively and unconditionally, Israelis are divided into sheep and goats – the “innocent” who deserve to be spared from being blown up, and, implicitly, the guilty who don’t.

  3. The absence of the humility that should inform post-Holocaust Christians’ dealings with the Jewish people. Instead, we find Christians arrogating to themselves the right to pass judgment, without a hint of self-criticism, on the way Jews have tried to deal with their experience of persecution and ultimately genocide at the hands of a Christian culture.

    In present-day Germany there is a strong feeling that it is not for Germans - especially, not for the German state - to criticize Israel. One can argue whether the taboo has been taken too far, but the point is that it represents an owning of collective responsibility for the sins of the past – something deplorably lacking in the ACC’s stance. If a secular political culture can understand and apply the principle of “first take the beam out of your own eye” in this context, it really is pretty scandalous to find that a Christian body like the ACC apparently can’t.

As one who greeted Rowan Williams’ translation to Canterbury with enthusiasm, and who has found his previous comments on Israel and Palestine admirably sane and sensitive, I am deeply disappointed by his support for the resolution. Having read his opening address I find it particularly difficult to understand how he could have gone on to vote for it. Conversely, although his predecessor George Carey’s churchmanship is not mine, I congratulate him for taking what seems to be virtually a lone stand against the resolution.

The ACC has met in an atmosphere of division and crisis unparalleled in the history of the Anglican Communion. In the identification of a common enemy, however, they have been enabled to achieve not just unity but unanimity. The psychological mechanism of scapegoating is familiar enough. That the common enemy turns out to be the ancient enemy of the faith speaks, at the very least, for an alarming lack of self-awareness.

I recently visited an exhibition at Berlin’s National Historical Museum on Jewish life in medieval Europe. Some of the exhibits recall how, when the First Crusade set out on its journey to Palestine in 1096 (incidentally following a period of chronic division within the Church), it first turned its zeal on the Jewish communities of the Rhineland. Jewish culture had flourished here in a period of relative tolerance and security. Now they were presented at swordpoint with the choice between conversion and death. Loyalty to their faith cost 1300 men, women and children their lives in the city of Mainz alone.

Make no mistake, an unbroken thread links the prejudices of the eleventh century with those which helped the Nazis to power and enabled them to carry through the Final Solution with minimal resistance from the churches. And now it seems to me we are seeing something very close to an updated version of the old ultimatum being addressed to Jews. Now the choice is “give up your state or die”. Jews are being categorized (for example by the academic boycott campaigners) into bad Zionists and good anti-Zionists. When Palestinian militants claim the right to inflict indiscriminate violence on the bad Zionist Jews, many on the western Left look the other way or openly applaud. And fury greets Israeli attempts to defend themselves, notably by the security fence. Yes, I know it’s been built on Palestinian land, and of course that’s wrong, but the sheer vehemence of the criticism, and the total lack of interest in the possibility that the fence has actually been effective in saving lives, leads me to suspect that there is something more primal underlying this: Jews are supposed to be defenceless. How dare they acquire power? How dare they place such an inflated value on their lives?

Is all this really something the Anglican Communion wants to be part of?

(see also my open letter to Rowan Williams)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Parents' Circle

Full marks to Christian Aid for its recently-formed partnership with Parents’ Circle, a group which brings together bereaved parents from both sides of the conflict. This seems to me an immeasurably more positive step towards peace than supporting organizations which deny their own side’s contribution to the violence. These parents are apparently learning to really listen to each other’s stories and to discover how much they have in common. This is a process that can lead them to confront the reality that responsibility for violence is shared – and when that happens the foundations of trust are laid upon which peace and justice can be built.

One-eyed in Gaza

Christian Aid News No. 22 (Autumn 2003)

In this issue we focus on a three-page feature on the visit of two British MPs to the Gaza Strip.

As in issue 24, a large photograph identifies the Israelis as the sole authors of violence. Barbed wire, a tank, a bulldozer demolishing a house. For sure, the Gaza Strip is a grim place, and unsurprisingly the pair didn’t like what they saw.

The article is written by the MPs’ guide, Christian Aid’s “advocacy officer for the Palestinians and Israel” William Bell. The impression is given that they arrived without any preconceptions and “ended up supporting Christian Aid’s position” on the basis of what they saw. They are said to have “asked why Israel was doing all this”. If they really asked a question of such staggering naivety it would rather cast doubt on their competence as legislators. But in fact this presentation represents considerable disingenuousness on Mr Bell’s part. A search of Hansard reveals that between them the two women had several times raised the subject of the occupation in Commons debates before their visit, taking a position indistinguishable from Christian Aid’s. If Christian Aid knew of any MPs who were genuinely open-minded on this issue, it evidently didn’t feel quite confident enough of its case to invite them.

Coincidentally or otherwise, Christian Aid selected a Jewish MP as one of the pair, and the article does not miss the opportunity to refer to her ethnicity. Why is this considered significant? There are two possible subtexts here: on the one hand “look, Israel is so bad that even Jews oppose it”, and on the other hand “Jews have a particular moral obligation to criticize Israel, and this one is OK because she does so”. Either way I find it pretty objectionable. In the first case, the fact is that you can readily find Jews who hold just about every opinion imaginable about Israel. The very openness and pluralism of Jewish culture is here being turned against the Jewish state. It would have been easy to pick a Jewish MP who would have asked far more searching questions about Christian Aid’s approach than Oona King apparently did. But no, only the voices of “good” Jews are to be heard – which takes us to the second side of the message.

Would Christian Aid take a British Hindu to visit Dalit communities in India, and invite her to denounce the caste system? Would they fly a Muslim to Darfur and give him the opportunity to prove himself a “good” Muslim by condemning Sudan’s Islamic government? To make the suggestion is to underline what an offensively patronizing exercise this is in principle – it effectively says “as a member of a particular minority group, you are presumed guilty of holding unacceptable views on this issue, but we will graciously give you the opportunity to prove your innocence”. Reserving this treatment exclusively for Jews adds discrimination to the offence. We’ve recently seen exactly the same approach adopted by the academic boycott campaigners: they condescend to exempt individual Israelis from the boycott if they can demonstrate correct political attitudes. And again, no other country or ethnic group in the world is singled out in this way.

With hindsight we perhaps have a better idea as to what Oona King might have hoped to gain by playing along with this. In June 2003 it must already have been clear that her loyalty to Tony Blair over Iraq was deeply unpopular with her Muslim constituents. Taking a tough line against Israel was a way for her to try to restore some credibility with them – though, as we now know, it wasn’t enough. Incidentally, maybe Christian Aid would care to take her successor, the gorgeous Mr Galloway, on a tour of Darfur, and canvass his opinions on the role of the Khartoum regime? It would be an intriguing exercise, though doubtless he would have no difficulty in finding a way to blame everything on the Americans.

So much for the visuals and the dramatis personae. What of the article itself? In brief, the message is: Palestinians in Gaza suffer “grinding poverty and … fear”; the situation has deteriorated drastically, and this is because on the Israeli side “the logic of physical security – building walls and fences – seems to have triumphed over a long-term vision of peace based on a political solution.” We get no hint that this might be in any way connected with the logic of terrorism (a word Christian Aid scrupulously avoids using) having triumphed over a vision of peace on the other side. It does, after all, take two to make a political solution. Is it surprising that Israelis aren’t all that keen on the idea that they should signal their readiness to seek one by throwing their borders open to suicide bombers?

But Palestinian violence is always to be brushed as far under the carpet as possible. As the article recounts, the visit coincided with Israel’s first, unsuccessful, attempt at assassinating the Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi. Now this certainly didn’t win Israel any friends. It was widely viewed as a disastrous own goal, and was condemned by, among others, George Bush and most of the Israeli press. Nevertheless, it was not without a context. The article describes Rantissi as “a leader of the Palestinian Hamas movement”. Well, a movement it certainly is. What it moves towards is the total destruction of the state of Israel, and the route along which it moves is the mass killing of civilians. Rantissi had been personally responsible for planning dozens of murders. Worth a mention, don’t you think? William Bell didn’t think so.

The final sentence reads: “And if more people see and understand the full picture, the greater the chance of political action to create a real solution and peace in the region.” Amen to that, and I live in hope that Christian Aid will start giving its supporters a fuller picture. And let’s be clear that it is above all the two peoples locked in conflict who need the full picture which they will only see through the growth of mutual understanding.

Some six months after her visit to Gaza, Jenny Tonge said at a meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign that she could understand suicide bombers and if she were Palestinian she might consider becoming one herself. This led to her being sacked from the Liberal Democrat front bench. An overreaction to fair comment, perhaps unfortunately expressed but pardonable in someone who describes herself as "an emotional person" and invokes the fact that she is a grandmother in her defence (which incidentally seems to imply a seriously politically incorrect view of grandmothers - I know plenty who are fully capable of rational thought)? Well, no, I think Charles Kennedy was absolutely right to take a serious view of it. This is not an area where loose talk should be acceptable. The trouble is that the more empathy is exercised on behalf of one side only, the more the other side is implicitly dehumanized.

Imagine that you belong to a people that has suffered centuries of persecution, culminating in history’s worst genocide. Imagine that your people then gains its own small state for the first time in two thousand years, only to find that from day one its very existence faces unremitting hostility from its neighbours. That, after repeated attempts to wipe out your state by conventional military means have failed, the hostility starts to take the form of deliberate murders of its civilian population. Jenny Tonge, Christian Aid, dear reader, do you have some understanding of where the Israelis are coming from? If not, why not? Are you perhaps too angry to empathize? If so, does your reason tell you that is a good place to be? Is it a Christian place to be?

Returning to Christian Aid News, what about other conflicts? Half a page on Democratic Republic of the Congo, half a page on Iraq. A whole page on Sudan, but this is a little different from the hard-hitting politics of the Gaza feature. It’s an illustrated account of how a woman in Khartoum makes perfume to sell. I don’t imagine anyone in the Sudanese government lost much sleep over it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Reality of Terror

Israel gets enormous amounts of criticism for its border checkpoints, not least from Christian Aid. One of the most damning charges has been: they even stop ambulances and search patients on the way to hospital. If you think that's a scandal, please read the linked article from the BBC.

It would be all too easy to make a "Palestinians bad, Israelis good" debating point out of this. That would simply be turning Christian Aid's bias on its head. I don't think there are too many excuses for the terrorist leaders who organize such attacks, and must be suspected of actively hoping that the Israelis will react by making it harder for Palestinians to get treated in Israeli hospitals, and that they will be able to capitalize on the resultant Palestinian anger. But it is perfectly legitimate to ask what leads a 21-year-old woman to want to blow herself up in a hospital ward.

What is deeply problematic is the response that simply says "because she has been treated so badly under the Israeli occupation". This is unsatisfactory on at least three counts:-

  1. The whole phenomenon of suicide bombing demands a far more sophisticated explanation. When, for instance, a bomber targets a Shia mosque in Iraq, it is hard to see what that has to do with Israel. And why do non-Muslim populations endure terrible oppression without resorting to this method of resistance?
  2. It ignores the plain fact that her action exploited and abused a gesture of humanitarian generosity on the part of the Israelis. Incidentally, the fact that Palestinians can get treated in Israeli hospitals makes a nonsense of the anti-Israel campaigners' favourite refrain that is that Israel is an "apartheid state". Under South African apartheid there were whites-only hospitals and blacks-only hospitals, and it would have been unthinkable for a black person to be admitted to one of the former.
  3. If one side's actions are going to be contextualized, the other side's have to be as well. It really does worry me when people claim to "understand" what drives Palestinians to terrorism but have no interest in understanding what motivates Israelis to be uncompromising about their security and give short shrift to those who threaten it.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hall of Shame

Eight places Christians shouldn’t go – high/lowlights of Christian Hate?’s case against Christian Aid

World’s worst?

Over the last seven issues of Christian Aid News more than 17 pages were devoted to Israel and Palestine. Most of this coverage involved political criticism of Israel. The most coverage any other conflict zone got was 4.5 pages for Angola – barely a quarter as much. Sudan, scene of more than two million deaths in the civil wars of the past two decades and, in the UN’s words, “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”, got 2.5 pages. These include a full page feature about a woman who makes perfume. It tells you her recipe.

Partners in denial

Partnership with Christian Aid helps the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights maintain a website where it lists by name every single Palestinian killed by the Israeli security forces during the Intifada – and not one of the Israelis killed by terrorism (sorry, I should say “hostilities against Israeli targets”).

Israel screws up the whole Middle East

“A key to lasting peace and justice in the Middle East is an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories through a peace process based on international law” says the postcard Christian Aid printed for its supporters to send to Tony Blair in 2002. Dictators? Fundamentalists? Suicide bombers? Don’t blame them, they’re all just doing what they do because they’re so upset about Israel.

Wall balls

Christian Aid takes a bishop to view Israel’s security fence, and he tells them it’s like the Berlin Wall only worse. Hmmm, run that past me again - one built to keep in people who wanted to be free, the other to keep out people who want to commit murder. Did the Right Rev forget to pack his brain? Read more...

Selective sound-bite

The Archbishop of Canterbury has some hard things to say about the security fence. He has hard things to say about Palestinian terrorism too – but Christian Aid don’t seem to want us to know that. Read more...

The power of the image

Take a large picture of an armed Israeli soldier at a checkpoint, and put it alongside a picture of Palestinian women taking their babies to a clinic. Then protest that you condemn all violence equally. Read more...

Building bridges?

A Muslim writes to congratulate Christian Aid for its anti-Israel stance. Jews are welcome to the love feast too – so long as they join in the Israel-bashing. If our correspondent finds anything sub-optimal in the Muslim world he keeps it to himself. Read more...

Child of Bethlehem Christmas appeal

The Christmas baddies are Jewish, the Christmas child isn’t. Sorry Christian Aid, this won’t do at all. Read more...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Academic Freedom

The controversy over the campaign for an academic boycott of Israeli universities is obviously highly pertinent to the issues dealt with by this blog. Here's a bit of perspective from the BBC on levels of academic freedom elsewhere in the Middle East. But no, I'm not expecting a boycott of Egypt to be on the agenda at next year's AUT conference.

Evil Empire

Christian Aid News No. 23 (Winter 2004)

It makes a pleasant change to admit that I can’t find too much to object to in this issue’s coverage of Israel and Palestine. A short article accompanies a photo of artist John Keane in Gaza, promoting his Christian Aid-sponsored exhibition of paintings from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It refers to “key issues – ever-worsening poverty, as well as terrorism, military closures, clampdowns and violence”, and of Israeli missile attacks on Yasser Arafat’s compound it says “each new strike in retaliation for an attack on Israeli citizens by Palestinian suicide bombers”. One could argue as to whether an invalid moral equivalence is being implied between terrorism and responses to terrorism, but at least the existence of the terrorism has been properly acknowledged.

I have my usual concern about the way this one conflict is emphasised. There’s nothing at all on Africa’s conflicts, and certainly no art exhibition. On the other hand no less than four pages are devoted to Afghanistan. “Revival – An Afghan ghost town returns to life” is the main headline, and the accompanying feature makes plain the misery inflicted on the country by the Taliban regime, and the new hope that has been created by their overthrow.

Revealingly, however, Christian Aid can’t quite bring themselves to acknowledge that the Taliban were ousted by American military action. Accusing the Americans of embezzling Iraqi oil revenues (a news item in this issue) is a lot more ideologically congenial, it seems.

Christian Aid is basically tagging along here with the pervasive anti-Americanism of the secular Left – you can’t pick up a copy of the Guardian without encountering it. Does this matter? Isn’t it just a natural reflection of the fact that you don’t get to be the most powerful nation in human history without rubbing a few people up the wrong way, and aren’t the Americans big enough and ugly enough (note to American readers: please don’t take this British idiom literally!) to take a bit of flak?

I think it matters in the general sense that knee-jerk anti-Americanism creates a climate of hysteria in which it becomes all but impossible to have a rational discussion about the rights and wrongs of American policy (and yes, of course there are plenty of the latter). That’s not the particular concern of this blog, but it matters also in the more specific sense that anti-Americanism very easily spills over into anti-Israeli attitudes. It is after all undeniable that Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East, and the recipient of a large slice of the US overseas aid budget. Demonize one and it will come naturally to demonize the other – and you will all too easily find yourself in the company of those who believe that a Jewish conspiracy underpins the relationship.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The lawyer of Nazareth

Click the title link to read about Khaled Mahameed and his Holocaust museum in Nazareth - a Muslim who has set a wonderful example for Christians. Loving our enemies means nothing if we are not prepared to try to understand them.

Half of the Truth

Christian Aid News No. 24 (Spring 2004)

The stats:-

Coverage of Israel and Palestine: the front cover; a news item on an exhibition by the artist John Keane; a quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury; a feature on the Israeli doctor and peace activist Yigal Shochat. Total four and a half pages.

Coverage of other conflicts: news items on Rwanda and Uganda, amounting to one page in total. Nothing on Sudan, nothing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

How to conscript the Archbishop of Canterbury as an Israel-basher…

Rowan Williams preached a sermon in Jerusalem in January 2004. Here is what Christian Aid News quotes from it:-

The security fence stands as a terrible symbol of the fear and despair that threaten everyone in this city and country, all the communities who share this Holy Land... it is seen by so many as one community decisively turning its back on another, despairing of anything that looks like a shared resolution, a shared future, a truly shared peace.

And here is the next sentence:-

It is not the only symbol of despair, of course. The dismembered bodies of bombers and their victims are still deeper signs of the refusal of a future, the choosing of darkness and mutual alienation.

I hardly need comment, but I certainly would recommend reading the full text: find it here.

Christian Aid News evidently thinks it is addressing the post-literate generation, and has about a 50-50 split between text and pictures. In the visual content of this issue emotional manipulation is very much the name of the game. The cover picture is one of John Keane’s paintings, a portrait of a Palestinian farmer who, according to the caption, has lost land to Israeli settlers and been forced by the Israeli authorities to demolish water cisterns he built. It is a powerful image of a man who has endured much. But the way it is used is the visual equivalent of the selective quotation from Rowan Williams – it is truth, but only half of the truth, and half-truths are often the most powerful lies. There are many faces of innocent suffering in Israel and Palestine, including, for example, those of parents whose children have been blown to pieces by suicide bombers, but making them visible is not perceived by Christian Aid to be part of its job.

Now we turn to the feature on Dr Yigal Shochat, and here the manipulation reaches a level which, I have to say, Dr Goebbels would have appreciated. Most of a two-page spread is taken up by a photograph of Dr Shochat facing a sub-machine-gun-toting soldier at a checkpoint. In an inset, Palestinian women carry their babies to a clinic (the caption refers to the problem of malnutrition, which of course we are implicitly invited to blame exclusively on the Israelis). The message couldn’t be clearer: a pitilessly militaristic nation closes its ranks against both its peace-loving neighbours and the solitary “good Jew”.

Israeli women are mothers too, and there are Palestinians who view their children as legitimate targets – but this side of the conflict is simply invisible.

That Dr Shochat is as brave and compassionate as he is portrayed I do not doubt, and it is absolutely right that his work should be celebrated. The problem, as usual, is with the “spin” which the article puts on it. It dwells at length on the suffering inflicted on Palestinians by Israeli security measures. A single passing reference to suicide bombers is the only clue given as to why these measures might have been taken. The impression is given that practically superhuman courage is needed for an Israeli to oppose the occupation of the West Bank, with the result that Dr Shochat’s is virtually a lone voice. The truth is that there are few, if any, other countries in the Middle East where it is so safe to speak out against the government. Many Israelis share Dr Shochat’s views, and many more might do so if they could feel a little less threatened.

I wrote this in my letter to Christian Aid’s Director, Dr Daleep Mukarji:

Can we expect that a future issue of the magazine will give the same prominence to a Palestinian who speaks out with equal boldness against fundamentalism, anti-Semitism and terrorism? I am not optimistic. Jewish voices (Dr Shochat’s, or Oona King MP in the Autumn 2003 issue) may be heard only when raised against the Jewish state; no requirement of self-criticism is placed on Palestinians.

So far my pessimism has not been refuted. My next post links to an article about Khaled Mahameed, founder of a Holocaust museum in Nazareth. How about it, Christian Aid?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

About Christian Hate?

Welcome to my blog. I’ve created and developed it for two closely-connected purposes:-

  1. to challenge the UK development charity Christian Aid over what, in my view, is its biased campaigning on the issue of Israel and Palestine.
  2. to monitor and challenge similar biases in the wider Church.

Christian Aid is 'the official relief and development agency of 39 church denominations in the United Kingdom and Ireland' - these incude all the major denominations in Britain with the exception of the Roman Catholics. I believe Christian Aid does a lot of good work, and indeed it was through receiving and reading the magazine Christian Aid News as a supporter of the charity that I began to be concerned – a concern which has developed over the past three years or so into a conviction that this is not a side issue, nor one which is going to go away. Reading the magazine, campaigning material and the Christian Aid website, I have been consistently disturbed by three main aspects:

Firstly, the one-sided portrayal of the conflict. The Israelis are always the bad guys, the Palestinians the innocent victims. The reality is just far more complex than this.

Secondly, so much coverage is given to this one issue as to give the impression that it is by far the most serious human rights abuse in the world today. That’s just plain wrong.

Thirdly: the first two points are criticisms that could be levelled against a great deal of secular left-wing and liberal comment (and, indeed, Muslim comment) on the conflict. But I find it especially worrying that a Christian organization campaigns in this way, because it suggests a fundamental lack of awareness of what is perhaps the darkest side of the Christian faith. Historically, Christianity has a shameful record of scapegoating and persecuting the Jews. There can be no doubt whatsoever that this helped pave the way for the Nazi Holocaust. As Christians today, we are called on to be ever mindful of this legacy; to treat our relations with the Jewish people in a spirit of sensitivity, of penitence and of thankfulness towards the people as one of whom our Lord was pleased to dwell (the "brothers and sisters of Jesus", in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's words); and to seek every opportunity of making amends for the sins of the past. It is because I want to recall Christians to an awareness of this question that I have adopted the provocative title 'Christian Hate?'.

Since I set up the blog, what started as a a specific concern with Christian Aid has grown into an awareness of similar attitudes becoming increasingly influential in the wider Church. Of particular concern to me as an Anglican has been the Anglican Communion's adoption of a policy of encouraging its member churches to consider financial divestment from Israel.

Let me be clear: I am not saying Israel should be given a moral blank cheque. I have no problem with Christian Aid drawing attention to the plight of the Palestinian people and taking a critical view of Israel’s policies towards them. I believe that the maintenance and expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories is indefensible, and that a just peace settlement must grant the Palestinians full sovereignty over the whole of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But there can be no excuse for making such criticisms in a way which suggests that the Jewish state is uniquely blameworthy and can be held responsible for the ills of the whole Middle East. Israel has, from Day One of its short history, faced violent hostility from forces denying its right to exist, and its actions need to be understood in that context just as Palestinian actions need to be understood in their context.

In the words of the International Council of Christians and Jews, “Voicing opposition to Israeli Government policy is not of itself anti-Semitic. But criticism which demonises and de-legitimises the Jewish state alone, often by applying double standards, acts as a contributory factor to antisemitism” (statement on Association of University Teachers boycott of Israeli universities, 24 May 2005).


If you agree with me, what can you do?

  • Leave a comment

  • Write to Christian Aid

  • If you are an Anglican, write to the Archbishop of Canterbury too

  • Tell your Christian friends about this blog

  • If your church is one that supports Christian Aid corporately, raise your concerns with your priest and PCC members

  • Last but not least, and whether you agree with me or not, pray “for the peace of Jerusalem”


I don't necessarily agree with all the contents of websites linked to this one, nor with all the views expressed in comments on this site. I don't censor comments I disagree with (unless abusive, racist etc., and not necessarily even then!) and I don't have time to respond to every point I disagree with.

In view of the nature of quite a few of the comments that are being left, I'd like to make it clear that my personal reason for upholding the existence of modern Israel is not that it is a fulfilment of Biblical prophecy. I simply believe that a people which has suffered history's worst genocide within living memory is as much entitled as any other people to want a state of its own. I have no objection to others believing in a Biblical basis for Israel so long as this does not lead them to endorse genuinely imperialistic policies which deny justice to the Palestinians.