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Anglicans have betrayed the Jews - Letters

From the letters pages of the Church Times

Editor's note:

The original article "Anglicans have betrayed the Jews" was writen by Dr Irene Lancaster and published in the Church Times, August 19th,2005. Dr Lancaster has kept us informed of developements.

From Jane Clements, Council of Christians and Jews

Sir

Before readers discuss Dr. Irene Lancaster's astonishing article ('Anglicans have betrayed the Jews'), permit me to point out that Dr. Lancaster is by no means alone in her views.

Countless articles have been written and e-mails exchanged from this perspective recently and, as an Anglican working in this field, I have frequently been told that the Anglican Consultative Council is inherently and totally anti-Semitic. This is, of course, absurd, as well as offensive. But we ignore these sentiments to our own detriment.

We must hear, beneath the tones of outrage and accusation, the expression of a very real sense of fear. Many Jews, who would not agree with all Dr. Lancaster's assertions, admit that the fact of increasingly racially motivated attacks and graveyard desecrations are making them wary of society as a whole.

Editors note: The phrase 'the ACC's AUT moment' (in the original article) is from journalist Melanie Phillips's article in the Jewish Chronicle, July 1st, 2005. It is not an assertion of Dr Lancaster. The headline of this article 'Anglicans have betrayed the Jews' was set by the Church Times. It perhaps reflects a deeper understanding then that of the author of this letter... the Council for Christians and Jews does good work, e.g. this joint statement which says amoungst other things: "We acknowledge that criticism of government policy in Israel, as elsewhere, is a legitimate part of democratic debate. However such criticism should never be inspired by antisemitic attitudes, extend to a denial of Israelís right to exist or serve as justification for attacks against Jewish people around the world." Government policy is one thing, boycotts are another. They do not criticise policy (as occurs else where), but rather they are a manifestation of antisemitism - treating "the Jews" (the owners of companies, the workers, the private individuals) as evil. Further... such a boycott IS an attack on Jewish people around the world and inspire further attack.

Many commentators have commented on the "moral bankruptcy and ignorance of the situation" of the Anglican Consultative Council. "The Council are trying to be neutral between Palestinian terrorists on the one hand and Israel on the other". With those sort of morals, is it anyone the Council appears antisemitic? The only suprise is the blind spot the Church, and even the CCJ seem to have when it comes to their own actions.

Quite rational Jews have been shocked at how the climate of fear has changed for their community over the past decade. It is easy to dismiss this as unfounded or irrational , but working to allay the fear is a much more positive response.

The whole situation of Israel adds an extremely complex dimension for relations with British Jews. Criticism of Israeli governments and concern for the plight of Palestinians is not anti-Semitism, and we have to reiterate this. But if we really want to be heard, we have to do this sensitively. Anglicans have produced many documents, reports, and even liturgies designed to stir up righteous anger at Israeli policies and actions. A single sentence condemning suicide bombings buried somewhere therein will not reassure many British Jews that we also care about their own families, friends or co-religionists - many of whom are also afraid.

Editors note: We have the "plight of Palestinians" being compared to a feeling of insecurity of the Jewish community who do not feel that the Church cares for them. A more accurate description would refer to the plight of the Jews in Israel who are regularly blown up, shot at, or have missiles fired at them. The wrong comparison has been drawn, making a mock of the dead and ignoring terrorist attacks against Israelis - as if they are of no consequence. The equivelence blunder would be talking about "the fear of British citizens of Palestinian heritage who fear the world is not taking enough notice of policies of the Israel Government, which they disagree with. These feeling must be considered when we address the problem of terrorists murdering school children and blowing up discos and pizza shops." - the same situation taken form another angle.

Furthermore, if British Jews, as part of the wider society, are unaware that Anglicans speak out about problems in other parts of the world, that that is clearly our own fault.

There have been many positive initiatives over the years, but currently Anglican-Jewish relations have reached a nadir. Unless we make it clear that we do not consider Jews to be irrelevant or worse, there is a danger of further estrangement from those who were, first, in Paul's words, 'entrusted with the oracles of God'.

Editors note: What about Israeli Jews? No mention has been made of them. Or of the victims of terror attacks. Or of the fear each time a child in Israel steps onto a bus. Surely we should target all products produced in Muslim countries with a boycott to show our disgust at the actions of these terrorists? - Well maybe not, but this makes as much sense as targetting Israel for boycotts. The Palestinian Authority has regularly come out in support of violence. Stopping all aid to the people living in Gaza would be a stupid response, and should anyone else try this, I'm sure the Church will speak out against it. Why is the Church not leading the anti-bocyott movement? It must surely be something in the nature of the Church. And that leads us to conjecture about what that something is...

JANE CLEMENTS
The Council of Christians and Jews
1st Floor, Camelford House
89 Albert Embankment
London SE1 7TP



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