Major UK Churches Adopt Christian Aid’s Anti-Israel BDS Agenda

, November 23, 2011

No. 113

  • A survey of several major churches in the UK reveals that Christian Aid, an aid organization of the World Council of Churches (WCC) that propagates far-left anti-Israel views and supports groups that promote the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) agenda, determines the actual Middle East policy line for these UK churches.
  • Christian Aid works to influence public opinion and policy with a two-pronged approach of Israel-delegitimization and funding of far-left pro-Palestinian organizations. It also works with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and Palestine (EAPPI), a project of the World Council of Churches that recruits volunteers to participate in on-site propaganda tours, and then work as activists back home. In very loose terms, Christian Aid provides funding and EAPPI provides personnel.
  • Pro-Palestinian positions are advanced while there is a complete absence of any representation of moderate Israeli viewpoints. Errors of omission are frequent. “Israeli” statements generally appear as anonymous, unverifiable remarks allegedly made by Israelis who defame Israel and the IDF.
  • Christian Aid’s biased agenda is supported by WCC member churches. Although it is not clear that these in fact represent the majority views of church members, this is the policy view adhered to by the clerical elites. The volume of material condemning Israel’s policies overwhelmingly dwarfs the few official statements supporting Israel’s right to exist.

Reviewing the public policy statements of major church groups in the United Kingdom, reveals that churches conform to World Council of Churches (WCC) positions and rely on an interlinked network of biased sources. These influence thought and perception regarding Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict. In almost every case, Christian Aid or one of its affiliated organizations sets the tone for discourse about Israel. Furthermore, while Christian Aid’s stated goal is alleviating poverty by providing international development aid, in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza the agenda is decidedly political and reflects a single, biased viewpoint.

In its attitudes, Christian Aid is characteristic of its parent ideological organization, the World Council of Churches. The WCC is an association of 349 churches worldwide. According to Amy-Jill Levine of the Anti-Defamation League, the WCC “admitted that it had published anti-Jewish material; they are taking corrective steps…”[1] However, the damage they have done remains, especially in printed materials the WCC distributed globally. Dexter Van Zile (CAMERA) has stated, “The WCC did not acknowledge Israel’s legitimacy between 1948 and 1967 and has been avowedly anti-Israel since 1967. One way the WCC’s anti-Israel animus expresses itself is in a failure to condemn Muslim hostility toward the Jewish state.”[2]

The WCC fails to criticize violence and discrimination against Christians in Muslim-majority countries, because doing so would increase the threat against Christian minorities. This is not the case in Israel, and so Israel is targeted as an oppressor. However, the WCC is mainly a presence among clerical elites, and as stated above, through written material; the active public face of WCC policy and attitudes is presented by Christian Aid, which is the recommended charity for WCC-affiliated churches.

Christian Aid is a large international-development aid organization that fundraises mostly in the UK and Europe. It also receives governmental grants; Christian Aid UK is funded in part by the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK. According to a July 2010 edition of the Baptist Times,[3] the UK “has a long-standing commitment of giving 0.7 per cent of its national income each year on overseas aid by 2013.” The DFID’s Annual Report for 2009-2010 shows that in 2008 the overall level of aid was ₤6.33 billion.[4]

The total reported expended grants for the Middle East and Asia, according to Christian Aid’s 2009/10 Annual Report, is over ₤14 million.[5] This may or may not include funds raised by special appeals, merchandise sales, or local fund drives.

In the UK, in addition to DFID government funding, a large and disparate group of forty-one churches supports the work of Christian Aid UK, including all major denominations.[6] This list does not include the Roman Catholic Church of England and Wales (RCC/EW), although the Catholic Overseas Development Agency (CAFOD) cooperates with and receives funds from Christian Aid on certain projects. As noted on the CAFOD UK website, “[CAFOD] has a particularly strong relationship with Christian Aid.”[7] Again, to emphasize Christian Aid’s close links, its first director, Janet Lacey, was active with both the Church of England and the WCC,[8] and Christian Aid developed through the work of these organizations.

In the UK the Church of England strongly influences the management of Christian Aid. Christian Aid UK’s Board of Trustees is chaired by Anne Owers, who has strong ties to the Church of England, and three Church of England clerics sit on the board of trustees as well.[9] The several other denominations on the board have single representatives only. The board also includes financial professionals and two DFID officials.

NGO Monitor has documented[10] in exhaustive detail the ongoing bias reflected in Christian Aid’s programs and publications. Christian Aid rejects these findings, as well as NGO Monitor’s contention that Christian Aid assists projects that in fact fuel the conflict by promoting a radical agenda. According to NGO Monitor, supporting a one-sided perspective hardens the position of Palestinian radical groups and delegitimizes Israel. In its statements, Christian Aid fails to offer an Israeli view of the conflict, virtually erasing the Israeli experience of years of ongoing terror attacks directed at its citizens, including the continuing rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. This approach clearly does not promote conflict resolution. Despite some minor modifications in its publications, possibly in response to NGO Monitor’s criticisms, there has been no change of policy line by Christian Aid. Thi intransigence persists despite the fact that greater stringencies in DFID policy regarding impartiality come into effect this year.

Christian Aid Allies and Recipients

Although Christian Aid has other areas of interest and is involved in international development, in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza it acts as a major political and fundraising arm for rejectionist organizations. One prime example is the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, which, among other things, brands Israel as an apartheid state and advocates for a one-state solution. Sabeel is a key player in Israel-delegitimization activism.

Another WCC subsidiary organization, the ACT Alliance, is an international Christian interfaith organization that supports Israel-divestment and a partial boycott of Israel.[11]ACT is headquartered in the WCC offices in Geneva. While the ACT Alliance seems to be a development aid and advocacy organization, in fact what it does is work with other WCC affiliate organizations to coordinate emergency drives for specific crises. In effect these campaigns add a layer between governmental donors such as DFID and agency projects on the ground. As an ACT staffer told this author[12] regarding UK funds, ACT is only accountable to Christian Aid-not to DFID-for funds that are ultimately UK governmental aid monies. However, ACT does not operate these projects; instead it uses existing NGO facilities to deliver the aid.

For example, ACT describes its operations in Gaza as alleviating the shortage of food, medical and fuel supplies by providing “food supplements, medicines, cash for food and cash for work programmes and psychological assistance.” The criteria for receipt of funds are not detailed. An examination of its 2010 Annual Report[13] gives no details as to amounts of aid or how they are distributed. In the case of Gaza, an area of conflict governed by coercion, distribution of cash payments without transparency is worrying; in many areas of the world large sums of aid money are lost through corruption.[14] The ACT Alliance’s 2010 Annual Report offers no financial information regarding the pass-through funding; neither a full accounting of such funds nor final points of distribution.

Despite the faith-based branding, some Christian critics accuse Christian Aid of using biblical texts to promote leftist political agendas.[15] Christian Aid claims that in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza its monies for development and humanitarian relief provide aid to “Palestinians and Israelis, Jew, Muslim, Christian and secular.”[16] Yet, with the exception of one welfare organization, the Parents’ Circle Families Forum,[17] which “is made up of Israelis and Palestinians who have all lost loved ones in the conflict, and yet come together to lobby for peace and reconciliation,” no other charitable benefit to Jewish Israelis is listed. Even this Parents’ Circle, however, posits a false equivalence. Among the “educational materials” for churc school teachers developed by Christian Aid is a slideshow with narrative text for children aged seven to eleven. It depicts one couple (the Shahaks are presented without their surname) in the Parents’ Circle: “The people in this slide are called Ayelet and Tzvika. They are Israeli and their daughter, Bat-Chen, was killed in the fighting.”[18]

The text seems to imply that Bat-Chen was a combatant in some sort of warfare. Actually, she was killed on her fifteenth birthday in March 1996 in a Tel Aviv suicide bombing.[19] Her own parents describe this as murder.[20] Christian Aid’s characterization and the fact that she is not pictured- rendering her faceless, while Palestinian children are shown-is representative of the half-truths and bias Christian Aid displays in its materials.

It is true that Christian Aid supports Israeli far-left political groups such as B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence. However, this support constitutes political activism and clearly cannot be justified as part of Christian Aid’s stated mission of alleviating poverty. It also contradicts promoting peace and reconciliation, as these far-left groups act to reinforce the conflict rather than ameliorate it. Continually blaming Israelis only for the conflict amounts to a tacit acceptance of Palestinian acts of terror; no demands are placed on the Palestinians for advancing peace.

Similarly, Christian Aid’s biased propaganda ignores Hamas’s role in inflicting rocket attacks on the Israeli population and terror on Palestinians. For instance, when Hamas took over Gaza, they declared opposition Fatah members under house arrest and shot any alleged member who stepped outside. In a clip from Palestinian Authority (PA) television posted by Palestinian Media Watch, popular singer Jamal Najar describes how Hamas terrorists shot his cousin in front of his own children.[21]

For Christian Aid, only Israel is responsible for Palestinian woes. A country profile on “Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory,” provided as a “resource” for educators, offers this description: “West Bank-illegal Israeli settlements take up Palestinian land[22] and water resources and create restrictions on movement that impede Palestinian access to education, healthcare and employment, as well as restricting the economy-all contributing to poverty.”[23]

Despite Christian Aid’s assertions, the PA has a booming economy[24] with annual growth estimated at 8 percent or higher.[25] This is largely due to the substantial influx of foreign aid. Christian Aid raised ₤550,000 for Gaza in 2008-2010, while DFID gave ₤19 million to UNWRA in Gaza as announced in June 2010.[26]

Promoting peace and reconciliation means recognizing the legitimacy of both sides to the dispute, and bridging the gaps. Christian Aid and its circle of associates instead support groups that work to delegitimize Israel through tendentious advocacy as well as boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). In tandem with a worrisome lack of transparency in its operations, its decided political agenda makes Christian Aid not dissimilar to its WCC Swedish affiliate Diakonia.[27] Diakonia receives funding from SIDA, the Swedish parallel to the UK’s DFID. Diakonia has been criticized for working with and funding Al-Haq, an organization with links to the PFLP terror group;[28] Christian Aid has also provided funding for Al-Haq.[29]

NGO Monitor has extensively documented[30] Christian Aid’s one-sided pro-Palestinian positions and the far-left organizations it supports. While several UK churches and their support for Christian Aid are discussed here, a broad coalition of forty-one British churches support Christian Aid UK.

EAPPI

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and Palestine (EAPPI) is an advocacy program of the World Council of Churches. EAPPI operates in the UK, a number of European Union countries, and in the United States. Its basic program involves bringing volunteers and clergy from other countries “to experience life under occupation.”[31] The Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) join in “non-violent actions and to carry out concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation.”[32] On their return home they serve as activists, as local representatives of the cause. Opinion statements made by participants are used to supply “testimony” and “views.” These activists are not exposed to an Israeli mainstream experience or to consensus Israeli views.

Although specific UK churches may make claims of objectivity similar to those of Christian Aid, the facts contradict these assertions.

Church of England

The Church of England (CofE) is the Established Church of the United Kingdom, and as such has a quasi-governmental role; its senior bishops sit in the House of Lords and the two archbishops are members of the Privy Council. Although the influence of the CofE is certainly much less than it was historically, the CofE has a significant voice in the British public arena.

Despite a pattern of decline that is shared by nearly all church groups in the UK, the CofE claims a membership of twenty-five million (through baptism) and a weekly attendance of 1.7 million (see the table in the appendix). The church has recently lost both leadership and laity, largely because of traditionalist opposition to liberal policies, including a positive stance on the ordination of women and gay clergy. Defectors are being encouraged to join the Ordinariate, a special branch of Catholicism established by the Vatican to welcome Anglicans. Despite the efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury to avoid a split in the church, the feared defections began in earnest in January of this year when three CofE bishops converted into the Ordinariate branch of the Roman Catholic Church.

A formally structured hierarchy controls the large-scale operations of the church; the CofE is an organization that operates both in the UK and worldwide. The CofE is also the governing force behind Christian Aid UK. The board of trustees[33] is chaired by Anne Owers, who has close links to the church. Three clergy members of the CofE are also trustees; the remainder of the board includes five representatives of other churches, financial professionals, and two DFID officials.

The head of the church is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Position statements by the current archbishops are moderate and attempt to maintain good relations with other faith groups, while taking a stand against terror. Dr. Williams, who is joint president of the Council of Christians and Jews in the UK, offers an annual Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) message[34] to UK Jewry. His 2010 statement included the following text, which is both supportive of Israel as a democratic state and critical of the level of anti-Semitism in the UK:

I…make clear again my view that the State of Israel is a legitimate, democratic and law governed state that exists by consent of the United Nations and has its place in the councils of states in the world. In the light of twentieth century history, it is crucial that there is a state in the world where it is unequivocally safe to be Jewish. I wish that in this country it would not be considered necessary for every synagogue and Jewish school to be protected by security measures that no other religion here has in place.[35]

Relations with the Jewish community are part of Dr. Williams’s interfaith initiative; he also gives messages to the Hindu and Muslim communities for Diwali and Eid, respectively. In addition, he gave the Isaiah Berlin Lecture[36] at Hampstead Synagogue in November 2010. In it he acknowledged a scholarly debt to both the late Isaiah Berlin and UK chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and explored the challenges of integrating faith and liberal Enlightenment values.

The relationship between the archbishop and the Jewish community was confirmed on a broader level with the signing in September 2006 of a “Joint declaration” between the CofE and Israel’s chief rabbis, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger.[37] This statement acknowledged commonalities between two faiths and two peoples on the 350th anniversary of the return of Jews to England in 1651 following the Edict of Expulsion in 1290. It offers the “Nostra Aetate”[38] statement of the Roman Catholic Church as a basis for Jewish-Christian relations, while commending other ecumenical efforts in which the CofE has taken part, including the work of the present archbishop and of the Council of Christians and Jews, of which, as noted, Dr. Williams serves as joint president.

The declaration also acknowledges past injustices on the part of Christians and the church, and expresses concern about anti-Semitism in Europe. At the same time, it asserts that:

The Holy Land and its people, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, continue to suffer all forms of violence and its consequences. Terrorism remains rife. Governments and political and religious movements deny the very right to existence of the State of Israel. There is no agreement on the rights of the Palestinian people and the means to mutual wellbeing and flourishing.[39]

While this passage is somewhat ambiguous in that perpetrators of terror are not named, the declaration continues with fairly positive words about Israel:

We reaffirm our belief in the rights of the state of Israel to live within recognised and secure borders and to defend itself by all legal means against those who threaten its peace and security. We condemn without reserve those who deny a place for Israel and especially those who engage in the evil work of seeking to bring about its destruction. We warmly encourage all forms of constructive engagement, whether religious, humanitarian or economic, which seek to enable closer bonds between individuals and communities.[40]

Also noteworthy is this remark: “Neither evangelism nor conversion has a place amongst the purposes of the dialogue and we emphasise the importance of respect for each other’s faith and of rejecting actions intended to undermine the integrity of the other.”[41] This seems to intimate that the CofE has abandoned the missionary activities of the Church’s Ministry among Jewish People (CMJ), the modern incarnation of nineteenth-century missionary societies.[42] As will be seen later, this is not the case.

Second to Dr. Williams is the Archbishop of York, Ugandan-born Dr. John Sentamu, who clearly opposes terrorism and stated in his 2006 Ebor Lecture: “Martyrs witness to their faith by their commitment to love and service and not killing themselves and murdering others in the process.”[43] Yet Dr. Sentamu rejects the term “Islamic fundamentalists” as unhelpful and prefers the term “Salafi Jihadists,”[44] as he sees terrorism as a rejection of Islamic faith principles. He asserts: “In their rejection of all forms of Islamic scholarship in favour of a politically driven agenda, Salafi Jihadists reject the reality of God’s creation for a fantasy.”[45]

While it is clear that the church leadership is striving for moderation in its upper-level policy statements, Dr. Sentamu’s statements contain the glimmerings of a whitewashing of mainstream, Koranic teachings readily seen on the internet. In scores of videos and texts available in English, or translated and subtitled by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute),[46] anti-Semitism is clearly apparent in the Koran and amplified by many Islamic preachers. This information was readily available in 2006. But these are perhaps subtleties; the following sections deal with overt extremism that exists within the church.

In contrast to the leadership’s official, moderate positions that vaguely abjure proselytizing, deplore anti-Semitism, and support Israel’s right to exist, elements in the wings of the church actively counter these positions.

A Missionary and Activist Church in Jerusalem

The Church of England has maintained a base in Jerusalem since the early 1800s. St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem has served as a post of the church’s Ministry among Jewish People. This missionary focus of the CMJ has been criticized by the Jewish community, and missionary activity is also illegal in Israel, though the law is barely enforced. In 1992, Dr. George Carey became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 150 years to decline to be the Patron of CMJ, as missionary work was perceived to be damaging to interfaith relations.

The original and nominally current stance of St. George’s is Zionist. The rationale for this is found in Christian doctrine, which views the Jews’ return to Zion (the Land of Israel) and subsequent conversion to Christianity as prerequisites for the Messianic return.[47] Contrary to Dr. Williams as head of the church eschewing proselytism in the “Joint declaration,” St. George’s and the CMJ continue to conduct missionary operations directed at Jews in Israel today. The CMJ states: “Our aims are to encourage Jewish people to come to faith in Jesus as their Messiah; to support them in serving Him as Lord in the light of God’s purposes for them; and to equip the Church to be involved in this Mission.”[48]

The Zionist underpinning of the CMJ presents somewhat of a problem for the leadership at St. George’s. Today Zionism, not merely the right of Jews to live in Israel but the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, constitutes a political orientation that accords neither with left-leaning elements in the CofE nor with the appointed leadership of St. George’s. Members of the Messianic “Jewish” community – whom the Jewish community regards as Christian converts, not “fulfilled Jews” – express concern about these conflicting ideologies and how they play out. On a blog page[49] CMJ members agonize about whether public criticism of Zionist tendencies in the organization exposes them to terrorism.

This is an old fear that was raised by the recent attack on two women from the CMJ mission, one of whom was murdered and the other stabbed repeatedly while hiking outside of Jerusalem. A blogger writes:

A few years ago, I expressed concern to a British Christian anti-Zionist that in his books, talks and articles, he criticised not only Israel but also a range of Christian organisations, including evangelical mission agencies such as CMJ. I went on to point out the danger of this approach:

“Given the radical outlook of some Islamic groups, it is fair to ask whether you might not have endangered the ministries and possibly the lives of some Christian workers in the Middle East.”[50]

On the other hand, the blog also includes material attributed to the CMJ’s U.S. website that parallels the left-wing Christian ideology found in Christian Aid and EAPPI materials and attacks Christian Zionists and their support for Israel, while defining Israel as a racist, militarist occupier:

  • We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.
  • We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine.
  • We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war….
  • Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from ideologies of militarism and occupation.[51]

This type of Israel-rejectionism is certainly more in line with the ideas expressed by the leadership of St. George, past and present. Since 1976 all bishops appointed by the CofE have been Palestinians.[52] This has shifted political attitudes decidedly, while allowing the CofE to show an “authentic” voice of local Christians. The founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center,[53] a supersessionist Christian organization, is former St. George’s canon Rev. Naim Ateek. His philosophy goes beyond Yasser Arafat’s claim that “Jesus was a Palestinian shahid [martyr]”[54] by claiming that all Palestinians are Jesus: “It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, an children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge golgotha [sic]. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.”[55]

As for Israel’s right to exist in security as a sovereign state, Dexter Van Zile notes that for Ateek “the Jews are not a nation entitled to a sovereign state of their own, but religious apostates who must accept their status as a subject people. In Ateek’s writing Christian supersessionism merges with Islamic supersessionism in the Middle East to form a united front of contempt toward Jewish sovereignty.”[56]

Ateek was a coauthor of the 2009 Kairos Palestine Document (KPD), which took as its model the 1985 Kairos Document that expressed religious and moral opposition to the South African apartheid regime.[57] KPD equates Israel with South Africa’s former racist regime. (The recently-retired South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has for many years lent vocal support to that equation and even to comparisons of Israel with the Nazis.)[58]

Ateek coauthored the document along with World Council of Churches official Rifat Kassis and other Palestinian Christian clerics. Calling Israel an apartheid state and advocating boycotts, the KPD is a throwback to “Zionism is racism.” The CofE has endorsed the document’s general principles.[59]

Ateek’s statements, and the inclusion of Sabeel as a recommended source of information in the documents examined below, are certainly a far cry from the supportive and tolerant joint statement that Dr. Williams signed with the Israeli chief rabbis.

Three CofE Documents

The CofE has expressed itself on political issues in the Middle East and elsewhere. Three position papers regarding Israel are currently available on its website.

The first is a thirty-four-page document titled “Demanding Peace”[60] from 2001. This paper gives a Palestinian-sympathetic viewpoint, describing the Second Intifada as a spontaneous uprising sparked by Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount and citing sources such as B’Tselem and Amnesty International. The report contains, among others, the patently false claim that “the PA has been largely unsuccessful in its attempts to restrain Palestinian violence.”

Although as of 2001 such claims were popularly held, now ten years on, and apparently following revision of the paper, it is time for these to be corrected. Allowing them to remain is either negligence or intentional falsehood. Many sources have documented the fact that the Palestinian Authority had been increasingly agitating for violence against Israel in its popular media for some time before Sharon’s visit, which was merely a convenient starting point.[61] It has also been well documented that the PA funded and directed terror groups such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.[62]

The appendices for the CofE document list organizations including Christian Aid, Sabeel, Friends of Bir Zeit University, Palestinian Return Centre, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the pro-Palestinian lobby CAABU/BPAPPG, and others.

The PSC, a major Marxist-leaning organization, has strong trade union links[63] that help it put BDS on union agendas. The PSC includes BDS Switzerland as an affiliate organization.[64] In addition, the PSC has ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).[65] A European Union Council decision from 2005[66] applies restrictive measures against the PFLP as part of the EU’s policy of combating terrorism.

A list of resources for visiting the Holy Land is prefaced by remarks disparaging Christian Zionists: “…who equate the creation of Israel with the fulfilment of biblical prophecy [and] do consideable [sic] damage by encouraging pilgrimages which ignore the witness of the indigenous Church in favour of extra-biblical sites such as Massada, Yad Vashem, the Wailing Wall, a Kibbutz and the Knesset.”

Clearly, referring to the Wailing (or Western) Wall as a nonbiblical site accords with the revisionist Islamist claim that the Temple Mount never had a Temple on it. The erasure of the historical presence of Jews in Israel is an extremist tactic for delegitimization. Considering that the Wall was an integral part of the Temple complex where Jesus was said to visit, it would seem that this also is out of place in a Christian document.

The resources include one interfaith group, and no official Israeli resources. As will be noted later, the recommendations cited here are those of the Christian Aid travel agenda, with no Jewish or Israeli contacts in the framework of the visit. The only exceptions are marginal far-left groups that are in no way representative of Israeli opinion – not even of the Israeli left.

“Demanding Peace” was followed in 2002 by another provocatively titled paper, “Israel/Palestine – An Unholy War,” produced by the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility.[67] This forty-eight-page update to “Demanding Peace” has a preface by the Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal, former Bishop of Jerusalem, in which he states, for instance: “There is a growing feeling of insecurity and fear among our people and our Churches, a fear that puts at jeopardy the future of Christianity and its right to exist in the land where it began.”[68] Should anyone doubt who is to blame, Riah clarifies: “It is not humanly possible to live with the tortures imposed by the Israeli Army.”[69]

Here, Sabeel’s “crucified” Palestinians are again experiencing “golgotha.” In reality, there is a living, expanding, and thriving population of Palestinians who are not subject to “Israeli torture.” What is driving Christians out of the West Bank and Gaza in drastic numbers is Islamic extremism,[70] but this is never pointed out. It should be noted that Israel is the only country in the Middle East with an expanding Christian population.

Riah also includes an anonymous, unverifiable, self-indicting confession allegedly written by an Israeli: “We have been asked to implement discriminatory laws for the sake of the illegal settlements that have trapped our country with war.”[71] In actuality, Arab attacks on Jews predated the 1967 Six-Day War, after which Jordanian-occupied lands came under Israeli jurisdiction. This report contains falsehoods and misrepresentations that, nine years after publication, still stand as official CofE statements.

The most recent position paper available from the CofE website is the “Mission and Public Affairs Council Submission to the House of Commons Inquiry into Global Security – Middle East 2007.”[72] Note that this document is presented in the CofE’s capacity as a quasi-governmental organ. The report states, for instance:

56. We believe that the underlying causes of the conflict…remain constant: namely the failure of both parties to recognise the grievances of the other, specifically the humiliation and suffering of Palestinians caused by continued occupation, and the fear felt by Israelis at continued violence and terrorism. We are disappointed that the Quartet has been unwilling to use its authority to encourage both parties forward. It has to balance demanding that the Palestinian Authority control the security situation, with equally strong demands upon the Israeli government to cease from settlement activity.[73] (emphases added)

Note the paired comparisons: Palestinians have “humiliation and suffering,” while Israelis only have “fear.” The “security situation” – namely, terror attacks on Israelis – is equated with “settlement activity,” or the building of homes (with mostly Arab labor). Again, these are political statements that represent the CofE. While they do not jibe with the moderate posture expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and his colleague, the Archbishop of York, they do accord with the extreme positions of more radical members of the church.

Publicly Political Figures

Two ministers in the church, Rev. Garth Hewitt and Rev. George Pitcher, are among its very public figures.

Hewitt is both the Cathedral Guild Vicar of All Hallows on the Wall in the City of London, and the Honorary Canon at St. George’s, Jerusalem. He is also director of the Amos Trust, an activist organization, and a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), a radical group advocating BDS.[74] (Another patron of PSC is the notoriously anti-Israel academic Ilan Pappe.) Hewitt is a highly visible figure in the anti-Israel protest movement. He writes and performs protest music; his guitar-playing and singing are featured in video clips on the Internet with photos of the separation barrier, or as it is often speciously termed, the “apartheid wall.” Hewitt also supports Ken O’Keefe’s Aloha Palestine,[75] which purports to be a safe-trade organization. But O’Keefe’s “trading” with Gaza last year consisted of sailing on th jihadist-laden Mavi Marmara in the Gaza flotilla. This passenger vessel carried neither trade goods nor aid of any kind, and its mission was purely political.

Hewitt has called Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which allows in tons of aid weekly, a “medieval siege.”[76] In a 2009 video,[77] Hewitt can be seen in a kaffiyeh rabblerousing with pro-Palestinian radicals in London and yelling to the crowd, “Israel we have had enough, enough of your brutality, enough of your massacres, your war on children, your relentless bombings.”[78]

Hewitt has had nothing to say about acts of Palestinian terror in which Israeli children have been murdered at point-blank range; in a recent terror event[79] three children, the youngest only three months old, were brutally murdered along with their parents. Yet Hewitt conveniently fails to notice that Palestinian terrorists have intentionally targeted children.

Professor Robert Wistrich, who heads the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, gave a lecture in June titled “From Blood Libel to Boycott: Changing Faces of British Anti-Semitism.”[80] Wistrich pointed out that rhetoric in the UK that blames Israel for murdering children represents a worrisome return to the medieval blood libel accusation, which was invented in Norwich in 1144.[81]

But Hewitt is not the only CofE cleric voicing these accusations of child murder.

George Pitcher, curate of St. Bride’s, London, is an advocate of the Liberal Party. He served until June 2010 as religion editor and blogger at The Telegraph. In January 2009 he wrote:

The BBC is beginning to disgust me as much as Israel does. Okay, chickening out of showing an appeal for charitable aid for Gaza is hardly on a scale with using white phosphorous on its civilians and shooting its children in the back of the head, but the moral weakness that the BBC exhibits in hiding behind claims to impartiality induces the same sort of nausea.[82](italics added)

Note that Pitcher’s “disgust” is not directed at a particular Israeli government, official, or political orientation, but at the entire country. The implication that Israelis have a policy of executing Palestinian children is patently mendacious. In another item, datelined December 2008, Pitcher expresses a Sabeel-type position: “Without a Roman occupation of Palestine, with a compliant Jewish local authority, there would have been no arrest, condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.”[83] Resurrecting the “Christ killers” accusation against Jews, when paired with Pitcher’s “disgust” for Israel, shows him to be not only a radical but a bigoted anti-Semite.

Yet, despite his prejudiced and inflammatory public statements, Pitcher was appointed as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s secretary for public affairs in October 2009.[84]

The Church of England and BDS

Finally, it should be noted that the CofE is complicit with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This is evident in a statement released by the far-left Palestinian Solidarity Campaign in February 2009:

VICTORY – Church of England Divested from Caterpillar

…[The] Church of England clarified their position on their investments in companies profiting from the illegally occupied Palestinian territories and now wish to make clear that late last year they removed over £2.2 million in Caterpillar, a company whose bulldozers and heavy plant equipment are been used [sic] to destroy the homes of Palestinians by the Israeli government…. [PSC members] applaud this decision by the Church of England and hope that other organisations that remain invested in Israel will take a look at the moral lead shown to us by the Church of England and disinvest now.

In sum, the moderate positions of the Church of England as expressed by the archbishops appear to be minority positions among the church leadership. The tight linkage between Christian Aid UK and the church is expressed in the uniformity of negative attitudes toward Israel. Support for pro-Palestinian activists, including positions diametrically opposing Israel’s existence, is tolerated and even endorsed.

Church of Scotland-“The Kirk”

Unlike the CofE, the Church of Scotland (known informally as “the Kirk”) has a nonhierarchical structure. Member churches abide by policy set by a General Assembly and implemented by six councils and a number of committees.[85] The Kirk is a national, not state church, and claims five hundred thousand members. The Queen worships in the Kirk when she is in residence at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh or at Balmoral Castle. Though she does not have the same status as she does in the CofE, she is entitled to be represented at the General Assembly by a High Commissioner.

The Kirk sponsors international aid missions, including a number of churches in Israel and the West Bank. It also maintains hotels in Jerusalem and Tiberias as well as a school in Jaffa that attracts Jewish and Muslim as well as Christian children. The Kirk also partners with other church groups and organizations. The primary partner listed for its work in “Israel and Palestine” is Sabeel. Ian Alexander, who is listed as “International Officer, Sabeel,”[86] is the only non-Kirk member of the Mission Partners team for the Kirk in Israel and the West Bank.

The Kirk’s website describes Sabeel as

an ecumenical grassroots liberation movement among Palestinian Christians…which seeks to make the Gospel contextually relevant…. Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. Sabeel also works to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians.[87]

As already noted, Sabeel’s “accuracy” is problematic.

Another organizational partner listed in this Kirk mission is the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), the World Council of Churches initiative, which is also a Christian Aid-affiliated organization. “EAPPI supports local and international efforts to end the occupation, bringing a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.”[88]

Kirk local churches support Christian Aid; for example, one of its largest churches, Colinton Parish Church of Edinburgh, regularly includes a full page in its newsletter[89] on Christian Aid projects with weblinks, fund solicitations, and local activities sponsoring CA.

The Kirk also supports Palcrafts/Hadeel, which is linked to the PSC. Monies raised in Scotland are transferred back to producers in the PA, but it is unclear what the final end use of these funds is. The site offers Palestinian products for sale and a booklist for “Rediscovering Palestine,” with works by anti-Israel writers such as Naim Ateek, (anti-Christian-Zionist) Donald Wagner, Elias Chacour, Jonathan Cook, Garth Hewitt, Jeff Halper, Mark Braverman, Sabeel activists Audeh and Pat Rantisi and Jean Zaru, Shlomo Sand, Stephen Sizer, Ben White, and Ilan Pappe.[90] Partner organizations linked to “Rediscovering Palestine” include a familiar list – Hewitt’s Amos Trust, Friends of Bir Zeit, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Palestinian Return Centre, the PSC, and others.[91] ICAHD, headed by Halper, i notable for providing cover for Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations in London; the protests were not advertised as Muslim Brotherhood actions but were held under the auspices of “aid organizations.”[92] In addition to its stated mission of protesting house demolitions, ICAHD actively advocates for BDS and participates in Free Gaza flotilla efforts as well as Israel Apartheid Week events. Statements issued by ICAHD accuse Israel of “genocide” and the Judaization of East Jerusalem, and favor a binational or one-state solution.[93]

Until recently the Kirk had links on its website to the PSC, the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, and Scotland4Peace. These were removed in February 2011.

The current convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, Ian Galloway, wrote in a 2008 letter to the editor that he saw the advent of the establishment of sharia courts as “another method of dispute resolution.”[94]

The Kirk has maintained regular contacts with the Jewish community especially through the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) and has engaged in a frank religious dialogue. In this context the Jewish community successfully influenced a 2006 General Assembly decision not to support a boycott or disinvestment but rather to engage with Israelis and Palestinians.[95] However, this influence has its limits; the modified decision recommending the specific labeling of items produced beyond the Green Line may be described as “boycott lite.”

As a result of dialogue with the Jewish community in Scotland, the 2006 Kirk Deliverances stated a balanced position: “The Church supports, without reservation, the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign nation with secure, internationally recognised, legal borders” and “calls upon the Foreign Secretary to encourage HAMAS to issue a statement accepting Israel’s right to exist.”[96]

In conjunction with the SCoJeC, the Kirk sponsored an interfaith pilgrimage to Israel in 2008. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim participants from Scotland studied the local issues together in an open and dispassionate way. The Kirk has also passed decisions to encourage tourism to Israel and the Palestinian areas.[97] More moderate and open attitudes represent significant progress as compared to Deliverances before 2006.

Thus, a 2001 Deliverance advocates the right of return for Palestinians,[98] a position espoused only by the most extreme left in Israel. Views stated in 2002 and 2003 affirm support for both EAPPI and CA positions. In 2004 the Kirk called on the UK government to pressure Israel to dismantle the security fence and remove checkpoints, actions that would clearly endanger Israelis. Yet while positions from 2006 on have moderated, they still call on the UK to recognize the PA as a state, reject the withholding of funds to exert pressure on the PA, and disavow Christian Zionism.

Furthermore, a list of suggested activities on the Kirk’s webpage titled “Invest in Peace-Action for a just peace in Israel and Palestine” includes, among other things, donating to Christian Aid, volunteering for three months with EAPPI, reading the Kairos Palestine Document, and so on. This again demonstrates the uniformity of positions advocated by UK churches affiliated through the WCC.[99]

Another relevant Kirk document regarding Israel is a very recent one from November 2010: “IF ONE SUFFERS: World Mission Council’s Report concerning Christians living in a minority situation.”[100] This was produced as Christian minorities were being persecuted in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and areas outside the Middle East.

The document’s descriptions of communities in danger begin with Israel, citing the plight of Palestinians under occupation. Yet, while Christian populations in the PA and Gaza are declining due to lower birthrates, emigration, and persecution by Muslim extremists, the Christian community in Israel itself is the only one in the Middle East that is growing. Opening the report by criticizing Israel over the Palestinian issue while Christians in other countries are arrested for “blasphemy,” kidnapped, shot, and bombed is disingenuous at best.

The two photos in the introduction show armed Israeli soldiers, while photos of other countries show neutral or positive scenes, and the report describes the West Bank town of Bethlehem as part of “the world’s largest open-air prison.” Descriptions of violence in Islamic countries avoid naming an aggressor: “In the sectarian conflicts which erupted in the wake of the 2003 invasion, Christians found themselves being systematically targeted. Church buildings came under attack with…a coordinated series of car bombings destroying five churches….”[101]

This focus on the “plight” of Christians in Israel, while failing to name real aggressors who persecute Christians in Islamic countries, follows the WCC line of criticizing Israel-because it can do so without the threat of repercussions.

United Reformed Church

The United Reform Church (URC) is an amalgamation of several UK churches. The initial merger was between the Presbyterian Church of England and the Congregational Church in England and Wales in 1972. This merger was further expanded with the inclusion of the Reformed Association of Churches of Christ in 1981, and the Congregational Union of Scotland in 2000. The URC has approximately sixty-eight thousand members in 1,500 congregations with some seven hundred ministers.

To underscore the close linkage between the URC’s Commitment for Life program and Christian Aid, the following funding basics are detailed on the URC website:

Commitment for Life encourages all United Reformed and Local Ecumenical Partnership churches to take action, pray and give for people across the world. It works with both Christian Aid and the World Development Movement. Last year we raised over £550,000 to help alleviate the root causes of poverty. 75% goes to Christian Aid to be divided equally among the four partner countries, 10% to the World Development Movement and 15% for administration, resources and grant giving. It is the recommended way for all United Reformed Churches to give to Christian Aid.[102]

A video for Commitment for Life[103] stresses that political activism and being informed are integral to their mission, but all “information” falls squarely on one version of the issues. It is also clear that the URC adheres to the highly politicized Christian Aid agenda.

The URC has a strong pro-Palestinian bias that is clearly seen in its publications. Its official magazine Reform published a slanted piece in its December 2010 issue: “The broken town of Bethlehem is not what the popular Christmas carol proclaims: the ‘security’ wall, the checkpoints, the refugee camps, the towering Jewish settlement of Har Homa…are the realities of daily life in ‘the little town’…and the ‘water shortages’ that Palestinians are forced to suffer while their Israeli neighbours enjoy a plentiful supply.”[104]

This is an apparently willful misrepresentation of reality.[105] The security fence has provided security for Israelis by keeping out suicide bombers. The checkpoints, which Palestinians cross on their way to jobs or medical care provided by Israelis, serve the same purpose. The refugee camps were built by the Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians, and Egyptians, who refused to integrate Palestinians. Attempts by Israel to disband the camps and develop better housing were met by vehement Palestinian opposition. Har Homa has some tall buildings, but the suburb is actually situated below the entrance to Bethlehem. As for water shortages, this is a complex issue as Palestinians have failed to maintain infrastructure and have even reject improvements that would be less environmentally destructive.

URC Church Leaders’ Trip, April 2009

Information here is taken from the blog[106] written by participants in the church leaders’ visit to “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” This was a Christian Aid tour that adhered to their political agenda. Christian Aid is the designated charity for the URC; members donate under the URC’s Commitment for Life program.[107] The itinerary conforms to the suggestions in the above-noted CofE document’s appendices.

Tour events as described in this blog included:

  • Meeting with EAPPI volunteers sponsored by Commitment for Life
  • Visit to St. George’s Cathedral and meeting with the bishop
  • Meeting with B’Tselem – the blogger notes that “Commitment for Life Churches support the video work of B’tselem [sic] through Christian Aid”
  • Meeting with Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
  • Meeting with Palestinian Agricultural and Relief Committee (PARC) – the writer notes that “a PARC representative has visited many of our churches and spoken at General Assembly in 2003”

In line with a strict pro-Palestinian agenda, the entire trip was Palestinian-oriented with virtually no contact with Israelis, other than representatives of the far-left groups noted above. The URC demonstrably adheres to Christian Aid’s political line.

Methodist Church of Great Britain

The Methodists’ membership is approximately three hundred thousand.[108] Similar to other Protestant churches, it has a nonhierarchical structure with doctrinal issues determined by leadership assemblies. These assemblies issue policy documents on a wide range of topics.

The annual conference report issued in June 2010, which contained a wide-ranging section titled “Justice for Palestine and Israel,”[109] was accepted by the conference from the standpoint of both doctrine and active policy. The report condemns the “occupation” and settlements, and urges a theological redefinition of the biblical covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish people. It also contains a lengthy “Historical background” section that presents the Arab-Israeli conflict from a highly skewed pro-Palestinian standpoint, with very significant omissions, and sets out policy recommendations in the form of resolutions that were adopted by the conference.

Out of the many errors and misrepresentations, one example will suffice. The report states: “In December 2008, tensions between Israel and Hamas resulted in war.” What is omitted is that Hamas rockets and mortars were raining down on southern Israel, and life had become a nightmare of alarms and explosions for Israeli civilians living there. Using the word “tensions” is clearly euphemistic.

The report’s pro-Palestinian bias is discussed in a well-referenced “Response” by the Leeds Messianic Fellowship.[110] This critique notes that while the report calls for solidarity with Palestinian Christians, it makes no mention of Israeli Christians and Messianic Jews.

But propagandizing history is only one part of the report, as the Methodists became the first church group to advocate for the far-left BDS position when they accepted an active resolution to boycott Israeli settlement goods. (In April of this year they were joined by the UK Quakers, a minor group with less than sixteen thousand members in Britain as of 2007.) This was a compromise position; those proposing the agenda had intended a boycott of all Israeli goods. The initial push for total boycott came from Nicola Jones, a member of the UK Friends of Sabeel, and Stephen Leah, chair of the York chapter of the PSC.[111]

The “Methodist boycott of goods from illegal Israeli settlements”[112] is also briefly summarized on the church’s website, which gives the rationale that the boycott was requested by the WCC. No other justification is given for this boycott directed specifically and solely against Israel. For example, there is no sanction of Iran for its human rights abuses in suppressing protests following the 2009 elections. In addition to the trade boycott, the resolution “calls for a full arms embargo against all sides in the conflict,”[113] while at the same time it “repeats its call for the lifting of the blockade of Gaza.”[114]

The conference report was greeted with dismay by the UK Jewish community, some members of the Methodist community,[115] and critics outside the fold. Approbation came from sources such as the Electronic Intifada[116] and anti-Israel activists such as Stephen Sizer and Ilan Pappe.[117] The chief rabbi of the UK, Jonathan Sacks, criticized the report as “unbalanced, factually and historically flawed” and offering “no genuine understanding of one of the most complex conflicts in the world today.” Interestingly, the conference report was an item for the Iranian news service IRNA.[118] IRNA portrayed the report as supported by a Jewish-Christian consensus wit pro-Israel factions (including the chief rabbi) in opposition.

A church representative, however, stated that the positions and resolutions in the report were carefully considered and researched with the intent of putting “an end to the existing injustice by Israel.”[119] The authors of the report were boycott activists Rev. Nichola Jones,[120] who proposed it, and Rev. Stephen Leah who seconded it. The report was ratified by the vote of the assembly with one noted modification: Leah confided that he had hoped for a boycott of Israel as a whole, not just settlement products.[121]

In her address to the conference, Nichola Jones of Friends of Sabeel questioned the current validity of the Jewish biblical covenant, hinting at contractual violations and denying that modern Israel has anything to do with the Bible. She further claimed that not acknowledging the covenants of all Abrahamic peoples is racist:

In the Bible we learn of the Chosen People. Who are they and what were they chosen for? Genesis tells us again & again that God chooses Abraham and makes a covenant with Abraham & his heirs: a covenant being a two-sided agreement with obligations on both parties, like marriage…. Of course, Israel today is not the same as Israel in the Bible: in the Bible, Israel refers to the people of Abraham’s descendants, who are in covenant with God. Israel today is a modern, secular state, created in 1948…. For years I cherished the Galatian text…now I read it properly: “In Christ there is no longer male or female, slave or free, Jew or Greek (we could say Jew or Arab): we are all one in Christ.” We are heirs of Abraham, and so inheritors of the promise of Abraham. Jesus, who makes with us a new covenant which transforms us utterly, never speaks of the land or owning it: he speaks of the Kingdom & joining it and invites us to do so. He teaches us God is not a racist Go with favorites, but God loves all his children & blesses them.[122]

A Supersessionist Outlook

Calling Jews, and by association, Israel, racist on the basis of Jewish doctrine is closely related to Sabeel’s crucifixion allegations. Accusing Jews and Israel of crucifying the Palestinians is a clear reference to genocide. Terming Jewish doctrine as racist in tandem with the genocide implication shows two sides of the same delegitimization coin. The conference report plows on, exploring the pros and cons of supersessionism and whether the Jewish covenant has any validity today:

The question of validity is perhaps the most controversial – basically, does this [Abrahamic] covenant still operate in the contemporary world and, if so, how and by what means should it be made a reality?… Particularly relevant for reflection on Israel/Palestine is a theology of supersessionism, whereby some have believed that the Church has succeeded the Jewish people as the New Israel and inherited all the promises previously made by God. Not only would this view seem to invalidate completely any claim on the land by the Jewish community…

So far quite convenient, but here the authors hesitate, as they are drawing near a certain precipice and must tread carefully: “…there is also a recognition that sometimes this doctrine has led to a perverse tradition within Christianity of anti-Judaism and possibly even anti-Semitism….”[123]

This is, of course, more than possible; the Inquisition, for instance, was driven by a delegitimizing, supersessionist theology. Here the report pauses to cite the Holocaust as “foundational” to the state of Israel. This, however, is another canard, as a Jewish state in Palestine was mandated by the League of Nations following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I.

Speculation as to who owns the covenant today concludes thus:

If we argue, however, that these covenantal promises are still valid, we must ask the question how and for whom. In short, who can legitimately claim to be Abraham’s descendants and hence heirs to the promises. Since the patriarch is claimed by all three monotheistic religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – does it follow that all three are legitimate inheritors of the covenantal promises? Does it matter that the Jewish people were the first to receive the promise?

In short, the Methodists can look at things two ways. One option is to claim that the Jews were replaced by Christians in God’s covenantal relationship, and therefore Jews have no claim to the Land of Israel. This approach is presented as involving a slight risk of legitimizing anti-Semitism. The other option is simply to assert that everyone is now within the covenant, and prior claims are irrelevant. Although this seems the kinder, gentler approach, it too repudiates any Jewish claims to the Land of Israel.

The report then goes beyond simply parroting Sabeel’s characterizations and political theses; it explicitly adopts Sabeel’s 2009 Kairos Document:[124] “British Methodists now require a deepening relationship with Palestinian Christians in order, among other things, to hear the various theological voices being articulated by the Churches of the Holy Land. These include, for example, the liberation perspectives offered by the Sabeel Centre as well as the call for justice and peace in the Kairos Document.”

Recognition of the Kairos Document also implies “a recognition that the Occupation is not just wrong, illegal and immoral, but is [quoting Kairos] ‘a sin against God…distorting the image of God in the Israeli who has become an Occupier.'” Note the implication that just as, according to Sabeel, all Palestinians are being crucified, there is a corollary – that all Israelis are occupiers/crucifiers.

Accepting Kairos means that the Methodists have allied themselves with anti-Israel extremists, not only politically but in doctrine. This means that, despite their previously stated wariness of supersessionism, they wholly accept that the Palestinians are the crucified inheritors of God’s covenant, while the Jews, as Israelis, are the Roman occupiers. In other words, in the eyes of the Methodist Church the Israelis are criminals without legitimacy.

Another supersessionist issue is the problematic nature of what Christians term the Old Testament. A Methodist Church publication, “Jewish and Muslim Perspectives on the Land of Israel-Palestine,” states: “Jews who seek justice for all – Jews and Palestinians – will draw strength from the Covenant with Noah in Genesis (Genesis 9:8-17). It is a Covenant which makes no distinction between nations or races. Other Jewish groups look to ‘later’ Covenants, which can be interpreted more exclusively.”[125]

This statement goes even further than the Abrahamic argument, seemingly discrediting any covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish people. Such abandonment of scriptural legitimacy is evident in the conference report’s inclusion of an account by an EAPPI volunteer, who states: “Approximately 500 Israeli settlers live within the heart of the city due to their ideological belief in the importance of Hebron as the home of the patriarchs (Abraham is believed to be buried here).”[126] This is a startling statement for Christians who accept the Old Testament to make, and for a body of clerics to reproduce it in a major doctrinal statement is surprising. The burial of the patriarchs and matriarchs in Hebron is biblically, not ideologically, based.[127]

The conference report also takes a doctrinal and political swing at Christian Zionists for what is described as their “apocalyptic” biblical interpretations, their supposedly unconditional support for Israel, and their role in the pro-Israel lobby in the United States.[128] Actually, many Christian Zionists base their support for Israel as a Jewish state on Genesis 12:3, in which Abraham is told that those who bless the Jewish people will be blessed and those who curse them will be cursed.

However, it seems that doctrinal variations are acceptable as long as the politics match the report’s agenda. The report also includes this statement by an American Lutheran EAPPI volunteer underscoring the “Jesusification” of the Palestinians: “When I lived in Bethlehem I understood what I had always known. Jesus was born, lived and died under Occupation and this is what it is like.”[129] Whatever the differences may be between American Lutherans and UK Methodists, this individual can agree about the Israeli “imperialists.” This statement is typical of those “testaments” given by EAPPI activists.

The conference report also makes the following unsubstantiated claim: “The territory allocated by the UN proposal for a Palestinian state has been systematically confiscated, i.e., stolen, and built upon by Israeli settlers. This process has intensified since 1967.” The implication is that Israel has always been engaged in illegal land grabs, and this is why the Palestinians are stateless. In fact, the land allocated for a Jewish state under the British Mandate included what is now Jordan.[130] What remained after Jordan was created as an Arab state was further divided by the UN Partition Plan, which the local and regional Arab political actors rejected. Had they accepted it, there would have been a Palestinian state in 1948.

The rejected offer in 2000 by then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak would also have resulted in a Palestinian state on 95 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza.[131] The one-state vision of Palestinian thinkers such as the late Edward Said, whom the report quotes, is simply a smokescreen for ending Israel’s existence.

The report is inherently hypocritical. While it decries the “crucifying” genocide allegedly inflicted on the Palestinians, it makes no reference to the actual genocidal statements made by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While it calls for an arms embargo on “both sides” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it makes no call for Iran to desist from its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Again, in their online summary of the conference report, the Methodists explain that the reason they chose to pursue this arms embargo was the WCC’s request that they tackle the Palestinian issue. The conference report reaffirms its support for the WCC and its subsidiary EAPPI, as well as for Christian Aid.

While the recent annual conference in June included a well-attended model Passover Seder at a local synagogue as a “fringe event,” the resolutions from last year still stand as church policy. It should be emphasized that many far-left streams attempt to separate out Judaism from Zionism. Characterizing Israelis as child killers, perpetrators of apartheid, and so forth constitutes demonization remarkably similar to classic anti-Semitic blood libels. It is therefore not surprising that another “fringe event” featured Hind Khoury, an Arab woman speaker who justifies suicide bombings against Israelis.[132] If Israelis are completely delegitimized, suicide bombers can, according to Khoury’s logic, become legitimate “martyrs.” It is difficult to understand how someone who justifies the murder of innocent civilians is an acceptable speaker for a group that purports to uphold Judeo-Christian values.

Conclusion

Although UK churches represent various religious streams and differ in structure and size of membership, they use the same resources and uphold the same ideology in their approach to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

Christian Aid is arguably the most publicly active multidenominational group that funds and promotes a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel agenda. The ideology that provides the religious and political justification for this agenda comes from religious organizations including the World Council of Churches and Sabeel and political organizations such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The only Israeli voices heard are anonymous or those of the most far-left organizations in Israel such as ICAHD, B’Tselem, and Breaking the Silence. Groups such as Sabeel and EAPPI are provided a podium within the churches, giving them legitimacy. These pro-Palestinian organizations have successfully branded themselves as authentic resources for policy opinions and as deserving recipients of donations.

Christian Aid serves as both a stand-alone charity and as a recommended or mandatory recipient of church membership funds. Christian Aid also receives governmental funds earmarked for development; this is true not only in the UK but in countries such as Sweden and Norway. EAPPI members are also very active in the advocacy efforts, projects, and causes that Christian Aid and its affiliates promote. These include BDS activity and the spread of information used to delegitimize Israel. In addition, the ACT Alliance, an international group, allows cash transfers to aid recipients without clear funding accountability.

At the level of expressed policy, most of the church groups reviewed here make politically neutral statements regarding Israel’s right to exist in peace and security. A close look, however, at activities and the distribution of funding reveals an anti-Israel agenda. In the course of this research it was discovered that in some cases overt references to a policy orientation are buried in web materials or are removed.

The left-leaning trend typified by the UK Methodists rejects traditional Christian belief in the legitimacy of scripture. Information is used selectively for outright political propaganda and demonization of Israel, while hypocritically remaining silent about genocidal policies of Islamists, including the Iranian regime.

Appendix: Table of UK Church Membership

Church Population Notes
Church of England 944,000 regular churchgoers;

25 million baptized members;

1.7 million attendees weekly.

Statistics vary widely as to active church affiliation, but attendance is clearly in decline. Membership is determined by baptism, not by dues or attendance. As the established church, many elect to marry or baptize in it; for many this represents the sum total of church affiliation.
Kirk (Scotland) 464,000 or 9% of population
Roman Catholics UK Total 5 million in England and Wales

667,000 in Scotland

Methodists 330,000 or 270,000 In 2003 signed covenant with CofE
URC 68,000
Baptists 140,000 Various alliances, but incl. WCC

No political information on website

Chanah Shapira is a research associate with JCPA, and has contributed to the Jewish Political Studies Review. She reviewed and edited materials for JCPA’s joint publication with the American Jewish Committee, American Jewry’s Comfort Level: Present and Future (Manfred Gerstenfeld and Steven Bayme, eds., 2010). She also is a contributor to Sweden, Israel and the Jews, a blog that covers anti-Semitism as well as church and governmental support for groups linked to Palestinian terror in Sweden.


[1] www.adl.org/main_Interfaith/newtestament.htm.

[2] www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=7&x_issue=45&x_article=1532.

[3] “Overseas aid still a priority,” 9 July 2010, http://www.exacteditions.com/exact/browse/354/377/7347/3/1/0/.

[4]www.dfid.gov.uk/Documents/publications1/departmental-report/2010/dfid-in-2009-10-revised-6-sept-2010.pdf, 82.

[5] www.christianaid.org.uk/images/annual-report-200910.pdf.

[6] www.christianaid.org.uk/aboutus/who/aims/sponsoring_churches/index.aspx.

[7] http://web.archive.org/web/20100111054658/http://www.cafod.org.uk/about-us/faqs/general-questions.

[8] http://web.archive.org/web/20131010091712/http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=3151&C=2672.

[9] www.christianaid.org.uk/aboutus/who/board/index.aspx.

[10] www.ngo-monitor.org/article/christian_aid_update_promoting_conflict.

[11] www.actalliance.org/stories/partial-boycott-of-israel.

[12] Personal conversation with ACT staffer Josef Psattner, ACT office in Geneva, July 2011.

[13] www.actalliance.org/stories/resources/publications/ACT_Alliance_AR_2010.pdf.

[14] http://12.000.scripts.mit.edu/mission2014/solutions/transparency-committees-and-monitoring-systems.

[15] www.wildolive.co.uk/christians_against_israel.htm.

[16] www.christianaid.org.uk/whatwedo/middle-east/iopt.aspx.

[17] Ibid.

[18] http://learn.christianaid.org.uk/TeachersResources/primary/primary-assembly-october-2010.aspx.

[19] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dizengoff_Center_suicide_bombing.

[20] http://www.batchen.co.il/english/site/.

[21] www.opednews.com/articles/Hamas-gangs-kill-Fatah-mem-by-Palestinian-Media-090118-806.html.

[22] Built-up settlement areas in the West Bank occupy 1.7 percent of the total land area, http://jcpa.org/article/major-uk-churches-adopt-christian-aid%E2%80%99s-anti-israel-bds-agenda/.

[23] www.christianaid.org.uk/whatwedo/middle-east/iopt.aspx.

[24] www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3798428,00.html.

[25] www.reuters.com/article/2010/08/02/us-palestinians-israel-construction-idUSTRE67129P20100802.

[26] Press release, DFID, June 2010, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-gives-19-million-for-gazan-refugees

[27] www.jcpa.org/text/nordic.pdf, 37-38.

[28] www.ngo-monitor.org/article/diakonia_an_analysis_of_activities_in_the_arab_israeli_conflict.

[29] www.ngo-monitor.org/article/al_haq_supported_lawfare_in_canada.

[30] www.ngo-monitor.org/article/christian_aid_uk.

[31] www.eappi.org/en/about/overview.html.

[32] Ibid.

[33] www.christianaid.org.uk/aboutus/who/board/index.aspx.

[34] Text of Rosh Hashanah message, http://web.archive.org/web/20110105112807/http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/2985.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Text of Isaiah Berlin Lecture, www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/.

[37] www.archbishopofcanterbury.org.

[38] www.urbandharma.org/pdf/NostraAetate.pdf.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Lewis Way et al., www.ccel.org/s/schaff/encyc/encyc06/htm/iii.lvii.x.htm, www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=61&letter=W.

[43] www.archbishopofyork.org/1399.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] MEMRI, founded in 1998, www.memritv.org/content/en/about.htm.

[47] Cf. n. 13.

[48] www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/mission/world-mission/mission-agencies.aspx.

[49] http://roshpinaproject.com/2010/12/20/cmj-worker-murdered-in-israel.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid.

[52] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_Bishop_in_Jerusalem#List_of_Anglican_Bishops_in_Jerusalem.

[53] http://jcpa.org/article/updating-the-ancient-infrastructure-of-christian-contempt-sabeel/.

[54] www.jihadwatch.org/2010/12/jesus-was-a-palestinian—-no-one-denies-that-says-pa-tv.html.

[55] http://web.archive.org/web/20080310035855/http:/www.sabeel.org/old/reports/easter01.htm.

[56]http://jcpa.org/article/updating-the-ancient-infrastructure-of-christian-contempt-sabeel/

[57] www.kairospalestine.ps/?q=node/1.

[58] www.zoa.org/sitedocuments/pressrelease_view.asp?pressreleaseID=172.

[59] www.churchofengland.org/media/39742/gsmisc953.pdf.

[60] www.churchofengland.org/media/45496/gsmisc657.doc.

[61] www.freeman.org/m_online/oct00/sharon.htm.

[62] http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/Terrorism/Palestinian/Pages/The%20Involvement%20of%20Arafat-%20PA%20Senior%20Officials%20and.aspx.

[63] www.palestinecampaign.org.

[64] www.palestinecampaign.org.

[65] http://wpnz-pflp-solidarity.blogspot.com/2010/06/pflp-solidarity-campaign-marxism-2010.html.

[66] Council Decision (2005/930/EC), http://eur-lex.europa.eu/lex/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2005/l_340/l_34020051223en00640066.pdf.

[67] www.churchofengland.org/media/45504/gs1463.doc.

[68] Ibid., 3.

[69] Ibid., 4.

[70] www.churchofengland.org/media/45504/gs1463.doc.

[72] www.churchofengland.org/media/1188910/mpa%20fac%20submission.pdf.

[73] Ibid.

[74] www.palestinecampaign.org.

[75] http://alohapalestine.com/.

[76] www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2009/Increased_humanitarian_aid_Gaza_after_IDF_operation_Jan_2009.htm.

[77] www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jvbnq5XOxw.

[78] www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jvbnq5XOxw.

[79] www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?ID=211863&R=R1.

[80] This topic also appeared in Posen Papers in Contemporary Antisemitism, No. 13, 2011, published by SICSA.

[81] www.webhistoryofengland.com/?p=641.

[82] http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/georgepitcher/8196061/The_BBCs_moral_cowardice_is_disgusting/.

[83] http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/georgepitcher/5877891/Christmas_is_for_Israel_too.

[84] www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/943/changes-to-archbishop-of-canterburys-personal-staff.

[85] www.churchofscotland.org.uk/about_us/councils_committees_and_departments.

[86] www.churchofscotland.org.uk/serve/mission_worldwide/linking_worldwide_-_israel_and_palestine.

[87] Ibid.

[88] www.eappi.org/en/about/overview.html.

[89] www.colinton-parish.com/colinton-news/, www.colinton-parish.com/content/pages/documents/1299321102.pdf, 5.

[90] www.rediscoveringpalestine.org.uk/documents/Rediscovering%20Palestine%20Booklist%20-%202010.doc.

[91] www.rediscoveringpalestine.org.uk/RediscoveringPal24ppA5.pdf.

[92] www.jcpa.org/text/Mapping_Delegitimization.pdf, 40.

[93] www.ngo-monitor.org/article/israel_committee_against_house_demolitions_icahd._

[94] http://news.scotsman.com/opinion/Sharia-not-to-be-feared.4578766.jp.

[95] Ibid.

[96] Ibid. 28.

[97]www.jcpa.org.

[98] Ibid., p 28.

[99] www.churchofscotland.org.uk/speak_out/make_a_difference/campaigns/articles/invest_in_peace.

[100] www.churchofscotland.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/4632/minority_christian_report_2010.pdf.

[101] Ibid.

[102] www.urc.org.uk/what_we_do/commitment_for_life/commitment_for_life.

[103] www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Xzw7eOMiso.

[104] www.reform-magazine.co.uk/index.php/2010/11/peace-on-earth/#comment-516.

[105] www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/ct_250308e.htm.

[106] http://blog.urc.org.uk/index.php/category/israel_palestine_church_leaders_trip.

[107] Ibid.

[108] Sources vary; estimates are 270-330,000.

[109] www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/conf10a-14-pal-israel-160211.pdf.

[110] http://lmf.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Leeds-Messianic-Fellowship-A-Response-to-the-British-Methodist-Report-on-Palestine-and-Israel.pdf.

[111] http://seismic-shock.com/2010/06/19/dr-stephen-leah-the-anti-israel-methodists.

[112] www.methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=opentogod.content&cmid=3146.

[113] www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/conf10a-14-pal-israel-160211.pdf, 33.

[114] Ibid.

[115] http://methodistpreacher.blogspot.com/2010/07/i-felt-like-accused-in-nazi-show-trial.html.

[116] http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11482.shtml.

[117] www.examiner.com/christian-living-in-raleigh/methodist-church-has-become-judge-and-jury-of-israel-boycotting-israeli-goods.

[118] www.twocircles.net/2010jun24/uk_church_backs_boycott_israeli_goods_illegal_settlements.html.

[119] www.examiner.com/christian-living-in-raleigh/methodist-church-has-become-judge-and-jury-of-israel-boycotting-israeli-goods.

[120] http://seismic-shock.com/2010/06/19/dr-stephen-leah-the-anti-israel-methodists.

[121] https://boycottzionism.wordpress.com/category/international-bds-actions/page/9; http://seismic-shock.com/2010/06/19/dr-stephen-leah-the-anti-israel-methodists.

[122] http://hurryupharry.org/2010/07/02/methodists-boycott-israel-citing-new-covenant-with-god/.

[123] www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/conf10a-14-pal-israel-160211.pdf, 9.

[124] Ibid., 31.

[125] www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/pi_ipjewishmuslimperspectives_0308.pdf.

[126] www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/conf10a-14-pal-israel-160211.pdf, 7.

[127] Genesis 23 details Abraham’s purchase of the Machpela Cave for the burial of Sarah. King David was anointed in Hebron and ruled there before moving his capital to Jerusalem. A nearly continuous historical presence of Jews in Hebron was ended in 1929 when Arabs massacred almost seventy Jews, and the rest of the community fled.

[128] www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/conf10a-14-pal-israel-160211.pdf, 12.

[129] Ibid., 19.

[130] http://208.84.118.121/pf_current_settlements.php.

[131] Ibid.

[132] http://methodistpreacher.blogspot.com/2011/06/speaker-at-methodist-conference-to.html.

 

About Chanah Shapira

Chanah Shapira has been a research intern at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.