Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Board of Deputies of British Jews Seeks to Fan the Flames of anti-Semitism

Chief Rabbi and Board Accuse the CoE of 'anti-Semitism' for supporting Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme EAPPI 

I have a confession to make.   Before last week I hadn’t even heard of EAPPI – The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) .  After reading the hysterical article in the Jewish Chronicle (12th July) ‘Church endorses Israel hate agenda’ I do.

I sent the JC a letter, more as a matter of form than because of any realistic prospect of it being published.  The Jewish Chronicle doesn’t even pretend to believe in balance or debate and anti-Zionist contributors are rarer than snow in the Saharan desert.  It is far easier for anti-Zionists to have letters published in the national media than a rag that sells barely 20,000 copies today.
Letters Editor,
The Jewish Chronicle
25 Furnival Street
London EC4A 1JT

Dear Sir or Madam:

The vote by the Anglican Synod to support EAPPI – the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel – has been met by a reaction bordering on the hysterical.

The Board of Deputies had no business in opposing it in the first place.  It provides volunteers to accompany Palestinians and witness human rights abuses in the West Bank.   Why should Jewish people be opposed to such a programme and why should they be associated with Israeli human rights abuses?   I can think of no better way to increase anti-Semitism than to associate British Jews with Israel’s treatment of those under occupation.

The best contribution the Board could make would be to set up a similar programme of its own, with the JC's encouragement of course.

When children as young as 12 are detained without trial, shackled and beaten, that is a cause for concern for any human being – Jewish or Christian.  When the army stands by as settlers from Yizhar attack peaceful Palestinians and burn their crops, should we remain silent?  Do the regular arson attacks and desecration of mosques by settlers not bring back memories?  What the Board and the Jewish Chronicle seems to prefer is ‘out of sight is out of mind’. 

I realise that the JC rarely prints letters from Jewish dissidents or opponents of Zionism anymore and that this will be no exception.  Your only interest is in maintaining the fiction of a united Jewish community in support of Israel.  The Synod of the Church of England should be congratulated on its vote, even though it has remained silent for far too long, intimidated by accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’.

If Jews in Britain were to experience the same treatment as meted out to the Palestinians, the Board of Deputies and the Chief Rabbi would be the first to cry ‘anti-Semitism’. 

Yours faithfully,

Tony Greenstein
With every week that passes, the Jewish Chronicle becomes more like a propaganda free sheet issued by the Israeli Embassy, than the Jewish community’s house journal.  The JC  reported  that ‘In the worst rift between Anglo-Jewry and the Church of England in recent years, the president of the Board of Deputies has accused the Synod of “riding roughshod” over the Jewish community.’  In other words the worst rift since the last time the Church refused to obey orders.

The Board’s idiotic President, Mr Wineman, exclaimed that “The Church of England has a duty to examine the situation in the Middle East in a balanced way.’  And what does EAPPI do?  Presumably it is at the forefront of attacks on the Occupation Army?  It runs its own propaganda radio station?  Perhaps it smuggles in food to Gaza (a particularly heinous crime).   No EAPPI sends out volunteers to Palestine who witness and hopefully, by their presence, prevents violent attacks on Palestinian civilians and the burning of their crops.  The unbalanced Mr Wineperson considers this ‘unbalanced’.

The Apartheid wall that divides Bethlehem
Of course what Wineman really means is that one should not distinguish between a heavily armed army of occupation and their settlers and the indigenous people, the Palestinians.

By saying that the passing of the motion showed ‘a complete disregard for the importance of Anglican-Jewish relations.” he is saying that supporting  settler violence is a part of the core belief system of British Jews? 

And the Chief Rabbi warned that the motion would do “serious damage to Jewish-Christian relations”.  Quite whether he was speaking as Chief Rabbi or just a plain bigot is unclear.  Or maybe the two are indistinguishable these days.

Readers who remember the conference of the UCU (University &  College Union) last year will remember the fierce but unsuccessful attempt to defend the Zionist inspired and written European Union Monitoring Committee’s Draft definition of anti-Semitism. What does the EUMC definition say?  Anti-semitism is:
'Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.'

And that is what the Board are doing.  Saying Jews in this country are collectively associated with Israel's war crimes.  The Board of Deputies purports to speak for all Jews, though the election of its delegates make the Rotten Borough of Old Sarum seem like a model of democracy.  By deliberately implying that settler violence against the Palestinians is supported by most if not all Jews in Britain, it is anti-Semitic even by the definition that they support.  In fact it is worse, because the Board is well aware that ‘anti-Semitism’ in this country is primarily a consequence of some people actually believing the Board and therefore targeting innocent Jews.  The headline of the article should really be 'BOD Actively Seeks to Create anti-Semitism'.

Of course the machers of the Board of Deputies and even more so the Jewish Leadership Council under Micky Davies, CEO of mining conglomerate Xstrata, won't experience any backlash since their own homes are well protected, out of the way and they can in any case afford to be chauffered from one meeting to another.

Michael Davies is a good example of why Zionism is rotten to the core.

Tony Greenstein

Below is a good article from Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

Church of England backs work of ecumenical programme in Palestine and Israel

Church of England backs Palestine motion in spite of strong Israel lobby pressure

By Ben White, Electronic Intifada
July 09, 2012

Today the Church of England General Synod — the church’s legislative body — overwhelmingly voted in favor of a Private Member’s Motion (PMM) on Palestine/Israel, in spite of pressure from pro-Israel organizations before and during the gathering.

In an embarrassing defeat for the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), both of whom had lobbied hard for Synod to reject the motion, members also rejected an amendment by the Bishop of Manchester which would have omitted support for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

A huge majority

During the afternoon debate, speaker after speaker backed the PMM, and praised the work of EAPPI. When it came to the vote, which was done according to ‘house’, bishops voted 21 to 3 in favour (with 14 abstentions), clergy 89 to 21 (44 abstentions), and laity 91 to 30 (35 abstentions). In total, the unaltered motion received 201 votes, while only 54 members voted against.

The short motion [see below] commits Synod to support: the work of EAPPI (including making “use of the experience of returning participants”), aid agencies working with Palestinians, “Israelis and Palestinians in all organisations working for justice and peace in the area” (citing Parents Circle – Family Forum specifically), and “organisations that work to ensure” the “continuing presence [of Christian Palestinians] in the Holy Land”.

The proposal, authored by Dr. John Dinnen of Hereford Diocese, had received backing from groups like Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Despite that, BoD and the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks argued that the church risked harming “interfaith relations” by supporting the motion.

The displeasure of Israel’s supporters was focused on the singling out of EAPPI, an initiative of the World Council of Churches that over the last decade has sent more than 1,000 volunteers to Palestine/Israel. The motion also backed bereaved relatives group The Parents Circle-Family Forum, “aid agencies”, Israeli and Palestinian “organizations working for justice and peace”, and bodies assisting Palestinian Christians.

Pro-Israel groups insinuations of anti-Semitism fall flat

Initially misleading their own supporters, the BoD sent a letter to Synod members, along with a leaflet attacking EAPPI. While in the letter the BoD said it “naturally commends those who want to protect the rights of the Palestinians living in the West Bank”, Chief Executive Jon Benjamin told The Times that to focus on “the perceived iniquities of the Israelis” also, “by implication”, points the finger at “Jews abroad.”

Aside from the Chief Rabbi’s intervention, there was an unsubstantiated insinuation of antisemitism by the Council of Christians and Jews, and weak attempts at guilt by association from JLC CEO Jeremy Newmark. Canon Andrew White released a rather bizarre statement – reprising his contribution to the 2006 divestment controversy – in which he claimed “Synod is being asked to adopt a one sided ‘NAKBA’ [sic] narrative against Israel while our fellow Christians are dying in Iraq, Sudan, Egypt and Syria”.

Those efforts were aided by sympathizers in the media, specifically The Times’ Ruth Gledhill, and the Church of England Newspaper. In a piece last week, Gledhill described the Chief Rabbi’s intervention as “highly unusual”; in fact, it is a repeat of (unsuccessful) efforts in 2010 to persuade the Methodists not to back a boycott of settlement products.

In an article in the Church of England Newspaper, Florida-based journalist George Conger, did not even get motion-proposer John Dinnen’s name correct, and contrary to Conger’s claim, Dinnen says he was not approached for comment. During the 2006 divestment controversy, Conger was praised by a pro-Israel campaigner as a helpful point of contact.

Both Gledhill and Conger cited NGO Monitor as an authority on the activities of EAPPI, an organisation which routinely attacks Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights groups, including through the use of misleading translations and disingenuous allegations of antisemitism.

Indeed, even during the debate itself, as well as after the vote, leaders of the BoD and JLC resorted to making pathetic claims of antisemitism on Twitter.

Defending the indefensible

Israel’s apologists claimed to be speaking in the name of the Jewish community – for example, BoD Vice President Jonathan Arkush said he was attending Synod as a means of the “Jewish community expressing its views.” Yet many do not share the BoD’s “views” on Israeli policies.

It is less surprising that the BoD is attacking the proposed motion when one recalls that the body repeatedly intervenes to protect Israel on a number of issues: whether lobbying the government to change universal jurisdiction legislation, opposing schools’ participation in a Palestinian literary festival, or pressuring the Co-Op supermarket chain to reverse a decision to boycott companies complicit in breaches of international law.

This time around, the pressure on Synod members failed to thwart the adoption of the motion. This took place just after the Methodist Conference, where delegates overwhelmingly backed a Christian Aid call for a government ban on West Bank settlement products. Supporting international law and human rights is becoming less ‘controversial’, and Israel’s defenders are finding it increasingly tough to defend the indefensible.

Private Member’s Motion, Palestine and Israel
Moved by Dr John Dinnen, Church of England Synod
10 July 2012

‘That this Synod affirm its support for:

(a) the vital work of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI),
encouraging parishioners to volunteer for the programme and asking churches and synods to make use of the experience of
returning participants;

(b) mission and other aid agencies working amongst Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere in the region;

(c) Israelis and Palestinians in all organisations working for justice and peace in the area, such as the Parents Circle – Families Forum; and

(d) Palestinian Christians and organisations that work to ensure their continuing presence in the Holy Land.’

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