LONDON (Jul. 18)
The Church of England called on Israel this week to negotiate with the Palestinians “to seek a just and peaceful solution” to their conflict.
A resolution backing the British government’s efforts to persuade Israel in that direction was adopted by a 285-4 vote at the church’s General Synod in York.
It followed a heated debate in which some senior Anglican Church members condemned Israel, while others defended it.
A resolution calling for sanctions against Israel, offered by Canon Michael Walker of Ipswich, was defeated. Walker said, “It is sad to think that the people who were so terribly persecuted in the Holocaust are now racially persecuting the Palestinians.”
He was promptly reprimanded by Canon Jim Richardson, executive director of the Council of Christians and Jews.
“Such one-sided, ill-informed comments can only inflame an exceedingly dangerous situation in the Middle East and damage Jewish-Christian relations,” Richardson warned.
Walker said after the debate that he considered himself “a friend of Israel” and did not want his comments “taken too far.”
He acknowledged that “there are no death camps in Israel” but “one gets a very strong impression that Israelis regard the Palestinians as being a lesser race,” Walker said.
“I am not anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, but I believe that we have to point out faults to our friends,” he added.
Judge Israel Finestein, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said, “To talk of ‘racial persecution’ of Palestinian Arabs by Jews is a distortion of the realities of the situation.”
The chief rabbi of Britain, Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, declined to comment on the debate, which also included charges that the World Council of Churches is anti-Semitic.
It was described by George Austin, archdeacon of York, as “anti-white, anti-Western, anti-Semitic and anti-American.”
Austin said the Council of Churches’ anti-Semitism is colored by dislike of Israel.
“They maintain that this is anti-Zionism, not anti-Semitism. But it is a very fine line and certainly, as far as the WCC is concerned, it seems that nothing that Israel does is right,” he said.