The former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday he was "ashamed to be an Anglican" following Monday's vote by the Church of England to disinvest from companies whose products are used by the Israeli government in the territories.
The February 6 divestment vote, which was backed by current Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, was "a most regrettable and one-sided statement," Lord Carey said, and one that "ignores the trauma of ordinary Jewish people" in Israel subjected to terrorist attacks.
Lord Carey joined Jewish leaders protesting the vote by the General Synod, the church's legislature, to adopt a "morally responsible investment in the Palestinian occupied territories and, in particular, to disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc., until they change their policies."
The church's call to pressure Caterpillar and other multi-nationals to withdraw from the territories was a "one-eyed" response that "only rebukes one side," Lord Carey said, and displayed the church's "propensity to reduce complex issues to black and white."
Jon Benjamin, the chief executive officer of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, branded the synod vote "simplistic" and "unbalanced."
"What it shows is that the thinking of people who support these resolutions is not very sophisticated," he said. There were sound reasons why the Israeli government had adopted its security policies, but these were never "aired or discussed" by the synod, Benjamin said.
During the one-hour debate that preceded the vote, a letter from the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Riah Abu al-Assal, condemning the Israeli government's use of Caterpillar tractors to demolish Palestinian homes was read to the synod.
The bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt. Rev. John Gladwin, said he held Israel responsible for the worsening plight of Palestinian Christians, telling the synod, "Caterpillar may be a company being used for dreadful purposes across the world, but the problem is not Caterpillar. The problem is the situation in the Middle East and the government of Israel."
The chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Herbert, bishop of St. Albans, disagreed and objected to the disinvestment call, telling the synod it was "unbalanced" and failed to reflect the complexity of the situation. A counter motion offered by the pro-Israel pressure group "Anglicans for Israel" was not presented to the synod, as time was called on the debate after one hour.
The synod adopted the motion by a show of hands, with Archbishop Williams voting in favor, and the archbishop of York, John Sentamu, abstaining.
Dr. Irene Lancaster, of the Center for Jewish Studies at Manchester University, said the vote marked "a very black day for Anglican-Jewish relations."
"The Jewish community will have to reconsider their attitude to interfaith work with the Anglican community," she said, adding, "The writing is on the wall for the Jews of Great Britain, 350 years after they settled here."
The symbolism of this vote was that "Israel will be criticized regardless of what happens," Benjamin said. In the mind of the Church of England, "nothing Israel ever will do will be right, while nothing the Palestinians will do will ever be wrong," he charged.
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