LONDON – The relationship between the Jewish community and the Church of England
has taken a downward turn following its decision to strengthen ties with an
anti- Israel group.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that the Board of
Deputies of British Jews has pulled out of meetings this week with Lambeth
Palace, the official residence of the archbishop of Canterbury.
is also set to be raised at the board’s monthly meeting in which the deputies
will call on the organization to sever all ties to the Church of
At its General Synod in York on Monday, the Church’s highest
legislative body voted overwhelmingly to strengthen ties with the Ecumenical
Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), a group that supports the
boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel and stands accused of
having an anti-Israel stance and harboring a “one-sided”
According to its website, EAPPI brings people to the West Bank
to experience “life under occupation.” The organization takes about 20
“ecumenical accompaniers” to the region every year, where they volunteer in
Hebron, Jayyous or Yanun and accompany Palestinians through checkpoints while
monitoring any perceived abuses. They have no contact with mainstream Israelis
and are expected to participate in 10 speaking events after returning to their
home countries, with most doing many more.
The Board of Deputies has
described the move to support EAPPI as siding with an “inflammatory and
partisan” program at the expense of interfaith relations.
decision using the views of marginal groups in Israel and the UK, the Synod has
ridden roughshod over the very real and legitimate concerns of the UK Jewish community, showing a complete disregard for
the importance of Anglican-Jewish relations,” the board said in a
The Jerusalem-based research organization NGO Monitor said
EAPPI was a major player in the delegitimization campaign against Israel and
that it places blame solely on Israel for the difficulties faced by Christians
in the Holy Land.
“EAPPI is a one-sided advocacy group promoting the
Durban strategy of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, supporting
the Palestinian claim of a ‘right of return,’ which is code for ending Israeli
sovereignty, and systematically ignoring continuous Palestinian terror attacks
against Israeli civilians – each one a war crime,” said Yitzhak Santis, the
chief programs officer at NGO Monitor.
The board also raised concerns
about Monday’s debate and the language used by speakers.
community does not need lessons from the Anglican Church in justice and peace,
themes which originated in our tradition. Moreover, to hear the debate at
the Synod littered with references to ‘powerful lobbies,’ the money expended by
the Jewish community, ‘Jewish sounding names’ and the actions of the community
‘bringing shame on the memory of victims of the Holocaust,’ is deeply offensive
and raises serious questions about the motivation of those behind this
The Israeli Embassy said it was deeply concerned that the Church
had endorsed EAPPI.
“Christians face rising persecution across the region
and yet, by supporting this group, the Church of England has chosen to amplify
one-sided voices and to single out Israel – the only country [in the Middle East
and North Africa] where Christian rights are enshrined and the Christian
population is growing,” a spokesman for the embassy said.
“We share the
concerns of all those within the Church of England who opposed this resolution
as being misguided and undermining hopes for genuine understanding and
The board said that EAPPI’s program lacked any kind of
balance and showed nothing of the context of a hugely complex
“Unsurprisingly, its graduates return with simplistic and
radical perspectives, giving talks against Israel which do nothing to promote an
understanding of the situation in the Middle East, much less promote a peaceful
and viable solution to its problems,” the board said.
[EAPPI] speeches and presentations can appear to be anti-Israel and run the risk
of leading to anti-Jewish sentiment. This is a worrying situation for
those of us dedicated to Jewish-Christian relations and the fight against anti-
Semitism,” said the Council of Christians and Jews, the UK’s oldest interfaith
Rev. John Dinnen, from the Hereford diocese, the author of
the motion, said he was very happy that it passed, maintaining that it “supports
organizations working for a just peace and human rights of Palestinians and
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams abstained in the vote
and supported an amendment that watered down the motion proposed by the bishop
Rev. Dr. Toby Howarth, the interreligious affairs adviser
and secretary for interreligious affairs to the archbishop, said, “We need to
look at what happened at Synod in John Dinnen’s motion quite carefully. It was
passed in all three Houses of Synod, but there was a large number of
abstentions, which reveals a large degree of sympathy for the impact of the
“Looking at the motion as it stands, quite apart from any
background briefings that were provided, it was a motion that would have been
hard for Synod members to vote against. EAPPI is a program that was called for
by local church leaders in Jerusalem through the World Council of
Churches. As was widely acknowledged, there are real issues at border
crossings and settlements which make such a program necessary,” continued
“The particular difficulty highlighted in the debate was the
danger of some returning participants presenting their experiences in a way in
which congregations might understand as representing the whole picture of the
conflict. Many Synod members abstained, not willing to dismiss EAPPI, but
presumably registering that they understood the negative implications for
Jewish-Christian relations of a positive vote.”
Howarth recognized that
the motion has caused hurt and anger within the Jewish community and that it
will take time to work things through.
“The strong relationships built up
over time both at a grassroots level and nationally do provide a solid framework
for dialogue on this and other issues to continue. While Christian-Jewish
relations are dominated at the moment by the Israel- Palestine conflict, not
least because of the stalling of the peace process, there are many other things
that Jews and Christians talk about,” he maintained.