Jewish support for Church of England Synod motion

The Palestine and Israel motion tabled for next month’s Church of England General Synod has received strong support from British-based group Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP).

In an official statement, the network of Jews in Britain supportive of Palestinian rights slammed the “misleading and biased attack” launched by the Board of Deputies of British Jews on the motion and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) in particular.

The full text is as follows.

Jews for Justice for Palestinians statement

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has launched a misleading and biased attack on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), in response to news that Church of England General Synod is due to debate and vote on a Private Member’s Motion (PMM) put forward by Dr John Dinnen. This PMM includes a call for the Synod to affirm its support for EAPPI.

The Board of Deputies accuses EAPPI of creating “a cohort of very partisan but very motivated anti-Israel advocates who have almost no grasp of the suffering of normal Israelis”. But EAPPI seeks a just solution to the Israel/Palestine issue that will benefit both Palestinians and Israelis. It operates in term of what it calls “principled impartiality”, its Code of Conduct stating: “We do not take sides in this conflict and we do not discriminate against anyone but we are not neutral in terms of principles of human rights and international humanitarian law. We stand faithfully with the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. We want to serve all parties in this conflict in a fair and unbiased manner in word and action.”

Dr Dinnen’s PMM also includes a call for the Synod to affirm its support for “Israelis and Palestinians in all organisations working for justice and peace in the area, such as the Parents Circle-Families Forum”. This is an organization enthusiastically welcomed in advance of its 2007 UK visit by Flo Kaufmann, Board vice president and chair of its international division. Its UK supporters’ organisation lists Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks among its patrons.

In our view, it is the Board that is partisan, whereas Dr Dinnen’s PMM is balanced in its support for Israeli, Palestinian and international organisations working for reconciliation.

The Board claims that Ecumenical Accompaniers receive only two weeks of residential training beforehand and do not learn about the views of the majority of Israelis. In fact the training takes several months, with many explanations of the mainstream Israeli point of view. While in the region, the Ecumenical Accompaniers visit Israel many times. The Ecumenical Accompaniers are not only Christians but include Muslims and Jews (some of whom are signatories of Jews for Justice for Palestinians).

We cannot help but feel that the Board’s objection is to the core of the EAPPI mission itself, which is “to provide up-to-date, reliable information on the occupation”. Perhaps the Board thinks that the only problem with the occupation is that human-rights organisations like EAPPI insist on witnessing and talking about the injustices they witness.

The Board of Deputies claims to represent the British Jewish community, but fails to take into account the growing concern among British Jews - a concern extending far beyond our signatories - about the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. JfJfP recently wrote to the President of the Board of Deputies, Vivian Wineman, to ask him what the Board of Deputies is doing to represent and respond to the increasing anxiety within the British Jewish community about the Israeli government’s policies. We cited as just a few examples: a) child prisoners; b) administrative detention; c) house demolitions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; d) the Supreme Court’s recent upholding of the 2003 law that prevents Palestinians from the Occupied Territories who are married to Palestinian citizens of Israel from obtaining Israeli citizenship or residency; e) the relentless growth of settlements in the Occupied Territories. Mr Wineman’s letter in response never answered this question or addressed the issues raised.

Jews for Justice for Palestinians exists to give voice to this increasing concern within the Jewish community about the Israeli government’s destructive and self-destructive policies. JfJfP applauds the monitoring and protective activities of EAPPI and the efforts of all Israelis and Palestinians working for justice and peace, and very much hopes that the Synod will vote in favour of Dr Dinnen’s PMM.


Ben White

Ben White's picture

Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian‘s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ (2009, Pluto Press) and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination & Democracy’ (2012, Pluto Press). Ben is a researcher/writer for the Journal of Palestine Studies.