How do you reconcile your duty to speak the truth and seek justice with your refusal to speak out against Israeli Apartheid and the Persecution of Palestinian Christians?
Christian Zionist Justin Welby Gazes Benignly on Israeli Apartheid
Ben Gvir Defends Spitting as an ‘Old Jewish Tradition’
Dear Justin Welby,
You are the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England (CoE). Besides being a pillar of the British state, the CoE has, I believe, at least a passing relationship to Christianity and the Gospels.
I realise that having risen to the dizzying heights of Treasurer to Enterprise Oil you clearly have great difficulty reconciling your allegiance to God with your devotion to Mammon. As the Gospel says:
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. [Matthew 6:24]
Even you must be familiar with Jesus telling his disciples that
‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
It appears that you have resolved this contradiction by choosing Mammon.
Jesus told Pontius Pilate that ‘for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.’ Yet the truth appears to be a stranger to you.
On September 6th you gave a talk on “Reconciliation” at the Embrace the Middle East event at St Martin-in-the-Field. You said that the region was “complex and fraught”, “a tragedy”. You argued that we “must avoid binaries…” insisting that peace in the Middle East can only come from within the region with the stronger party making the first move.
Justin Welby in his City days
You said, and I quote
“I’m extremely conscious that there do not exist, ready-made solutions from this vantage point or any other outside the region. We’re not there. There is not our home. It’s not our base. It’s not where we find our life and our roots. I am speaking as a white, British Archbishop of Canterbury.”
These are weasel words. These sentiments could equally have been applied to apartheid in South Africa or Nazi Germany as a pretext for turning a blind eye to what was happening. After all we weren’t in those places either.
These are arguments for why we should be selfish and turn a blind eye to oppression. They are the exact opposite of the lessons to be drawn from the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Instead of passing by on the other side of the road, as others had done, the Samaritan stopped to help the injured Jewish traveller. It is very clear what you would have done.
About the only true thing that you said in your selfish, meandering passage was that you were White, British and the Archbishop of Canterbury. You accepted no blame for the fact that Britain above all was responsible for the Palestinian refugee problem when it gave away Palestine to the Zionist settlers when it issued the Balfour Declaration.
It is true that the ethnic cleansing and persecution of the Palestinians is a tragedy, however it is untrue that it is complex. It is very simple and the only people who say it is complex are those who defend the status quo.
When European Jewish settlers came to Palestine, the existing Jewish population were opposed to them. Zionism was not a Jewish but a Christian Evangelical project. The first Zionists were Christian imperialists such as Lords Palmerston and Shaftesbury. The latter was an anti-Semite who combined support for Zionism with opposition to Jewish Emancipation.
The enthusiasm of anti-Semites for Zionism was to recur constantly. After all, if you want to be rid of your Jews where better to send them than Palestine? As AB Yehoshua, a famous Israeli novelist said: “Even today, in a perverse way, a real anti-semite must be a Zionist.” [Jewish Chronicle 22.1.82] When Zionism first began most Jews saw it as a form of Jewish anti-Semitism.
As Sir Samuel Montagu (Lord Swaythling), a Liberal MP noted:
Is it not… a suspicious fact that those who have no love for the Jews, and those who are pronounced anti-Semites, all seem to welcome the Zionist proposals and aspiration.?
That was why the only opponent of the Balfour Declaration in Lloyd George’s War Cabinet was its only Jewish member, Sir Edwin Montagu.
The author of the Balfour Declaration, Arthur James Balfour introduced, as Prime Minister in 1905, the Aliens Act designed to keep Jewish refugees out of Britain. Balfour was an avowed anti-Semite.
Zionist settlers began colonising Palestine from the end of the 19th century, using the Bible as their justification and began evicting the indigenous Palestinians, first from the economy and then from the land altogether. This culminated in the Nakba in 1948 resulting in the expulsion of over ¾ million Palestinians. Zionism aimed at creating a Jewish state and that, by necessity, meant expelling the Palestinians.
The CoE was a devoted servant of the British Empire and colonisation. From 1710 until Abolition it owned two slave plantations, Codrington in Barbados. 40% of the slaves it bought were dead within three years. Although Christopher Codrington had stipulated that his bequest was to be used for the education of slaves, when Codrington College was opened in 1745, it was for Whites only.
Slavery, like apartheid, was also ‘complex and fraught’ and it was certainly a ‘tragedy’ –for the slaves – although it was extremely profitable. When slavery was abolished the slave owners, including the CoE, were handsomely compensated, unlike the slaves.
What interested me most about your speech was your assertion that the first move must come from the stronger party. If that is the case then the Palestinians are destined to wait forever. As Martin Luther-King wrote, in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but… groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
If Black people in South Africa had heeded your advice then they would still be waiting for an end to Apartheid. It is of course easy for you to offer such advice. You are not a Palestinian forced to buy bottled water because your wells have been filled with cement by the Israeli army whilst Jewish settlements have unlimited free water, to give just one example of the Apartheid you deny.
You made a plea for “listening” which you then proceeded to ignore. Your two other speakers explained to you Israeli apartheid. Your real reason for refusing to call out Israeli apartheid was that it would bring forth accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’. The Holocaust would have been invoked by Israel’s apologists, as if those murdered by the Nazis would have given their approval to racial discrimination similar to that which German Jews experienced between 1933 and 1939.
Welby with his Zionist friends at the Board of Deputies
Part of the problem is your exceptionalising anti-Semitism as the only form of racism. In your speech to the Board of Deputies you said:
antisemitism is the root of all racism and the absolute foundation of all racism in our societies. If it’s permissible to hate Jews, it’s permissible to hate all others who are different to ourselves.
This is absolute nonsense. Was anti-Semitism responsible for slavery? Was anti-Semitism responsible for the famine in Ireland and Apartheid in South Africa? Anti-Semitism has become the false anti-racism of the Right and your comments paint you firmly as an out and out racist.
Of course those who subscribe to a racist agenda domestically against refugees – the Sunaks, Starmers and Bravermans – would be outraged by the suggestion that Israel is an apartheid state. It seems that you have made political cowardice into an art form. It wasn’t always like that.
Your predecessor Robert Runcie was a man of courage who commissioned Faith in the City which challenged Thatcher’s disregard of the urban poor and her monetarist policies. He also stood up to Thatcher’s chauvinism over the Falklands whereas you have remained silent over this government’s demonisation of refugees. The only group you have defended are the bankers with whom you socialised.
You referred to Israel’s non-existent constitution as proof that it is not an apartheid state. Perhaps you can tell us what qualifications you possess that Amnesty International, B’tselem and Human Rights Watch lack given that they have all reached the opposite conclusion?
It is clear that your view of Israel does not have any factual or evidential basis. Rather it is a question of political expediency. Instead of taking the trouble to learn about what is happening to the Palestinians you prefer the cheap applause of Tory tabloids and the government.
You are not the first Archbishop of Canterbury to turn a blind eye to racial oppression and injustice. Your predecessor during the Nazi era, Cosmo Gordon Lang was of the opinion that the Jews were responsible for Nazi anti-Semitism . Supporting Zionism and settler colonialism aligns you with the British Establishment and that is your main concern.
What I found particularly disturbing was the Report of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and your conversation with their British Director, Linda Ramsden after the Embrace Annual Lecture.
During the reception which followed, Linda spoke to the Archbishop and asked if he would meet with Jeff Halper when he is in London this autumn because as an Israeli Jew, he has spent nearly 30 years specifically working in support of Palestinians. She was shocked and embarrassed by his discourteous response. The Archbishop drew near to her face, looked her directly her eyes and said, “No. I have no time in my diary.” He then turned away.
Perhaps you might tell us what it is that is so important that you refuse to find out about Israel’s practice of demolishing Palestinian (but not Jewish) homes? Or are you worried that once you have learnt the facts you might be expected to act upon them?
You deny that Israel is an Apartheid state yet in the West Bank today there are two sets of laws for Palestinians and Jewish settlers. The former are subject to military law whereas the latter are governed by Israeli civil law.
Two legal regimes for two sets of people in the same territory is the quintessential definition of apartheid. Even Tamir Pardo, the former head of Israel’s Mossad (MI6) has recently stated that
“There is an apartheid state here. In a territory where two people are judged under two legal systems, that is an apartheid state.”
So what is it about this that you don’t understand?
It is clear Welby that your refusal to accept that Israel is operating an apartheid regime has everything to do with British politics and nothing to do with the situation in Palestine. In other words your behaviour is the complete opposite of the lessons that are drawn from Jesus and the Disciples. It would be easy to put it down to political cowardice but it is clear that it also stems from your reactionary politics.
Desecration of Christian Graves
I haven’t even mentioned the situation of the Christian Church itself in Palestine and Jerusalem such as the wave of spitting attacks, which the Kahanist Minister of Police Ben Gvir has justified as being an old Jewish tradition! To say nothing of the desecration of graveyards, the seizure of Church lands and the destruction of sacred objects.
Your silence over these attacks reminds me of when the exiled Polish bishop Karol Radonski attacked Pius XII as ‘et papa tacet’ (‘and the Pope remains silent’) over the murder of Polish Catholics.
What you fail to understand is that an ethno-religious state, be it Christian or Jewish, is inevitably racist because it automatically consigns those of a different religion to a second class citizenship, at best. Israel is an inherently racist state and your refusal to criticise it is also racist.
I am sure that you are familiar with the saying that ‘“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It is somewhat ironic that you of all people should be living proof of its truth. I won’t call you, as Noel Edmonds did, ‘the reincarnation of evil’ but your silence over the evils of Zionism is in contrast to your plea for forgiveness and understanding of the bankers whose frauds ushered in the age of austerity and misery for millions.
In July 2013 you warned against naming and shaming bankers, which you compared to the behaviour of a lynch mob. I don’t recall you speaking up when refugees and disabled claimants are under attack.
You were, of course, following in the footsteps of your predecessor George Carey, a Christian Zionist, who actively protected Bishop Peter Ball who was gaoled in October 2015 for 32 months for abusing those in his care.
In May 2021 you apologised after allegations that barrister and evangelical Christian, John Smyth, beat boys at church camps in the late 1970s until their wounds bled and left permanent scars. Smyth was the Chair of Christian charity the Iwerne Trust.
You were a dormitory officer at camps run by the Iwerne Trust. Smyth was described by you in 2017 as “charming” and “delightful.” You even swapped Christmas cards for some years. Andrew Atherstone in Risk Taker and Reconciler, described you as having been
involved in the camps as an undergraduate […] businessman and theological college student in the 1980s and early 1990s.
At first you said “I had no contact with them at all”. It later materialised that you had attended the camp in this period and had continued to receive the camp newsletter. In 2017 you issued an ‘‘unreserved and unequivocal’ apology’ after your links to Smyth were revealed.
In 2012 a victim of Smyth reported the abuse to the Church of England and you say you were informed in 2013. You maintained that this was the first time you had heard of the abuse by your old friend. However there are credible doubts about your story.
In 1982 Mark Ruston carried out an investigation into the allegations on behalf of the Iwerne Trust, of which you were an officer. Although Ruston confirmed that the allegations were true, the trust decided not to refer Smyth to the authorities.
The New York Times of 14 October 2017 quoted a senior Church of England figure as saying that
all senior members of the trust, including officers like Archbishop Welby, had been made aware of the allegations against Mr Smyth, even those who had been abroad
Alan Wilson, a CoE bishop who is friends with former Iwerne members, said that he found it hard to believe your denials.
I have no evidence, but I haven’t met a single Iwerne person who thinks it’s credible that Justin Welby didn’t know that Smyth had left the country under a cloud connected to his behavior toward boys who had been on Iwerne camps.
Questions have remained among Smyth victims as to when you first knew. Some have labelled you an “observer“, a term denoting a person who knew about abuse but who did not report it.
Unfortunatelyyou have refused to take your own advice on ‘the highest possible standards’. Despite multiple calls to resign you stayed on.
In the meantime you are employing your undoubted talent to turning a blind eye to abuse and injustice to covering up the abuse of the Israeli State against Palestinian Christians.
Israeli Forces Storm Al-Aqsa Mosque
The War Against Palestinian Christians
Despite the Zionist myth that their control of Jerusalem enables freedom of worship the opposite is the case. The repression of Muslims and the attacks on Al Aqsa worshippers, with police batons and stun grenades, are a matter of record. Imagine that the same happened in a Tehran synagogue. It would be heralded as the return of the Third Reich yet Israeli attacks against Muslims go unremarked.
In June Al-Monitor reported that there had been multiple verbal and physical attacks by Jews since the beginning of the year against Christians and Christian sites in Jerusalem. Hate crimes in Jerusalem are nothing new, but they have been treated as a fringe occurrence. That perception had changed in the last few months.
Father Francisco Patton, the Vatican’s Custodian of Christian Sacred Sites in the Holy Land described how
I am very concerned as I watch the rise in acts of violence and hatred against Christians. Not a week goes by without Christians being heckled and spat at, graffiti, vandalism and other forms of harassment.
In an interview with Israeli TV, Patton, blamed Israel’s politicians, arguing that the wave of attacks began “when the political language became more violent.” Amongst the incidents were the desecration of a Lutheran cemetery, the vandalizing of a Maronite prayer room and the spraying of “death to Christians” on Armenian property.
In June an undercover journalist from Channel 13 spent a day dressed as a priest in Jerusalem to investigate hate crimes against Christians. Donning a priest’s robe, Channel 13’s Yossi Eli was spat at just five minutes after setting out with a Franciscan clergyman, Father Alberto.
A bit later a man mocked them in Hebrew, saying, “Forgive me father for I have sinned.” Then an 8-year-old spat at them, as did a soldier. This is not the first time that soldiers have been caught committing hate crimes against Christians in Jerusalem. In November, troops from the Givati infantry brigade spat at the Armenian archbishop.
In July it was reported that an event organised by Messianic Jews was attacked by dozens of young religious nationalists. Most of them were from Lehava which opposes intermarriage and gay rights and Or l’Achim, which counters Christian proselytization in Israel.
Weeks earlier Arieh King, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem led hundreds of religious Jews in chants of “missionaries go home” as hundreds of Christians gathered near the Western Wall for a prayer event. Because it isn’t a secular state, any attempt to convert Jews to another religion is considered akin to treason. King said that “As far as I’m concerned, let every missionary know they are not welcome in the Land of Israel.”
In June a conference organised by the Open University in Jerusalem to discuss the increasing violence against Christians in Palestine “Why do (some) Jews spit on Goyim” was held. It was denounced by the Mayor of Jerusalem and boycotted by the Israeli government.
According to a report the Israeli Foreign Ministry boycotted the conference because according to Yisca Harani, one of Israel’s leading experts on Christianity, “I got a call from a Foreign Ministry official who said that the name of the conference is inappropriate and, therefore, they are not going to attend,”.Complicity in Hate: Israeli Government Boycotts Conference on Attacks Against Christians
Nikodemus Schnabel, who presides over the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition in Jerusalem, told the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung that attacks against Christians have increased because “those who hate Christians now sit in the government.” In an interview with America Magazine, he was more specific.
In 2015, I could say there are these Jewish terrorists [attacking Christians and Christian holy sites], but the official Israel is supporting us.
Now we monks have to live under a government, one of whose members is an extreme Christian hater. The minister of national security [Itamar Ben Gvir] was the defence lawyer of the Jewish terrorists who carried out the arson [on a church] in Tabgha…
How should I feel secure and safe under this government?
Middle East Eye reported in July that Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, was elevated to the rank of Cardinal. The Archbishop interpreted it as “a sign of attention from the Church of Rome towards the Mother Church, the Church of Jerusalem”.
The nomination was the first extended to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem since the seat was established in 1847. It is perceived as a statement by the Pope against rising Israeli violence in the Holy Land.
Wadie Abu Nassar referred to the spike in anti-Christian hate crimes, in which the atmosphere of Jewish supremacy had translated into violence against Christians and harassment of clergy. These include trespassing on churches, spitting on churchgoers, destruction of Christian symbols and vandalising Christian graves.
There are about 185,000 Christians in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, representing just under two percent of the country’s population. The vast majority of them are Palestinians living in Nazareth and Haifa, while around 13,000 live in Jerusalem.
Pizzaballa in an interview with the Associated Press said the new far–right government had made life worse for Christians, emboldening extremists who harass clergy and vandalise religious property.
The frequency of these attacks, the aggressions, has become something new. These people feel they are protected… that the cultural and political atmosphere now can justify, or tolerate, actions against Christians.
The situation today in Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, contradicts the propaganda of Netanyahu who proclaimed in a 2018 speech to Christian Zionists in Brazil that “There is only one safe place for Christians in the Middle East… That’s in the State of Israel,”
Ahead of Christmas 2021, Francesco Patton wrote an article warning that “Holy Land Christians are at threat of extinction”.
Physical and verbal harassment are not the only disturbing phenomena. Many Christian leaders believe that they are just manifestations of a far-reaching plan aimed at the Judaisation of Jerusalem’s Old City, with churches being one of many obstacles in the city to be removed.
A new national park planned on the Mount of Olives is of particular concern to the Christian community and local churches. If implemented, the park will be built on church-owned lands belonging to several churches, among them the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Catholic Church and the Armenian Patriarchate.
In recent weeks there has been an upsurge in spitting incidents. Ha’aretz reported several incidents of Jews in Jerusalem’s Old City. Tens of thousands of Jews joined in events and prayers for the Sukkot holiday during which many of the spitting incidents were recorded. Most of the individuals filmed in the act were Jewish youths who spat on church buildings or at Christian worshipers they have encountered.
One such spitting incident was recorded as a group of Christian worshippers made its way out of a church by the Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City while carrying a large cross. As the group walked up the street, it ran into a procession of hundreds of Jews. As soon as they noticed the Christian worshippers they began to spit.
Nuns at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
An editorial in Ha’aretz noted how the video of this spitting incident sparked outrage from around the world and shocked many Israelis. But there were also those who justified the spitters, one of whom is Elisha Yered, a far-right activist and the spokesman for Limor Son Har-Melech MK, of the Religious Zionism party. According to Yered, spitting at Christians is an “ancient Jewish custom”.
A desecrated statue of Jesus was vandalized by a Jewish extremist in the Church of the Flagellation in Jerusalem, in February.Credit: AMMAR AWAD
But although the phenomenon isn’t new, it’s changing in nature and becoming more common. The most important development recently has been its spread to the Muslim Quarter. In the past it was mainly the members of the Armenian Church, which is adjacent to the Jewish Quarter, who suffered from the spitting.
In recent years it has expanded to the route of the Via Dolorosa that passes from Lions’ Gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which passes mainly through the Muslim Quarter. This is a route on which hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims march every year.
Haifa’s Stella Maris church has had to put up with ultra-Orthodox Jews making pilgrimage to what they consider is the grave of the Prophet Elisha. It started with only a few visitors then it progressed to include dozens “bursting” into the church and holding prayers in a “provocative manner”, according to George Shehade, a Haifa resident:
For the monastery, things are clear. There is a [Jewish] religious group who came to seize the monastery, saying they have a right, but this is an aggression that we will stand against”.
The monastery is the world headquarters of a Catholic religious order, the Carmelites. The order was formed at the end of the 12th century when according to tradition, a French crusader who had gone to the Holy Land had a vision of Christ denouncing the evil done by soldiers.
Fearing the loss of their church, Palestinian Christian volunteers are now present day in day out, determined not to allow any more Jewish prayers at the site. A metal fence has been erected to keep out undesired visitors.
Also in Haifa, Orthodox Jews have attempted to storm the St. Eljah Cathedral, a Melkite Greek Catholic church serving Greek-Catholics that was constructed in 1939. The incidents at Haifa’s Stella Maris monastery and St. Elijah Cathedral are occurring following multiple attacks against Christian sites in Jerusalem, the most recent of which was at the Church of the Tomb of Mary in occupied East Jerusalem.
Following the attack on the Church of the Tomb of Mary in March, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem finally appealed for “international protection” of holy sites citing “terrorist attacks, by radical Israeli groups, targeting churches, cemeteries, and Christian properties“.
At the beginning of the year, two young Jewish men vandalised a Christian cemetery near Jaffa Gate. Then in February, A Jewish-American tourist vandalised a statue depicting Jesus at a Catholic Church inside the Old City near Bab al-Asbat (Lion’s Gate).
Palestinian Christians ask why it is that the authorities’ reactions are swift and robust when Jews are attacked yet soft and insufficient when indicting a Jew for attacking a Christian person or property.