Political outrage from Christian Church Leaders

The one sided statement from Australian Church Leaders is a major step backwards in interfaith relationships.  It is all very well for the Christian leaders concerned to play politics, but their ignorance and one-sidedness is astounding.  In their Statement they claim as follows: 

“We are particularly concerned by the imprisonment of teenagers, mothers with dependent children, and those detained without trial for long periods.  We encountered the debilitating effects on the Palestinian economy and impacts on daily life of the segregated road system, the proliferation of checkpoints and road blocks throughout the West Bank, restrictions on movement of people and goods, and the effective isolation of Palestinian communities from one another.  We were repeatedly told that these matters stand in the way of a just peace.”

There are of course some other matters that stand in the way of a just peace.  Like the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to halt or condemn terrorism.  Or their blatent sanctioning, incitement and encouraging of it.  Like the daily rockets that spray the city of Sderot.  Like the PA constitution that still calls for the total destruction of Israel.  Like the roadmap obligations that have remained unfulfilled by the PA administration.  We could go on, but the facts speak for themselves, even if they do remain unreported and ignored at a political level.

One would expect a strong response to the Church leaders from the Australian Jewish leadership.  Although it has yet to be placed on their website, a Statement was released on 18 December by the ECAJ.  As this is an important issue, here is the text of the Jewish community response:

ECAJ MEDIA STATEMENT: Australian Church Leaders’ Statement Welcomed With ReservationsThe President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Robert M Goot AM SC, today issued the following statement in response to that of the Australian Church Leaders, following their recent visit to Jerusalem and the West Bank:“The goodwill expressed by the Australian Church delegation to Israelis and Palestinians, and their prayers for a comprehensive peace, are appreciated and to be welcomed.  We also welcome their condemnation of terrorism and acknowledge that people of goodwill strive for peace and justice and recognise that religion should be promoted as a force against extremism. However peace will not be achieved by directing criticisms essentially against one side only. “In this respect it is regrettable that following their very brief visit to the region, the Church Leaders overlooked fundamental aspects of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and notably failed to mention Hamas let alone its refusal to disavow murderous attacks aimed specifically at Israeli civilians. Hamas’ Charter in calling  for the violent destruction of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish majority from the entire Holy Land, is a program for genocide. It would have been helpful if the Church Leaders could have called upon the Hamas government in Gaza to recognise Israel, repudiate terrorism and honour existing agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians.  “Against that background, the Church Leaders’ criticisms of the measures taken by Israel to defend its citizens are one-sided and unfair.  Those criticisms imply that other options are open to Israel, but the delegation has not attempted to spell out what they might be.  Nor has the delegation acknowledged that Israel itself is mindful of the effect of its measures on the innocent, and has attempted to alleviate their severity.  “The restrictions on Palestinian movements which the Church Leaders criticise, have also successfully put an end to the wave of terrorist bombings that had killed and maimed thousands of Israeli civilians.  If these restrictions were lifted in response to the Church Leaders’ criticisms, and the attacks on innocent Israeli civilians  resumed, would the Church Leaders accept moral responsibility? “Indeed in August 2005, when Israel withdrew all its forces and dismantled all the settlements in the Gaza Strip, within 24 hours Palestinian terror groups in Gaza began firing rockets and mortars directed at civilian population centres in Israel itself.  Israel has had to take restrictive measures to protect its citizens from these armed cross-border attacks, the very measures that the delegation now appears to criticise. 

“We look forward to our continuing dialogue with the Church Leaders and to learn from them precisely what viable alternatives they believe are available to Israel in the quest for a just and lasting peace for which we all hope and pray”. 

When commenting on the ECAJ response I do not wish to be overly critical.  This organisation has little to no resources and is making a great effort to represent the community.  That the report is not on their website frustrates those of us who seek current communications, but much of that would be due to the time of year.   As for the diplomatic stance of the communication, it is appropriate and warranted given the level and importance of issue.   Most Australian Jews reading the statement would however be far more forthright with their comments.    In the penultimate paragraph of the Statement, the firing of bombs from Gaza is mentioned as a consequence of Israeli withdrawal.  Perhaps the point could also be made in this paragraph that within minutes of vacating Gaza the beautiful Synagogues of these places were trashed and burnt to the ground.  What type of religious tolerance do Chritian leaders expect, and how would they react if their holy places of worship were desecrated and destroyed? 

All things considered, it is astonishing and reprehensible that Christian leaders should issue such a Statement, that blames Israel for the refusal of its enemies to engage in peace.  It is good to see the ECAJ use their mandate to respond, albeit in a soft and polite manner. Perhaps the Christian leaders concerned should have spoken to the Christians of Bethlehem, whose population base has declined.  In 1948 the City of Bethlehem was 85% Christian.  Today it is approximately 10% Christian, and rapidly decreasing.  Perhaps the Church leaders should look at the political charters and Governance of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Perhaps they should see the virtues of religious tolerance and religious freedom in action.  Maybe they would be less inclined to blame the victims, and more pointed in attributing blame towards the perpetrators.  What was that comment that Churchill made about appeasement and feeding crocodiles? 

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