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Opinion Section | The Telegraph | 24 June 2005
The Christian West has a marked, and growing, prejudice against the state of Israel that the government of that country ignores at its peril. The latest instance will be laid before the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham tomorrow, in the form of a recommendation that the 38 provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion should consider divesting themselves of holdings in companies that support the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The recommendation stems from a report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issued last September by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN). One of its main backers is Bishop Riah Hanna Abu El-Assal of Jerusalem, who hosted the network's delegation during a 10-day visit.
The report is a piece of sanctimonious claptrap whose authors didn't even bother to talk to Ariel Sharon's government. It takes scant account of the trauma to which the second intifada has subjected Israeli civilians and endorses policies, such as the right of return of Palestinian refugees since 1948, that would spell the death of the Jewish state. It has rightly been condemned by, among others, the International Council of Christians and Jews, Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Sir Jonathan Sachs, the Chief Rabbi.
If the APJN recommendation is accepted by the consultative council tomorrow, it will be passed to the individual provinces for a decision on implementation. In most cases, they will do nothing. But the American Episcopal Church, which is a member of the Anglican Communion, is considering disinvestment, while the Presbyterian Church (USA) has already embarked on that course. Even where it is shelved, it will serve as a powerful symbol of hostility to Israel.
Mr Sharon is a "power and stockade Zionist" who believes in accomplishing "facts on the ground". His government is not doing nearly enough to advance the moral case for Israel to those Christians who believe that the present-day population has nothing to do with the Jewish aboriginals and therefore has no right to Palestinian land. The further the Holocaust recedes into history, the less Mr Sharon can count on natural sympathy for the Zionist cause. The fact that two Churches in the United States, a country whose support Israel tends to take for granted, are at the forefront of the moves to disinvest is a salutary warning: moral force is just as important as acquiring the latest military gismos from Washington.