Sabeel Kairos describes itself as "a campaigning Christian charity that works for human rights, justice and equality for Palestinians in partnership/solidarity with the Christian community in the Holy Land". It recently had a letter published in the Anglican newspaper, Church Times, drawing attention to the moral inadequacy of the a recent House of Bishops statement about the situation in Gaza. We reproduce the letter below. You can read the original in Church Times, 17th November 2023.
The House of Bishops statement and Gaza’s future
From Charlotte Marshall, Miranda Pinch, and Lynn McAllister
Sir, — Several readers have commented in the past two weeks on the statement by the House of Bishops concerning Gaza. We commend Dr Jonathan Chaplin’s critical analysis (Letters, 10 November) of the Bishops’ failure to condemn the attacks on civilians by Israel as violations of international law, and potential war crimes, and the total lack of contextual analysis by the Bishops regarding 75 years of historical injustices against the Palestinian people.
Another question that has not been openly addressed by the Church, and barely the media, is what happens to Gaza once Israel feels satisfied that it has fulfilled its goals? Even were the physical manifestation of Hamas to be obliterated, it must be remembered that Hamas is based on an ideology formed through a long injustice towards the Palestinian people. Israel has openly denied Palestinians a state of their own and seems intent on annexing the whole of the West Bank, as it has already done in East Jerusalem. We are now told that Israel wants to take military control of Gaza as it has done in Area C of the West Bank.
In forming the current government, Mr Netanyahu’s coalition agreement, although not legally binding, stated that “the Jewish people have an exclusive right on all the land” between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. It doesn’t mention the Palestinians. The Israeli government rhetoric concerning Gaza has been equally damning. Pictures of Israeli soldiers celebrating their “retaking” of Gaza beaches have been widely circulated.
It is hard to imagine any child who survives what some are calling “genocide” to hold any but feelings of hatred toward those who have blockaded, imprisoned, and bombed them over the past 16 years. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, fear is palpable amongst Palestinians, as Jewish Israeli settlers (not specifically labelled as such in the Bishops’ statement, lending itself to confusion over who “inhabitants of settlements” really are) run rampage. People without hope become the most dangerous, as we learn from history. As in Iraq, the danger is that an even more dangerous entity will be created.
It is time that the Church of England recognised the disparity in its attitude toward the rights and lives of Israelis and Palestinians and called for a solution that includes the recognition that all are equal in the eyes of God. If it continues in its current trajectory, it is serving only itself with its balanced and careful words that do not speak truth to power or hold the lives of Palestinians as sacred as Israelis’.
We would refer readers to “A Call for Repentance: An Open Letter from Palestinian Christians to Western Church Leaders and Theologians”, in which they say in the last paragraph: “Finally, and we say it with a broken heart, we hold western church leaders and theologians who rally behind Israel’s wars accountable for their theological and political complicity in the Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, which have been committed over the last 75 years. We call upon them to reexamine their positions and to change their direction, remembering that God ‘will judge the world in justice’ (Acts 17:31).”
Charlotte Marshall, Director of Sabeel-Kairos UK; Miranda Pinch, Lynn McAllister, representing the Sabeel-Kairos C of E campaign group Sabeel-Kairos, UKPO Box 18336, Birmingham B31 9FY