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The Western veil falls – we are now the ‘baddies’ of the movie

Updated: Jan 6

In a brilliant and moving Christmas Day sermon, Lutheran Pastor Munther Isaac of Bethlehem pointed a finger at Westerners, their governments and their churches. He held them accountable for the mass murder that is unfolding in Gaza, and for gross hypocrisy over human rights. After a visit to the USA in November, he was amazed by the amount of Christmas decorations and lights, and all the commercial goods, but he couldn’t help observing that “America sends us bombs while celebrating Christmas in their land”.


Western governments and public figures had lined up to give the green light for this genocide by veiling the background and context of the October 7th attacks and the nature of the Israeli response. Western churches had misused theology in defense of the status quo, either remaining silent out of fear of “being political” or weaponising the Bible against Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Palestinians were angry, broken and tormented by the complicity of Western governments in the unfolding disaster that is befalling them.

The Pastor spoke to us as individuals, saying that if we were not shaken to our core, there was something wrong with our humanity.  We each needed to ask ourselves where we were when Gaza was going through a genocide. Charity and apologies after the genocide wouldn’t make a difference. There is so much in this sermon that we recommend watching the full 17-minute clip. You can also watch his interview with Owen Jones.

The Christian charity Global Kairos for Justice (Europe) makes similar points in a paper that asks: Are Western Churches still in Communion with Palestinian Christians?  Some churches are keeping silent while Israel is committing war crimes and potentially genocide. The charity goes on to say that:

To act as “true church” in this situation is to acknowledge 75 years of injustice against the Palestinian people, repent of our own Christian failings in supporting and allowing this injustice to continue and now to escalate in a manner never seen before.

Peter Oborne gave his view of this situation on Al Jazeera’s “Centre Stage”. He lambasted Rishi Sunak for giving Israel “unequivocal support” for its Gaza war and for his “moral cowardice” in abstaining on the ceasefire vote. He was equally critical of Keir Starmer who had justified the collective punishment of the Gazans.

Peter looked back to a better age when being British meant being decent, fair-minded, observing the rule of law, and above all supporting the underdog. Now he observed that the liberal democracies of the West were bringing down the global world order that they established, particularly the international law they had put in place after WW2 . In Britain, the media and politicians like Suella Braverman were vilifying minorities, while a vicious new right sought to capture the Conservative Party.

Jonathan Cook points to deeper and longer-term Western failings

Jonathan Cook said much the same about western immorality, but unlike Oborne, did not look back to a “better age” or a lost innocence. Israel’s attack had:


laid bare something primitive and ugly about the West’s behaviour that has been obscured for more than 70 years by a veneer of “progress”, by talk about the primacy of human rights, by the development of international institutions, by the rules of war, by claims of humanitarianism - these claims were invariably bogus. Vietnam, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Ukraine were all sold based on lies. The true goal of the US, and its NATO sidekicks, was plundering the resources of others, maintaining Washington as the global top dog, and enriching a western elite.


We agree with the spirit of what Cook is saying, but the degree to which Western claims are bogus in the countries he mentions needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. According to Cook, the deception worked as long as the purpose of wars was to counter the threat of Soviet communism, Islamic “terror”, renewed Russian imperialism and/or, it could be claimed that the West was liberating oppressed women, protecting human rights, and fostering democracy. However, this narrative did not work with Hamas, a group of fighters hemmed into Gaza that could in no way be portrayed as a threat to the West’s way of life. 

In the absence of a persuasive justification for assisting Israel in its genocidal campaign in Gaza, our leaders have had to wage a parallel war on the western public – or at least on their minds.

To question Israel’s right to exterminate Palestinians in Gaza, to chant a slogan calling for Palestinians to be free of occupation and siege, to want equal rights for all in the region – these are now all treated as the equivalent of antisemitism. To demand a ceasefire to stop Palestinians dying under the bombs is to hate Jews.


Indeed, by using the antisemitism smear, opposition to genocide has been reframed as genocidal. Freedoms of speech and thought are being closed down in institutions where they are supposed to be cherished and protected. We can see the latest manifestation of this in the USA where Congress had grilled the heads of three top universities about the threat of “antisemitism” to Jewish students from campus protests calling for an end to the killing in Gaza.


In Cook’s view, the use of such cynical arguments enhances the credibility of the idea of “class war” that was so thoroughly dethroned in the liberal economic era ushered in by Margaret Thatcher. But Western elites have no answers for the biggest challenges that beset us in the 21st century and are “floundering around to deal with the inherent paradoxes in the capitalist order that liberal democracy was there to obscure”. 


What is driving the inexorable support for Israel? 


While we cannot divine all that occurs behind closed doors, we can postulate various likely causal factors for the ongoing support for Israel. The most obvious of these is the pro-Israel lobby and biased mainstream media that together provide persuasive incentives for politicians and public figures to comply with Israeli wishes and powerful penalties for those who do not. In particular we would draw your attention to the importance of Big Money and the way the political system is organised to accommodate its interests.

In the US, legalisation enabling large, anonymous political donations has made it easier for Congress to be ‘bought’ by special interests such as the leading Israeli lobby AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee). Reuters tells us that Joe Biden has shown an iron-clad commitment to Israel since he entered US national politics in 1973, having received in all $10 million from pro-Israeli groups, the most of any senator. In the UK the two leading parties draw around half of their funding from large or corporate donors, and  in the case of Labour additionally union affiliates. This was less so with Labour under Jeremy Corbyn which relied more on membership subscriptions to swell party coffers. 

There are also various economic factors, notably the integration of Western arms and IT industries with Israel’s burgeoning security state. There is the deepening cooperation between Israel and the so called ‘Five Eyes’ alliance of the US, UK and its three former dominions: Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which forms the backbone of the Western intelligence nexus. In this respect, Israel is a critically important US client state, the lynchpin of the West’s projection of military might in the Middle East, a region still of immense importance because of its hydrocarbon resources (some lying off the coast of Gaza), and a potential or real ally in its geopolitical rivalry with China and Russia.


We must rediscover our moral bearings   


Notwithstanding differing views and emphases, Pastor Munther Isaac, Global Kairos for Justice, Peter Oborne and Jonathan Cook all agree that the West has lost much of the moral high ground it claimed in the aftermath of World War ll. This explains why we in CAMPAIN have focused on the behaviour of Archbishop Welby and the Church of England. The Archbishop is not a very powerful figure but, sitting at the heart of the establishment and recently knighted, he provides cover for wider failings in our body politic.


The moral bankruptcy of his approach to Israel/Palestine is evident in:

  • His treatment of Hamas as uniquely responsible for the death and mayhem of October 7th, and his failure to acknowledge the oppressive and apartheid-like background that underlay it;

  • His contribution to the smear campaign (on grounds of “antisemitism”) against the first British prime ministerial candidate who took seriously the plight of the Palestinians (and who challenged the logic and morality behind our successive Middle Eastern wars), and; 

  • His failure to openly denounce the evils of “Christian Zionism”, far-fetched and wacky doctrines that do untold damage to the Palestinians and the prospects for Middle Eastern peace.

We set out our concerns in our Open Letter to the Archbishops of April 2023 and the report on our survey of 95 serving and 7 retired bishops’ views about apartheid in Israel. The latter was commissioned by a group of ten Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and secular organisations, and revealed much evasion from serving bishops. One of our Anglican members described their response as “mealy-mouthed" and failing “to call a spade a spade”. Significantly however, the retired bishops felt more able to speak their mind and provided stronger and more thoughtful responses.


To put it simply, if a knighted Archbishop cannot grapple with basic issues of right and wrong, the sort of things we learn at our mother’s knee, what can we expect of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, or other public figures with shaky ethics? 


It is time to take action

Whether we are Christian or otherwise, we need to follow up with Anglican bishops, clergy, other denominations and faith leaders, and the media. If you would like to get involved, please write to us at letting us know a little about yourself and where you live.


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