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Newcastle inter-faith talks ended over EAPPI vote: The Church of England Newspaper, August 19, 2012 p 6. August 20, 2012

Posted by geoconger in British Jewry, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Judaism.
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While formal relations between the Anglican Communion and Judaism appear unaffected by last month’s General Synod vote to endorse the work of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), the 9 July vote has seen a breakdown in some local ecumenical relationships with the Church of England.

The Representative Council of North-East Jewry has broken off relations with Bishop Martin Wharton of the Diocese of Newcastle in response to his support for the EAPPI motion.  However, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office reports that a two-day meeting held after the synod vote of the Anglican-Jewish Commission of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel  had been cordial.

Meeting from 31 July to 1 August at Mansfield College, Oxford, the Anglican-Jewish Commission received papers Dr Jane Clements on “Anglicanism and the Secular State” and Rabbi Rasson Arousi on “Democracy in Judaism’s Political Vision”.

A communique from the gathering stated the commission also discussed “various matters of concern, including the recent Private Member’s Motion that related to Israel/Palestine at the Church of England’s General Synod.”

The commission acknowledged the strain imposed on Anglican-Jewish relations by the Synod vote stating “there was acknowledgement that this had caused much distress within the Jewish community in Britain and also within the Christian community as well as in Israel and beyond.”

However, it also noted there was “appreciation” for the “efforts of all those who were engaged on the issue to introduce greater understanding and a wider perspective. The Commission discussed steps that could be taken to address the complexities of the challenges raised.”

Last week the Jewish Chronicle reported that the presidents of the Representative Council of North-East Jewry, Brian Mark and Eric Joseph, had written to Bishop Wharton about his vote in favour of the EAPPI motion.  They were perturbed he had endorsed EAPPI “despite…our grave concerns about that proposal, especially that it would encourage anti-Semitism.”

The bishop also aroused their ire by agreeing to attend a meeting sponsored by EAPPI “in Gateshead in November, which plans to include a session on boycotts and divestment by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.”

These actions make “any further contact with the Jewish community in the North-East impossible,” they said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Jewish leaders urge Synod to reject Palestine motion: The Church of England Newspaper, July 1, 2012 p 7. June 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in British Jewry, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Israel, Judaism.
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The Board of Deputies of British Jews has urged General Synod to reject a private member’s motion to endorse the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

The chief executive of the Board of Deputies, Jon Benjamin told The Church of England Newspaper “there are many programmes and organisations seeking to promote tolerance and understanding, bringing both sides of the conflict together. EAPPI doesn’t claim to try to do that, but just focuses on the perceived iniquities of the Israelis — and by implication Jews abroad who support Israel.”

The first clause of the motion “Palestine and Israel” brought by Dr. John Drinnen of the Diocese of Hereford will ask synod to “affirm its support for: (a) The vital work of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), encouraging parishioners to volunteer for the programme and asking churches and synods to make use of the experience of returning participants.”

General Synod Paper 1874a states the EAPPI programme was established in 2002 at the request of the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem and its volunteers “spend about 3 months in Israel and the West Bank including East Jerusalem.”

“In Hebron they escort Palestinian girls to Cordoba School which lies between two Israeli settlements in the heart of this Palestinian town and the girls often suffer threats and attacks by extremist settlers on their way to and from school. Across the West Bank they monitor checkpoints at the separation barrier, where people queue for up to four hours every morning in order to get to work, school or hospital. The International Red Cross and UN humanitarian and human rights agencies rely on the statistical data and eyewitness accounts collected by the EAs at check points or house demolitions. Local people, say they feel safer, and that the world is watching, when they see EAs at work,” the paper said.

In a letter published in the Jewish Chronicle, Mr. Benjamin said Synod would be mistaken if it assumed the EAPPI was the “gold standard in dispassionate and fair reporting from the Holy Land.”

EAPPI’s “lack of balance” was “no mere oversight”, he argued. “The stated purpose of the EAPPI programme is to bear witness to hardships faced by Palestinians at checkpoints or caused by the security barrier,” but “to hear only those voices, and to compound these views further by meeting only Israelis on the political fringes, no effort is made to engage with ordinary Israelis or to appreciate their own aspirations for peace. Instead, they become inclined to a view that there can be no dialogue with Israel, except through boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

Dr. Drinnen did not respond to our request for comments but Ben White writing in the Electronic Intifada denounced the board’s comments as a “misrepresentation” and “smear” of the EAPPI. A spokesman for EAPPI told Mr. White that “EAPPI is surprised and disappointed at being described as ‘anti-Israel’ when we work closely with many respected Israeli NGOs.”

However, the independent Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor last year stated EAPPI was a “biased” organization that “presents a one-sided Palestinian narrative, participating in activities commemorating the Palestinian ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe) and promoting the ‘right of return’. The organization ignores terror attacks against Israelis and blames Israel for the conflict.”

“EAPPI consistently demonizes Israel, making accusations of ‘apartheid,’ ‘war crimes,’ and ‘Bantustans’.” NGO Monitor said, and was active in the boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel.

Mr. Benjamin told CEN there “clearly are hardships faced by Palestinians and they should be addressed,” but to “blame Israel alone is clearly absurd. The EAPPI methodology cannot fail to promote bias.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.