Unpublished letters to the JC
We’re not inclined to lament a golden age that never was at the Jewish Chronicle, but we still find it hard to believe how much it has declined in recent years. We still write letters to the editor from time to time, but with virtually no expectation of having them published. Here are four recent unpublished offerings from different JfJfP signatories on the topic of the Board of Deputies’ hysterical reaction to the General Synod daring to consider a motion of support for EAPPI, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (see earlier postings EAPPI and Church of England backs work of ecumenical programme in Palestine and Israel).
PS. Give credit where due. The JC did publish extracts from a letter send by Sharen Green, an Ecumenical Accompanier, in its 29th June edition (together with two letter by other Quakers – who couldn’t possibly have been put up to it – condemning EAPPI). What was edited out of Sharen Green’s letter is as interesting as what was left in: mention of a day visit to Sderot, to Yad Vashem, being encouraged to spend their 12 days leave in Israel, and other things that EAPPI was accused of ignoring or being unaware of, simply disappear, when clearly they are part of the training and/or experience of accompaniers). See letter 5 below.
1. From Abe Hayeem (founding member of Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine), 26 June 2012
RE: The BOD should rethink its Campaign to discredit the EAPPI (JC 22 June 2012)
The near-hysterical reaction by the BOD against the forthcoming motion for Synod support of the EAPPI is quite unwarranted and unseemly. It does not represent the many Jewish people who are deeply concerned about Israel’s actions in the Occupied Territories, and against the forced displacement of Negev Bedouin.
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, backed by the World Council of Churches, brings internationals to the West Bank (including many Jews from the UK, and Israelis, and the Israeli/Palestinian Parents’ Forum) to witness life in the OPTs, and in Israel, although it is those suffering under relentless Occupation that are obviously the main focus, as the greatest threat to peace.
EAPPI provides a protective presence to beleaguered Palestinian communities, under constant threat and attack from extremist settlers and an IDF out of control, to monitor and report human rights abuses (which have been meticulously documented over decades by Israeli human rights organisations like B’Tselem and Rabbis for Human Rights) and supports Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. Their interest, on returning home, is to campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.
Apparently, this does not accord with the BOD’s agenda of denial and refusal to acknowledge Israel’s perpetuation of these human rights infringements, (underlined by its own refusal to visit the Occupied Territories when presented with the opportunity) and trying to silence and misrepresent organisations like the perfectly honourable and respectable EAPPI. To encourage the community to pressure and intimidate the Archbishop and SYNOD not to back the EAPPI, which accords with universal and Christian values, does not reflect well on our community, and sets back chances for reconciliation and peace.
2. From Diana Neslen, c.10th July
The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council seem spectacularly to have misread the situation in their campaign against the resolution on EAPPI (the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel) at the Church of England Synod. This is not surprising given the quality of the arguments that they mustered. The organisations implicitly accepted that what the accompaniers see is indeed human rights abuse. What they disingenuously demanded was that the EA’s have more contact with what they term as ‘mainstream Israelis’, while providing no evidence that there is not already contact with ‘mainstream Israelis’.
Mainstream Jewish Israelis are privileged with respect to Palestinians under occupation, denied rights and justice. The evidence is that the majority see no conflict between their privilege and the denial of rights to Palestinians. It is difficult to understand what they could say to influence EAPPI workers whose brief is to ‘provide (a) protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace’.
Since by implication the Board and the JLC accept that the EAs witness human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories and give testimony about their experiences on their return, it would surely be tactically more effective were these organisations to urge the Israeli Government to abide by the International laws and the International human rights laws to which it is a party. Were they to be successful, they would unquestionably undermine the rationale for EAPPI. Even were their efforts unsuccessful, they could perhaps regain a measure of the respect that they seem to have lost through their unsuccessful lobby endeavours.
3. From Richard Kuper, 13th July
Who does the Chief Rabbi think he is speaking for? Having burnt his fingers on the subject of gay marriage he now accuses the Church of England of causing “serious damage to Jewish-Christian relations”, a view you seem to endorse with your report headlined “Church endorses Israel hate agenda” (JC, 12 July).
Why? Because Synod voted to support the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).
What do EAPPI members do? They go to the West Bank and bear witness. Is it their fault if they see Palestinians unjustly evicted from their homes, armed settlers attacking Palestinians while IDF soldiers stand idly by, olive trees uprooted, land confiscated, children stoned on their way to school and much more? And then they have the chutzpah to come back and tell others what they have seen!
Vivian Wineman of the Board of Deputies seems to believe that if you shoot the messenger the problem will go away: “The Jewish community does not need lessons from the Anglican Church in justice and peace.” Until such time as the Board speaks out clearly and unambiguously against the grotesque realities visible on a daily basis in Israel’s occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, we need others, like EAPPI (and JfJfP and IJV who also stand condemned) to do the job for us. When will our so-called leaders speak out for the justice and peace that we need no lessons about?
4. From Deborah Maccoby, 17th July
Ruth Gledhill (“My Church’s actions are shameful”, 13.07.11) seems to be implying that the Church of England General Synod’s affirmation of support for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) could be an indication that a new Holocaust against Jews could happen in Britain.
Quite how the Church of England’s endorsement of a human rights monitoring group, protecting Palestinians in the West Bank against abuses committed by Israeli settlers and soldiers, could provide such an indication she doesn’t explain.
5. Sharen Green, ecumenical accompanier, 29th June
The bits in bold below were published; the telling detail, refuting allegations made against EAPPI, were not.
I would like to correct a few misapprehensions about the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) [(“‘Partisan’ project angers board”, June 22)]which have appeared in the Jewish Chronicle.
I have served twice as an ecumenical accompanier (EA) in the West Bank and a week was programmed in so that we could hear a wide variety of Israeli views.
We certainly did hear from respected Israeli NGOs but we also spent the best part of day at a settlement in the West Bank. We were addressed by articulate spokespersons who put their point of view and answered our questions graciously. We also visited a kibbutz – one that feels particularly under threat as it is at the narrow “waist” of Israel.
Many of us took an extra day to visit Sderot where we were given a tour of the playground with the integral bomb shelters and we visited the police station to see the racks of remains of Qassam and other rockets.
And every EA takes a guided tour of Yad Veshem.
We are encouraged to spend our 12 days’ leave in Israel. I visited a moshav which had diversified into holiday accommodation not far from Tiberias. I can assure you that we heard the Zionist narrative from our hostess.
My flatmate spent his time in the tourist resort of Eilat whilst another EA of Jewish heritage went to her family in Tel Aviv where she certainly heard the mainstream perspective.
On my second tour I stayed with Israeli friends in Ramat HaSharon and Ra’anana. True, they are peace activists but their families are not and many discussions took place. Two other EAs spent their time with Israeli friends living in a kibbutz in the Negev.
As an EA I am well used to the charge of being anti-Israel and even at times anti-Jewish. This is certainly not how EAs see themselves. We aspire to practise principled impartiality which means we do not take sides in the conflict.
We are not neutral when it comes to human rights abuses however – our principal task in the field is to observe, report and sometimes intervene when we witness such abuse. (It should go without saying that we deplore the human rights abuses committed by Palestinians on Israelis such as the rockets from Gaza and abuses committed by Palestinians on other Palestinians.)
As for “peddling skewed views” the selection procedure and training is rigorous. I know of one candidate who was rejected for being too pro-Palestinian. Our de-brief is very thorough and great care is taken to make sure that we do not give our own views or step outside of the very circumscribed remit of an EA.
Our presentations are based on what we have seen and [our]experience[s]d ourselves. The whole is underpinned with a thorough knowledge of international and international humanitarian law. We use facts and figures from Israeli organisations and/or bodies such as the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Amnesty International.
I hope this account goes some way to reassuring the chief executive of the Board of Deputies about a programme dedicated to ending occupation and supporting a just peace in Israel-Palestine.