On 10 May 2022, members of the JJP lobby Group met Dr. Richard Sudworth, Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs of the Church of England. We advocated on two issues.
Firstly, the Church should feel free to raise criticisms of Israeli policies and actions with Board of Deputies of British Jews. Secondly, the Church should consider adopting the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism in place of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.
Our letter to Dr, Sudworth is below:
Dr Richard Sudworth
Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs
Church of England
Dear Dr Sudworth,
We are writing to ask for a zoom meeting about two issues affecting relations between Christians and Jews here in the UK.
Firstly, we want to elaborate a little on what our colleague, David Goldberg, said in his letter to the Church Times of 7 January 2022.1 We believe that good relations between communities – any communities – demands respect for each other’s concerns. In the case of the Christian and Jewish communities, this demands the willingness to engage openly in possibly painful conversations about past attitudes of Christians towards Jews and Zionist and Israeli practices towards Palestinians.
The attitude of the Board of Deputies of British Jews is actually inimical to good relations between the Christian and Jewish communities here in the UK. By discouraging open questioning of Israeli practices towards Palestinians, we believe the Board is inadvertently alienating many Christians by denying them the opportunity to raise valid issues which greatly concern them. We believe the Church should gently insist that raising these issues is as necessary as discussing antisemitism.
Secondly, we want to discuss the Church’s adoption of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism (IHRA WD) in the light of the publication of the Jerusalem Declaration of Antisemitism (JDA) a year ago. The IHRA WD was the only purportedly internationally sanctioned definition of antisemitism when it was first promulgated, and remained so for the first five years of its life. That made it difficult for organisations to evaluate it critically. Under pressure from the big, communal Jewish organisations and the government of Israel, it was adopted by many political and quasi-political organisations.
Now, however, the JDA has changed the position completely. It has shown up the manifold inadequacies and the bias against fundamental criticism of Israel inherent in the IHRA WD. By contrast, the JDA is precise, clear and, crucially, provides the means of distinguishing between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitism masquerading as criticism of Israel. The different provenance of the two documents reveals a lot. The IHRA WD, despite being taken up by the IHRA, was actually produced by very small group of people working for or with big Jewish communal organisations that support Israeli policies. The JDA, on the other hand, was developed by a group of scholars in the fields of Holocaust history, Jewish studies, and Middle East studies, signed initially by 210 scholars and now endorsed by a further 350 people. Those involved do not share a partisan position on Israel or the conflict with the Palestinians.
An analysis of both definitions can be found on our website.2,
We urge the Church to consider adopting the JDA in place of IHRA WD.
We hope to hear from you shortly to arrange a zoom meeting.
Diplomatic and Parliamentary Officer