At Christmas, as on most Sundays, the familiar words of the Christian liturgy will ring out in churches throughout the UK: “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men (sic)”. But when we look at the continuing conflict in Israel-Palestine it seems to ring a little hollow. When, over the past 50 or so years, has there been peace in the 'Holy Land'?
Our discussion of the current situation in Israel/Palestine will be led by Tony Crowe, retired Anglican clergyman, who first became involved in the Middle East, when as vicar of St John's Clapham, he visited Jordan with a Labour Party Delegation in 1970.
Last year, on Dec 20th, the BBC broadcast 'Songs of Praise' from Bethlehem, a Palestinian town under Israeli control. This fact was not even mentioned. There was no reference to the Security Wall that surrounded the town.
Nearly seven years ago, on 27 Jan 2004, Dr Rowan Williams gave a sermon at St George's Jerusalem, in which he said: 'This security fence stands as a terrible symbol of the fear and despair that threaten everyone in this city and country, all the communities who share this Holy Land.'
We need to know more about the historical background to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a country we have a moral responsibility to implement the second part of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which stated that 'It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.'
Israel depends on the financial support of the United States. President Obama has failed to stop the growth of Israeli settlements. Backed by Christian Zionists, the Jewish lobby has tremendous influence in the USA. The Bible is used to justify the creeping annexation in the West Bank and the siege of Gaza.'
In 1997 David Hare wrote and performed his own one-man monologue Via Dolorosa about his own experiences and conversations in Palestine-Israel. It's very well-worth the read/listen but it's depressing too to think how little progress there has been in the past 13 years. You can obtain very cheap second-hand copies the text of the play via Amazon. Some extracts have also been published by the Guardian.