Chief Rabbi attacks C of E over disinvestment decision
Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, has criticised the Church of England's general synod as ill-judged in voting to remove its investment in a US company that makes bulldozers used by the Israelis to demolish Palestinian homes.
In unusually harsh language, Dr Sacks called into question the Jewish community's links with the church. In a 1,500-word article in today's Jewish Chronicle, the Chief Rabbi condemned the synod's action as ill-judged and said that 'the timing could not have been more inappropriate'.
"The church has chosen to take a stand on the politics of the Middle East over which it has no influence, knowing that it will have the most adverse repercussions on a situation over which it has enormous influence, Jewish-Christian relations in Britain." he said.
The article also accuses the Guardian of increasing the British Jewish community's sense of vulnerability after last week's publication of two lengthy articles by its Jerusalem correspondent Chris McGreal that drew comparisons between Israel's treatment of Palestinians with the apartheid policy in South Africa. A delegation from the Board of Deputies of British Jews met the editor Alan Rusbridger to express concern that the articles would increase anti-semitic attacks.
The general synod's call last week for the church commissioners to remove their £2.5m shareholding in Caterpillar Inc - for which Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, voted in favour - has produced accusations of anti-semitism, not least from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who said it made him ashamed to be a church member.
Dr Williams wrote to the Chief Rabbi to insist that the vote did not represent a boycott or question Israel's right to exist or to self-defence. Earlier this week Dr Sacks replied that the archbishop's clarification would aid mutual understanding.
But his Jewish Chronicle article states: "The vote of the synod ... was ill-judged even on its own terms. The immediate result will be to reduce the church's ability to act as a force for peace between Israel and the Palestinians for as long as the decision remains in force ... The timing could not have been more inappropriate. [Israel] needs support not vilification.
'For years I have called on religious groups in Britain to send a message of friendship and co-existence to conflict zones throughout the world, instead of importing those conflicts into Britain itself. The effect of the synod vote will be the opposite."
The board of deputies decided earlier this week to carry out an investigation into attitudes within the Church of England. The Federation of Synagogues' president Alan Finlay called on the chief rabbi to withdraw from inter-faith dialogue until there is a public apology.
Jewish leaders began planning a collective response to the synod move at a meeting on Tuesday called by Sir Jonathan and attended by representatives from the Jewish community in Britain.
Rabbi Tony Bayfield, the head of the Reform movement and a co-president of the Council of Christians and Jews, said: 'There is a clear problem of anti-Zionist ó verging on anti-Semitic ó attitudes emerging in the grass roots, and even in the middle ranks of the Church.'
Responding to the Chief Rabbi, the Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, said: "We published two pieces by Chris McGreal, which quoted many Israeli and South African Jews with differing viewpoints about a question which is hardly new. We have also published several commentaries and letters rejecting the comparison. I have not come across anyone who considered this was an illegitimate subject for a newspaper to address."