Tory MPs say Anglicans are 'politically motivated' over Israel
Conservative MPs professing a Christian faith, have criticised the Church of England for being 'politically motivated' over its decision to disinvest church funds from companies profiting from Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.
In a letter published in the Times Newspaper today the Tory MPs express support for the position taken by the Chief Rabbi on the motion passed by the General Synod.
The main target of the Synod's plan is the US earth-moving equipment company Caterpillar which has supplied vehicles used by Israel to demolish Palestinian homes. Acres of agricultural land have been destroyed by the Israeli military using armoured Caterpillar D9 bulldozers which have also been used in the construction of Israel's Separation Wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in July 2004.
One of the company's machines killed American peace activist Rachel Corrie two years ago and Christian churches in the USA have also begun discussions over divesting from Caterpillar.
However the Conservative MPs write in today's Times newspaper; "We know from the lobbying and educational activities of the non-partisan, cross-party 'Anglicans for Israel' group that this decision has caused enormous pain to ordinary Anglican worshippers and even more hurt to the Jewish community."
Although the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to the Chief Rabbi pointing out that the vote did not represent a boycott, the MPs maintain that it was.
"No matter how well meaning, politically motivated boycotts polarise opinion, particularly where there are a variety of causes to which attention could be similarly drawn. The recent AUT educational boycott, though quickly rescinded, had an immediate and destructive impact" they write.
Apparently also disregarding pleas from Palestinian Christians, including the Bishop of Jerusalem, who urged Synod to pass the motion the MPs suggest; "Synod might on reflection want to consider the plight of Palestinian Christians whose right to worship is explicit in Israel, yet becoming increasingly difficult within Palestinian territories, and who view with alarm the success of Hamas. They might be puzzled as to why there has been no similar overt manifestation of concern by the Church against such an explicitly anti-Jewish and anti-Christian movement."
"We believe a better Christian witness is to encourage positive engagement with all parties in a difficult and protracted conflict which cries out for tolerance, justice, forgiveness and understanding. Another partial position just adds a further hurdle to peace rather than a bridge."
The Synod's decision has however been welcomed by Christian peace activists who work with Israelis and Palestinians through forgiveness and justice programmes in both Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Churches throughout the world have repeatedly pointed to the severe restrictions on Palestinian Christians.
Although the Conservative Christian Fellowship does not make public the names of MPs who belong to it, the MPs who signed the letter are understood to mostly be members of the group, which includes a former chairman and also one of its founders. The MPs were Alistair Burt, David Amess, David Burrowes, David Amess, Stephen Crabb, David Davies, Greg Hands, Gary Streeter, Ed Vaizey, and Ann Widdecombe.