EXPOSING CHRISTIAN PALESTINIANISM

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“We have been taught for centuries that the Jews are the Chosen People. We do not believe anymore that they are the Chosen People of God, since now we have a new understanding of that Choseness.” (Father Elias Chacour, Catholic Archbishop of Israel)

What is Christian Palestinianism?

Christian Palestinianism is a phrase coined by Paul Wilkinson, an evangelical author based in Manchester, England. Wilkinson defines Christian Palestinianism as “an inverted mirror image of Christian Zionism,” and describes it as “diametrically opposed to that of biblical Christian Zionism, and whose opposition to Israel and her Christian allies is expressed in their outspoken support of the Palestinian agenda.”

The term Palestinianism, however, seems to have originated in the writings of Jewish Egyptian author Bat Ye’or. In Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis, she outlines the growing phenomenon of Palestinian replacement theology and the gradual Islamisation of Christianity. Christian Palestinianists, according to Ye’or interpret the Bible from the viewpoint of the Quran and “do not admit to any historical or theological link between the biblical Israel, the Jewish people and the modern State of Israel.”

Christian Palestinianists and their supporters in the West recognize the political benefit of undermining the State of Israel’s biblical foundations. This is achieved by stripping the Bible of its Jewishness, neutralizing the prophetic significance of the Land of Israel and recasting Jesus as a Palestinian. This is despite the fact that Jesus was a Galilean Jew and the “Palestine” didn’t exist as a political or national entity during his lifetime.

Wilkinson places the birth of Christian Palestinianism at the end of the 1980s. However, the groundwork had already been laid in 1967 by an Arab-Christian memorandum entitled “What is Required of the Christian Faith Concerning the Palestine Problem.” The document, which had the blessing of Catholic and Orthodox clergy, declared that it is “a total misunderstanding of the story of salvation and a perversion of God’s plan for a Christian to want to re-establish a Jewish nation as a political entity.”

In one of its most audacious passages, the memorandum reads: “The Christian conscience should always discern what is the authentic vocation of the Jewish people and what is the other side of the coin, that is, the racist State of Israel.” In fact, the memorandum calls for a permanent exile of the Jews on the grounds that “the Jewish race was chosen to serve the salvation of Humanity and not to establish itself in any particular religious or racial way.”

The theological underpinning of Christian Palestinianism is a rebranded version of replacement theology. Fulfilment theology is based on the premise that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus was a spiritual fulfilment of God’s promise to return the Jews to Israel. Therefore the Jews – and by extension the Land of Israel – have no prophetic meaning and have fulfilled their roles in salvation history. The theologian N.T. Wright, for example, argues that Israel’s restoration was achieved through the resurrection and that Jewish ethnic identity is no longer important on a religious level. The Land of Israel, Jerusalem and Temple are all obsolete, according to Wright, because Jesus embodies all three.

Although keen to neutralise the prophetic significance of the Bible for Jews, Christian Palestinianists have no problem with appropriating the tradition for themselves. In 2005, the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu el-Assal, claimed of Palestinian Christians: “We are the true Israel […] no-one can deny me the right to inherit the promises, and after all the promises were first given to Abraham and Abraham is never spoken of in the Bible as a Jew.”

In 1997, the Palestinian Authority aired a program that claimed the stories in the Torah took place in Yemen, not in Israel. The PA also says there is no evidence that the Western Wall has anything to do with Second Temple.

Christian Palestinianists question or even condemn passages in the Bible that elevate Israel above other nations. In fact, the prime mover of the Christian Palestinianist movement, Naim Ateek, who is the Anglican canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem , has stated that some Bible passages are explicitly “exclusivist.” There is a “great need to ‘de-Zionize’ these texts,” he believes.

In 1989, Ateek published the founding document of Christian Palestinianism, Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation, which drew much of its strength from South American liberation theology. Five years later, Ateek founded an organization called Sabeel – the Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. Sabeel means “the way,” which is a clear reference to both Jesus as “the way,” and the early name of the Christians, who were called “followers of the way.”

The version of liberation theology espoused by Ateek is that of Jesus as “a Palestinian living under an occupation.” In his 2001 Easter message, Ateek spoke of Jesus as “the powerless Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint.” Apart from the fact that Jesus wasn’t a Palestinian, this is harmless enough. But Ateek then steps up the rhetoric, with disturbing anti-Semitic undertones:

“In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.”

This is shocking and inflammatory on a number of levels. The Palestinians are indeed restricted in their movements because of the terror threat, but being held up at a checkpoint is hardly a crucifixion. The reference to “hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land” is obviously figurative but the image is overblown and patently absurd. If any place on earth should be dubbed Golgotha, surely it should be Auschwitz or Treblinka, not the West Bank. The reference to the “Israeli government crucifixion system” is outrageous and quite anti-Semitic, given the old canard about Jews being responsible for the death of Jesus.

The Kairos Palestine Document

Perhaps the Christian Palestinianist movement found its ultimate expression in the Kairos Palestine Document. Published in 2009 and subtitled “A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering,” the paper was a rehash of the 1967 Arab-Christian memorandum.

Notably, the Kairos document (which can be found on the World Council of Churches website) speaks on behalf of Christian and Muslim Palestinians, who apparently share a “deeply rooted” history and a “natural right” to the land. In contrast, Israel is an alien entity, and only exists because of Western guilt over the Holocaust. Not surprisingly, the document makes no mention of Muslim involvement in the Holocaust, nor does it comment on the decades of Jewish immigration in the decades before Hitler’s genocide.

The Holocaust aside, the State of Israel is associated with the words “evil” and “sin.” According to the text, the “occupation” is an affront to both humanity and the divine, and “distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier.”

The document criticizes Christian Zionism as being “far from Christian teachings” and praises the first intifada, referring to it as a “peaceful struggle.” Terrorism, while not sanctioned, is excused on the grounds that Israel is ultimately responsible for Palestinian acts of violence against Jewish civilians.

And if any proof is needed that conformity is in fashion, the document calls for economic sanctions against Israel: “Palestinian civil organizations, as well as international organizations, NGOs and certain religious institutions call on individuals, companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation.”

This, according to the writers of the text, is an example of non-violent protest, despite the fact that there is nothing praiseworthy about ruining Jewish businesses and putting Palestinians out of work.

Christian Palestinianism in the West

Since the turn of the century, Christian Palestinianism has been warmly embraced by various Christian groups in the West, notably Anglicans, Presbyterians, evangelicals and left-wing protestants, such as the Quakers. Apart from attacking Israel, westernized Christian Palestinianists have gone to great lengths to ridicule and invalidate Christian Zionism.

In 2004, the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America declared Christian Zionism to be an “extreme form of dispensationalism,” a “distortion of the biblical message,” and an impediment to a “just peace in Israel/Palestine.” In 2007, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland accused Christian Zionism of portraying “an unjust God, with an unjust people.”

Many of the books attacking Christian Zionists accuse the latter of advocating “Armageddon” rather than justice. As well as removing the prophetic significance of the scriptures, books such as Anglican vicar Reverend Dr Stephen Sizer’s Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?misrepresent and deride centuries of mainstream protestant tradition.

Sizer, a virulent opponent of Israel, believes there is a sharp distinction between God’s covenant with Israel and the beliefs of Jesus’s disciples. “There is,” he says, “no evidence that the apostles believed that the Jewish people still had a divine right to the land, or that Jewish possession of the land would be important, let alone that Jerusalem would remain a central aspect of God’s purposes for the world.” Sizer adds: Jerusalem and the Land of Israel “have been made irrelevant to God’s redemptive purposes.”

Sizer is a regular contributor to Islamic media outlets, including Iran’s Press TV. He has been photographed with Arafat, and with Zahra Mostafavi Khomeini, the daughter of the Ayatollah. He has met with – and publicly defended – Raed Salah, a Hamas fundraiser who accuses the Jews of making Passover bread with the blood of Christian children. (There are numerous photos of Sizer and Salah enjoying each other’s company.)

Sizer seems unembarrassed by the fact that his own remarks and writings stray into anti-Semitic territory. For instance, he once stated that the reason Jews “were expelled from the land was that they were more interested in money and power and treated the poor and aliens with contempt.” In 2011, he posted a link on his Facebook page to an anti-Semitic website called “The Ugly Truth,” and in the same year, he went to Malaysia to work with Viva Palestina, whose leading activists include Holocaust-denier Matthias Chang.

Another Anglican notable, Desmond Tutu, has likened Zionism to racism and repeatedly referred to Israel as an “apartheid” state. He is also a supporter of boycotts. Tutu, a friend of Yasser Arafat and Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh, accepted the role as patron of Sabeel International in 2003. This is the same Sabeel that is spearheading the Christian Palestinianist movement in the Middle East. It is perhaps no surprise that US attorney Alan Dershowitz has called Tutu a “racist and a bigot.”

The number of Christian organizations censuring the Jewish state is increasing. It is common for left-wing Christians to exonerate the Palestinians of any historical and contemporary accountability, thereby holding Israel solely responsible for ending the crisis. In 2009, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches released a statement condemning the so-called Israeli occupation and encouraging a boycott of goods made in settlements. Significantly, the World Council of Churches is also calling for the internationalization of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Christian Aid and the Quakers are calling on the UK government to implement a total ban of settlement goods. In North America, the United Church of Canada is heading towards an official boycott policy. And the Church of England, which has a large overseas membership, is considering whether it should adopt the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniers Programme in Palestine and Israel. The EAPPI is blatantly pro-Palestinian and holds the Jewish state solely responsible for resolving the situation in the West Bank.

A religion of resentment 

Christian Palestinianism is a religion of resentment. It is a projection of a sense of inferiority onto an external scapegoat. Thwarted by failure, Christian Palestinianists blame their problems on “the Jews.” The God of Israel is declared dead, only to be replaced by the anti-Semitic God of Palestine.

Of all the anti-Israel discourses that exist today, Christian Palestinianism is perhaps one of the most shocking. Shocking because it wants to de-Judaize the Bible and undermine Jewish identity. Shocking because it also revives the notion of Jews as killers of Christ. Moreover, the post-Holocaust reconciliation of Jews and Christians is lethally undermined. The work of Geza Vermes, and others like him, who have examined in close detail the Jewishness of Jesus, is being cast aside in favour of a quasi-gnostic Jesus.

On a theological level, Christian Palestinianism is entirely self-defeating. If God no longer honours his covenant with the Jews and the Land of Israel, then the whole foundation of Christianity collapses. A God who changes his mind about the Jews is no longer the God of Abraham, Moses or Jesus. Palestinianism is not only un-Biblical, it is un-Christian.

Pro-Palestinian Christians in the West need to take a long, hard look at themselves and ask whether it is ethical to be consorting with liars, terrorists and anti-Semites. They should also ask themselves if their actions are likely to lead to a fresh outburst of religiously-motivated anti-Semitism. The trouble is, history shows that many Christians need no excuse to persecute the Jews. There seems to be an in-built tendency to raise their fists against the descendants of Isaac and Jacob. This is bad news not only for the State of Israel and the Jewish diaspora, but also for Christianity itself, which will not survive another destructive wave of anti-Semitism.

As it says in Ezekiel 35, “Because you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity, the time their punishment reached its climax, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.”

 

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FORGET THE BOYCOTT, EUROPE NEEDS ISRAEL’S EXPERTISE

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The European Union is to demand that Israel halt settlement projects in the disputed territories. EU officials, according to a document released to Haaretz, are looking into the possibility of setting five “red lines” to deter house building, raising concerns in the Israeli foreign ministry that further European sanctions against Israel are inevitable.

But is Israel worrying too much? It is true that Israel is dependent on trading agreements with Europe, but it’s just as true to say that Europe is reliant on on Israel. Why? For the simple reason that Europe needs Israel in order to become a dynamic knowledge economy if it is to compete successfully with China, India and the US.

When it comes to knowledge-based industries, Israel is one of the most competitive economies in the world thanks to its extraordinary capacity for innovation. It is no secret that Israel is a world-leader in the hi-tech and start-up sectors. Israel’s remarkable laboratories and scientific institutes are the envy of the world and a magnet for international investment.

Israel boasts around 4,000 technology start-ups, which is more than any other country outside the US. Not surprisingly, half of Israel’s exports are of the hi-tech variety. Israel leads the world in patents for medical equipment and is a supplier of inexpensive but crucial medicines to Europe, such as Copaxone for multiple sclerosis and Actos for type 2 diabetes. And it has attracted the most venture capital investment per capita in the world, thirty times more than Europe.

Israel also has the highest proportion of researchers in the global business sector and one of the highest investments in civilian  research and development – more than four per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

In the years and decades to come, Israeli engineers, computer scientists, inventors, chemists and biologists will drive not only Israel’s economy but will provide benefits to Europe and the world at large. The UK, for example, has been building solid trade links with Israel amid talk of a stronger partnership between British and Israeli companies in the areas of innovation, hi-tech and science. The fact that a young and tiny country like Israel is well ahead of the UK in terms of research and development speaks volumes about the jaded nature of British industry.

If Europe wants to compete with China and the US in the areas of medical technology, homeland security, communications and aviation, then it must cooperate with Israel and jettison its pointless obsession with Palestinian Arabism. On one level, the EU is well aware of this. This is why Israel was the first non-European country to be associated to the EU’s Research and Technical Development program. It is also why the EU wants Israel involved in the Horizon 2020 program, the new EU research and innovation programme.

In June, Israel and the EU signed off on Horizon 2020. The program is being heralded as a massive opportunity to enhance the already active cooperation between Israeli and EU researchers, innovators, scientists and technicians. Indeed, Israel has been associated to EU research and innovation programmes since the mid-1990s. During the last programme (2007-2013), Israeli public and private institutions contributed their scientific expertise to over 1,500 projects, and contributing over €530 million to the programme.

In the words of José Manuel Barroso, the president of the EU commission, “Israel is a strong player in research and innovation and for this reason an important partner for the EU to address societal challenges of common concern, such as ageing, food safety, environment protection or cleaner energy, and to strengthen the competitiveness of our industries.”

Without Israel, Europe is less competitive. In the aftermath of a global recession and a eurozone crisis, a return to competitiveness is vital for the economic well-being of Europe and the rest of the world. The EU leadership must be realistic and abandon the boycott of Judea and Samaria and concentrate instead on building solid relations with the world’s leading innovator, Israel.

MY CONDITIONS FOR PALESTINIAN NATIONHOOD

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By Richard Mather, JMA editor 

The House of Commons has voted to recognise the State of Palestine. But what is the State of Palestine? What are its borders and its currency? What and where are its legitimate international institutions? What is its government – the Palestinian Authority or Hamas?

At present, the State of Palestine is no more than a state of mind, a political-ideological fantasy dreamt up by Yasser Arafat and his Nazi sympathiser predecessor Haj Amin Al-Husseini. Palestine does not and never did exist in any concrete sense. It is a country of the imagination, residing in the warped minds of Islamo-anarchist Jew-haters.

But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the State of Palestine is a real place. What would it be like? For a start, it would be a colonial outpost of the Arab-Muslim world, which has been appropriating land since the time of Mohammed. It would be a racist state, a place where Jews (who are the real and original Palestinians) are ethnically cleansed from Judea and Samaria. And until Hamas revokes its charter calling for the mass murder of the Jewish people, it would be a genocidal state. The State of Palestine would be a rogue state financed and armed by extremist countries like Iran and Qatar. The State of Palestine would be a human rights nightmare where women and gays are oppressed or killed, where journalists are imprisoned, where dissident voices are quashed, where political opponents are thrown off the top of buildings, where Christians are hounded out.

Despite this litany of problems, the world seems intent on establishing the twenty-third Arab country at a time when the Arab world is falling apart. A State of Palestine, with UN backing, will probably be a reality in ten to fifteen years. Of course, Israel and the Jewish people are under no obligation to recognise the legitimacy of a Palestinian state. But perhaps I can be persuaded. Here’s my list of conditions:

I will only recognise Palestine if Jews are allowed to stay in their homes in Hebron and Ariel and Beitar Illit, and the Hamas charter is revoked. I will recognise Palestine when the Arabs recognise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation and the refugees (who aren’t really refugees at all but the descendants of half a million Arab immigrants to Palestine in the late 19th century) are resettled in Palestine and not Israel. I will recognise Palestine when the endemic Jew-hatred is renounced and purged from school textbooks. I will recognise Palestine when it rejects the dream of a greater Palestine from the river to the sea. I will recognise Palestine when the Palestinian Arabs apologise for their role in the Holocaust. I will recognise Palestine when they apologise for massacring Jews in Hebron in 1929 and Jerusalem in 1936. I will recognise Palestine when it apologises for starting the war in 1947-49. I will recognise Palestine when it acknowledges the mistakes it has made (rejecting several two-state solutions) and takes some responsibility for its past, present and future. I will recognise Palestine when it starts behaving like a state that wants to prosper instead of a terrorist basket case that wants to destroy the one good thing in the Middle East – Israel.

HOUSE OF COMMONS VOTE IS UNJUST AND COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE

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By Richard Mather 

So the ayes have it. British MPs have ignored the wishes of the Anglo-Jewish population and voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state alongside Israel by 274 votes to 12.

The full motion stated: “That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution.”

The result is symbolic and is not binding on the current or future administrations, but it is a blow to the many British Jews who have lobbied their MPs to reject the motion. Opponents of the vote believe that a just settlement, which includes recognition of Israel by all countries in the Middle East, should be the aim of the British Parliament, not a unilateral declaration of statehood.

The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and neighbouring Arab countries have failed to fulfil UN resolution 242, which calls for the exchange of land in return for peace and security.”

The motion was sponsored by a Palestinian lobby group called the Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group, co-chaired by the Conservative Arabist Crispin Blunt, a former chairman of the council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding.

Other sponsors of the motion included Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather, a supporter of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and an advocate of a European trade embargo against Israel. Graham Morris, Labour MP for Easingtom and chairman of the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, also sponsored the bill. (This is a man who compares Zionism to Nazism.)

As well as causing distress to Britain’s Jews, the vote is damaging to the UK’s standing in the Middle East. No longer can London be a neutral party in Middle East peace talks. The recognition of Palestine, with no binding agreements with Israel and no international functions, is effectively acknowledging the legitimacy of Hamas to speak for the Palestinians in Gaza.

And so the Hamas-supporting demonstrators in Britain who boycott Jewish businesses and shout “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea,” now have the tacit backing of the UK parliament. If British Jews are furious by the actions of MPs, they have every right to feel that way.

 

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The Temple Mount deserves better

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Hundreds of Gazans have been allowed to pray on the Temple Mount for Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday celebrating Abraham’s “sacrifice of Ishmael.” In a statement the IDF said it had given permits to 500 Gaza residents over the age of sixty to celebrate the three-day holiday.

It comes days after Palestinian youths hurled rocks, fire crackers and cinder-blocks at police officers who were guarding the Temple Mount. The officers were treated at the scene by medical personnel and the rioters proceeded to lock themselves inside the al-Aksa Mosque.

Meanwhile, Israel’s tourism ministry is considering opening a second gate to the Temple Mount for Jewish visitors and tourists. As things stand, there are eleven entrances to the Temple Mount, ten of them open to Muslims. The Mughrabi Gate is the only entrance for Jews and even this point of access is regularly targeted by Arab rioters.

But the requirements and safety of Jewish visitors is not the only problem. For many years the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf – the trust that controls and manages the Temple Mount – has carried out excavation work, drilled into ancient stones and painted over rare Jewish art works.

The Waqf has allowed illegal digging through the use of tractors and thrown away valuable artefacts from the two temples. Luckily, archaeologists have managed to rescue some these artefacts by sifting through the rubbish heaps. Among other things, they have found decorated utensils from the King Solomon era, as well as coins and clay dating back to the second temple.

The actions of the Waqf not only display a disdain for history, they represent a blatant attempt to disconnect the people of Israel from their inheritance by either denying the presence of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem or destroying evidence of its existence.

Indeed, the throwing away of evidence is a central tenet of Palestinian nationalism, which denies there was ever a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. The phenomenon known as “temple denial” started when Yasser Arafat used the Camp David Summit in 2000 to insist that a Jewish Temple had never existed in Jerusalem. The idea immediately caught on and has become a mainstay of anti-Zionist discourse.

The UN’s cultural agency, UNESCO, has done little to prevent such blatant cultural and historical vandalism. Not only is this shameful, it is a clear violation of its promise to “create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values.”

Judaism regards the Temple Mount as the place where God chose the divine presence to rest. According to the Talmud, it was from the Temple Mount that God gathered the dust used to create Adam.

The tossing of precious Jewish artefacts into a rubbish dump, and the hurling of stones and firecrackers at police, are not signs of respect or reverence. They are signs of contempt. The Temple Mount and the Jewish people who yearn for a truly united Jerusalem deserve better.

INTERVIEW WITH RAPHI BLOOM: “WE WANT A MULTI-GENERATIONAL RALLY”

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In a special interview with Richard Mather of the Jewish Media Agency, Raphi Bloom, co-chair of Northwest Friends of Israel, spoke of his pride in the Jewish community and he called on the Jewish people to stand united against anti-Semitism by attending a solidarity rally in Manchester on Sunday 19 October.

 

Can you tell JMA readers about the creation of Northwest Friends of Israel? Why was an advocacy group needed?

Northwest Friends of Israel was formed on the back of the boycott protests outside the Kedem shop in Manchester over the summer of 2014. It started off as a group of individuals who wanted to take action to counter the lies and the anti-Semitism that was going on outside the shop. It has since grown into a more organised body with a committee and voluntary roles, with a pro-active agenda moving forward.

Can you describe how the idea for a northwest rally came about?

There’s one taking place in London on the same day and we wanted to organise one in Manchester as well so that it would effectively be a national day of campaigning against anti-Semitism. We felt that the community, having experienced quite a significant increase in anti-Semitism over the summer months, wanted to reclaim the agenda and say that we’re proud to be British and we’re proud to be Jewish, and we will not let anything intimidate us.

We’re doing a huge amount of publicity. We’ve got posters up in all the synagogues in Manchester. We’ve been running a very active social media campaign. We’re encouraging people to put it on their own Facebook walls and via Twitter. We’re putting adverts in the Jewish press. We’re putting posters up in shops. We’re liaising with schools. All the shuls have emailed it out. So we’re really working hard to get the message out there.

Who is speaking at the rally?

The line-up is still evolving. But the lead speaker will be the Rt Hon Jim Murphy MP, who is the shadow secretary of state for international development. Ivan Lewis who is MP for Bury South will be there. We’ve got two local rabbis from north and south Manchester speaking. We’ve got Jonathan Arkush who is the vice president of Board of Deputies. And we hope to attract a couple of senior Tory politicians as well. Another one of our speakers is Henry Ferster, a Holocaust survivor.

The rally is being held in Manchester. Why is this rally relevant to Jews who live in other areas of the north?

We are a northwest advocacy group. But because Manchester has the critical mass of Jews in the north of England, it makes sense to hold it here and invite surrounding communities with smaller Jewish communities to join us.

For those who are concerned about safety, what security measures do you have in place? Is it safe to bring children?

The rally is being held in Cathedral Gardens, which is an open area behind Manchester cathedral and the National Football Museum. So it’s a relatively quiet part of town in terms of the demographic walking past. It’s not, for example, like Piccadilly Gardens which attracts a number of different protest groups. In terms of security we’re working closely with Greater Manchester Police who will provide a presence on the day. We’re working closely with the CST [Community Security Trust] and we’ll also be providing thirty of our own stewards to help with crowd control. It’s definitely going to be safe. It’s going to be policed and we encourage people to bring children. We want it to be a multi-generational rally.

Looking back at where you were three months ago did you ever think you’d be planning a rally against anti-Semitism?

No, we never thought we’d be organising a rally against anti-Semitism. I guess what’s shocked a lot of people is that whilst we always knew there was a level of anti-Semitism in the UK, I don’t think anyone quite appreciated how close to the surface it was. People have been surprised and shocked that so many people – people who they went to university with, who they work with, who they went to school with – displayed not only anti-Israel sentiment but strayed over into anti-Semitic sentiment as well.

How has the Jewish community in Manchester responded to the rise in anti-Semitism?

I think the community has been incredible. What started on King Street galvanised the community. I think it’s energised a huge number of people to start advocating for Israel, to start fighting BDS [boycotts, divestments & sanctions], to start exposing and combating anti-Semitism. I think Manchester actually has led the way nationally. Whilst there were valiant efforts in Brighton and in London, Manchester has led the way both in terms of on-the-ground activism and grassroots organisations, almost taking the reins from the establishment. The way we communicated and developed relationships with the police and local council should be used as a template across the country.

What’s next for Northwest Friends of Israel?

We have a very ambitious agenda to be pro-active in terms of advocating for Israel, combating BDS and exposing anti-Semitism. In the run-up to the general election we have drafted a Charter for Israel. And we will be asking MPs and candidates to sign the charter, which acknowledges support for Israel and Israel’s right to be treated fairly alongside other nations.

We are starting to build relationships with Labour Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Israel, the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies, and we’ll be working with them on campaigns they bring to our attention. Additionally, we’re promoting advocacy training for 16 to 18-year-olds to prepare them for university life. And we’re going to meet with business leaders to try to pre-empt any BDS campaigns they might otherwise be persuaded to join.

Sum up why this rally is important to you.

For hundreds of years the Jewish community has lived safely and securely in the UK. We respect the country we live in and we’re proud to be British Jews. We live in a democracy and no ethnic minority should have to tolerate attacks because of their ethnicity or their religion. The Jewish community has been singled out for some quite violent anti-Semitism, both verbally and physically. We want to say to the entire country that we are British and we are very, very proud to be Jewish. We believe the vast majority of the British are not anti-Semitic but the minority that are anti-Semitic need to be exposed, need to stopped and need to be brought to account.

Any other comments about the rally?

It is just two or three hours on a Sunday. Strength in numbers will convey our message. We want everyone there from grandparents, to parents to grandchildren. We want entire families to come. We want it to be multi-generational. We want it to be uplifting. We want it to be inspiring. And we need your support.

 

The “Say no to anti-Semitism” rally will take place in Cathedral Gardens, central Manchester, on Sunday 19 October 2014, 2pm to 4pm.