Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Council of Christians and Jews Defends Illegal West Bank Settlements

Established in 1942, the Council of Christians and Jews is a registered charity and the United Kingdom's oldest national inter-faith organisation.

According to its constitution, CCJ exists to:

(a) To promote religious and cultural understanding between Christian and Jewish communities.
(b) To work for the elimination of religious and racial prejudice, hatred and discrimination with particular reference to antiSemitism.
(c) To promote religious and racial harmony on the basis of the ethical and social teachings common to Judaism and Christianity.

These are laudable aims with which I concur. In recent years, however, CCJ appears to have taken a more controversial and political stance that may indeed jeopardize its charitable status.

For example, this month, CCJ's Journal Common Ground contained an A4 letter from David Gifford, its Chief Executive. Referring to the recent decision of the Methodist Church to boycott goods from illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, he writes,
"'One of the Free Churches of the UK voted at their annual Conference to accept a Report that called for, amongst other things, a boycott of goods made in the Palestinian Territories. Despite a rigorous critique and pleading by the CCJ, the Conference accepted the Report and the Resolution to accept the boycott.

The Council of Christians and Jews has repeatedly argued that boycotts will hurt Palestinian people - the very people that this boycott is supposed to help. Instead we suggested a number of exciting projects that supported co-existence and reconciliation in which the Conference may wish to invest. They were projects that encouraged Jews and Arabs, Druze and Christian to work and live together in harmony and a growing understanding. From these projects we believe tolerance and respect grow and these lead to reconciliation at a very crucial and personal level.'
Mr Gifford does not appear to believe that justice rather than injustice is more likely to lead to tolerance and respect. It is surely disingenuous for CCJ to defend the sale of products from Jewish settlements on the grounds that to boycott them will 'hurt Palestinians people' when it is the illegal Jewish settlements that are 'hurting' Palestinians by depriving them of their basic human rights.

As one Jewish friend put it, "CCJ seems to have lost its raison d'etre and increasingly acts as a shield behind which some of the more extreme elements in the Jewish community operate."

Let us hope that CCJ will return to its core values and cooperate with Jewish and Palestinian human rights organisations working for "the elimination of religious and racial prejudice, hatred and discrimination" by Jewish settlers against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and uphold the rule of international law.

The impartiality of the Church of England's own Ethical Investment Group is also now in doubt since John Reynolds, its chairman, is also a trustee of CCJ. Perhaps this is why the EIG was so reluctant to comply with the General Synod decision to sell its shares in Caterpillar.