by Dr. Irene Lancaster of Manchester University
The chief rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, stated three years ago that: "Anti-Semitism exists . . . whenever two contradictory factors appear in combination: the belief that Jews are so powerful that they are responsible for the evils of the world, and the knowledge that they are so powerless that they can be attacked with impunity" (lecture to the Inter-Parliamentary Committee against Anti-Semitism, 28 February 2002).
How prophetic these words have become. The Jewish community in Britain is alarmed by the increasing anti-Semitism in the Anglican Church, much of it based on ignorance. For instance, many people outside the Jewish community really believe that Israel, a country the size of Wales, is, as Dr Sacks said, "responsible for the evils of the world", while Jewish people know only too well that, as 0.5 per cent of the population, "they are so powerless that they can be attacked with impunity".
To many British Jews, segments of the media, including the BBC, The Guardian and The Independent, constantly misrepresent Israel. These misrepresentations then affect other organisations.
First, there was the Association of University Teachers (AUT), which called for a boycott of two Israeli universities. Now the Anglican Consultative Council, in what the journalist Melanie Phillips has called "the Church’s AUT moment", said that it "welcomes" the Anglican Peace and Justice Network’s statement on Israel (News, 1 July; 5 August).
Jewish institutions and individuals have been discussing how they are affected by media reporting. Last week, the Community Security Trust, which advises and represents the Jewish community on security and anti-Semitism, asked me to tell the Church Times that:
"It frequently appears that there are no limits to the hatred and bias that can be expressed against Israel or Zionism. Anti-Semites take comfort from this hatred, and regard it as a cue to attack Jews at random here in Britain. Anti-Semitic incidents’ levels since the year 2000 have been the worst recorded in decades. The rise in incidents is appalling. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago."
The Board of Deputies described its concern at the fact that "In 2004, there were 532 anti-Semitic incidents in the UK, which was a 42 per cent increase on the figures for 2003, which was a substantial increase on the figures for 2002."
THE BBC apologised when the Scottish hymn-writer, the Revd Dr John Bell of the Iona Community, "made two factual mistakes" about the Israeli army on the Radio 4’s Thought for the Day in February.
This was a wake-up call for the Jewish community, even though Christian aid agencies and "peace groups" have for a long time appeared to us to be attacking Israel, and ignoring attempts to hear other points of view. Individual Jews have reported experiencing violent verbal attacks during public pro-Palestinian meetings held in church buildings.
Joanne Green, a Jewish journalist, said: "Despite the BBC charter, I can’t think of any programmes that are critical of the Palestinians, despite their kangaroo courts, public hangings, threats to journalists, incitement to racial and religious hatred, corruption, and threats to destroy Israel.
"Also, as an active member of the Council of Christians and Jews, I feel betrayed by the Anglican Church. All those receptions at St James’s Palace and earnest tributes from church leaders regretting their millennia-long persecution of the Jews don’t mean anything any more. When Jews need real recognition of the danger they are in, where is the Church? Aligning themselves with those who want to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, after it was they who were responsible for the Holocaust. Forgive them, Lord, for they probably do know exactly what they do. How dare the Church lecture Jews on morality."
Many people mention the Church’s apparent silence in the face of the growing attacks on the British Jewish community. For one seasoned American journalist and Episcopalian cleric: "In Britain, there is a degree of open anti-Semitism that would be unthinkable in the USA. The C of E has been complicit in this, both by keeping silent, and by not cracking down on its members who cross the line in their advocacy of the Palestinian cause, and fall into Jew-baiting."
Canon Andrew White, CEO of the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East, agrees. "Is there a new anti-Semitism?" he asks. "For Jews, disinvestment [in Israel] is not just anti-Zionism, but anti-Semitism. Christians defend their position by saying they are against Israel, not the Jews. Yet there is no call by the Christians to disinvest from countries where Christians are persecuted, or banned. Israel is viewed as the evil nation, that evil democratic nation " ” that just happens to be the only homeland for the Jewish people in the world.
"Now that there is an acute awareness of the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, the Christian world needs to wake up to the fact that more Jews have been killed by Christians than by Muslims. It is no longer sufficient for the Church to blame Israel for its own anti-Semitism. The replacement theology that laid the ground for nearly two millennia of anti-Judaic polemic is on its way back. This time, it is dressed up as concern for the Palestinians."
Benjamin, a 32-year-old Jew, who stayed at my house last Shabbat, en route to an International Council of Christians and Jews convention, said: "Christians are encouraged to love their enemies. We are no longer the enemy, just irrelevant; no longer the enemy, just the object of hate and vilification."
For, as the Holocaust author Raoul Hillberg has said: "There is a straight line from " ˜You have no right to live among us as Jews’ to " ˜You have no right to live among us’ to " ˜You have no right to live.’"
Dr Irene Lancaster is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester, the author of works on Jewish history and the Bible, and an Orthodox Jew engaged in interfaith work with the Anglican Church and others.