With all that’s been going on in North Africa in the past few weeks – and I hope and pray that we really will see a new dawn where people in that area of the world will be able to be free from dictators – there have been a few things going on with the state of Israel that is to say the least worrying.
The Anglican church has its Cathedral (St George’s) in East Jerusalem. Each diocese has its own Cathedral and a Bishop. In Jerusalem the bishop is Suheil Dawani. He was born on the West Bank in Nablus and is Palestinian. To reside in Jerusalem he requires a permit from the Israeli government. The state of Israel has recognised the Anglican church since 1970. Last year they withdrew the renewal of his permit, arguing that he had sold “Jewish” land to the Palestinians, something that the bishop denies.
Now if the land was owned by a Jewish person and the bishop illegally sold something that was not his then that may be one thing. I suspect that it is different. My suspicion is that because all land in East Jerusalem is claimed by Israel this is something else. Either an excuse to kick out the bishop (and there are other examples of this happening by Israel) or trying to ensure that land is taken from Palestinians.
The problem that Israel faces is that it is defining itself more and more as a land that only truly recognises one race and religion – Judaism. This means that Palestinians (be they Christian or Muslim) are not allowed to live just anywhere within Israel even if they are Israeli citizens. Those from Jerusalem have to have visas to move about – often waiting hours to go in and out. The brother of our guide in our trip to Israel a year and a half ago could no longer re-enter because he had been out of the country for 6 months. This, for Israel was enough not to let him back in. In the meantime any Jewish person anywhere in the world with any citizenship is allowed to return to the land of Israel anytime.
The reason of course that Israel is always looking over its shoulder is because of the Holocaust. We saw an ugly example of how just under the surface it so often is with the sacking of John Galliano by Dior for his anti-semitic abuse. They must also be fearing the consequences of what freedom in the Arab world might mean for them. However, Charles Reed quotes the Arab deputy speaker of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) , Ahmed Tibi who has said that:
Unlike some in the Knesset, I do not believe that there is a threat of another Egyptian-Israeli war. The real danger for Israel is that with democratic change, Arab leaders will be far more likely to listen to their people and demand that Israel adhere to international law vis-à-vis the Palestinians. That would be a tremendous development.
Its understandable that Israel has fears. Its understandable to feel threatened and on guard. But that should never mean that injustice should be allowed to flourish. That others are discriminated against. The Bishop of Jerusalem should be given his permit back until and unless he is actually convicted of something that would be internationally recognised as a crime. I hope and pray that Israel will reverse its decision.
Just as a note the banner in the picture here was displayed on the Israeli “Peace Wall” in 2007 when I visited the country. It is a truly dreadful picture – especially for the Jewish people to display.