By Stuart Littlewood – London
(Open letter to: The Most Rev. and the Rt. Hon. the Archbishop of Canterbury, Spiritual leader of the Anglican Church)
Two years ago, on returning from Gaza and the West Bank, I wrote about the dire conditions and the British government’s complicity in the crippling blockade, and reminded prime minister Gordon Brown that Gaza was formerly entrusted to Britain under mandate, which was reason for us to feel a special responsibility.
I urged him: “Go see for yourselves the misery, the human tragedy and the devastation you have heaped on these nice people. Feel the pain and weep.
“Then amaze us. Do something courageous for once. Lift the cruel siege. End the 90 years of betrayal that has so shamed Britain."
That was before the horrific blitzkrieg launched by Israel last December/January, in which at least 350 children were murdered and thousands more maimed or made homeless. Gazans have to exist in circumstances that are simply indescribable. You know that the Strip is still under daily bombardment, the promised reconstruction has still not begun, all borders remain sealed to form a vast concentration camp and marauding Israeli warships machine-gun Gaza fishermen in their own waters.
Today I was disgusted to learn that chocolate, which few can afford but all regard as a great delicacy, especially at Muslim holy festivals such as Eid, is prohibited by Israel and banned from entering Gaza. It has to be smuggled in at great risk through the tunnel system. (See Maan News)
Gaza and the rest of the Holy Land, one would have thought, are constantly in the mind of the Church, whose purpose and inspiration are founded there. I have seen no statement about Gaza on your website since 31 December last year, when the slaughter had barely begun. So the challenge issued to Gordon Brown might just as well be addressed to your goodself … What courageous thing will you and your colleagues do this Christmas-time to intervene and bring humanity, practical relief and spiritual help to all those Christian and Muslim families who for years have been so cruelly oppressed and abused by the Israeli regime and its supporters?
I am reminded of your Inter-Faith Committee’s statement ‘In Co-operation for the Common Good’, which talks of a commitment to heal wounds of misunderstanding where they are found. All those who signed it are pledged to "draw on the fundamental values held in common and on the wisdom of our respective faiths to continue to work for the wellbeing of our society [and] our wider global community…"
I have also seen your 2008 Faith in Human Rights statement, on the 60th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which seeks to "address major threats to the full realisation of human rights". As you know, the people of Gaza have for decades been denied a list of human rights as long as your arm.
Archbishop, you are a leading advocate of dialogue between the different faiths with the view that religious belief and practice have immense contributions to make to the common good. Furthermore the Church of England and the Churches of the global Anglican Communion increasingly face the need to engage with people and communities of other religions, and you personally are leading that process of engagement here and abroad.
Gaza and the rest of the Holy Land are a prime and urgent test for the engagement you speak of. Why not visit the Strip? Ask Brown and Blair to fix it, and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Galvanise the government and remind them of their Christian duty to defend and protect the weak: somebody should. Of course, that is the duty of all decent men, Christian or not.
See Mr Haniyeh. Imagine it: archbishop meets imam and prime minister of a people under continual terror attack – the forgotten children of a lesser God, apparently – while the international community stands idly by. That would be one very interesting conversation, ground-breaking and symbolic enough to make a difference… and, dare one suggest, bring a smile to the face of God.
Wish I could be there to report it.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.