26th December 2021
Justin Welby, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace, Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7JU
Dear Justin Welby,
On this sad day, on learning of the passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, we are compelled to write to you concerning his exemplary solidarity with the Palestinian people suffering under Israeli apartheid, and his unyielding support for their human rights, which we are pained to see not reflected in your own public utterances.
On the contrary, you have averred that ‘Christians in Israel enjoy democratic and religious freedoms that are a beacon in the region.’
We are perplexed by this apparent disagreement between yourself and Archbishop Tutu; the persecution of Palestinian Christians is ongoing, increasing and well-documented.
We note also that the Archbishop was renowned as a champion of the LGBT+ community – a stance that was opposed by regressive Christian leaders elsewhere, including in the UK where Christian Zionists are influential.
At Christmas, people who do enjoy ‘democratic and religious freedoms’ have been visiting family and friends. In Palestine the vast barrier wall and numerous checkpoints prevent free movement and inhibit Palestinians’ ability to visit family and friends, to go to work or school and to access medical treatment. At a total length of 708 kilometres upon completion, the route traced by the Apartheid barrier is more than double the length of the internationally recognized Green Line, with 15% running along it or in Israel, while the remaining 85% cuts at times 18 kilometres deep into the West Bank, isolating about 9% of it, leaving an estimated 25,000 Palestinians cut off from the bulk of that territory.
In July 2018, the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) completed a comprehensive ‘closure survey’ that recorded 705 permanent obstacles across the West Bank restricting or controlling Palestinian vehicular and pedestrian movement.
Nobody can claim ignorance of the number of Palestinian civilian deaths caused by snipers, rockets, white phosphorous bombings, the revolving door of mass incarcerations without any due process – indefinite detention without charge, a legacy from the British mandate, lack of access to justice, the abuse and arrest of children, house demolitions, land theft and encroaching settlement building and a comprehensive list of other war crimes perpetrated by Israel.
Archbishop Tutu bore witness to the above thus:
‘I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing in the Holy Land that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under Apartheid. I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation is familiar to all Black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.’
All peace and justice-loving people are saddened at the passing of Archbishop Emeritus Tutu and also at your apparent denial of the reality on the ground for all Palestinians and, at this time of year, especially Christian Palestinians, in the Holy Land. Alas, the only statement we could find from you was the one quoted above which is completely misleading, biased and, in effect, reprehensible. What are your counterparts in the Palestinian Christian community and their fellow worshippers to deduce from such a statement?
For your information we are sharing important links from the Lajee Centre, situated in the Governate of Bethlehem on Palestinian land illegally occupied by Israel, where invading Israeli soldiers constantly harass and assault peaceful civilians desperately trying to live ‘normal’ lives under brutal, extremist, military occupation. Speaking on zoom to the director of the Lajee Centre last week, we witnessed the tear-gassing of children playing in a community kindergarten.
We implore you to honour the life of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu by acknowledging the truth and integrity of his stance on the persecution of the Palestinian people and to join his call for an end to Israeli Apartheid and occupation and, following his example, to announce forthwith your support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. This peaceful way of placing pressure on the Israeli state to comply with the UN resolutions and international law that it continually flouts is similar to that which played a crucial part in campaigning to end the racist regime of South Africa.
We note that you have expressed concern for the displaced people desperately seeking asylum here, which is of course particularly distressing for those of us living in Kent, where so many people are arriving on our shores who deserve our support. We would draw to your attention the fact that Palestinians constitute the world’s largest refugee community and the only one denied their inalienable right under international law to return to their homes and land.
When South African political leaders were unjustly imprisoned and denied the right to speak out against Apartheid, it fell to religious leaders to work against the oppression of their people. Desmond Tutu stepped up to this role with powerful courage. To pay respect to this great man, and at this time when British politicians fail to censure Israel for its crimes against humanity, we urge our religious leaders to follow his brave example and honour his legacy by answering the urgent call for justice for Palestine.
The Lajee Center https://www.lajee.ps/index.php
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lajeecenter
This is a video about Palestinian children’s life in Aida Refugee camp:
This video covers the impact of the health crisis in Aida refugee camp:
Clemency Hurman, Secretary,
Jenny King (Chair)
Mary Sullivan (Secretary)
Labour and Palestine, Chair Palestine Solidarity Campaign 2009-2019, former Deputy General Secretary of the PCS Union, parliamentary candidate for Canterbury and Whitstable 2015
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