Repeatedly during the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, reference was made to South Africa – to the significant role churches and Christians played in supporting the apartheid regime there and the equally significant role churches and Christians played in finally ending it.
On Wednesday 25 May, the Assembly discussed today’s apartheid regime – a regime that privileges Jewish ethnicity as the Afrikaners privileged whiteness, a regime that treats the native Arabs of Palestine as second-class citizens if they live in Israel proper, as third-class non-citizens if they live in the territories illegally occupied by Israel for over 40 years, and as fourth-class non-persons if they are the millions of Palestinians, or the children or grandchildren of Palestinians, who have been exiled from their land, while Israel steadfastly refuses their right, enshrined in international law and recognised in UN resolutions, to return home.
We European Christians are doubly complicit in what Israel is and does. First, in that centuries of utterly deplorable Christian anti-Judaism prepared a seedbed for modern European anti-Semitism and ultimately for the Holocaust. Second, in that Holocaust guilt and belated repentance of anti-Judaism prompt too many of us to keep silent while Israel persists in a strategy of dispossessing the indigenous population of Palestine that began in 1948 and continues to this day – grabbing their land, demolishing their houses, stealing their water, uprooting their olives trees, and killing them.
Having built an effective apartheid state, Israel is now constructing an Atlantic wall of draconian laws to defend it, aiming to silence those, in Israel and beyond, who wish to call a spade a spade and to frustrate them in pursuing a strategy of non-violent action that will finally lead Palestine to peace with justice – the only peace that will last.