The representative organization of British Jewry - the Board of Deputies - said it was "dismayed" by this week's decision by the Church of England’s Synod to pass a motion endorsing the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which sends "internationals" to the West Bank to "experience life under occupation."
The Board of Deputies criticized what it called a decision to "promote an inflammatory and partisan program at the expense of its interfaith relations, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
"Justifying its decision using the views of marginal groups in Israel and the UK, the Synod has ridden rough shod over the very real and legitimate concerns of the UK Jewish community, showing a complete disregard for the importance of Anglican-Jewish relations," the board said in a statement.
"As has been repeatedly stated, whilst EAPPI's aims may appear admirable, its program lacks any kind of balance and shows nothing of the context of a hugely complex situation. Unsurprisingly its graduates return with simplistic and radical perspectives, giving talks against Israel which do nothing to promote an understanding of the situation in the Middle East, much less promote a peaceful and viable solution to its problems. Members of Jewish communities across the country have suffered harassment and abuse at EAPPI meetings and yet Synod has completely dismissed their experiences," the board argued.
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According to EAPPI's website, during their visit to the West Bank "Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace.
"When they return home, EAs campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions,” the website states.
Prior to the vote, Britain's Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks warned that by endorsing EAPPI the General Synod would risk damaging Christian-Jewish relations.
The Times of London quoted Rabbi Sacks saying that EAPPI's narrative was "one-sided" and failed to provide volunteers with a "full reflection" of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
"Minimizing Israel's well-founded fears… will not advance the cause of peace," the rabbi said.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, pointed out that rather than work, as many programs do, to promote tolerance by bringing both sides together, the EAPPI "focused on perceived iniquities of the Israelis."
Jewish leaders are not the only ones who opposed the motion to endorse EAPPI. The Vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White, decried the "culture of incitement against Jews and Christians" and said that the Synod was being asked to discount or even ignore rocket attacks on southern Israel. Canon White said he hoped the Synod would reject the initiative.