St John the Baptist Parish Church

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Vicar's column - November 2017

2017 marks four key anniversaries for Israel-Palestine:

- 100 years since the Balfour Declaration in 1917

-  70 years since the 1947 UN resolution for the partition plan for Palestine

- 50 years since the 1967 Six-Day War which saw Israel occupy the West Bank

- 10 years since 2007 and the beginnings of the blockade of Gaza

These are not anniversaries to be celebrated, despite Theresa May’s insistence that our nation will mark the centenary of the Balfour declaration this November “with pride”. The Balfour declaration became a legal basis for the establishment of Israel but it was not Britain’s land to give. The document, whilst well intentioned, to create a Jewish State for the most oppressed people on earth, inevitably led to the dispossession of another people. It specifically stated that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil or religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” However, the British and Israeli governments have failed to honour this promise to the indigenous majority of the Holy Land. There has been ethnic cleansing of Christian and Muslim Palestinians from the outset and the program of illegal Jewish settlements continues.

The situation in Gaza is currently more desperate than ever before. Residents live in poverty, rationed on clean drinking water, food and shelter. There are only 3 to 4 hours of mains electricity a day, which has manifold ramifications. Hospitals are starved of fuel, medicine and staff and lives are being lost. We now wait with bated breath to see whether the preliminary reconciliation deal signed by Hamas and Fatah comes into fruition but easing the suffering of Gazans also depends upon Israel ending its siege. In the meantime, the PCC voted to give the profits from our Harvest Supper to the Embrace the Middle East Gaza appeal and we will be looking for opportunities to raise further funds.

It is not possible to turn the clock back 100 years. The appropriate way to commemorate Balfour is for everyone to become visible: there needs to be equal rights for all who call the Holy Land home. There is a problem to solve which Britain played a large part in making.

 Rev Lisa Cornwell