Photo: St Martins in the Field on 6 September - Embrace the Middle East
ICAHD UK’s director, Linda Ramsden, attended the Embrace Middle East annual lecture at St Martin’s in the Field on 6th September which attracted a crowd of 500 and was live-streamed. The theme was reconciliation. Daniel Munayer, CEO of Musalaha, was one of the speakers along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Rev Su McCellan from Embrace ME. The Archbishop went first and spoke for much longer than he had been allocated. He insisted that the region was “complex and fraught” and “a tragedy” and that we “must avoid binaries…” insisting peace in the Middle East can only come from within the region with the stronger party (Israel) making the first move. Daniel spoke about how reconciliation works on the ground and emphasized that more and more scholars define what is happening there as settler colonialism and with Israel practicing apartheid. Daniel also graciously corrected the Archbishop on many points. He said that we can’t wait for the change in Israel’s moral consciousness to happen first. Examples in history show us that those oppressed speak up. There must be a call for equal human right and justice for all and that the Palestinians can take the lead on this. It was clear that the Archbishop was out of his depth and comfort zone.
During the Q & A, Linda asked the Archbishop whether in the light of the important work that the Church did during the apartheid years in South Africa, he would re-examine his position on Israel’s apartheid, mentioned by Daniel and in reports from Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem and others. In his reply he refused to do so, rejecting the evidence that Israel is practising apartheid and he referred to Israel’s constitution.
Within Daniel’s measured response he stated that Israel doesn’t have a constitution – it has laws thus yet another correction to statements from the Archbishop. Su was gentle and even diplomatic when she provided several examples of Israel’s apartheid policies on the ground.
During the reception which followed, Linda spoke to the Archbishop and asked if he would meet with Jeff Halper when he is in London this autumn because as an Israeli Jew, he has spent nearly 30 years specifically working in support of Palestinians. She was shocked and embarrassed by his discourteous response. The Archbishop drew near to her face, looked her directly her eyes and said, “No. I have no time in my diary.” He then turned away.