Monday 14 July 2014

The visionless Israeli policy: 'An eye for an eye...'

The escalation of violence in Israel/Palestine is as distressing as it is inevitable. At last count, nearly 200 people have died in the bombing of Gaza - 80% of whom at least are estimated by the UN to be civilians.

This is a predictable outcome of Israeli military policy: Crush the opposition, and if the Palestinians find some way of fighting back, the Israeli military response will be massive. We have seen this sort of collective punishment many times before. It is barbaric, and the Israeli government don't give a damn about how it looks to the rest of the world. As long as Obama keeps out, Israeli can do what it wants.

Does it always have to be this way? I hope not, but here are some of the ways forward: First, those of us opposed to Israeli violence must consistently attack all forms of violence. I'm sick of watching Palestinian leaders justify the killing of Israeli's or equating the sending of rockets into Israel as the same as throwing stones. We must openly condemn all forms of violence.

Second. Take action. Let us boycott Israeli goods - places like Tesco seem happy to sell Israeli goods - so lets be happy to make our views known by demonstrating outside shops who put profits before peoples lives. Lets take public direct action in a legitimate non-violent way.

Three. Lets get our message on the streets. I'll be at the regional demonstration at the Monument in Newcastle tomorrow at 5:30, and despite the distance, will try to get to the National demonstration called for Saturday at 12noon London. Israel thrives because countries like England refuse to condemn Israeli atrocities - so we must make it impossible for Cameron to appear neutral while such slaughter occurs. We need to expose lies about Palestine and tell the truth about conditions for Palestinians.

If there is to be a lasting peace in Israel/Palestine - it will come from peacemakers both inside and outside Jerusalem, it will come from the people who are sick of the ways of violence.

The policy of 'an eye for an eye' has left the bulk of Israeli and Palestinian politicians unable to see the truth of the situation. It is the women, children and ordinary citizens who cry out for peace who need to be listened to today. We must do all we can to make sure those cries are heard.

Finally, women Bishops. LGBT equality next?

Its been a long, long wait for gender equality in the Church of England. Obviously I'm overjoyed at the decision in Synod today, but you also have to also ask, why did it take so long? It's 2014 for heaven's sake, not the 1970's!

What makes the CofE so resistant to change? It took more than 80 years of campaigning for female clergy and even after women were accepted as priests, it took a further 20 years to allow them even the possibility of becoming Bishops.

The journey taken needs to be examined for lots of good reasons, but the main one is that we need to know when equality will come for our LGBT colleagues. We don't want to wait another 100 years before we see progress.

There are signs of change. Pioneers such as Gene Robinson in the US have paved the way, at great personal cost. But at the moment, the English bit of the Anglican communion seems to be taking a step back from accepting LGBT clergy. They shouldn't have to rely on the occasional brave Bishop who is prepared to employ an openly Gay priest living with his partner, or an Archdeacon who won't ask why two of his female clergy are living together. LGBT clergy need to be accepted for who they are and their gifts used to the full. Until we have equality in our churches, all of us in the C of E are strongly inhibited from proclaiming a Gospel of justice and fairness.

Change will come - today's vote marks a significant step forward for women in the Church. Today we can dare to dream of a church where equality matters, and the institution promotes rather than denies the justice found under the reign of God. Let us celebrate, and work for the next leap forward.