Archbishop calls for Gaza ‘ceasefire’ saying ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ not ‘morally justified’

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Archbishop calls for Gaza ‘ceasefire’ saying ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ not ‘morally justified’

In his address to the Church of England's General Synod Justin Welby says conflict between Israel and Hamas is “prising people apart” in the UK,

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza during a lengthy address to the Church of England’s General Synod on “the devastating violence in Israel and Palestine.”

Claiming he wished to make “no equivalence between the atrocities of Hamas against Israeli civilians, and the right and duty of Israel to defend itself”, Justin Welby said on Monday the “humanitarian catastrophe” as a result of Israel’s response to the October 7th Hamas atrocities cannot be morally justified.

But the Archbishop also admitted:”I do not have military or political answers to this crisis. I do not speak from those perspectives.”

But he added the conflict is “prising people apart” in the UK, and he insisted “hateful voices stoking prejudice” must be challenged and repeated his calls for a ceasefire in the region.

In an effort to quell criticism of his latest address Welby said:”I want to make clear that there is no equivalence between the atrocities of Hamas against Israeli civilians, and the right and duty of Israel to defend itself.

“I have emphasised that previously, and I do so again.“But I also want to make clear that I do not believe the devastating loss of civilian life and humanitarian catastrophe resulting from Israel’s bombardment and siege of Gaza can be morally justified.

“I think we need to be able to say both these things – in fact, it is essential that we do.”

He spoke of the “barbaric slaughter of innocent Israelis by Hamas, the kidnapping of men, women and young children,” which he said “has traumatised Israelis and Jewish people around the world.”

Noting his own visit to Jerusalem three weeks ago he added:” The level of trauma was overwhelming.

“It has re-awakened terrible memories, and sown fear for the future. As one father of someone killed said to me ‘I thought at least this was the one country in the world where we were safe’.

“In Jerusalem recently, I sat with an Israeli Jewish man who told me how members of his family, aged from three to elderly, had all been taken hostage by Hamas. 

“No parent should ever lie awake at night wondering whether their child is still alive, whether they are being fed, whether they will hold them again. I renew my call for the release of all those held captive since 7th October.”

But he then focused on the Palestinians in Gaza adding they “have already suffered for so long under Hamas rule, and Israeli occupation and blockade – life has descended into a living hell from which they can’t escape.”Welby then suggested:”

For all Palestinians, the conflict has reawakened fears of a second Nakba.”

He claimed:”Israel’s bombardment of Gaza on this unprecedented scale has killed thousands upon thousands of innocent people – including more than 4,000 children. ”

No parent should ever have to write their child’s name on their body, so they can be identified if they do not survive the next missile. No child should ever die with written on their body ‘unknown’.”

The Archbishop also said the “siege has denied people food, water, medical treatment.”

He continued:”The current levels of aid entering Gaza are utterly insufficient to meet the needs of more than two million people. Doctors are now having to make the choice between who will be operated on without anaesthetic, and who will receive no treatment at all.

“The suffering of innocent Palestinians cries out as a great wrong. As I have said before: the evils of Hamas cannot be paid by the civilians of Gaza.”

He also criticised what he said was “increasingly serious, and there is rising abuse, harassment and discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel”.

Welby continued:”Settler violence from the illegal settlements under international law, apparently unchecked by Israel as the occupying power, will lead to another arena of unconstrained war unless Israel takes urgent steps to protect Palestinians.”

He called for all “allegations of violations of international law” to be investigated by the relevant authorities.

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