OPINION: Archbishop of Canterbury’s Israel tweet is outrageous and tone deaf

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OPINION: Archbishop of Canterbury’s Israel tweet is outrageous and tone deaf

'I am shocked to see how quickly the Archbishop has changed his tune,' writes Andrew Freedman, following Justin Welby's Tweet that assumes Israel’s army intentionally bombs innocent civilians.

Screenshot. @JustinWelby
Screenshot. @JustinWelby

My schooling was rather Christian. Not quite smells and bells, but certainly enough exposure to the Church of England that its descants, hymns and prayers took on a quiet repository in my memory. But I can also tell you the correct nusach (version) for any service throughout the Jewish calendar. And I’ve always been proud of this slightly quirky, perhaps eccentric duality, of knowing the liturgy of my own religion and also the tone of this country’s official religion.

And so when I read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s tweet, the melodies in my mind jarred. For it was not only outrageous in content, it was also tone deaf. Gone was the song of interfaith. Banished was the melody of sympathy towards Israel, its dead and its hostages.

Soon after 7 October, the Archbishop tweeted strong messages of support for Israel to defend itself alongside strong condemnation against Hamas and its barbarism. So it was a shock to see how quickly the Archbishop had changed his tune. He is singing the atonal hymn sheet of a terrorist organisation which would sooner seek to wipe out Christianity than break bread with it.

But the most ear piercing note of the Archbishop’s Tweet was the baked in assumption, that Israel’s army intentionally bombs innocent civilians.

Pic: Andrew Freedman

The volte face from the Primate of All England shows he is playing from a different score from his visit to Israel on 22 October. There he gave comfort to families of those who had been bereaved and kidnapped, noting that allegations of Israel bombing the Al-Ahli hospital (which he referred to in his most recent Tweet) was a “modern day blood libel”.

At one of the meetings, the Archbishop asked how he could help. The grandfather of fallen soldier Yosef Guedalia, said this: “Support us by declaring the justice of our being in Israel…we are Jews, this is our home, this is where we live, and this is where we have to defend ourselves.” The Archbishop replied that he “agreed entirely with that”.

It seems that the Archbishop has succumbed to the siren song of portraying Israel as amoral, punitive and vengeful. Some of the language in a later missive has traces of the pulpit: “the evil of Hamas cannot be paid by the civilians of Gaza”.

What the Archbishop sadly fails to see, is that Hamas has wrought that very same evil on its own civilians. And for that, we must weep. But Israel does not have that luxury: her very survival is at stake.

  • Andrew Freedman is part of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress and works as a public relations advisor. He writes in a personal capacity.
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