The Archbishop of Canterbury Blamed Israel for Palestinian Muslims’ Persecution of Christians

January 4, 2022 | Elliott Abrams
About the author: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the chairman of the Tikvah Fund.

On the Sunday before Christmas, an article coauthored by a Jerusalem clergyman and Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury—the highest-ranking cleric in the Church of England—appeared in the London Times decrying the treatment of Christians in Israel and citing a “century-long decline in the Christian population in the Holy Land.” Meanwhile, Welby has been silent about the recent spike in attacks on Christians in India, and didn’t see fit to write essays on the persecution of his coreligionists elsewhere in the Middle East. Elliott Abrams comments:

The Christian population in Gaza has declined by 80 percent, from about 4,500 when Israel ruled Gaza down to 1,000 now under Hamas rule. . . . In the West Bank, the Christian population is steadily declining and the State Department reports that, “According to local Christian leaders, Palestinian Christian emigration has continued at rapid rates.”

The Christian population appears to be rising in Israel, but dropping in the West Bank and Gaza. Why, then, blame Israel rather than the Palestinian Authority and Hamas?

Robert Nicholson summed up the situation well: “If the Church of England wants a Christian renaissance in the Near East, it should extend a hand of friendship to the only country where that project is still viable.”

Yet, to adopt Dara Horn’s felicitous phrasing, Welby is very sensitive when it comes to dead Jews, even as he appears fixated on finding fault with living Jews:

Last summer, Archbishop Welby announced that in 2022 the Church of England would apologize for the treatment of Jews in, and their expulsion from, England 800 years ago. . . . The apology is a bit odd, though, given that the Church of England as such would not exist until several hundred years later. . . . Welby should understand that his apology for the church’s actions regarding Jews in England 800 years ago is of far less importance to Jews everywhere today, including in England and especially in Israel, than treating the Jewish state fairly. If he can’t manage that, no apologies will ever be sufficient.

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