An open response to “Australian Christians” calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

This is an open response to our brothers and sisters who are Christian leaders who have recently signed an open letter petitioning for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Your harmful letter created a false perception of being representative of ordinary Christians in Australia by writing “as Australian Christians”, and signing your names as people in senior leadership positions of some prominent and significant Christian organisations and institutions.

We have avoided responding up to this point in the hope of not adding to the harm done to the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the hope that the letter would sink into obscurity: as unnoticed by the Jewish and Christian community as it has been by the Australian and Israeli governments.

However, it has become clear to us that this letter, and the silence of all other Australian Christians, is causing great distress amongst many in the Jewish and Christian communities.

And so, with great sorrow, we respond.

A. This letter is antisemitic[1] in its application of double standards to the State of Israel.

The interest and concern about the State of Israel is unmatched by the interest and concern shown about numerous other conflicts and governments where the human rights abuses and war crimes are abundantly clear.

For example, where are the public, open letters addressing the war in Syria, with the killing of 400,000 – 500,000 Syrians? Where are the letters to addressing the Turkish treatment of the Kurds? Where are the letters addressing the persecution of women in Iran? Where are the letters calling on the government to end the war in the DRC which has cost the lives of 4.5 million people over 20 years? Where are the open letters to the government calling for an end to all trade with China until the human rights abuses of the Uyghur people end? Where are the open letters calling on our government to pressure the Chinese government over their treatment of democracy protesters in Hong Kong? Where are the open letters to oppose the massacres in Burma of the Rohingya people? Where are the open letters to the government calling for increased sanctions and pressure on Russia as it invades a sovereign neighbour and massacres civilians? Where were your letters to the governments of the USA, UK, Australia, France, Canada when they were prosecuting a war against Islamist terrorists in Iraq, Afganistan, Syria?

The very act of signing this letter, at this time, is evidence of the application of a double standard to Israel, and the Jewish people. To sign let alone write such a letter is deeply offensive to any Jewish person and to anyone who is objectively concerned for the just and fair treatment of all.

B. Your “realities”, bullet points 1 and 2, deliberately understate the nature of the October  7 attacks, whilst deliberately overstating the death and damage in Gaza.

A. The attack of October 7 is described in the passive voice “led to the deaths of” as if there was no manifest intent. It does not mention Hamas as the perpetrator, and it minimises the death toll – “more than 1,000” – when there exists easily available figures that 1,139 people were murdered (even on Wikipedia). No mention is made of the extraordinary sexual violence and torture which was perpetrated by the terrorists.

In contrast to this, the language in bullet point 2 is in the active voice, it names Israel, and in using the language of “attack” it draws a moral equivalence between the events of October 7 and Israel’s defensive response.

B. The number of Gazan “civilians” killed and taken hostage is carefully highlighted in bullet point 1, while no indication is given in bullet point 2 that – even if one accepts the casualty figures from Hamas – more than 13,000 of those killed are Hamas combatants.

C. There is no recognition that Israel has only targeted those places which Hamas have used as bases for military operations, or the ubiquitous use of civilians as human shields by Hamas. Rather, the letter reads as though Israel has attacked “hospital, schools, mosques and churches” without justification.

D. Your letter also makes no mention of the fact that only now, after Israel successfully destroying most of Hamas’s rocket firing capability, is Hamas ceasing to target Israeli civilians, nor that for the past 15 years Hamas has pursued this strategy of indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians. This strategy is currently being used by Hamas’s co-belligerents in the north, Hezbollah.

E. This letter makes no mention of the fact that Hamas started this war with an invasion, that Israel has a right to self defence, and that the Hamas terrorists proudly livestreamed their horrific war crimes for all to see.

F. Clearly, the rhetorical and political strategy of the letter is to paint Israel in the worst of all possible lights, and Hamas in the best.

3. Your “realities”, bullet point 3, is blatantly antisemitic when minimising the Holocaust by referring to it as attempted genocide.

Given that the word genocide was coined in order to describe the events of the Holocaust, this can only be read as an extraordinary attempt to minimise and downplay the severity of the holocaust. This is a main strategy of antisemitic Holocaust-deniers over the past 80 years, and it is absolutely extraordinary that any Christian person would put their signature to this statement.

This statement is even more appalling when one sees that Israel’s defensive war in Gaza is regularly described as ‘genocide’.

4. Your “realities”, bullet points 4 and 5, seek to paint Hamas in the most positive light, and Israel in the most negative.

A. Every point of the recounting of the “Palestinian” experience is contested by fair minded historians.

B. Your letter does not recognise the reality on the ground: that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and since then Gaza has had complete political and military autonomy (after Hamas massacred its political opponents).

C. Referring to the relentless targeting of Israeli civilians by terrorists, in particular from the Second Intifada (2000-2005) onwards, as “resistance” in this context can only be read as framing the events of October 7 as justifiable resistance.

D. Referring to the terrorist attacks by Palestinians as “resistance” misframes this as a battle against a colonial oppressor. No reputable historian would agree with this. For example, the massacre of Jewish civilians by Arab militia started well before the 1947 partition plan, long before the state of Israel existed.

E. No mention is made of the 22% of the Israeli population who are Arabs, who live peacefully and free from discrimination in the state of Israel. Contrastingly, the Christian communities of Gaza, Judea and Samaria have been decimated under Palestinian governance.

F. No mention is made that the human rights and standard of living of Arabs (especially minorities such as Christians, women and LGB+ communities) in Israel, even in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria, are higher than that of Arabs in the vast majority of the Middle East.

G. This seems a clumsy attempt to offer justification for the atrocities of October 7, and to establish some moral equivalence between the events of October 7 and the actions of the IDF.

It is simply astounding that so many thoughtful Christian leaders agree with this facile analysis.

5. Your “realities”, bullet points 6 and 7, use the Bible selectively and manipulatively.

A. Your letter seems to assume that the modern state of Israel is a continuation of the biblical Israel, and casting the Palestinians are non-Israelite inhabitants of the land, uses that assumption to apply theological pressure on Israel. This may be well and good, but the failure to then explicitly state that Israel is the home of the indigenous inhabitants of the land and that they have the right and responsibility to defend it against every enemy intent on its destruction is disingenuous and inconsistent.

B. The Old Testament and Torah are clear in their support of the use of military violence by Israel to protects is citizens and identity.

C. No mention is made of Romans 13 and the legitimate use of the sword (lethal force) by the state to punish evil. On any reckoning, Israel is justified to use lethal force to punish the evil of October 7.

D. Your letter utterly fails to take Israeli leaders at their word confirmed by their actions since 1947, where they have consistently stated that they want nothing more than to live at peace in their ancestral home, and that they are and have been willing, time after time, to give up land for peace.

E. It also utterly fails to recognise that Hamas and its jihadist co-belligerents are publicly, implacably, theologically committed to waging jihad against Israel until it ceases to exist and the Jews who remain in the land either convert to Islam, live as dhimmis or are killed.

6. Your “call”, bullet point 1, continues egregious moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

A. Hamas has consistently rejected Israel’s ceasefire proposals.

B. The best way to stop the hostilities is for Hamas to release all hostages and surrender.

C. Drawing a clear parallel between the convicted terrorists held in Israeli prisons who have been lawfully charged, tried in open court with legal representation and held in regular prisons, and Hamas’ criminally kidnapped hostages (including a 12 month old baby) who have been raped and tortured, is comprehensible only as the most biased form of anti-Israel propaganda.

7. Your “call”, bullet point 2, makes clear the anti-Israel agenda of the letter.

A. Had the governments of our allies listened to such demands to cease military aid to Israel, thousands of Israeli civilians would have been killed in the recent rocket bombardment by Iran.

B. Rendering Israel defenceless in the face of an unrepentant, merciless, jihadist, existential threat is an extraordinary position for Christian leaders to take.

8. Your “call”, bullet point 4, calls for the right of return of all those who have been forced from their homes by all conflicts, even those preceding modern Israel’s history.

A. Everyone with any knowledge of the region knows that this is impossible.

B. There are no other refugees in the world whose refugee status transfers to their descendants.

C. This is a clear double standard applied to Israel but to no other country. The authors of this letter have not written a similar letter, for example, to the government demanding the right of return of the Greeks to land taken by the Turks in Cyprus, or Pakistanis in India, or farmers in Zimbabwe, or, indeed, of indigenous Australians to the land now owned by the signatories’ own churches, bible colleges etc.

9. The signatories claim that they are not representing the organisations they serve, but giving expression to their own “deeply-held personal convictions”.

If the signatories were strictly writing in their personal capacity, then they should not have borrowed the credibility and weight of their institutions or their roles in them. To do as they have done instead is deeply disingenuous – having a bet each way.

10. We call on all the signatories to publicly apologise to for signing this letter and to withdraw their support for it for the following reasons:

  • This letter does nothing to advance the cause of peace in Israel.
  • This letter is a one-sided piece of propaganda.
  • This letter contains factual errors.
  • This letter is antisemitic in its framing and in its arguments.
  • This letter is deeply offensive to our Jewish community, who already are experiencing unprecedented antisemitic attacks in our country, compounding centuries of political, often bloody antisemitism vainly in the Name of Christ and His Holy Church, and doing great harm to the Gospel amongst the same people the Apostle Paul said he would gladly become accursed for that they might be saved.

It must have been well known to most if not all signatories that their “personal convictions” and assertions are highly contested by a significant number (if not majority) of orthodox, faithful, educated Australian Christians in good standing, and that such a publication must surely necessitate a considered response.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brethren and companions,
I will now say, “Peace be within you.”
Because of the house of the Lord our God
I will seek your good.

Psalm 122:6-9

Amen.

[1] This response uses the working definition and examples of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

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