Christians and Jews alike are instructed by the Ninth Commandment not to "bear false witness against thy neighbour". Yet last month the provincial synod of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa unanimously adopted a resolution which falls short of complying with that instruction.
Among other things, the resolution declared that Palestinians and Israelis both "deserve to live in peace and harmony". Current efforts by the international community were not enough, and "new initiatives towards peace, justice, and reconciliation should be pursued". The church should pursue only "non-violent solutions". All forms of "anti-Semitism and Islamophobia should be condemned in the strongest terms". Members of the Anglican church visiting the Holy Land were encouraged to "choose an inclusive and balanced itinerary".
With that, the commendable evenhandedness of the resolution ended. It went on to declare that "the military occupation of Palestine must end as soon as possible". No reference was made to violent attacks launched against Israel. The "balanced itinerary" made reference to establishing contact with Palestinian Christians, but with nobody else. Anglicans should "educate and inform ourselves about the daily reality of the situation" in the Holy Land. This notwithstanding the fact that the resolution had already declared that "in some respects" the situation in Israel and Palestine "can be described as worse than apartheid".
As for prayers, the provincial synod urged Anglicans to pray "God bless Palestine. Free all from oppression; and bring justice and peace. Amen". Apparently the synod does not believe that any others in the war-torn Holy Land are worthy of prayers.
The resolution goes on to "support any non-violent action, especially well-directed Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction actions against the Israeli state until they end their military occupation of Palestine". Thus does the Church align itself with the global BDS movement, which is dedicated to the stigmatisation, isolation, and ultimate destruction of the state of Israel. To this end it is embarked on a campaign to capture governments, international agencies, newspapers, non-governmental organisations, and academic institutions around the world.
Apart from characterising Israel as an "apartheid regime", into which characterisation the Anglican Church has now bought by formal resolution, BDS describes Israel's "large-scale assaults on Gaza" as "crimes against humanity". There is no reference to the attacks against Israelis launched from Gaza. Nor is there any reference to the possibility that the "apartheid wall" separating Israel from Gaza was constructed to keep out "suicide bombers" and other armed attackers.
The proclaimed right of both Israelis and Palestinians "to live in peace and harmony" is subject to Israel's ending its "occupation" of Palestine but not to the ending of rocket and other attacks launched from there into Israel.
As for BDS's branding of Israel with the "crimes-against-humanity" stamp, this is a wicked libel. Apart from categorising the Israeli state as criminal, it conjures up the industrialised slaughter of millions of Jews (and others) by the Nazis. To thus equate the Israelis with the Nazis is a lie as grotesque as any that ever stained the pages of human history.
Not only has the provincial synod aligned itself with the BDS campaign aimed at the destruction of Israel, it also wants every diocese within the Southern African province of the Church (whose member countries are South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, and St Helena) to pass similar resolutions. This means that it wants every diocese to endorse the boycott, sanctions, and disinvestment campaign.
The synod further favours the appointment of a "Palestinian study group" to "prepare and disseminate study material for use in parishes and dioceses" around the sub-continent.
In addition, the synod wants Southern African delegates to next year's conference of the worldwide Anglican Communion at Lambeth in London to arrange to have its resolution put on to the agenda. They may or may not succeed in this. But one thing is certain: the BDS campaign, whether or not endorsed by the Anglican Communion, will not bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
* A member of the Anglican Church, John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. Readers are invited to take a stand with the IRR by clicking here or sending an SMS with your name to 32823. Each SMS costs R1. Ts and Cs apply.