Calling on my London friends to protest the anti-Israel “Bethlehem Wall” at St. James’s Church

Sharon K’s pro-Israel grafitti on the anti-Israel wall at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly

In my post last week about the annual anti-Israel nastiness at Christmas-time, I mentioned Richard Millett’s post about a disgusting display of blatant anti-Israel prejudice, verging on the antisemitic, put on by St. James Church in Piccadilly, who built a life-size mock-up of Israel’s security barrier in order to propagandize against Israel:

St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, in London’s West End has installed a life size 8 metre tall/30 metre long replica of Israel’s security wall in its courtyard as part of its Bethlehem Unwrapped festival. The replica wall is so vast that it obscures the Church itself.

The replica wall will be lit up at night and for the next twelve days of Christmas (until 5th January) a montage of images and slogans will be continuously projected onto it. Scenes include parts of London with a wall passing through it.

What you won’t see projected onto the replica wall are scenes of bombed out Israeli buses, hotels, pizza restaurants, bars and nightclubs that were ubiquitous in Israel before the wall.

[…]

Last night’s unveiling of the replica wall was introduced by St James’s Church Rector Lucy Winkett.

Rector Winkett said the reason behind the replica wall was that when 20 of them visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in October “one of the lasting memories of our time there was this wall” (see clip).

It is a shame Rector Winkett didn’t also visit the graves of Israeli children murdered by Palestinian suicide bombers or Israelis left disabled by them.

The microphone was then handed to Jeff Halper of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions who left those who made it to the church despite the dreadful weather conditions in no doubt as to what the next twelves days of Bethlehem Unwrapped had in store. Halper has previously expressed his wish to boycott Israel out of existence.

[…]

I understand that there are due to be a couple of last minute voices putting Israel’s case at the panel debate with Halper “Both sides of the Barrier: Separation or Security?” on January 4th but it is a drop in the ocean when compared to what is taking place over the entirety of the festival.

Richard had a useful suggestion for supporters of Israel, or just for those who object to this blatant prejudiced propaganda. Emphases are mine:

During the festival members of the public are being invited write on the wall. The address of St James’s Church is 197 Piccadilly. It’s very close to Piccadilly Circus tube station. Feel free to head away from the sales for a few minutes to balance out the hate and the lies. But take a good pen with you.

This story has received widespread coverage in the pro-Israel blogosphere.

Melanie Phillips has written an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby in “A church of hate“:

Dear Archbishop,

I read with interest your Christmas Day sermon, in which you said:

‘The Christian meaning of Christmas is unconditional love received, love overflowing into a frequently love-lost world.’

I wonder how you reconcile this with the fact that one of your churches, St James’s Piccadilly, chose Christmas to turn itself into a church of hate?

[…]

Although the church acknowledges in passing that the original purpose of this ‘wall’ was ‘to protect Israeli citizens from terrorism’, it suggests instead that its only result has been to oppress and harass innocent Palestinians. The inevitable effect of this wholly mendacious and malevolent travesty will be to incite hatred against Israel and all who support its defence against the war of extermination being perpetrated against it.

St James’s has put out a pious statement that it

‘… opposes all forms of racism including antisemitism and supports the right of the State of Israel to exist with secure internationally recognised borders’.

I’m afraid this really is the most nauseating cant.

If this church were really concerned to stop antisemitism and allow Israel to live in peace with its neighbours, it would have acknowledged that Palestinian children are being routinely taught to hate and murder Israelis (see this or this for example).

Melanie goes on to list – and then refute – the lies put out by this hateful church, and continues:

There are other glaring omissions and distortions. The church makes no mention of the fact that, as shown here, Rachel’s Tomb, one of Judaism’s holiest sites which is very near Bethlehem and where many attacks have taken place against Jewish worshippers, really has been walled off and turned into a kind of fortress – to protect Jews from further attacks by Arabs.

[…]

It unaccountably makes no mention of the fate of the Christians of Bethlehem and other areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, detailed here in The Commentator by Steve Apfel

[…]

St James’s makes no mention of any of this. Instead, from tomorrow it will host a hate-fest of anti-Israel activists and personalities, whose contribution to the store of love and truth in the world is described by Richard Millett here.

Israel is currently the victim of a mind-bending campaign of demonisation and delegitimisation based on falsehoods, libels and gross distortions. Your church, Archbishop, has now become part of this sinister and wicked attempt to exterminate a country by reversing truth and lies in the minds of decent people.

[…]

This terrible doctrine of ‘supersessionism’, which was responsible for centuries of Christian persecution and mass murder of the Jews, has become resurgent in recent years through the influence of Palestinian Christians who have attempted to rewrite the Bible as a lexicon of hate to further the cause of Palestinianism. To that end, they have attempted to airbrush the Jews out of their own history, while seeking to appropriate the Christian story itself by depicting Palestinians as suffering the torments of Jesus. Cashing in on this trend, Mahmoud Abbas ludicrously referred in his own Christmas message to Jesus – the Jew from Judea ­– as a Palestinian.

[…]

The only purpose of Israel’s security barrier is to save life and prevent mass murder. The only purpose of the St James’s Church ‘Bethlehem Unwrapped’ stunt is to stir up hatred.

To stay silent is to make the rest of the Church an accessory to this obscenity. I therefore trust that you will take all necessary steps to counter the calumny promulgated by St James’s and prevent the stain upon the wider Church from now spreading.

Read the entire article and broadcast it as widely as possible.  The lies and distortions in this propaganda stunt must be confronted and refuted as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

UPDATED to add: How could I have forgotten Michael Dickson’s excellent open letter to St. James’s Church in the Times of Israel:

Dear Pastor Winkett and St. James Church staff,
What a mean-spirited, one-sided and divisive stunt you chose to politicise your church with this Christmas.
In an ideal world there would be no walls.
In an ideal world there would also be no suicide bombers – radical Islamist Palestinians who hate the Jews that live close to them so much that they are willing to indiscriminately kill them and others – be it in a shopping centre, disco, pizza restaurant or if they are sitting at their Passover Seder.
Be in no doubt that Israel built a security barrier only after enduring a wave of horrific terrorism that left thousands dead and maimed for life.
Your completely partial representation of the situation negates their loss of life and shows gross insensitivity to their families – and by extension to all Israelis and the Jewish community in the UK, none of whom were untouched by these murders.
[…]
You can read an informational flyer from StandWithUs on the security barrier here.
Here is a brochure with faces of the children whose lives were snuffed out by Palestinian terrorists.
Those who were murdered by terrorism before the security barrier was built cannot cry out.
So I hope in some small way to be their voice.
And I hope that those among you who regret this uncompassionate, one-sided, divisive act at Christmas taking place at St. James Church, will speak out too.

Strong words, very well written. I wonder if the church will pay any notice.

Israellycool too has a series of articles about this wall stunt:

Up against the wall by Varda Epstein who noted:

There’s nothing like a life-size replica of a very large wall to get one’s imagination worked up over the imaginary malfeasance of the Israeli government. Especially when no context whatsoever is offered regarding the purpose of the real wall; which effectively prevents terrorists from bombing Israeli buses, pizzerias, pubs, and clubs. Note that there are no replicas of such bombed out relics on display, life-size or otherwise.

Brian of London reminded us that “This wall saves lives” and mentioned an enterprising and courageous Londoner’s effort to remind the bigots at St. James’ Church:

… read this Facebook status (shared with friends so this link won’t work for all) from some friends of mine:

Sharon and Lesley again at the St James market place today armed with our bag of acrylic paint and wall brush.

With no support from anybody the sense was one of antagonism, being watched as we were by the wardens present it seemed, in case we dared to write on the wall. Seeing our paint Tom, a St James warden approached us to say we could only use their now worn out felt pens. Explaining the uselessness of those pens and the fact that others had used spray paint Debbie, another warden said she’d get us some of theirs. Returning a while later she produced grey – the shade they use to obliterate posts they don’t approve of. In the end Tom told me I could paint one message on a designated spot, provided I was professional and refrained from being abusive. Odd that seeing that others could write what and where they wanted as many times as they wanted!

So I painted This Wall Saves Lives, started to write that 1340 Israeli citizens have died as a result of terrorist attacks since 2000, but Tom’s space and location didn’t permit!

Sharon’s contribution to the anti-Israel display at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly

Harry’s Place also quoted Sharon Klaff’s comment, adding:

“I have been twice to the market place to witness what the good people of St James are up to with their faux wall advertised as art. By now you all know what it looks like.

Christmas Day brought a long chat to the vicar in attendance that day, dressed in white robes as she was. We missed her sermon as we were busy trying to use their useless felt pens to write on a badly plastered surface (note to me: I must remember not to use their plasterers) but it must have been inspiring as the congregants who emerged were all fired up, one dashing out with a ladder to paint a Lincoln quote about eradicating your enemies by making them your friends. This is exactly what I tried to do and found Tom, Debbie and Sarah, all monitors working the market place that day, to be very friendly – Tom offered me a piece of home made chocolate and Debbie a tray of edible goodies from Fortnums nearby.

On Christmas Day the vicar told us they had recently travelled to Bethlehem (courtesy Amos Trust!) and were assured that the Palestinian narrative had changed to one that is conducive to the removal of the security barrier. I am sure the Fogel family, of whom none of them had heard, would be delighted to know this. It’s just a great pity too few of them are still around to get that message of goodwill from the good people of St James this Christmas Day 2013.

Back at Israellycool, Aussie Dave, in “Blocks of Antisemitism“, posted an incredibly strong, moving open letter to the church by Kay Wilson who two years ago was brutally stabbed by Palestinians in an attack that killed her friend, Kristine Luken. The letter was also posted on Trending Central:

And it came to pass that near the seventh hour, the shepherds said, “Behold, let us go forth and kill these Jews like Allah has told us to do.”

The shepherds gagged the women, removed their shoes and bound their hands. They forced one woman to her knees, covered her head and pushed  her neck forward. The woman knelt, and prepared herself to be beheaded. Suddenly she saw a great light – the blade of his knife glinting in the sun. The Jewish woman whispered, “Hear Oh Israel.” The Islamic host cried, “Allah HuAkbar,” and the Christian screamed “Jesus,” the name of a Jew born in David’s town.

Thirteen times the shepherds thrust their knives into the women, breaking bones, tearing flesh, even impaling one to the ground. As the Jew played dead, she watched the Christian friend hacked to death before her very eyes.

The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising Allah for all that they had seen and spread the word concerning what had they had done. “Today near the town of David, two Jews have been slaughtered,” they declared. They plotted and schemed, boasting to their neighbours, “this will be a sign, they will find two of their own, all meanly wrapped in bloody clothes and in the bushes laid.” And everyone who heard of it, was amazed.

[…]

I would like to think that as Christians, the church would never condone Kristine Luken’s heinous murder or the attack on myself. I suspect however that you may rationalise this savagery as an inevitable result of the “Israeli occupation.”

You would probably suggest that the Palestinians who murdered my friend were themselves victims who grew up in depravity. I would concur, but would point out that if poverty was the case, the aristocrats who flew into the twin towers had no reason to commit their crimes.

[…]

If the wall was scrutinised, one would see that underneath the whitewashed surface that concerns itself with Israeli policies, there are blocks of anti-Semitism. These bricks stand high. They raise expectations from an entire people group. This wall precedes to separate the nation of Israel as non-desirable.

The wall is cemented together by a superior theology that tells it’s people that G-d gave up on the Jews. This is the same theology that lies behind radical Islam. G-d tried the Jews, then the Christians, but ultimately it was the Muslims who He ultimately chose.

[…]

Your wall inflames an ancient conflict that for those like myself, who live in this region, long not for an exacerbation in hatred but for a quenching of hostilities.

Your wall is an affront to Kristine Luken and other victims of terror who may well have been alive today had there have been a wall erected on the other 90% of land that separates us from our Palestinian neighbours.

Your wall is an injustice to Christians living under Muslim despotism. Ironically it is the State of Israel, that you deem pariah and unjust, that is unique in the Middle East because unlike all of our neighbours, our Christian population is flourishing and our Christians have full religious rights.

Please write on your wall, under the cross, now obscured by the crescent…. “R.I.P Kristine Luken.”
Sincerely,

Kay Wilson – (a British-born Israeli)

Trending Central gives us another useful suggestion:

You can click here to e-mail St. James’s Church about its “wall” and copy the link to this letter in your e-mail.

I would like to add my voice to Richard Millett’s and Trending Central and call on my friends and family in London to take their suggestions to take an example from Sharon and go to the church and paint some pro-Israel graffiti on their antisemitic wall.  Those of us not in London can either email the church at the link above.

Despite the fact that this church was almost unknown until last week, their publicity stunt and vicious anti-Israel and antisemitic message must be countered with all possible speed.

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22 Responses to Calling on my London friends to protest the anti-Israel “Bethlehem Wall” at St. James’s Church

  1. cba says:

    Good suggestions, Anne.

  2. OyiaBrown says:

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown and commented:

    I am sure your post will go a long way to redress the balance. I have sent my e-mail in protest. Well done for providing the publicity and a vehicle to counter these light-weight minds. Thanks, Oyia Brown.

  3. peteca1 says:

    thanks for mentioning. I hope someone photographs the London wall before it is removed. It would be interesting to see it.
    Pete, USA

  4. cba says:

    Even more disgusting… someone has changed Sharon’s “THIS WALL SAVES LIVES” to “THIS WALL ENSLAVES LIVES” http://www.israellycool.com/2013/12/31/what-would-jesus-do/

    • peteca1 says:

      Well Sharon will just have to write it again on the left side of the wall, so there is no room before the “S”.

      This wall
      Saves lives!,

    • anneinpt says:

      It’s beyond sickening. I can’t even comprehend this hatred for a people that these bigots have never met and never tried to get to know. Pete’s idea below is a good one. Sharon K mentioned that she and other activists are organizing to meet at 6 pm on Saturday night at the church. Anyone who is able to join should do so. If I was in London I would join in too.

  5. Colin Barnes says:

    Hi Anne,
    Thank you for an excellent article. As a Christian, it tears my heart! It is evil and will not stand. May I post a link to it on my Facebook?

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you Colin. Your support is very meaningful for us.

      By all means publicise this on facebook- and on any other forum too.

      You may also publicise any of my other posts (with appropriate links of course).

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  7. Brian Goldfarb says:

    for those who haven’t written yet, the email address for the Rev Lucy Winkett is rector@sjp.org.uk. Earlier today, I sent the following letter (copied to the UK branch of stand with us):

    “Dear Rev. Lucy Winkett

    I was disappointed, but not surprised, by St James’s erection of a travestied copy of Israel’s security barrier across the Piccadilly facade of the church. Disappointed because I would have hoped that professing and practising Christians would acquaint themselves with the facts (which, as C.P. Scott noted all those decades ago, are sacred, even if subject to interpretation) before making such an outstandingly one-sided statement. Incidentally, what impact does such a blatantly political statement have on the church’s Charity status? As I am aware from my own voluntary work, registered charities are supposed to stay well clear of politics.

    Among these facts is, as many have already told you, the fact that since the erection of the barrier, suicide and other terrorist attacks within the 1948 Truce Line between Israel and her neighbour have virtually disappeared. I do realise that depriving terrorists of their right to attack innocent others may well infringe those terrorists human rights, but this is a small price to pay, as I am sure the victims of the 7/7 attacks in London would assure you.

    Then there is the fact that the International Court of Justice declared that any sovereign state may erects a barrier of any sort on its own actual border, and this is a perfectly legal act under international law. It is regrettable that Israel’s isn’t, in fact, so built in its entirety, but this could easily be remedied, unlike the lives, limbs and suffering of the victims of terror. The barrier can also, in the event of peace, be removed.

    However, for there to be peace, there needs to be an agreement between at least two participants in whatever the conflict is. Or, as Perez de Coelha, former Secretary General of the UN, said in relation to the conflict over the Falklands Islands and the failure to find a peaceful solution, “It takes two to tango”. By focussing exclusively on the supposed evil of Israel and the Israelis, your church’s efforts serve only to objectify the Palestinians: they have no agency in this matter, but must be seen only and always as the victims of others. Why aren’t you and the others responsible for this event pressurising the Palestinians and their allies to come to the negotiating table (which is open and before them, courtesy of, inter alia, the US Government) to negotiate in good faith? Or would that deprive the collective you of a simple and easy propaganda victory?

    For that matter, why have you chosen this issue and not others? Why not, for example, take the opportunity to remind the world of the unlawful occupation by Morocco of Western Sahara? Or of Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus? Why not take a stand on China’s invasion and occupation of Tibet? All worthy subjects for your compassion. Come to that, why are you not protesting what is happening to your co-religionists across the Moslem world? Can you name a country in the Moslem world that is as tolerant of Christians as is Israel? Or as tolerant of Moslems of any denomination as Israel is? Why do you not choose to highlight the fate of Sunni Moslems in Shia-dominated countries, or that of Shia Moslems in Sunni-dominated ones?

    No, you would rather choose an extremely soft target: the one country which is a self-proclaimed Jewish state, the one where about half of the world’s Jews lives.

    And, in any reply you make, please don’t tell me “after what happened to them, Jews should know better”. It is equally valid to riposte that after what happened to the Jews, the world should know better.”

    Sorry for the length. If anything in it inspires anyone, please feel free to be inspired to the Rev Lucy Winkett.

    • anneinpt says:

      Excellent letter Brian! Of course I’m sure it will not make the slightest dent in the smug self-righteousness of Rev. Winkett and her pals. But maybe it will persuade some “passing traffic”.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        This afternoon/early evening, I opened up my emails to discover this gem from St james, Piccadilly:

        Thank you for contacting us. As you can imagine, the Bethlehem Unwrapped Festival has generated an overwhelming response both in writing and in person at St James’s Church, with a wide range of views expressed. We are unable to reply to every e-mail personally, but Lucy Winkett has asked me to draw your attention to her blog written this week in the light of these responses. It can be found at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/02/bethlehem-unwrapped-not-taking-sides-israel-security-wall

        Yours
        Joanna Hines & Tony Sanchez
        Churchwardens on behalf of the PCC of St James’s Church, Piccadilly

        So I of course replied, as follows:

        Thank you for this.

        However, having read the new Comment is Free article, I in no way regard this as a response to my email, but as a defence of what has already been done. Hardly the same thing.

        But then I don’t think I really expected a direct answer, nor, I suspect, do others who take the general stance I have taken, and who have written directly to you.

        Being busy is no reason for failing to respond, even in general terms, to specific criticisms. Rather, it is an evasion.

        Yours sincerely

        Brian Goldfarb

        PS I don’t expect a direct answer to this email either. Surprise me!

        As Anne notes above, no more than could be expected.

        BTW, I urge everyone who reads this far to check out The Algemeiner for 3 Jan 2014, and the article concerning Lucy Duggan. If Anne decides to cover it (it concerns the ASA boycott of Israel), I will, with her permission, post my take, sent as a note to a different blog.

        • anneinpt says:

          The article that Brian is referring to is this one at the Algemeiner.

          Brian, you’re welcome to post your comment on my ASA boycott post from 17th December. Readers can always see latest comments in the right-hand sidebar. You’re also welcome to post it and/or my own post on any other blog (as long as you provide a link back to here). It’s good to give this story as wide a coverage as possible, though I think with the massive backlash suffered by the ASA, we can safely say that they lost and we won.

          • Brian Goldfarb says:

            Thank you for the invitation, and I have just posted that article/comment via a link to Simply Jews.

            • Brian Goldfarb says:

              And as of now (8 Jan. 00.30) no reply from St james Church.

              Did I expect one? Of course not. That would involve someone over there actually reading what is said and thinking about a reply…and thinking would appear to be beyond their capacity. They have exhausted their intellectual abilities with their version of the wall – and think themselves so clever.

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  9. Kay Wilson says:

    Anne, I just saw this now! Thank for posting and doing all that you could to honour the name of my murdered friend, Kristine Luken. Keep up the great work. Kay

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you Kay. I’m honoured that you came to my blog. Kol hakavod to you for all that you do in honour of your friend, and for your courage in facing the enemy and in facing your fears and memories after the horrific attack.

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