Jewish groups across Britain reacted with tempered anger this week, after the Church of Scotland passed a “woefully inadequate” motion on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.
The vote, taken at the church’s General Assembly on Monday, followed the publication of the Balfour 100 Report last month, which called for a “just peace” in Israel/Palestine, but which was derided as one-sided in its condemnation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush said: “We called out the bias inherent in the document when it was first published and our view remains that it was woefully inadequate in addressing the historical realities of the situation, with some seeking to make the conclusions yet more unbalanced.”
Yet he said there were positive signs, after the debate on the floor of the Assembly expressly mandated the condemnation of Hamas and rejected a proposal for supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
“This shows that there are those in the Kirk who are prepared to listen and engage more constructively,” said Arkush. “Time will tell whether the Church of Scotland wishes to choose truth or polemic.”
Ephraim Borowski from the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) said: “We remain disappointed at parts of the Church’s report and at the tone of some of the speeches in the debate, whose hostility reduced some church members to tears on the pavement outside.”
However, he added: “We acknowledge the efforts to try to make the report more balanced on the complexities of the Middle East, and welcome the Assembly’s condemnation of the genocidal aims of Hamas and the rejection of economic sanctions against Israel as being counter-productive and unjust.”
He added that “much work” remains to be done to build better relations between the Church of Scotland and the Jewish community north of the border, but said: “There is a clear will for both our doors to remain open.”