Mr Rowan Williams
The Archbishop of Canterbury
Paris, 27 June 2005
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is an international Jewish human rights organization with a worldwide membership of 440,000. Established in 1977, with headquarters in Los Angeles, it draws the lessons of the Holocaust to the analysis of contemporary issues of prejudice and discrimination. The Centre is an NGO in Consultative Status to ECOSOC, UNESCO and the Council of Europe.
When a Church (any church) calls for a boycott of Jews (anywhere on G-d's earth), the Jewish collective memory refocuses. The lights dim and a film reel in our heads begins to unwind:
A fast backward to the charge of collective deicide, the Judas image of ultimate treachery, original sin, the curse of exile and eternal wandering, divine retribution, the figure of the Anti-Christ, Christianity's substitution of Judaism "in spiritum" and the subsequent delegitimization of the people of Israel.
Disputations, forced conversions, Passover/ Easter blood libels, accusations of well-poisoning, importing plague and pestilence, the theft of Christian innocents, race defilement, white slave traffic.
Pogroms, autos de fe, Inquisition burnings at the stake, burning synagogues and Yeshivas, burning of Holy scrolls and prayer books.
Cathedral statues of "the Church Triumphant" alongside "the Vanquished Synagogue", exclusion from land ownership, conspiracy theories, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, expulsions, boycotts, Kristallnacht, cemetery desecration, collaboration in deportation and extermination, SILENCE...
After two millennia, we thought that the film had ended, the lights had come back on as we flash forward to a sobered Christendom that would banish the shadows forever.
Archbishop, we were so wrong:
- only one people remains an endangered species
- only one State remains unambiguously threatened with extinction in the chambers of the United Nations system
- only one nation is still denied acknowledgement of its right to sovereign legitimacy
Archbishop, your vote, last Friday, for the Anglican Church's economic disinvestment of companies that trade with the Jewish State is not only biased, not only in violation of freedom of commerce provisions of the European Union and the World Trade Organization, your vote is one more traumatic frame in that never-ending film.
From little Hugh of Lincoln, the pogrom of York, the expulsion by Edward the Confessor, you have telescoped Church history of Judeophobia in England, the liberal and tolerant land of my birth. You have widened the floodgates, for if it could happen there...!
Archbishop, when you say "divestment of Israel", we hear "Kauft nicht bei Juden", and we are filled with an immense sadness at your damage to decades of inter-faith dialogue.
We can only hope to be comforted by those Anglican friends who will reject this new preaching of the Gospel of the Anti-Christ.
Dr. Shimon Samuels
Director for International Affairs
Mr. Simon Wiesenthal, Vienna
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles