To report on all the enormous diversity of the 40th Greenbelt Festival would be impossible. Participants will look back on the glorious sunshine in contrast to the floods of 2012 which enabled everything, music, activities, talks, worship, to be enjoyed to the full. But the most significant event may turn out to be the launch of the British response to A Moment of Truth, the Kairos Palestinian document. It is time for action by British Churches in response to the suffering of Palestinian people. The document is available here.
It is timely, for it exposes the sham of the current ‘peace negotiations’ about the future of Israel-Palestine. Even as the Israeli government is claiming to talk, its actions in annexing more Palestinian land and building settler homes give the lie to the words. The homes of Palestinians in the occupied territories continue to be bulldozed. The descendants of refugees still inhabit the camps to which their grandparents fled 65 years ago.
The Kairos event attracted the attention of Zionists who protested outside Greenbelt — they could have bought tickets and participated in debates about Palestine, but chose not to. Had they joined the Festival they would have heard a huge variety of speakers, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, all acknowledging that it is time to act, with Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. These brought an end to apartheid in South Africa, and these same means are needed to end the Israel’s apartheid both in Israel and in the occupied territories. The flawed theology of those who made religious claims in support of apartheid in South Africa was as misguided as the Zionist claims of Christians and Jews about Israel-Palestine. The genocide reported in the Book of Joshua cannot be used as a justification for the actions of the Israeli government today.
It is acknowledged that this struggle will have to begin at the grass roots, and that it will provoke hostility. Christian leaders have been intimidated into failing to support Palestinians. Last year the Church Times reported that the C of E Bishop of Newcastle and the RC Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle withdrew from a conference on Palestine organised by Christian Aid, after local Jewish organisations threatened to withdraw from inter-faith organisations.
The present situation is a shameful result of Britain’s colonial past, when countries in the Middle East were divided up after the First World War. This is why Christians in Britain today have a particular responsibility to seek the end of the continuing injustice suffered by Christian and Muslim Palestinians.