Christians are partly to blame for “deeply entrenched” anti-Semitism in British society, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
The most senior cleric in England’s state church hit out at the “insidious evil” of anti-Jewish sentiment that often manifests itself in “perverted and absurd” conspiracy theories about Jewish plots to manipulate domestic and world affairs.
Writing for the Holocaust Educational Trust, Justin Welby said that anti-Semitism is “at the heart of racism”.
“Yet, because it is so deeply entrenched in our thought and culture, it is often ignored and dismissed,” he added.
However, turning to Christian theology, the archbishop suggested previous Church teaching was erroneous, writing: “It is a shameful truth that, through its theological teachings, the church, which should have offered an antidote, compounded the spread of this virus.
“The fact that antisemitism has infected the body of the Church is something of which we as Christians must be deeply repentant. We live with the consequences of our history of denial and complicity.”
Christians have had varying views towards Jews over the past 2000 years, ranging from acceptance to outright hostility.
Writing in the fourth and fifth centuries, St Augustine affirmed that Christianity had superseded Judaism as the true faith, but acknowledged Jews as “Witness People” with whom God had made his first covenants. He also called on Christians to “love” Jews as a means to convert them.
However, others have taken a harsher line. The 12th Century English monk Thomas of Monmouth is widely regarded as the man who created the “blood libel” against Jews after alleging they kidnapped and killed a Christian child every year to use their blood in their rituals.
In his piece, the Archbishop of Canterbury also made a passing reference to the anti-Semitism row currently engulfing the Labour Party.
“Antisemitism is not a problem for one political party, one community or one sector of our society,” he wrote. “It permeates and pervades all that it touches when it is swept under the carpet, denied and not confronted head-on.”
He also made reference to various conspiracy theories attributed to Jewish people.
“Even today, in the 21st century, it is shocking that antisemitism still has traction; the virus continues to seek a host.
“It latches onto a variety of different issues: financial inequality, wars and depressions, education, politics and government, grave international issues, such as the rights of Israelis and Palestinians, and interfaith tensions.”
Breitbart reported yesterday how Jewish MPs have reacted angrily to suggestions the Labour Party’s anti-Semitism problem is “exaggerated”.
Jackie Walker, deputy leader of far-left pressure group Momentum, said at the party’s annual conference that claims of anti-Semitism against the party had “become a weapon of political mass destruction”.
However, Jewish MP Luciana Berger responded: “Those of us at the sharp end of abuse and attacks will be the judge of whether anti-Semitism has been exaggerated or not.”