A message has been left in a London church’s guest book calling for all Israeli soldiers to be “burned alive”. The comment was left in response to an exhibition on Israel and the Palestinian territories, which some have accused of fuelling anti-Semitism.
Over the last five days Hinde Street Methodist Church in London has been hosting an exhibition composed of a replica of the checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, photographs, and accounts from those who regularly cross the borders between Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Visitors to the church have been encouraged to leave comments, some of which are critical of the state of Israel, others positive.
But one person left the message: “IDF [Israeli Defence Force] soldiers are the scum of the earth! They are disgusting filthy animals and deserve to be burned alive.”
Only their surname “Omana” is legible.
Posting a photograph of the comment to Facebook, David Collier, a Jewish Londoner commented “And they say this exhibition doesn’t promote antisemitism.”
In a personal blog post discussing the exhibition, he added: “One can only wonder, how it was that the church looked around at events in Europe, looked at the rising antisemitism in the UK, the attacks on our Jewish community and actually thought that placing that checkpoint inside the church would be a good idea. Just last week my own 14-year-old daughter saw vile antisemitic graffiti covering a bus stop on her way to school.”
Hinde Street Church has billed the event on its website as inviting people to “experience what it is like to cross a checkpoint every day”, and “explore how we can break down the walls that divide us so no one lives in fear”.
The exhibition is part of World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, organised by The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) to advocate for actions “in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine”.
But it has provoked controversy, as Jewish Londoners were concerned it would fuel anti-Semitic feeling. According to the Metropolitan Police, there were 468 anti-Semitic hate crimes in London in the twelve months to July 2016.
Ahead of the exhibition The Jewish Board of Deputies expressed disappointment that the church had chosen to host the exhibition, which she said “looks [to be] one sided, adding that such events put “unwelcome and unnecessary strain on Christian-Jewish relations”.
She added: “Israel’s security infrastructure comes in response to continued terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
“We have spoken to the Methodist Church’s national body, and to interfaith partners, and have approached the church concerned to outline our concerns and call for a more constructive approach to discussion of the region’s problems. Our view remains that we should be looking to export peace, not import conflict.”
Following that statement, the church met with representatives from the Board and agreed to include some materials in the exhibition explaining the security aspect to the wall, and display of a statement by the Israeli government, provided by a local rabbi.
Commenting, the church has said: “Hinde Street Methodist Church is dedicated to constructive ongoing dialogue between all faiths and denominations to bring about peace and dignity for all in the world. We hope that this exhibition will form part of that ongoing dialogue.”