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Answering the Rev Dr Simon Perry

This is a guest post by Jonathan Sacerdoti

The Rev Dr Simon Perry has answered the many emails he was sent protesting his Baptist Church’s hosting of a PSC carol concert, in a post on his website.

In this post, he sets out his reasoning for hosting the event, and asks people to engage with the ‘simple’ points and distinctions he makes. As one of those who wrote to him, and to whom he sent this response, I have written the following response.

Dear Rev Perry.

You didn’t answer my email to you last week directly, but instead sent me a message today pointing me to a generalised response you have put up online. So I’ve done the same, and wish to address your points one by one, as you requested.

According to the Israeli government, in last year’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, 13 Israelis and 1166 Palestinians lost their lives

If you believe that those defending Israel’s right to self defence following 8,000 rockets launched on its civilian population are blind to the sadness of even one human death, you are wrong. However, counting corpses will never reveal the rights and wrongs of this particular situation, where one side deliberately launches its attacks from civilian areas, such as mosques and schools, and the other deliberately protects its civilians. Col Richard Kemp who was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan has been on record several times saying that contrary to your suggestion here and those of the PSC,

“I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza”.

How many armies give a two hour warning by text message, leaflet drop and any other method it can use to warn civilians to evacuate an area being used to launch rockets, before conducting a strike? The number of civilian deaths speaks more of Hamas’ use of human shields than it does of any detail of the IDF’s actions.

The distinction between opposing some actions of the state of Israel, and being anti-Semitic.

*You* are failing to make a distinction between opposing some actions of the State of Israel and giving actual support to a group that has raised money, and via its support for the Viva Palestina organisation, given it to Hamas, a terrorist organisation which kills Christians as well as Jews, and has a stated aim in its charter to kill Jews, rejecting any negotiated peace settlements that could ever be made. You decided to support the PSC. They had previously decided to support Hamas. You are the one blurring distinctions, not the protesters who were outside your church. Moreover, you knew of the links between PSC and Hamas as many people had emailed you to let you know of them. Ignorance is no defence, especially when you had be presented with the facts ahead of the event. Also, can you please point to an example of when anyone there called you antisemitic? I’d definitely say that ‘John Sullivan’ is an antisemite, as I’d hope you would agree. I also know Hamas is antisemitic (just read their charter, particularly the sections about killing Jews). Does supporting Hamas, then, make one antisemitic?

The distinction between supporting the people of Palestine and being active endorsers of all that Hamas stands for.

As explained above, the PSC has supported Hamas. One must question their support of Hamas and their various other actions before dismissing an association with them as simply ‘supporting the people of Palestine’. There are plenty of bilateral organisations which support both the people of Gaza and the the people of Israel caught up in the conflict. But you chose one of the most controversial, anti-Israel groups you could have found to welcome into your Church. That’s why people are concerned about what happened. We wrote to you before the event to draw your attention to this, so you must have known about it.

The distinction between supporting Palestinian victims and opposing Israeli victims.

As mentioned above, there are many organisations which support both. The PSC does not. Would it not make more sense to engage with less divisive groups? We did write to you before the event to explain about PS, so you must have known.

The distinction between supporting people and being one-sided in our solidarity. (If we are even handed, then even by the State of Israel’s figures, one side deserve a hundred times as much support as the other).

As explained already, body counts are a strange way of measuring right and wrong in a complex dispute like that in the middle east. You need to assess the reasons behind those numbers. Additionally, are you aware of how many people were killed over the years when busses, restaurants, bars etc were blown up in Israel? This has *only* stopped thanks to Israeli security measures, not thanks to any change on the part of those who wish to carry out these attacks. That Israel is good at protecting its people and prioritises this aim does not make it its actions any more or less justifiable. It’s primary aim is to defend its people and protect its existence against enemies who wish to delegitimise and ultimately eradicate it.

The distinction between a 2 year old girl surrounded by rubble, and a terrorist firing rockets.

When funds are given directly to Hamas, which do you think benefits, the little girl or the terrorist firing the rocket?

The distinction between one rather racist outsider who apparently turned up to our carol concert, and the spirit of the community that hosted the concert.

He was attending their concert. As was the woman who told another protester that it was a shame Hitler hadn’t killed him. I’m surprised you are comfortable having even two such people in your church. I’d guess there were more like them in the audience, too.

The underlying point to all of this is that the PSC supports Hamas. This is clear. This was made clear to you ahead of the event. You then hosted them in your church. The church secretary, John Benyon, seemed to get it when we explained it to him outside the event. It’s a shame that the same explanations didn’t convince any of you before the event. And it wasn’t just our words that convinced him: PSC did the job themselves. Mr Benyon came out of the church at one point to tell me personally that “it’s not quite the carol service we’d expected. Maybe you have a point”.

These points seem to me fairly simple. And yet I have been sent no end of complex stories, endless pointers to various websites and youtube clips, proud assurances of my critics’ credentials. I am afraid that I have no time read all these links to the opinions of worthy people.

You seem to have strong opinions on this matter. Many do, of course, including me. So it seems strange that you do not have time to research and constantly challenge your views with additional information. Making time only to read supporting material of ones own opinions makes them self fulfilling and only reinforces them blindly. Your points may indeed be fairly simple, but applying them to a very complex situation and expecting them to work is never going to help,

If you really do feel at liberty to police the convictions of others, then perhaps I could encourage you to respect the distinctions listed above and address these issues at their root.

I have done so, above. I hope you can be bothered to read it this time.


Jonathan Sacerdoti