St. James’ Church praises “Beautiful Resistance”

This is a guest post by Raphael.

This Christmas, St James’ Church Piccadilly has built a “wall”, inspired by the Kairos Palestine document.

The Kairos document claims in its Introduction that:

“The document also holds a clear position that non-violent resistance to this injustice is a right and duty for all Palestinians including Christians.”

In article 1.4, Kairos blames Israel for Palestinian terrorism, which it calls “resistance”, saying:

“if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance.”

In this way, Kairos explains away and rationalising any Palestinian terrorism in the form of random murders, firing rockets or blowing up buses full of Jews.

In article 1.5 Kairos appears to describe terrorism as “armed resistance” which is “Palestinian legal resistance” against Israel, with rational and noble goals. It reads:

The Palestinian response to this reality was diverse. Some responded through negotiations: that was the official position of the Palestinian Authority, but it did not advance the peace process. Some political parties followed the way of armed resistance. Israel used this as a pretext to accuse the Palestinians of being terrorists and was able to distort the real nature of the conflict, presenting it as an Israeli war against terror, rather than an Israeli occupation faced by Palestinian legal resistance aiming at ending it.

This is the nature of the “resistance” that Kairos acknowledges. Kairos actively supports “non-violent resistance” whilst passively justifying “armed resistance”.

By associating itself with Kairos, St. James Piccadilly appears to be adopting its morally problematic (if deliberately opaque) position on terrorism.

With this in mind, it was unfortunate at best to read St James’ vicar Rev. Lucy Winkett praise “beautiful resistance”, in her Guardian op-ed yesterday. She explained:

The festival, about the town of Bethlehem at Christmas, is in response to a specific request from the united churches of the Holy Land [the Kairos Document] for support by letting others know their story. We are supporting a peaceful Palestinian principle known as “beautiful resistance”; expressed in theatres, music projects and festivals that exist to counter military dominance with a commitment to non-violent artistic expression.

The problem is that “resistance” as defined by the Kairos Document itself clearly include violent terrorism.

Even if Rev Winkett would personally deplore terror attacks against Jews, the Kairos document she is promoting does not.

Either St. James’ Church has not fully understood the nature of the Kairos document here, or they are trying to soften its aggressive language about resistance, by claiming this resistance is really about artistic projects, not ballistic rockets.

Moreover, the visual imagery St. James’ Church Piccadilly chooses to use, does no good to their claims to help Palestinian Christians.

If they wanted to highlight the plight of believers in Bethlehem, they could have mentioned that the 2/3rds of the city’s Christians have fled since the PA took control, due to discrimination from the non-Christian majority, Christian business owners being intimidated, the rise of Islamist terror in the city, and the PA’s dramatic alteration of the city’s municipal boundaries to undermine the minority Christian representation.

St James could have highlighted how Bethlehem has become one pocket of slow-burning suffering, in a region where a slow genocide of Christians from their faith-heartlands is taking place, with the world watching on helplessly.

Instead, they focused their energies in opposing a temporary defensive barrier designed to protect Jews from terror attacks (not an ideal permanent solution by any means), which terror leaders have complained is too effective in stopping suicide bombings.

Therefore, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that St. James’ Church is adopting a passive-aggressive position, crystallised in their use of the phrase “beautiful resistance.”

After knowing how Kairos define resistance, how can St. James church praise Kairos and still speak of “beautiful resistance” in good faith?

When Russell Brand guest-edited the New Statesman last year and called for revolution and a break from British democracy, he boasted:

Even aesthetically, aside from the ideology, I beam at the spectacle of disruption, even when quite trivial.

Robert Webb from Peep Show gave a wonderful reply to Brand in the following edition, picking up on Brand’s casual association between beauty and violence:

You’re a wonderful talker but on the page you sometimes let your style get ahead of what you actually think. In putting the words “aesthetically” and “disruption” in the same sentence, you come perilously close to saying that violence can be beautiful. Do keep an eye on that. Ambiguity around ambiguity is forgivable in an unpublished poet and expected of an arts student on the pull: for a professional comedian demoting himself to the role of “thinker”, with stadiums full of young people hanging on his every word, it won’t really do.

We might similarly conclude that for a church whose mission is to encourage the spiritual well-being of Londoners and promote everything that is noble about Christianity and faith in God – a church with sufficient resources to raise any issue of suffering in the Christian world and gain attention – to goad Israelis for protecting themselves and then to ambiguously sing the praises of “beautiful resistance”, it won’t really do.

Lucy Lips adds:
Here is a man who certainly loves “resistance”. It is Essam Mustafa, Vice Chair and Managing Trustee of Interpal, paying his respects to Hamas “armed wing” leader Ahmed Jabari. Hamas set up the car Jabari was riding in when he was killed in Gaza by the IDF as a sort of shrine.

Interpal is of course the core of the Hamas UK support network. Paying homage to Hamas heroes is one its favourite activities. Here you see its Chairman Ibrahim Hewitt (left) praying at the tomb of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin.

Interpal is one of the “partners” of the hate fest at St. James’s Piccadilly. It’s a perfect partner alright.