Letters - 5 November 2021

From Antisemitism to Menwith Hill


Take heed dear Friends… I hesitate to join the controversy over antisemitism and the plight of the Palestinians which has carried on over the past few months in the Friend. I hope that I do so in a suitable spirit of humility, as if it were ministry in a Meeting. These things are very difficult indeed and need careful thought and discernment. 

It seems to me that friendships might provide a suitable base from which Friends can begin to deal with all of this. If we are able to make friends with Jewish and Palestinian people then perhaps we will be in a position to engage in fruitful conversations. Such conversations will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the range of opinions on these matters. Here I am thinking in particular about the many positions held by Jews on the actions of the Israeli state. I would hasten to add that these conversations alone do not provide enough reason for establishing such friendships. In my view, it is important to make friends with people, wherever they come from and whatever their opinions might be. If we should find ourselves involved in controversy about Palestine, though, in my experience it makes all the difference in the world if we did not raise the subject. I am entitled to my opinions, and to discuss them in hopes of learning more or even (God forbid) changing them.

Quite apart from the need to establish good relationships with people Friends may feel the need to protest against oppressive actions by the state. This applies to the British state, just as it does to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the US, China, Israel and many more. It will not be possible to protest against all the world’s injustices, so that decisions must be made. Whatever protests people decide to make, there is likely to be opposition to the points they raise. That opposition may even involve charges of antisemitism.

For my part, I am resigned to the possibility that I may have to face such charges from time to time. There seems to be a modern tendency to try to close down the speech of people with whom we disagree. If a definition of antisemitism be found which appears to undermine my communications with the Israeli Embassy about the actions of the Israeli state then I may just have to live with that. And other definitions will be available. Rather than getting ourselves caught on the question of definition, Friends, might we be wiser to consider matters of conscience and truth?

Bill McMellon

Menwith Hill

The news section of the Friend (15 October) tells of a new report on the activities of Menwith Hill. Readers may wish to know that they can read the report for themselves and form their own opinions. It is available on the Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign Website (https://themhac.uk) in the resources section.

Martin Schweiger

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