Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks has asked Christian Aid that he be allowed to vet any potentially controversial statements it releases on the Middle East, in response to an initiative by the charity to improve its troubled relationship with British Jewry.
According to Christian Aid, in a recent meeting with its representatives, Sir Jonathan raised a number of ways he believed the charity could build bridges.
These included giving his office advance warning if the charity planned to release any contentious statements about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the opportunity to view possibly divisive press releases to try to avoid misunderstandings over the use of language.
Another proposal was that the charity liaise with Rabbi Barry Mar-cus, who holds the Israel portfolio in the Chief Rabbi’s cabinet.
While a Christian Aid official made it clear that Sir Jonathan would not have editorial rights or veto over press statements, his opinions would be taken on board.
“Christian Aid is taking seriously its responsibility to not cause offence to the Jewish community,” explained William Bell, the acting head of the policy unit for Asia and the Middle East. “Any recommendations [from the meeting] would be taken seriously.”
The meeting thought to have been initiated by the charity was held as Christian Aid attempts to rehabilitate its relationship with the Jewish community through measures that include the appointment of an interfaith liaison manager.
Past controversies have included its “Child of Bethlehem” Christmas 2004 appeal, featuring a seven-year- old Palestinian girl wounded by an IDF bullet, which the Board of Deputies condemned as “completely unbalanced” and demonstrating an obsession with Israel.
July’s recommendation by the Anglican Consultative Council for churches worldwide to reconsider investments in companies supporting Israeli policies further strained relations between the Jewish and Christian communities.
A spokesman for the Chief Rabbi confirmed that the meeting with Christian Aid took place but declined to comment further.