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Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby urges caution over al-Ahli Arab hospital blame-game

Posted on: October 23, 2023 12:46 PM
People gather outside the Anglican-run al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza on Wednesday 18 October, the day after a dramatic explosion
Photo Credit: Ahmed Zakot / Reuters

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has spoken of the need for careful language when discussing the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. He made his comments two weeks after the devastating terrorist attacks by Hamas on southern Israeli on 7 October, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,300 people, mainly Israelis and the capture of more than 200 hostages.

In response, Israel has launched a war in the Gaza strip to eliminate Hamas as a military and political force. According to the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza, as of today (23 October), more than 5,000 people have been killed in military strikes, including 2,055 children and 1,119 women. They say that more than 15,000 people have been injured.

On Wednesday last week, an explosion occurred outside the Anglican-run al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. Hamas blames the explosion on an Israeli missile strike; but Israel, backed by the US, Canada and French intelligence services, say that the explosion was caused by a misfired Hamas missile which landed in the hospital grounds.

“As I have consistently said I am not capable of making judgements about military actions where the facts are contested”, Archbishop Justin said today (Monday). “Truth is always lost in such emotional and terrible events, and my attention is on those who suffered and are suffering. For this reason, I have been calling for protection and humanitarian access corridors to all places of sanctuary, and making clear that all attacks on civilians in this war are wrong. . .

“There is so much suffering in this terrible war, and so many competing accounts of countless acts of violence, that two things are essential: that we do not rush to judgement, and that we choose our words carefully.”

He spoke about the “long history” of libellous accusations against Jewish people “that trace back to the darkest times of their history.” He said: “that must be borne in mind when we respond to events in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Especially here in Europe, the vast increase of the profound wickedness of antisemitism must be resisted, and that must involve being aware of that history.

“At the same time, the people of Gaza, and all Palestinians, must be able to express their trauma, anger and horror at the profound suffering being endured by innocent people living under Israeli bombardment and siege. There must be space for that trauma and grief to be expressed and heard. We must not silence it, dismiss it or rush to judge it. As those who are not directly involved, we need to hold space for the suffering of all innocent people to be expressed, and to grieve with them.

“It is essential that we concentrate on those who suffer, seek peace and pursue it. I continue to pray that the evil of war is overcome, and that the peoples of the region will find the lasting justice, security and peace they deserve.”