UK Institute Founded to Combat Anti-Semitism is Being Invaded by BDS
The Reverend Dr. James Parkes, ordained as a minister of the Church of England in 1926, was a devoted and tireless campaigner against anti-Semitism – both among his fellow churchmen and in society at large. He constantly supported persecuted Jews during the dark decades when Nazi and pro-Nazi governments were in power, and helped to rescue a number of Jewish refugees during the 1930s.
Reverend Parkes showed himself to be a pioneer in more than one respect. He played a prominent role in preparing for a post-war era where, it was hoped, religious tolerance and mutual respect would prevail and bring about the marginalization of anti-Jewish bigotry within society and its established institutions.
In Britain he helped to found the Council of Christians and Jews, and used his great scholarship to analyze the centuries-old anti-Semitism rooted in Christian doctrines. A staunch defender of Israel, he published texts like The Continuity of Jewish Life in the Middle East (London, Anglo-Israel Association), and Arabs and Jews in the Middle East: a tragedy of errors.
One of this great man’s legacies was the Parkes Institute, the activities and origins of which are summarised as follows:
The Parkes Institute is the world’s oldest and most wide-ranging centre for the study of Jewish/non-Jewish relations across the ages.
Reverend Parkes had a sound understanding of historical realities, and would not have been surprised by the gradual erosion of sympathy for Jews and Israel within his church and in society and large, and the corresponding rise in influence of anti-Israel activists that has occurred within the past four decades.
While Reverend Parkes would have been greatly saddened by the above phenomena, he would surely have felt deeply betrayed by developments within the Parkes Institute itself.
The past decade has seen a growing presence within its administrative and academic bodies not only of individuals who show themselves to be dishonestly or unfairly critical of Israel, but who also support boycotts and sanctions against Israel, like Professor Oren Ben-Dor.
Most media outlets have ignored this story. It was only a few media outlets like the Jewish Chronicle, which mentioned that Ben-Dor’s support for BDS has led to his removal from the board of the Parkes Institute.
And there are surely others against whom action should be taken. One of the Institute’s former directors, Dr. Mark Levene, has been one of the supporters of the movement Jews for Justice for Palestinians (as well as identifying himself as one of the so-called Independent Jewish Voices, like Professor Brian Klug and Professor Tony Kushner, another former director of the Parkes Institute).
In recent years, even if most lectures and seminars have been unexceptionable from a scholarly point of view, there have been one or two really questionable ones – like the seminar given in October 2005 by John Rose, author of Myths of Zionism.
It’s time to make sure the Parkes Institute honors the terrific legacy of its founder.