The March/April edition of the Barnabas Aid magazine features an article on Eritrean Christians held in the Holot Detention Centre in Israel.
The following is an Open Letter by Christian Friends of Israel UK, written in response to that article.
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Open Letter to the Barnabas Fund in Response to the Barnabas Aid article on Holot
2nd March 2017
Thank you for your recent Barnabas Aid magazine. We note that in this March/April 2017 edition you choose to highlight the persecution of Eritrean Christians as your main feature.
Having read through the article carefully, we would like to express a number of concerns.
Within the article, you state that the persecution originates in Eritrea – which you correctly describe as a violent, totalitarian, communist regime with an appalling record when it comes to state sponsored religious persecution. Unfortunately, alongside this you suggest that Israel is equally responsible for persecution of this group of people.
We note that you have chosen to quote one named individual in support of this dual-persecution; but to equate the two sets of treatment as you do in the rest of the article, both in text and by inference, is inaccurate.
To suggest that the eight Eritreans who were granted asylum were granted this for publicity reasons is without evidence. Then to juxtapose Israel as a country founded by persecuted refugees, which is not entirely accurate, with the inference that they should know how to treat asylum seekers from Eritrea, is somewhat patronizing.
In fact, this section of your article may contravene the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism, which gives as one of its examples: ‘Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.’
You provide no evidence that Christian religious practice and prayer gatherings are banned. And such appears very strange when in Israel the freedom of all faiths to worship is enshrined by law. This is not the case in the surrounding nations.
You mention a number of Jewish organisations and individuals who fund and express sympathy for the Eritreans’ plight, but make no positive mention of Israel itself, the place where they are seeking refuge. Your article implies that Jews are good, but Israel is bad. This is surely a false dichotomy. We anticipate that the very charity working in Israel on behalf of the Eritreans is an Israeli-registered charity.
Your article shows Eritrean children protesting in Tel Aviv. It is good that they and their elders are free to do so, because such a demonstration in most of the surrounding countries would receive harsh punishment.
We can only say that many who support our work at Christian Friends of Israel have expressed similar concerns to ourselves as to the tone and tenor of this article. The indication is that they see a conflict of interest between their desire to support needy, persecuted Christians and the significantly misleading picture of Israel and its government portrayed in your article.
As the only Jewish state in the world, surrounded by so many Islamic and Arab states whose rhetoric and actions express extreme hostility, Israel has particular difficulties concerning immigration. They also seek to maintain their democratic remit and so have to handle their demographics carefully.
We trust that you will consider the matters raised in our letter, and we look forward to your response.
Christian Friends of Israel UK
PO Box 2687, Eastbourne, BN22 7LZ