The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) believes that the timing of the visit of Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness to Israel and the intention to change the nature of Jamaica’s relationships with the Middle East country could not be more inopportune.
In an historic visit which marked the first time that a Jamaican prime minister visited Israel, Prime Minister Holness met with Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem January 12, and invited the Israeli prime minister to make an official visit to Jamaica.
A Jamaica Observer report said the two men discussed possibilities for cooperation in water, agriculture and domestic security.
The JCC called upon the government to offer the country an explanation regarding the direction of its foreign policy as it relates to the State of Israel, not only because the nation has a right to know, but because it is a statement to the international community regarding the principles for which they stand and their relationship with the rest of the global community on matters of global concern.
In a statement on the relationship between Jamaica and Israel, the JCC said that the visit represents a change in Jamaica’s foreign policy and which takes the issue beyond the realm of the personal or partisan concern and requires further dialogue and discussion of the issue in the wider public arena.
“As a nation which has been the object of imperialism, slavery and colonialism, and knows the struggle for freedom and independence, our foreign policy has been guided by our commitment to support people caught in any such struggles across the world.
“Indeed, this nation can be proud of our history in this regard for the leading role we played in the boycotting of South Africa under apartheid, and our role in the United Nations, and the International Court of Justice,” the JCC said.
The release noted that Jamaica has had a long history of positive relationships with the Jewish community. Over the centuries, there has been integration and positive interfacing with the Jewish community in Jamaica and they are a part of the fabric of the nation like any other religious, racial or ethnic group.
While supporting the right of Israel to exist as a nation and to live in peace within internationally defined boundaries, the JCC added that they also recognise the right of Palestinians to equal consideration.
“The State of Israel has raised concerns for the global community over several decades primarily in terms of its relationship with its Palestinian neighbours and in addressing the issue of a two-state solution in that land.”
It continued, “Jamaica, has maintained commercial and other relations with Israel for decades, and like other nations globally, it has tempered that relationship with a measure of cautious diplomacy while working along with the rest of the global community to see the day when there will be a two-state solution to the current impasse. We are still a far away from seeing these issues resolved as evidenced by several recent developments.”
The Council explained that contrary to the misinformation present in the media, including the religious media, this is not an issue between Jews and Muslims.
It highlighted that Palestinians include Christians, and many of the educational, medical and social outreach programmes serving Palestinians are funded and operated by Christians from inside and outside of Palestine.