CAMPAIGNERS for Palestinian rights have accused the Bishop of Edinburgh of censoring them after a planned meeting in a church hall was cancelled at short notice.

The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) said Episcopalian Bishop John Armes was behind the move to call a halt to their talk at St Columba’s by edinburgh Castle today.

The talk was to be given by Jackie Walker, a prominent campaigner for Palestinian rights, but was called off following an intervention by the bishop over fears it could lead to a rise in anti-Semitic feeling in the capital, the group claimed. 

In an e-mail seeking to justify the ban the rector of St Columba’s, David Paton-Williams told SPSC he had been contacted by a member of the Jewish community in Edinburgh expressing concern over the event.

The rector went on to say “criticism of Israel’s policies can have unintended consequences, leading to an increase in anti-Semitic attacks”. 

He added: "I have been in consultation with the Bishop, to gauge the wider implications of the event, and to ask his advice. 

"Having talked it over with him, I am writing to let you know that St Columba's is cancelling the booking for Monday night's meeting.  I do not do this lightly and I regret that it is at this short notice."

SPSC chairwoman Sofiah McLeod said: “The Bishop of Edinburgh should seriously examine his conscience. “SPSC has long campaigned against anti-Semitism. 

“It is ridiculous to suggest that anti-Semitic attacks are likely to increase as a result of this meeting. Jackie Walker herself is Jewish, and so the bishop has put himself in the rather strange position of banning a meeting to be addressed by a Jew in the name of preventing anti-Semitism.”

The Rt Rev Dr John Armes, Bishop of Edinburgh, said:"We support freedom of speech; we also seek close and friendly relationships with people of every faith.

"On this occasion I considered that these two important values collided. I believe that the organisers of all political gatherings must take care to ensure that individuals and religious groups are not singled out for abuse because of their beliefs.

"My advice was that it would have been unacceptable for a gathering to take place in one of our churches that might encourage such abuse."