Forward Thinking

Church of Scotland Strikes Out on Israel

By Liam Hoare

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haaretz

When the Church of Scotland decided to revise its controversial and borderline anti-Semitic report on Israel and the Palestinians, it only really had to do three things.

First, the Kirk, as the church is widely know, had to make clear it understood what Zionism actually is. Not, as they originally stated, a solely religious ideology. But rather, a diverse movement encompassing a multitude of dreams including many secular ones.

Second, it had to repeal all claims that smacked of Christian supremacism.

Third, it needed to delete or at the very least rewrite the passages on the Holocaust, ones which previously asserted that Jews must “stop thinking of themselves as victims and special” and ‘repent’ for the displacement of Palestinians during the Wars of Independence.

The revised version of “The Inheritance of Abraham” has just been made public, and it comes up short on all three tests. Despite the stubborn shortcomings though, at the very least, the report’s new preface indicates that the Church of Scotland knows it did something very wrong the first time around.

“The country of Israel is a recognised State and has the right to exist in peace and security,” it now states as a matter of fact. “We reject racism and religious hatred. We condemn anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. We will always condemn acts of terrorism, violence and intimidation.”

It’s not much, but it needed to be said.

Whatever the revisions, “The Inheritance of Abraham” still contains not an ounce of sympathy for Israel. For example, after citing the passage of the Declaration of Establishment that calls for “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex”, the Kirk points out that “liberal-democratic values have been violated in immigration, citizenship, education, economic, and most of all in land policies.” It makes these claims both without being specific about these violations and furthermore as if nobody was aware before now of the tensions which exist within a Jewish and democratic state.

Far from accepting Israel’s right to exist in peace and continue to work out these tensions, the Kirk portrays the entire Zionist project as a lost cause. Or just about. In order to pull Israel back from the brink the Kirk says it must “consider economic and political measures involving boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against the state of Israel focused on illegal settlements, as the best way of convincing Israeli politicians and voters that what is happening is wrong.”

Here, the Church of Scotland shows it doesn’t know much about Israel — where a majority continues to view the occupation as undesirable and a two-state solution as necessary — or have much time for Israel’s legitimate security concerns. The Church doesn’t want to recall why the Occupation, as awful as it is, exists in the first place.

As for the Holocaust, the aforequoted passages have been expunged, yet the assertion that “the enormity of the Holocaust has often reinforced the belief that Israel is entitled to the land unconditionally” remains. This is a needless thing to say, and by leaving this rotting albatross right in the middle of the report, the Church of Scotland ends up being strangled by it.

In order to justify themselves, the authors bring into the report the work of Marc H. Ellis. The same Marc H. Ellis once described Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel as a “Court Jew/Crucified Jew” who can “communicate back to other powerful Jews what the Clintons will and won’t do regarding Jewish community interests”, and praised Columbia professor Joseph Massad as a “subversive intellectual” who “takes no prisoners”. If the Church of Scotland wanted to prove that it’s far from anti-Semitic, bringing Ellis’ name into it hasn’t helped their case.

Worse still, “The Inheritance of Abraham” remains a document grounded in supersessionism. The controversial quote, “If Jesus is indeed the Yes to all God’s promises, the promise to Abraham about land is fulfilled through the impact of Jesus, not by restoration of land to the Jewish people”, remains in place.

In the end, It is replacement theology that makes “The Inheritance of Abraham” a fundamentally flawed document. After all, the base assertion the Church of Scotland think its making – that it does “not agree with a premise that scripture offers any peoples a divine right to territory” – is a perfectly fine and rational one. But the Kirk does not appear to see the contradiction in turning to the New Testament and asserting its truthfulness in order to advance its case.


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