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Thursday, July 10, 2014

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Polemics as theology

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Some three weeks ago, the Church of Scotland published what it called its “latest reflection on the questions that need to be faced as the political and humanitarian situation in the Holy Land continues to be a source of pain and concern for us all.” 

The 10-page document, The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘Promised Land,’ is a brazen attack on the Jewish state as well as on the Jewish religion.

The descriptive punctuation marks in the report’s title – a question mark after Abraham and single quote marks around “promised land” are unsubtle clues to the report’s nasty content. It was to be considered for adoption this week, May 23, by the full General Assembly of the church.   

The purpose of the report is to refute any Jewish claim or sense of belonging to the Land of Israel, to disprove “that the Bible supports an essentially Jewish state [sic] of Israel.” 

The document offers three proofs:

• The passages of the Bible that speak of the land as an inheritance to Abraham and his descendants [“a territorial guarantee”] must be interpreted according to modern qualifications. One such qualification among the many one-sided ones that appear in the report is: “Do any of the Hebrew Bible accounts really sanction future occupation of the land and the driving out of the people already there?” (Editor’s note: The question pre-decides the answer.)

• The behaviour of the Jews in Israel has disqualified them from claiming a right to build a Jewish state there because the land was given by God on trust of good behaviour. But the Zionists have not demonstrated good behaviour. “As long as Zionists think that Jewish people are serving God’s special purpose and that abuses by the state [sic] of Israel, however wrong and regrettable, don’t invalidate the Zionist project, they will believe themselves more entitled to the land than the Palestinian people.” (The government’s policies disqualify the Jews.)

• The promises and premises of the Hebrew Bible regarding the Jewish people and our relation to the Land of Israel have, in any event, been replaced, superceded by the promises and premises of the New Testament. The report is quite explicit in underscoring this point. “Jesus offered a radical critique of Jewish specialness and exclusivism, but the people of Nazareth were not ready for it. John’s gospel speaks of Jesus being lifted up and drawing all people to himself. Jesus’ ‘cleansing’ of the Temple means not just that the Temple needs to be reformed, but that the Temple is finished.” (That is to say, that Judaism is finished, no longer relevant.)

To make sure the readers do not gloss over this point, the report restates it: “If Jesus is indeed the Yes to all of God’s promises, the promise of Abraham about land is fulfilled through the impact of Jesus, not by restoration of land to the Jewish people. Jesus gave a new direction and message for the people of God, one which did not require a special area of land for them.” (The Church of Scotland reintroduces the replacement theology of medieval times – Judaism has fallen away, displaced and replaced – that has been discredited by most of Christianity.)

Written in the temperate tones of ecclesiastical catechism and homiletics, the report is rife with the code words of the past four decades that have been the catch phrases of every individual who wants to see Israel eliminated: colonial, imperial, ethnic cleansing, occupation, violation of human rights, exclusivist, apartheid.   

Thus, the church authors will likely be comforted to know that their conclusions about a Jewish claim to the Land of Israel were echoed the very same week as their report’s release by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. Qaradawi, a leading Muslim Brotherhood theorist, paid a four-day visit to Gaza on May 7 in which much of what he said could have leapt from the pages of the church’s report.

Much like former Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and other haters of Israel and Jews, Qaradawi denied that there is any Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. The Jews are foreigners, Qaradawi fulminated, who forcefully seized land that did not belong to them. Or, as it was phrased in the Church of Scotland’s report, quoting Clarence Wagner, “Was Al Nakba [the disaster, the Palestinian term for the founding of Israel] a miracle – driving people from their ancestral land and property with no right of reclaim?”

The church’s document is simply polemics disguised as theology, distortion disguised as fact, prejudice disguised as probity and hate disguised as love. If the report is ratified this week, a great darkness will envelope relations between world Jewry and the church. That it holds the same views concerning Jews and the Land as those held by Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic terrorists is deplorable. That it reverts to bygone homiletics of hatred toward Jews and our God is disgusting.

MBD

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