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Israel-bashing theologians - “Enough is enough!”
A letter from Keith Buxton, National Director, Bridges for Peace Australia:
I write this letter with deep sadness and sorrow. The spectre of replacement theology and anti-Semitism, which has now morphed in many hideous ways into anti-Zionism, still looms large within significant elements of the Christian church, and on behalf of the many Christians who love and respect deeply the Jewish people I feel like crying out, ‘Enough is enough!’
Last month representatives from certain Christian churches attended a conference in the Greek town of Volos, sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC). The conference might not have attracted much attention had Ynet News not published on 3 July a troubling but necessarily eye-opening account of some of the appalling conclusions reached by the 30 theologians, politicians and others in attendance.
Giulio Meotti’s account includes a number of these deeply disturbing conclusions:
· “The conference declared the Jewish State ‘a sin’ and ‘occupying power,’ accused Israelis of ‘dehumanizing’ the Palestinians, theologically dismantled the ‘chosenness’ of the Jewish people and called for ‘resistance’ as a Christian duty.”
· “The conference denied 3,000 years of Jewish life in the land stretching between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, took sides against the very presence of Israel, likened the defensive barrier that has blocked terrorism to ‘apartheid,’ attacked Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria invoking the name of God and conceptually dismissed the Jewish state….”
As a Christian Zionist who stands unconditionally with Israel, values highly the depth of my faith roots in Judaism, and celebrates the amazing ongoing contribution of the Jewish people to our broken world (‘tikkun olam’ - think Haiti, think Japan, think Nobel prizes), I shudder to think how such poisonous and demonising declarations could damage important initiatives in strengthening Jewish-Christian relations.
I feel the need to reassure my many Jewish friends that there are very many Christians - in Australia and indeed worldwide - who recoil at the kind of conclusions reached by this latest group of Israel-bashing theologians. The title of Giulio Meotti’s Ynet News article - “The churches against Israel” - in no way reflects the sentiments of many Christians who have a true heart for the Jewish people.
A report on the Volos conference on the WCC website stated that the gathered group of 30 “wrestled with the theological and political challenges facing Christians in the Middle East and particularly in Palestine today.” The report then declared that “conflict situations such as Palestine and Iraq have seen significant drops in the Christian populations because of Israeli occupation and the war in Iraq respectively.”
And so reappears among other anti-Zionist declarations the old canard that it is ‘the occupation’ that is in effect at the root of all evil in the land that we Christians who believe in the Bible reaffirm has been given by God to the Jewish people as an everlasting possession. That Christian leaders in a conference in Greece - where ironically the government recently has stood so strongly with Israel - should revive this “blame it all on the Jews” canard is utterly disgraceful.
What is also deeply troubling, and indicative of the double standards applied these days so frequently to Israel, is the absence of any reference to what has been and still is in fact the fundamental cause of rapidly declining Christian numbers in the Middle East: the persecution of Christians by radical Islamists, even more relevant in the light of all that is happening in the current so-called “Arab spring.”
The conference attendees would have done well to absorb the conclusions of expert Jewish human rights lawyer Justus Reid Weiner in his 2006 paper “Christians Flee Growing Islamic Fundamentalism in the Holy Land.” Weiner summarises his study - available as a longer and ground-breaking monograph published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs - by exposing the brutality of “Islamic religious extremism”:
“Under the Palestinian Authority, whose constitution gives Islamic law primacy over all other sources of law, Christian Arabs have found their land expropriated by Muslim thieves and thugs with ties to the PA's land registration office. Christians have been forced to pay bribes to win the freedom of family members jailed on trumped-up charges. And Arabs - Christians and Muslims alike - have been selling or abandoning homes and businesses to escape the chaos of the PA and move to Israel, Europe, South America, North America, or wherever they can get a visa.”
It must be said that not all Muslims by any means share the views of such radical extremists. But equally it is true that not all Christians by any means share the arrogant anti-Zionist views expressed by the theologians of Volos.
There are tears in my eyes as I write this. To the Jewish people I want to reiterate: in the Christian world you most certainly are not alone. And we who stand with Israel pray that you may know great wisdom as you confront the rising tide of anti-Semitism - from many quarters - that threatens once again the very existence of your nation and your people. We stand with you unconditionally.