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Leaders call to fight wave of anti-Israel agitation
By JEREMY SHARON
11/06/2012
Christian, Jewish leaders focus on countering anti-Israel sentiment within the large Protestant churches around the world.
 
The B'nai B'rith organization along with The Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel kicked off a joint conference on Monday night focused on countering anti-Israel sentiment within the large Protestant churches around the world. According to Alan Schneider, director of the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem, protestant churches have over the past two decades become increasingly aligned against Israel.

This trend was forcefully underlined in October when 15 senior leaders of mainline Protestant churches in America sent a letter to Congress last month calling for an investigation and possible suspension of US military aid to Israel.

The letter led several Jewish organizations to pull out of an annual Christian-Jewish dialogue conference. “This letter broke the trust of Jewish organizations involved in interfaith dialogue,” Schneider said. “The purpose of this current consultation is to provide the opportunity for representatives of protestant churches who are supportive of Israel to meet similar people from other countries and denominations.

“They are often lone voices [in their churches] who have taken personal initiatives to counter this wave of anti-Israel agitation, and so we hope that this will be the beginning of ongoing contact and cooperation among the participants.” More than twenty Christian and Jewish leaders from around the world are participating in the four-day conference, which will seek to formulate a strategy for future work to reverse the hostile attitude of many mainline protestant churches to Israel, the organizers said.

Speaking at the opening of the conference on Monday night in Maale HaHamisha, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, said that the doctrine of “replacement theology” was a large factor in ongoing Christian hostility to the Jewish State. Replacement theology is the notion that the Christian Church became the “new Israel” and that God’s promises to the people of Israel were transferred to Christianity.

“As long as you believe in replacement theology and that the Christians inherited the Jews and that the Jews no longer stand in covenantal relationship to God, then we have no right to be in Israel and you join our enemies,” Riskin said. “[But] our roots in Israel are 4,000 years old. We did not occupy anyone’s land. There has been an unbroken chain of Jewish life in Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed for 4,000 years,” the rabbi continued. In response, Rev. Dr. Paul Wilkinson from the UK echoed Riskin’s sentiments, criticizing the mainline churches for never having fully dissociated themselves from replacement theology.

According to Wilkinson, a propaganda campaign is being waged by the Palestinian Authority, the Islamic world and by the Protestant church including the Evangelical church, “propagating replacement theology and its new manifestations.”

“The big lie is Christian Palestinianism, the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian crusade going on in the church today that will say from one corner of its mouth ‘we love the Jewish people’ and from the other corner of its mouth ‘we hate Israel.’ That is not possible. You cannot love the Jewish people and hate Israel,” Wilkinson declared.

According to Wilkinson, as well as Schneider, one of the main proponents of replacement theology is the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, a Palestinian NGO run by Reverend Naim Ateek.
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