Helen Keller, one of Alexander Graham Bell’s deaf students, once said that his
goal was to penetrate the “inhuman silence which separates and estranges.” By
declaring that the Jewish people has no biblical claim to the land of Israel,
the Church of Scotland (COS) has reversed the work of the great Scottish
inventor of the telephone.
The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the
‘Promised Land,’ wraps an extremist anti-Israel agenda in toxic medieval
theological anti-Semitism. It besmirches ancient Judaic teachings and seeks to
demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. Indeed, it has succeeded in
separating and estranging two faith communities.
Here are some of the
reasons why Jews are so furious: The report questions the notion that the Bible
“supports an essentially Jewish state of Israel.” “Possession of any land is
clearly conditional,” Jews are lectured. “The question that arises is this:
Would the Jewish people today have a fairer claim to the land if they dealt
justly with the Palestinians?” Biblical promises about the land of Israel were
never intended to be taken literally, or as applying to a defined geographical
territory, the report argues. Instead, it declares: “They are a way of speaking
about how to live under God so that justice and peace reign, the weak and poor
are protected.... This ‘promised land’ can be found – or built –
“The desire of many in the state of Israel to acquire the land
of Palestine for the Jewish people is wrong. The fact that the land is currently
being taken by settlement expansion, the separation barrier, house clearance,
theft and force makes it doubly wrong to seek biblical sanction for
“There is guilt among Western Christianity about centuries of
anti-Semitism that led to discrimination against the Jews, culminating in the
total evil of the Holocaust.”
The implication? That Israeli “crimes”
cancel out earlier Christian sins.
Could it be that COS’ real problem is
with the fact that there is today an empowered Jewish state? COS alleges that
Israel’s lack of a constitution is the source of its “limiting civil liberties.”
But civil liberties are zealously protected and expanded by Israel’s very
activist Supreme Court based on its enforceable Basic
Meanwhile,minorities in Syria and Egypt find no protection under
the law—literally being slaughtered in Syria and under siege in
And by the way, neither Scotland nor the UK has a
On May 14, 1948, Israel became an independent nation. In
response, five Arab armies sought to erase the UN vote recognizing the Jewish
state. One percent of the entire Jewish population, among them Holocaust
survivors, perished in that defensive war for survival. COS describes that
struggle as “violence used to deprive 750,000 Palestinian people from their
COS goes on to propagate the evil canard that Israel – which
extends to its Arab citizens voting rights, seats in the Knesset and on the
Supreme Court – is an “apartheid” state.
Its understanding of Exodus
19:3-6, “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, my holy nation,” as creating
an “interpretation of the covenant,” that constitutes the “final difficulty...
Jewish ‘exceptionalism’” is, simply put, theological anti-Semitism.
theological wizard guided COS Elders in their interpretation of the Bible? First
we thought of Stephen Hawking, who recently canceled a trip to Israel to
celebrate Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday to satisfy Palestinian protests. Then we
remembered: Hawking is an atheist, and hardly a likely instructor in Biblical
COS must have gotten its inspiration from a fellow Christian,
like Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, founder of the Sabeel Liberation Theology Center.
Ateek, who is cited approvingly in the document, said in an April 2001 homily,
“In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again
with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him.... The Israeli government
crucifixion system is operating daily.”
Ateek, and the 2009 Kairos
Palestine Document (KPD) broke the taboo against turning biblical language into
politics, which is a tested recipe for producing extremism and violence. KPD
denies Jewish connection to the Holy Land. It denies a covenant with the Jewish
people. It serves as a stealth delivery system for a return to the medieval
replacement theology, wherein Jews are replaced by Christians as the new
While it is true that many Christians reject the notion of a land
covenant based on their understanding of passages in the Christian Bible, they
do not deign to tell Jews how to read their Scripture. Sadly, the decades of
Protestant- Jewish dialogue have taught the COS only one word from the Jewish
It was Christians who sought interfaith dialogue in
the aftermath of World War II, when they realized Christendom’s contribution to
the anti-Semitism that powered the Holocaust. Decades of fruitful dialogue were
based on principles of mutual respect and genuine understanding of the core
beliefs and self-definition of the other. COS and its ilk, however, have
understood nothing about the centrality of Israel in Jewish life, or about the
3,500-year connection of the People of the Book to its Torah.
brazen plunging of a dagger into interfaith understanding does not improve the
lot of a single Palestinian.
Other denominations, including COS’s US
sister, Presbyterian Church (USA), are achieving that through economic
investment in the region.
In response to condemnation from many circles,
COS has reportedly said that it recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
does nothing to change the substance of the report, and further substantiates
that they disrespect Jewish history and beliefs. What chutzpah.
Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Yitzchok
Adlerstein is the director of Interfaith Relations for the Simon Wiesenthal