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May 24, 2013

The Church of Scotland’s Fatal Obsession With Israel

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The Church of Scotland has been obsessed with the Jewish claim to the land of Israel for quite some time. In 2003, the denomination, which has been losing members hand over fist since the mid-1950s, issued a document titled “Theology of Land and Covenant” in 2003 that declared the land of Israel a “threat” to the Jewish people because of the rules that come with the land promise as outlined in the Hebrew scriptures.

And while this 2003 document intensely interrogates Jewish claims to the land of Israel, it gives short and distorted shrift to Islamic teachings regarding the land of Israel and the Jewish people. The report states “There is no place in Islamic theology for any particular people to be special to the land – to the abandonment of others.”

Here the Church of Scotland ignores Muhammad’s deathbed call for the expulsion of Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula, where there should only be one religion – Islam. This call was invoked by Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah in March 2012 when he said it was "necessary to destroy all the churches in the region."

The Church of Scotland also ignores another important issue – the theological impossibility of Jewish freedom and sovereignty in land previously governed by Muslim rulers – the modern state of Israel included. This is a violation of the Islamic nomos or sense of order as demonstrated by Mustafa Abu Sway, an associate professor at Al Quds University in Jerusalem, in 1991.

"Theologically there is no possibility of accepting a Jewish state. But Jews should trust Islam. They will be treated justly in an Islamic state, because they'll be under the protection of Allah," he said to Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi. ("Holy War, Holy Peace," The Jerusalem Report, Feb. 28, 1991)

Professor Abu Sway offered a blunter assessment of Israel's existence at an interfaith conference held in Jerusalem in 2003 and covered by Gerald McDermott for Books & Culture, published by Christianity Today, Inc.

Mustafa Abu Sway remarked, to audible gasps from Jews in the audience, that he wished the state of Israel "would disappear." (Books & Culture, March-April 2003)

The Church of Scotland has also ignored Muslim doctrine regarding Jews (and Christians) and the impact this doctrine has in the modern Middle East, but has maintained its obsession with Jewish self-understanding. This obsession manifested itself with the recent publication of yet another document about Jewish land claims. The document, approved by the Church of Scotland’s recent General Assembly is titled “The Inheritance of Abraham? A report on the ‘promised land.’”

CAMERA’s Christian Media Analyst Dexter Van Zile has written two articles about this document. The first, “What about persecuted Christians?” was published in The Commentator on May 9, 2013, a few weeks prior to the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly. In this piece, Van Zile asks why the Church of Scotland pays so much attention to the Jews and Israel while ignoring the suffering of Christians in places like Egypt where Christians have been murdered by Islamists who apply Muhammad’s call to conquer and humiliate non-Muslims to the modern era. He writes:

The Church of Scotland needs to ask itself why it is ignoring the suffering of Christians (and other religious and ethnic minorities) who are suffering terrible acts of violence outside of the Holy Land. Is their blood less valuable to God because it is spilled in Cairo, Baghdad or Damascus and not Jerusalem?

If the Church of Scotland is not careful, its upcoming General Assembly will become an orgy of Israel-bashing and a whitewash of Islamist violence against Christians.

We’ve had enough of that, now haven’t we?

Van Zile’s second article, “The Church of Scotland and its Fatal Obsession,” was published by the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) on May 23. In this piece, Van Zile describes the “The Inheritance of Abraham?” as “a treatise about the transformation that Israeli Jews need to make in order to live in peace with their Arab and Muslim neighbors in the Middle East.” He continues:

The authors of The Inheritance of Abraham? were not so ham-handed as to expect Jews to convert to Christianity, but they do expect the Jewish people, especially those living in Israel, to repent of their exclusivist ways, get over the Holocaust and make peace with the Palestinians.

In order to promote this conversion, the document depicts the land promise as a threat to Jewish wellbeing because of the rules that come with it and the inability of Jews to live up to these rules. Since Jews cannot live up to the rules that come with the land, they risk expulsion and the loss of sovereignty that follows, the authors state. At one point, the authors ask, "Would the Jewish people have a fairer claim to the land if they dealt justly with the Palestinians?"

In sum, the text subjects Israeli Jews to intense theological scrutiny, finds them wanting in their pursuit of peace and implicitly justifies violence against them. At no point in The Promise of Abraham? do we see any attempt to understand or challenge the ideology used to justify violence against Israel and Jews in the Middle East.

The Church of Scotland, like a lot of other liberal Protestant churches in the West, pays a huge amount of attention to the Jews and their state, but pays very little attention to violence -- and the ideas that motivate this violence -- elsewhere in the region.

There has been one sign of hope. As it turned out, there was at least one mention of Islamist violence against Christians at the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly. It was offered, surprisingly enough, by the moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a denomination afflicted with an Israel obsession of its own. In his statement, PC(USA) Moderator Neal Pressa spoke of what he heard on a recent fact-finding mission:

There are stories of one Syrian Christian woman who was gang-raped by 80 Islamist radicals then a crucifix stuffed in her throat and left to die. Numerous churches and a number of mosques have been destroyed, leaving Christian minorities to meet and worship in secret.

Similar acts of violence have taken place in Iraq and Egypt in recent years, but it does not appear that this Islamist-perpetrated violence made it onto the agenda of the Church of Scotland’s recent assembly. There was no mention whatsoever of the anti-Christian violence in this countries in the “blue book,” or agenda for the assembly.

Hopefully things will improve by the church’s next General Assembly and the denomination will get over its obsession with the Jews and their state and start thinking about the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians from the Middle East.

Posted by dvz at May 24, 2013 01:20 PM

Comments

Fatal for whom ?

Posted by: richardarmbach at May 29, 2013 04:00 AM

Having visited Scotland, and found the people
tough and with a good record for fighting the
Nazis in WWII, I fight it hard to believe
that they would resort to this type of
ideology. This is a disappointment.

Posted by: Selma Soss at May 30, 2013 08:35 PM

(what do you consider racism, bigotry and threats?) the submissive Dhimmi behavior of the Scotland along with the church of England and the Catholic church indicates to me that they have forgotten what it is to be Christian and are no longer are willing to fight for the teachings of Jesus Christ unlike the muslims who will willing die for their prophet. this is same behavior of the Eastern Christians, and the reason why its basically extinct. If the West doesn't get its act together we face what the eastern Christians faced- misery, humiliation, irrelevance and then genocide.

Posted by: wolfy ghalkhani at June 1, 2013 08:09 PM

You write, "Hopefully things will improve by the church’s next General Assembly and the denomination will get over its obsession with the Jews and their state and start thinking about the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians from the Middle East".
I can almost guarantee that they won't any time soon.
Recently, a Scottish Christian sent a similar plea to the Moderator of the Gen Assy of the CoS. He dismissed her worries as the words of a racist and Islamophobic.
There is no evidence that this leopard is about to change its spots.

Posted by: Stanley Grossman at June 1, 2013 08:47 PM

Isn't the Church of Scotland the source of the theory that the Jewish people of history, the so called "common era" are not the same people as the Torah or "Old Testament" and that in fact the real Hebrews were to be found in ...........Scotland!
Seems to me I remember reading such a theory originating out of Scotland in the 19th. century. Perhaps the author of this article could illuminate us on this.

Posted by: gabriel2001 at June 6, 2013 03:17 PM

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