There was a report in Britain’s Jewish Chronicle recently about the Church of Scotland. Unlikely subject matter for that particular newspaper, you may think, but the report dealt specifically with that church’s attitude to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
An attitude which is now, officially, one-sided. At their annual conference, delegates overwhelmingly rejected a motion that called for an even-handed view of the question.
Henceforth, C of S reports on the Mideast will be written solely from the Palestinian perspective.
My first reaction – I suspect a typical one among Jews – was to be stunned at such blatant bias. But I visited the church’s website to find out more. At first glance, the site’s material appears less prejudiced than you might fear from the JC report. Last week was, apparently, World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel (WWPPI), and the church echoed its message. This includes the call for “Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace” and “the healing of wounded souls”. The site also speaks of “the legitimate rights and future of both peoples.”
So far so good. But reading further, you get the impression of one-way traffic. Christians in Jerusalem speak of what it’s like to live near the security barrier. (The site calls it a separation barrier.) Christians who have been killed in Egypt and other Muslim countries were unavailable to share their life experiences. Anyway, apparently many people were stunned to learn that the barrier is over 20 feet high.
Well, if we were talking about an ornamental feature, like a garden pond, the height might be excessive. But it was built to save Israelis from being blown apart by suicide bombers (and it’s effective.) If it were only, say, 6 inches high, it might look more aesthetically pleasing, but the bombers would just step over it. Sounds obvious I know, but nobody at the C of S website seems to have thought of it. Which gives you the flavour of the whole thing. So when the site speaks of “issues related to displacement”, I’d bet a month’s pension that it isn’t referring to the Jews who were expelled from Arab lands when Israel was created.
At this point, we should remember that many Christians, en masse as a church or as individuals, are staunchly pro-Israel. Sometimes this is for reason of doctrine; sometimes because they simply feel that the Israeli cause is just. (I count one such person as a close friend.)
As for those who line up in the opposite camp: they’re entitled to their viewpoint. And maybe that view comes solely from concern for the perceived underdog. Though, as with most of the non-Christians who denounce Israel, it’s odd how their compassion doesn’t reach the many groups who have experienced as bad or worse than the Palestinians.
And, again as with many non-Christians who take the same line, there’s the suspicion of a hidden agenda.
Amos Oz put it succinctly: “They didn’t want us to be in Germany. They don’t want us to be in the Middle East. They don’t want us to be.” I doubt if any C of S dignitaries object to the very existence of Jews. After all, we’re not talking about some bunch of insane Islamic fundamentalists. But subconsciously, they might well object to our being anything but victims. The Jews cowering away from the next inquisition or pogrom or Shoah? Well, that’s what happens if you kill Jesus. But now we have a state of our own, economically and militarily strong, a state which, despite the hostility towards it, is a dynamo of artistic creativity and scientific innovation. Theologically, for the worthies of the Church of Scotland, that wasn’t in the script.