David Brog

The teaching of contempt returns

Zionism Unsettled, published by the Presbyterian Church, is a libelous work of classic anti-Semitism

The Holocaust was not a Christian crime. Yes, it was perpetrated by people who were nominal members of Christian churches. But Hitler and the Nazis were in the thrall of a far different, neo-pagan, worldview. If anything, the Nazis nurtured disdain for a Christian faith that grew from Jewish roots and was a vehicle for Jewish morality.

Yet despite this distance, most Christians eventually reacted to the Holocaust with responsibility and remorse. They recognized that centuries of negative Christian teachings about Jews and Judaism likely helped predispose Europe towards Hitler’s racial anti-Semitism.

In the years that followed the War, the Catholic Church and most of the leading Protestant denominations worked to eliminate anything in their theology that could have contributed to something so far from God.

The Presbyterians were among the last major Protestant denomination to act. In 1987, they repudiated negative teachings about Jews. In doing so, they wrote:

It is agonizing to discover that the church’s teaching of contempt [for the Jews] was a major ingredient that made possible the monstrous policy of annihilation of Jews by Nazi Germany.

Sadly, we now seem to be facing a case of last in, first out. The Presbyterians are now emerging as the first major Christian denomination to resume the teaching of contempt. Their latest move comes in the form of Zionism Unsettled, a wicked book produced by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Let’s be clear. It is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. The conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors is a complex story about which decent people disagree daily. Honest and fair criticism of Israel is not only inevitable, it is welcome.

The problem with Zionism Unsettled is not that it’s critical of Israeli policy. The problem is that it’s critical of Israel’s very existence. It slanders Israel, Israelis and all who support them in their struggle for survival.

Like so many classic works of anti-Semitism, Zionism Unsettled is not about actual Jews living in the real world. It is instead a passion play about bloodthirsty Jews driven by their supremacist Judaism to devour innocent gentile victims. It is a big lie about the Jewish state wrapped in a Presbyterian bow. The Presbyterian Church should rush to repudiate this libel.

In order to blame Israel and Israel alone for the region’s woes, Zionism Unsettled portrays a world in which all Arab aggression, terrorism and rejectionism have been magically erased. In the Middle East of Zionism Unsettled, Arab armies never tried to destroy Israel in 1948, 1967 or 1973. And Israel never offered the Palestinians a state in all of Gaza and over 95% of the West Bank – including East Jerusalem – in 2000 and again in 2008.

Worst of all, Zionism Unsettled imagines a world in which there is no such thing as Palestinian terrorism. This eighty-page document mentions Palestinian terrorism only once in passing. Gone are the massacres of 1920, 1921 and 1936. Gone are the decades of fedayeen and PLO slaughter. And gone is the second intifada and its death toll of over 1,000 Israelis. The word intifada is not mentioned even once.

In the few cases where Palestinian violence or rejection is recognized, it’s immediately rationalized. Thus the Arab Revolt of 1936 to 1939 in which hundreds of Jewish civilians were murdered was “caused by Palestinian fears of dispossession and Jewish dominance.” The Palestinians rejected the 1947 UN partition plan because the UN “granted a disproportionate share of the territory to Zionists.” The 1947/48 multi-front Arab attack on the nascent Jewish state is described as war having “broken out.” And the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who fled this war were “ethnically cleansed” by Israel.

Zionism Unsettled’s effort to blame the conflict on Jews and Judaism reaches the heights of fantasy in its section on “The Inclusive Nature of Islam.” Here the authors approvingly quote a Muslim thinker who suggests that, “Zionism claims that God promised the land of Palestine to the Jews. In contrast, the Qur’an claims that God has blessed the land for the nations.”

This interpretation would come as a surprise to Hamas, which specifically states in Article 11 of its charter that:

Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.

But of course Zionism Unsettled doesn’t mention Hamas so much as once. Nor does it mention the thousands of Christians being slaughtered by Islamic jihadists in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and beyond. It turns out that Jewish victims are not the only ones who are invisible to these authors.

Zionism Unsettled is a milestone on a dark road. It is a document which teaches contempt for the Jewish State, the Jewish people and the Jewish faith. Most rank-and-file Presbyterians would be appalled by what’s being published in their name. Let us pray that this time around it doesn’t take the Presbyterian hierarchy forty years to do the right thing and repudiate this dangerous doctrine.

About the Author
David Brog is the executive director of Maccabee Task Force, an organization that combats the spread of antisemitism and the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) Movement on college campuses. He previously served as executive director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) for its first 10 years. Prior to CUFI, Brog worked in the United States Senate for seven years as chief of staff to Senator Arlen Spector, and staff director of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A recognized Jewish thought leader and advocate for Israel, Brog is the author of “Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State,” “In Defense of Faith: the Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity” and “Reclaiming Israel’s History: Roots, Rights, and the Struggle for Humanity.” In 2007, Brog was listed as one of The Forward newspaper’s "Forward 50" most influential Jews in America. He is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School.