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The Church of Scotland’s war on Judaism

By Ben Cohen/

Click photo to download. Caption: Abraham on his family’s journey from Ur to Canaan, as described in the Bible. The Church of Scotland published a document
entitled “The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘Promised Land,’” which questioned the biblical Jewish claim to Israel. Credit: József Molnár/Wikimedia Commons.

In a recent, exhaustive
study of anti-Semitism, the German scholar Clemens Heni explains the
significance for Christian theology of the story of Ahasver, a Jewish shoemaker
in Jerusalem who, legend has it, refused Jesus a resting place as he made his
way to Golgotha bearing the cross on his back. Ahasver’s punishment, says Heni,
was to wander the world for eternity, an image that formed the basis for what the
Nazis famously called “der ewige Juden”—“the eternal Jew.”

“The attribute ‘eternal’
cries out for redemption,” writes Heni. “For Christianity, it embodies the
refusal on the part of the Jewish people to accept the coming of Jesus as the
Son of God.” Of course, as Heni points out, this was a particularly strong
theme throughout the Middle Ages. What’s notable, though, is that this same
noxious depiction of the Jews is enjoying a new lease of life in certain
sections of the Church today.

At the beginning of May, the
Church of Scotland published a document entitled “The Inheritance of Abraham? A
Report on the ‘Promised Land.’” Now, doing what I do, I spend a great deal of
time reviewing anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic literature, and I like to think
that I am passed being shocked. Reading the Church of Scotland report, was,
therefore, something of a rude awakening; so immersed is the text in
anti-Semitic clichés and
malicious distortions of Jewish theology that I wondered whether I had been
transported back to a time when people didn’t wash or brush their teeth, had a
lifespan of 30 years or so, and spent their time on this earth living in fear
of Jewish devils.

The purpose of the report is
to dismiss the claim that the “Hebrew Bible”—heaven forbid that these people
should use terms like Torah or Tanakh!—provides grounds for a
privileged connection between the Jewish people and the “Promised Land,” which
we Jews sinfully refer to as “Eretz Israel.” What follows is frontal assault on
Jewish “exclusivism” that deploys the tired old trick of citing a Jew—in this case,
Mark Braverman, an arch opponent of Zionism—in order to protect the text from
accusations of anti-Semitism.

But anti-Semitic it most
definitely is. Some choice excerpts:

“Braverman is adamant that Christians
must not sacrifice the universalist, inclusive dimension of Christianity and
revert to the particular exclusivism of the Jewish faith because we feel guilty
about the Holocaust. He is equally clear that the Jewish people have to repent
of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians between 1947 and 1949. They must be
challenged, too, to stop thinking of themselves as victims and special, and
recognise that the present immoral, unjust treatment of Palestinian people is

“As long as Zionists think that Jewish
people are serving God’s special purpose and that abuses by the state of
Israel, however wrong and regrettable, don’t invalidate the Zionist project,
they will believe themselves more entitled to the land than the Palestinian

“Jesus offered a radical critique of
Jewish specialness and exclusivism, but …read more

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Posted by on May 10, 2013. Filed under Jewish News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.