16th February 2002

COVER STORY

Christians who hate the Jews

Melanie Phillips says the Archbishop of Wales is among
Churchmen worried that opposition to Israel is motivated
by anti-Semitism rooted deep in Christian theology



www.spectator.co.uk










Mr Boris Johnson

The Spectator

56 Doughty Street

London

WC1N 2LL

 

18th February 2002

 

 

Dear Mr Johnson,

 

Christians who hate the Jews

 

I am writing in response to the lead article in last week’s Spectator by Melanie Phillips. She alleges that I am anti-Semitic because of my theological views and specifically because I have been critical of the policies of the Israeli government.

 

I disagree most strongly with this conclusion. When Melanie telephoned me, it was ostensibly to gather information about Christian Zionism. I attempted to provide a basic explanation of the movement and its beliefs. At no time did I appreciate that her article would actually be addressing the issue of anti-Semitism.

I abhor anti-Semitism and repudiate all forms of racism. I am deeply committed to finding a just and lasting peace agreement between Jews and Palestinians based on United Nations resolutions in which the rights of both peoples are respected and protected. My books and published articles emphasize this, and I am therefore distressed that the opposite impression has been given in her article.

 

Please allow me to clarify my actual views in response to those I am alleged to believe as suggested in Melanie Phillips article. I shall deal in the main with the statements quoted as mine and not with the conclusions which Melanie has seen fit to draw there from.

 

Sizer is a leading crusader against Christian Zionism. He believes that God’s promises to the Jews have been inherited by Christianity, including the land of Israel. ‘A return to Jewish nationalism,’ he has written, ‘would seem incompatible with this New Testament perspective of the international community of Jesus.’

The term ‘crusader’ is most unfortunate given its connotations in the Middle East among both Jews and Muslims. I am currently undertaking doctoral research into the historical origins, theological basis and political consequences of Christian Zionism. I am in dialogue with proponents of Christian Zionism. I do not recognize myself, however, in her description.

 

The quotation which Melanie attributes to me is indeed found in several of my published articles. However, she neglects to point out that it is actually a quotation from a sermon delivered by the Revd John Stott, one of the Queens Chaplains.[1] Melanie has therefore misquoted the source and wrongly attributed it to me. The context of Stott’s argument is that a contemporary secular State of Israel cannot legitimately lay claim to spiritual promises made 4,000 years earlier. A Christian interpretation is also formed by the way Jesus re-interpreted those promises.

 

1. The Old Testament promises about the Jews’ return to the land are comforted by promises of the Jews’ return to the Lord. It is hard to see how that secular, unbelieving State of Israel can possibly be a fulfillment of those prophecies.

2. The Old Testament promises about the land are nowhere repeated in the New Testament. The prophecy of Romans 11 is a prophecy that many Jews will turn to Christ, but the land is not mentioned nor is Israel mentioned as a political entity...

3. The Old Testament promises according to the apostles are fulfilled in Christ and the international community of Christ. The New Testament authors apply the promise of Abraham’s seed to Jesus Christ. And they apply to Jesus Christ the promise of the land and all the land which is inherited, the land flowing with milk and honey, because it is in him that our hunger is satisfied and out thirst quenched. A return to Jewish nationalism would seem incompatible with this New Testament perspective of the international community of Jesus.[2]

 

This may be illustrated by the way in which promises made to the ancient Hebrews are applied by Jesus to his followers, both Jews and Gentiles. So, for example, the promise made in Psalm 37:11 “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” is universalized by Jesus in Matthew 5:5,   Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

 

I do not believe, and have never stated in my published articles, that Christians have any entitlement to the Holy Land. My comments regarding the true children of Abraham and Sarah were taken from the New Testament and specifically a quote from Paul's letter to the Galatians. I am sorry if I did not make it sufficiently clear that this was not my personal view but a paraphrase of this passage.

 

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.... Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son." Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:21-31)

 

The New Testament simply teaches that the true children of Abraham and Sarah are those who share the faith of Abraham and believe in Jesus knowing that they cannot inherit eternal life by keeping the Law or by their good works but through faith in the atoning work of Jesus the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

 

The promises made to Abraham and his descendents concerning the land have also been universalized to encompass the entire earth. Christians understand that the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah (31:31-34) has fulfilled, completed, annulled and replaced the Old Covenant. “By calling this covenant "new", he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and ageing will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13)

 

‘Rights’ to the Holy Land, based on Old Testament promises are therefore, from a Christian perspective, irrelevant. The New Testament calls us to an ethic in which we respect the rights of all, irrespective of race, class or gender, and these are enshrined in international law and the UN charter. It is these that I wish to see implemented in the Middle East.

                    

He acknowledges that Israel has the right to exist since it was established by a United Nations resolution. But he also says that it is ‘fundamentally an apartheid state because it is based on race’ and ‘even worse than South Africa’ (this, despite the fact that Israeli Arabs have the vote, are members of the Knesset and one is even a supreme court judge).

 

I do not see any connection or correlation between these statements. I affirm the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure and internationally recognized borders. Sadly the evidence shows that Israel is a racist and apartheid state. The UN World Conference on Racism[3] together with US State Country Report[4] have highlighted the institutional racism within Israeli society. The South African ruling ANC[5], the Jewish human rights organisation B’Tselem[6], as well as leading Jewish academics such as Noam Chomsky, Uri Davis and Israel Shahak have all made similar comparisons between South African and Israeli apartheid.[7] I do not regard such views as anti-Semitic.                              


He therefore hopes that Israel will go the same way as South Africa under apartheid and be ‘brought to an end internally by the rising up of the people’. So, despite saying that he supports Israel’s existence, he appears to want the Jewish state to be singled out for a fate afforded to no other democracy properly constituted under international law.

 

I do not remember ever making such a statement and such a statement would certainly not accord with my professed and stated beliefs. I would suggest Melanie has misheard or misquoted me. If anything which I may have said gave rise in Melanie’s mind to such a conclusion, then I must apologize for having used words capable of such misinterpretation. My views on this point are well documented through both public lectures[8] and published articles.[9]  I do wish to see Israel withdraw from the Occupied Territories in accordance with UN Resolutions 242 and 338, etc. I do believe that, like South Africa, the people themselves, Jews and Palestinians can and must achieve this peacefully, whether in a unified and truly democratic state in which they have equal rights or by the creation of an autonomous and independent  Palestinian State.                                            


But perhaps this is not surprising given his attitude towards Jews. ‘The covenant between Jews and God,’ he states, ‘was conditional on their respect for human rights. The reason they were expelled from the land was that they were more interested in money and power and treated the poor and aliens with contempt.’

 

This assertion is plainly taught throughout the Hebrew scriptures.

 

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says … You rely on your sword, you do detestable things, and each of you defiles his neighbor's wife. Should you then possess the land?'… Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done.” (Ezekiel 33:25-29)

 

“For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.  They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed…   Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine…  You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.(Amos 2:6-7, 5:11-12)

 

According to the Hebrew scriptures residence within the land was always conditional on the respect of human rights.

 

 Today’s Jews, it appears, are no better. ‘In the United States, politicians dare not criticise Israel because half the funding for both the Democrats and the Republicans comes from Jewish sources.’

 

My generalization is in fact an understatement. Aluf Ben, considered a spokesman for Shimon Peres, was quoted in Ha’aretz as claiming “60 percent of all financial help to Democrats came from Jewish sources.”[10] According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,

 

Most pro-Israel fund-raisers estimate that at least 60 to 90 percent of Democratic campaign funding comes from Jewish sources, which also supply perhaps 40 percent of Republican funding.[11]

 

Jewish writers, politicians and academics have all said, far more eloquently, the same assertions that Ms Phillips claims are evidence of my anti-Semitism. I see no correlation. I do see her article, however, as representative of those who, for what ever reason, wish to silence legitimate criticism of Israel by equating anti-Sharonism with anti-Semitism.

 

I am writing to express my own views and not on behalf of the Bishop of Guildford or of Christian Aid or of any other party mentioned in her article.

 

Yours sincerely,


Stephen Sizer


___________________________________________________________________________________________


TO THE ANGEL OF CANTERBURY CHURCH
By
Israel Shamir

The Spectator, a venerable British institution, recently purchased by the great supporter of Israel, ex-Canadian media mogul Conrad Black, published a long article by a Miss Melanie Phillips, a heady brew of theology and actuality called ‘Christians who hate the Jews’ (see in the end of this letter)

Despite the punchy title, it deals with Christians who dare to profess Christ, rather than a form of Judaism adapted for Gentiles. Miss Phillips writes as a young girl straight out of convent school while encountering “the facts of life”. Apparently, she never knew that Christians have a New Testament. Why should these strange Gentiles replace a perfectly good Old Testament with a New One? Her insufficient grasp of ideas calls it ‘replacement theology invented by a revisionist Palestinian theologian’. Needless to say, this term is but her invention, while the correct term is ‘supercessionism’.

A genuine article is ‘replaced’ with a substitute, while an outdated idea is ‘superseded’ by a newer one. It was indeed invented by ‘revisionist Palestinian theologian’, but his name was not Canon Ateek, as she claims, but Prophet Isaiah. He spoke of the New Covenant that will supersede the Old one. Afterwards, this idea became the cornerstone of Christianity, as the New Covenant between God and the Church (Israel of spirit) superseded the Old Covenant between God and Israel of flesh.

Religious and/or ignorant Jews present it as an act of “hatred to Jews”, as they identify modern Jews with Biblical Israel. However, this identification is an act of faith, as arbitrary as any. No person in his right mind thinks that the victor of Agincourt and the friend of Falstaff is the same man who killed Anne Boleyn, though the name is identical, King Henry of England. Still, it is a common error to think that Judaism of our contemporaries is the Judaism of the days of Jesus. The brilliant Israeli scholar, Prof. Israel Jacob Yuval of Hebrew University in his book, Two Nations in Your Womb[i], proved that Judaism we know of (Rabbinic Judaism) came to existence in the end of the first century after Christ. It came out of ruins of the old Temple-centred Biblical Judaism, practically at the same time as Christianity. It is a full answer to the notion of ‘superseding faith’. Christianity actually superseded Biblical Judaism and became the faith of millions. Still, a small band of men challenged its advent, and offered an alternative, Rabbinic Judaism. In the eyes of its followers, Rabbinic Judaism superseded Biblical Judaism.

Rabbinic Judaism has very little in common with Biblical Judaism. It produced its own holy books, the Mishna and Talmud, as Christianity produced the New Testament. Prof. Yuval wrote: The Biblical Judaism died, and two religions claimed to be the legitimate heir, Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. Thus, Judaism we know of is a jealous sister, not a mother faith to Christianity. Its adepts are not the people who remained faithful to the ‘old religion’, as the Biblical Judaism with its sacrifices, Jerusalem Temple, ritual purity, tithes and priests disappeared two thousand years ago.

In similar way, Communism and neo-Liberalism superseded Capitalism of Adam Smith. The new strategies offer new responses to new challenges. Judaism and Christianity offer vastly different life strategies. They naturally compete and struggle; their adepts sometimes hate or like each other. While hate is harmful to a hater as much as to a hated one, the competition is healthy and adds variety to human existence. For many years, there was a precarious equilibrium between opposing forces and ideas. Competing Communism and Neo-Liberalism gave us Social Democracy, while competing Christianity and Judaism produced the wave of free thought. Some of the troubles of our time are caused by the collapse of equilibrium in 1970s.

In the end of 20th century, the Communists surrendered to the Neo-Liberals, while the Christian leaders decided to give up the ideological struggle with Judaism. It created a new misbalance in the world, as it was not reciprocated by the Jews. While the Christians changed their liturgy and dropped even historically correct doctrine of supercessionism, the Jews preserved the Curse of Christians in daily liturgy and a prayer for destruction of ‘heathens’ in Passover Seder. While the Christians changed or banned the Passion plays of old, the Jews published now a full version of Talmud containing most horrible anti-Christian passages.

While in the US, Koran was removed from school libraries as it contains passages offensive to Jews; in Israel, the New Testament is burned on stake in schools. While in Europe, synagogues are lovingly restored and protected; in the Jewish state churches are violated, ruined, shot at. While in order to avoid a hint of anti-Semitism, European society was thoroughly de-Christianised; in Jewish communities there is a strong triumphalist tendency. Recently, a medieval anti-Christian pamphlet Toledoth Yeshu (also mistakenly called the Gospel according to the Jews) was reprinted again in Israel, with the introduction stating, “The Jewish People always deeply disdained Christian faith, considered Christian dogma as a collection of incongruous foolishness and Christian morals as a hypocritical lies”.

It is not a fringe lunacy: a great new hotel in Eilat was given the infamous name of King Herod, while the road leading to it unambiguously called Zeevi Promenade, after the assassinated Israeli racist and self-avowed enemy of Christianity. Posters on the walls present pictures of Christian preachers and call for their physical elimination. The immigrants of Jewish origin are deported if their belief in Christ is found out. In the Holy Land, Christianity is very much on defensive. It is a persecuted faith. The Palestinian Christian community shrinks daily in the iron grip of General Sharon. The believers can not reach their shrines. Even President Arafat was not allowed to attend the Christmas mass, nor could other Christians of the Holy Land. But Christianity here is more alive than in safe London. Underground, clandestine, persecuted by the Jews, it regained its vitality lost elsewhere.

As for Miss Phillips’ specific remarks, they express unmitigated ignorance of Christian faith and traditions coupled with a strong streak of Jewish supremacy.

· Miss Phillips found the words of the
Bishop Riah ‘an astounding interpretation of the Old Testament’. The Bishop Riah said of Palestinian Christians, ‘We are the true Israel’. There is no doubt that the Palestinians, Christians and Muslims are true descendents of the Twelve Tribes, of Prophets and Apostles. But the ‘true Israel’ appellation denotes the basic tenet of Christian faith: the Church is the True Israel. In other words, it is not an ‘astounding interpretation of Old Testament’, but an orthodox reading of the New Testament.

· She thinks Canon Ateek tries to “sever the special link between God and the Jews”. She apparently believes God feels more for a Jew than for an Englishman, or a Palestinian.

· She chastises
David Ison, canon of Exeter cathedral, who took a Palestinian guide. That is right, for a Jewish supremacist, only Jewish guides are kosher. As I guide pilgrims myself, I heartily concur with this idea. But I also ascribe to the notion that “genocide is now being waged in a long, slow way by Zionists against the Palestinians.’

·
Stephen Sizer, vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water says that Israel is ‘an apartheid state’. She objects as “Israeli Arabs have the vote, are members of the Knesset and one is even a supreme court judge”. Well, the good vicar is right: two thirds of Palestinians (‘Israeli Arabs’, in Zionist parlance) have no vote, send no members to Knesset. ‘Even one supreme court judge’ sounds a bit too paternalistic for 45% of non-Jewish population of Palestine.

· Anyway, what it has to do with ‘Christians who hate Jews’? Many good Israeli Jews share the hope of Vicar Sizer that “Israel will go the same way as South Africa” – into equality.

· She quotes with horror Rev. Sizer: ‘The covenant between Jews and God,’ he states, ‘was conditional on their respect for human rights’. Again, this thought was expressed by St John the Baptist, who said: if you do not observe human rights, God will turn these stones into new children of Abraham.

· She does not mind generalisations and victimisation per se, as long as it is Muslims and Christians are stereotyped and blamed for. “Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, the director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, has been addressing Christian groups up and down the country on the implications of 11 September. When he suggests that there is a problem with aspects of Islam, he provokes uproar’. Well, if he would suggest there is a problem with aspects of Judaism, would she quote him with such am empathy?

The Protestant Churches in the Holy Land hold a variety of opinions. On one end, there is a preacher of equality and liberty, Canon Ateek. On another end, there is a priest of the Church of Christ at Jaffa Gate, who supports Zeevi’s plans to expel all Gentiles from Palestine. Rather, he would like the Palestinian Christians to leave by their free will, while the Muslims will be ‘transferred’. The Church of England did not make up her mind yet.

The article in Spectator could be conceived as an attempt to scare some of equality-minded clerics and suborn the Church. It is also a promotion paper for Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Wales and a contender for the see of Canterbury. He is presented as a great friend of Israeli apartheid. Williams told her, ‘When I hear “the Jews” used as a term, my blood runs cold’. Probably it is meant to be a compliment, but it sounds like an anti-Semitic jibe: what is wrong with us Jews that our name chills a hot-blooded Welshman?

[i] Publisher: Alma/Am Oved, Tel Aviv, 2000, ISBN 965-13-1428-1
Israel Shamir is an Israeli writer living in Jaffa. To be removed from the list, reply with the subject ‘remove’, to subscribe’ – write with the subject ‘subscribe’ to [email protected] Other writings of Shamir could be found on www.israelshamir.net



[1] John Stott, ‘The Place of Israel’. unpublished sermon preached at All Soul’s, Langham Place, London, cited in Stephen Sizer, Christian Zionism, Justifying Apartheid ion the Name of God, The Churchman, Summer 2001.

[2] Ibid.,

[3] Resolution of the UN General Assembly on the report of the Third Committee (A/10320)
3379 (XXX).
Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. http://domino.un.org/unispal.nsf   

[4] Dallal, Shaw J., Israel Is Not Comparable to ‘Advanced Western Democracies’, Washington Report May 1990, Page 14, http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Senate/7891/dallal_isrl_dmcr.html 2000.

[5] ANC Statement: World cannot ignore the plight of the Palestinian people, 25 August 2001. http://www.badil.org/Resources/WCAR/ANC_Statement.htm

 

[7] Noam Chomsky, ‘Israel, Lebanon and the Peace Process’ Z Magazine, April 1996. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/other/9604-israel.html; Noam Chomsky , ‘The Israel-Arafat Agreement’ Z Magazine, October 1993 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/articles/z9310-israel-arafat.html; Uri Davis, Israel: An Apartheid State (London: Zed, 1987)

[8] Stephen Sizer, “The Future of Christianity in the Holy Landhttp://www.virginiawater.co.uk/christchurch/articles/alaqsa2001.htm

[9] Stephen Sizer, “The Premised Land” in They Came and They Saw, Ed. Michael Prior (London: Melisende, 2000)  pp. 144-161.

[10] Israel Shahak, “Ability of U.S. Jewish Groups to set Clinton Agenda Depends on Media.” Washington Report, June 1995, pp. 10, 94.

[11] Publisher’s Page, Washington Report, June 1995, pp. 122.