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Friday, May 06, 2011

Outrageous: UK Methodist Church document to delegitimize Israel

A background document released by the Methodist Church of the UK is meant to instruct its readers on "Jewish and Muslim Perspectives on the Land of Israel-Palestine" - and, inter alia, to show how to argue with the Jewish claims for a homeland.

First, it looks at covenantal, Biblical claims:
In the Jewish tradition, robust debate is possible about texts and their meaning. In the rabbinical tradition, every word of a text can be challenged. Multiple meanings are sometimes accepted. In connection with attitudes to the 'land' of Israel, some Jews are also aware that holy texts can be abused. ‘We have a battle for our holy texts' declared Rabbi David Rosen, of Rabbis for Human Rights in Jerusalem, at a session on theologies of the ‘Land' at the Parliament of World's Religions in Barcelona in 2004.

For example, Jews who seek justice for all - Jews and Palestinians - will draw strength from the Covenant with Noah in Genesis (Genesis 9: 8 - 17). It is a Covenant which makes no distinction between nations or races. Other Jewish groups look to ‘later' Covenants, which can be interpreted more exclusively. This intrareligious dialogue within Judaism must not be overlooked.
Anyone with a modicum of understanding about Judaism knows about rabbinic arguments on interpretation of verses.

They also know that such arguments have specific rules and boundaries, as would be the source texts of any legal system. To facilely declare that God's promise to all of mankind not to destroy the world with a flood is somehow more relevant to Israel than specific Biblical promises to the Patriarchs and the children of Israel is more than absurd - especially coming from an organization that should be somewhat familiar with the Bible.

But this is far from the most offensive part of the document.

Anti-Semitism in Europe, culminating in the Holocaust, is another factor that cannot
be overlooked if Christians are to understand Jewish perspectives on the land of Israel. ‘Israel is the only real answer to the Holocaust' is the message given at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Centre in west Jerusalem. Its location (on Mount Herzl, a hill which is home both to the tomb of the founding father of the Zionist Movement and the central military cemetery for members of the Israeli Defence Force) and its symbolic layout undergirds this message. A pilgrimage through the exhibition rooms of the Centre, which bring home both the horror of the Holocaust and the vigour of Jewish resistance, brings you out in the open air, overlooking the beauty of Jerusalem. This perspective is transmitted to young Israelis through visits to Yad Vashem organised by schools and other groups. When I visited the Centre with a group from Britain, I noticed that many visitors were not of European Jewish descent. As Michael Ipgrave, then Secretary of the Churches' Commission for Inter Faith Relations, wrote in his report of the visit: ‘The Holocaust has come to serve as a national story embracing also Oriental Jews for whom this was not part of their family history.' Peace groups in Israel have to work against this backdrop.

...It is salutary and necessary for Europeans, and particularly Christians, to realise that they are implicated in this narrative.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center slammed this in the Huffington Post:

One of its authors chastises Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Holocaust museum: "'Israel is the only real answer to the Holocaust' is the message ... This perspective is transmitted to young Israelis through visits to Yad Vashem organised by schools and other groups. When I visited the Centre ... I noticed that many visitors were not of European Jewish descent. As Michael Ipgrave, then Secretary of the Churches' Commission for Inter Faith Relations, wrote in his report of the visit: 'The Holocaust has come to serve as a national story embracing also Oriental Jews for whom this was not part of their family history.' Peace groups in Israel have to work against this backdrop."

Want peace? Decouple Israel from the Holocaust. Curiously, the Methodists' narrative goes beyond Palestinian chutzpah, whose historic revisionism ignores three millennia of continuous Jewish presence in the Holy Land, and insists that the Allies manufactured the State of Israel to provide a home for survivors of the WWII Holocaust that these Methodists now want Jews to forget.

Want peace? Forget the collective memory of losing a third of your people, including 1.5 million children. For it's the "collective memory of the Holocaust [that] also feeds into an ethos of victimhood." Israelis should also turn the other cheek when rockets rain down on their children's school buses; turn a deaf ear when Palestinian imams promise the faithful a day when the rocks will call out to kill the Jews hiding behind them; turn a blind eye when the "moderate" Palestine Authority names streets for martyrs who murdered Israeli civilians; when one third of that same "moderate" population supports the savage butchering of a sleeping Israeli family in Itamar, including the all-but beheading of a 3-month-old baby.

Forget collective memory. For these religious leaders, only selective memory will set you free:

Take their reference to "Oriental" -- meaning Sephardic -- Jews. These experts must have forgotten the Sephardic Jews of Greece, 87 percent of whom were murdered by the Nazis. Never mind the Jews of the Maghreb were on Hitler's hit-list. These leaders also remembered to forget that it was Christian countries who slammed their gates shut before desperate European Jews, and that millions could have been saved had there been a State of Israel in the 1930s and 40s.
A couple of points beyond what Cooper said specifically about the Sephardim.

One is that there was a massacre of Jews in Iraq - the Farhud - during the Holocaust that was inspired by the infamous, Nazi sympathizing Mufti of Jerusalem. Here is a direct link between Arab anti-semitism and the Holocaust for Sephardic Jews.

But in a broader sense, the outrage that the Methodists feel about how Sephardic Jews are being taught about the Holocaust betrays their own anti-semitism. By mentioning it, the authors indicate that they do not believe that the Jewish people are a nation - the Sephardim, to them, have nothing in common with Jews who lived in some European countries. It is beyond their comprehension that Sephardim might actually care about their fellow Jews on their own, without being indoctrinated by the Zionists!

Even more so, they warn that Israel's Holocaust "narrative" is a direct challenge to them, as it implicates European Christians for standing by and letting millions of Jews get slaughtered. Which just happens to be true.

The point, of course, was to give the Methodists ammunition to argue against both Biblical and Holocaust arguments to justify a Jewish state.

Moreover, their recounting of Muslim narratives shows no skepticism. For example, it quotes the Koran as saying that Mohammed's night journey was to Jerusalem - even though the location of that journey is in a hadith, not the Koran.

This is a sickening document, and one that needs to be exposed.

UPDATE: The document was taken down...so you can find it here.