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CofS Israel2

By Luke Moon (@LukeMoon1)

The Church of Scotland came under attack on Wednesday for its release of an official report titled, Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘promised land’. The ten page report lays out the Church of Scotland’s position concerning Israel’s right to the biblical Land of Israel. Unsurprisingly, the conclusion reached by the report explicitly concluded, “No, it does not.” The primary justification for Israel’s forfeiture of the land is that the Jews are treating the Palestinians unjustly and Jesus fulfills all the promises of God to Abraham.

The three part report opens with an affirmation of scriptural support for Israel’s right to the land, but with “modern scholarship” those scriptures are rendered meaningless through historical criticism. For example, the report cites four verses in Genesis which explicitly state God’s promise to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his offspring, “forever” and for a “perpetual holding.” But supposedly it is the Zionists and the Literalist colonizers who introduced the modern myth that Israel has a right to the land by appealing to Nationalist Jews in the post-exilic period. The report quotes Munib Younana, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church for Jordan and the Holy Land, stating the biblical accounts of the conquest of Canaan were written centuries after the fact to “justify their own status in the land on the basis of nationalistic perspective.”

The second section of the report argues that the promise of the land is conditional on the obedience of the Jewish people. The report asks, “Would the Jewish people today have fairer claim to the land if they dealt justly with the Palestinians?” The shortsightedness of this proposition shows the authors are not willing to apply this same principle to the Palestinians or anyone else in the world. It is difficult to imagine the Church of Scotland ever suggesting the reason the Jewish settlements are growing is because the Arabs have disobeyed God, but seemingly they have no problem applying that principle to the Jews.

Doubling down on outrageous principles, the Church of Scotland Report also argues that Christians justify Israel’s actions because of guilt over the holocaust and centuries of anti-Semitism. Finding Mark Braverman, an American Jew, to explain this position is useful because he can deflect an accusation of anti-Semitism. Celebrating Braverman’s transformation from a Zionist to a Pro-Palestinian activist, the report notes, “Christian people must not sell out the Palestinian people because of repentance for the Holocaust, ‘sensitivity’ to Jewish feelings, and fear of being labelled anti-Semitic.”

The third section of the report claims the “Promises about the land of Israel were never intended to be taken literally, or applying to a defined geographical territory.” Instead, the “’promised land’ in the Bible is not a place as much as a metaphor of how things ought to be among the people of God.” Obviously, Moses and the nation of Israel were very confused as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. If only they understood there was no “land” only ignorance. An added quote from Walter Brueggeman shows a further drift into wordgames. He notes, “Exile is a sense of not belonging, of being in an environment hostile to the values of the community and its vocation.” Seemingly, when scripture speaks of the Israel’s historic presence in the land it’s all just metaphors and symbols. Emptied of power and authority the Bible is just another self-help book teaching people how to “get along.”

Finally, the report offers a subtle endorsement of tagging Israel with the apartheid label (declaring Israel is a fundamentally racist State) and embracing the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) campaign. The BDS campaign has largely focused on the “illegal settlements,” but has vision for the total eradication of the State of Israel.

Each of these points alone would be enough to draw the ire of the Jewish community in the UK, but combined this report highlights the Church of Scotland’s disdainful view of Israel. Within hours of its release the Church of Scotland removed the document from their hompage citing the need for further revision. The Church stated that is should be explicitly understood that “Israel has a right to exist.” This is rather strange since it spent ten pages arguing that it does not have a right to the land it is on. Ostensibly, it seems in the view of the Church of Scotland, Israel has a right to exist, just not in Israel. Hamas no doubt finds that welcome news.