Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Thursday 10 March 2011

Methodically Maligning Israel – Leaders of Britain’s Methodist Church

In an essay entitled “Christian Theology and the New Antisemitism,” which appears in A New Antisemitism? Debating Judeophobia in 21st-Century Britain, a book of essays published in 2003, Melanie Phillips quotes Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Institute of Islam and Christianity, as saying that since September 11 the issue of the Palestinians has had what Ms Phillips terms ‘a major distorting impact’ on practising Christendom.

Explained Dr Sookhdeo to Ms Phillips:

“Those who blame Israel for everything don’t realize that, for Islam, the very existence of Israel is a problem.  Even a Palestinian State would not be sufficient. Israel may be behaving illegally in a number of areas, but she is under attack. But white liberal Christians find it deeply offensive not to blame Israel for injustice.”
In the same book both Ms Phillips and Edward Kessler, in his essay entitled “Jews, Christians and the New Antisemitism,” discuss, inter alia, the powerful influence “replacement theology” has had in shaping much Christian hostility towards Israel.

Part of Christian theology for the past 2000 years, and a potent factor in antisemitism, “replacement theology” is based on the premise that the Church has replaced the Jews as the People of the Covenant,  that the idea of Israel, meaning the Chosen People, the Jews, has been superseded by a new, enlarged spiritual Israel – Christianity and its adherents. Thus the idea of the Jewish People’s special relationship with Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel) has been compromised if not voided. Indeed, it has been voided in the radical liberation theology of the Palestinian Christian leader Naim Ateek, founder of the Sabeel organisation, which seeks to delegitimize the unique claim of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel and to indoctrinate the world with the idea of Palestnian victimhood, with the reqirement that Christians must fight the oppressor, the State of Israel.

“Over and over again, “ writes Ms Phillips,
“I was told of the great influence in Britain of the Palestinian canon Naim Ateek. Yet his book, Justice and Only Justice, inverts history, defames the Jews, and sanitizes Arab violence. Modern antisemitism gets precisely one paragraph; Zionism is portrayed not as the despairing response that it was to the ineradicable antisemitism of the world, but as an aggressive colonial adventure. Courageous Jews are those who ... say that Judaism should survive without a state ...”
Indicative of the influence of Naim Ateek and Sabeel is a joint blog in which the President and the Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, Reverend Alison Tomlin and Deacon Eunice Attwood, have given their impressions of a visit they made to Israel and the disputed territories.

Their account is largely lachrymose, an account of Palestinian victimhood at the hands of villainous Israel. They have swallowed the Palestinian narrative wholesale, and have seemingly made no account to discover the feelings and attitudes of mainstream Israelis. Rather like the BBC and other leftist media outlets, they appear to think that “balance” means speaking to a handful of Israeli dissidents rather than to people across the political spectrum, let alone to persons on the political and religious “right”.

That Arab rejectionism, aggression, and terrorism have contributed in no small measure to the plight of the Palestinians is of no or trifling avail for these leaders of a Boycott-happy church. They have scant regard for the difficulties facing Israel; the security fence is called, apartheid- and BDS-style, a “separation barrier”:

‘One of the most heart-wrenching experiences during our visit (Alison described it as gut-wrenching) was to go through the Bethlehem check-point at 6am as the Palestinian community leave to go to work. Some of the men in particular sleep outside near the check-point so they can be the first people in the queue. We travelled though wire cages and scanners presenting our documents on several occasions. Whilst we acknowledge security is important, it seems deeply de-humanising to treat people in this manner.’

(But of course not as dehumanising as blowing people to smithereens with a suicide bomb, something not acknowledged by the pair.)

And, nauseatingly, the claim is repeated, with no attempt at verification, that “settlers” in Hebron pour noxious substances over Arab produce.
“Hebron is very much a divided community with Jewish settlers and Palestinians living with different laws and access rights. Below [photo in original] is a street of shops, the metal grids are to prevent the objects which are thrown down by Jewish settlers from hurting Palestinians. Apparently urine used to be poured out of windows but currently bleach is preferred thus destroying the goods for sale below.
Blockaded streets in Hebron dividing the Palestinian and Jewish community, since Jewish settlers returned. Over 2,000 soldiers permanently guard the 400 members of the Jewish community.”
The place of Hebron in Jewish history, its sacred status in Judaism, the long tradition of Jewish residency in that city, the bloody Arab massacre of Jews in 1929 there which led to Hebron being judenrein until after the Six Day War – none of this is mentioned, as the pro-Israel, anti-Boycott Methodist preacher David Hallam has pointed out in his admirable blog on the subject: and see also which is the subject of attack from another Methodist minister, Richard Hall, who doesn't seem to like Israel very much at all:

It might be tempting to dismiss the opinions of church leaders as irrelevant, but to do so would be a big mistake.  To quote from Melanie Phillips's essay again:
"The attitude of the churches is extremely important.  Contrary to the popular belief that Britain is now a post-religious society and so what the churches say doesn't matter, it does matter greatly.  The churches stll have a great deal of influence in helping create a climate of opinion.  Church leaders not only set a tone, but they legitimate attitudes that might otherwise be regarded with suspicion.  Moreover, what they say seeps deeply into the wider culture; at a time when government spokesmen have lost the trust of the media and general public, statements by priests or Christian non-governmental organizations are treated as unchallengeable truths."
That's why we should be grateful to David Hallam for so resolutely countering the present received wisdom of the Methodist Church in Britain, and to other stalwartly pro-Israel Methodists like reader Ian G, who often posts comments on my blogposts (and has done so on David Hallam's latest post).  Chazak, chazak, gentlemen!


  1. btw, on the connexions blog that I refer to in this blogpost, a commenter (who I believe is a Methodist minister) writes:

    Whoosh! Richard posts at 16:19, Matt checks in at 16:26, and Avraham arrives 15 minutes later (long time no see). Man, even this tinpot version of the Israeli propaganda machine (euphemistically called hasbara [explanation]) is incredibly swift to respond to anything that doesn’t square with its doctine of inerrancy. “Palestine” is a fiction, critics are anti-Semites, blah, blah, blah. You will build your settlements here for a while, torch the truth, scorch the earth, and then, eventually, in exhaustion or exhilaration, move on. And then lemon trees will grow again at Connexions.

    He's made comments like that before, on an earlier Connexions thread on which pro-Israeis arrived.

  2. I'm surprised you think I was attacking David. What he wrote in his post was quite specific: that our Presidential visit to Israel was "intended to generate yet more anti-Jewish sentiment within the Connexion". I raised it with him on his blog first: I was sure that he didn't mean quite what he has said. But apparently I was wrong. He really does seem to think that this visit was organized with the aim of increasing anti-semitism within the Methodist Church. Frankly, that's absurd.

  3. For the record, I am no longer a Methodist Local Preacher. I recently resigned for a whole parcel of reasons; some personal, some theological, some local, some matters of circumstance and some because Methodism seems determined to commit suicide. The system is designed to frustrate anyone trying to build the Kingdom and its current anti-semitism has led me to conclude that 'the glory has departed'. I have seen a church disappear once 'Ichabod' has been pronounced. It can take a while but I think that Methodism is doomed to become a memory. I could be wrong, but the level of repentance requires a systemic and systematic change. There are still many good people in the denomination and many good works being done, but overall it is over.

  4. Thank you, gentlemen.
    Richard, I think David can be forgiven for his view since the visit does seem to have taken place with the aim of solidifying the Church's anti-Israel stance that led it to vote to boycott Israel, not a full boycott granted, but a full boycott is certainly what some Methodists wish to see. By selecting which token Jews to meet in Israel the two ladies failed signally to discover mainstream Israeli opinion. The whiff of replacement theology is also very much in the air, with the influence of Sabeel.
    Thanks for the clarification, Ian. It does seem from available statistics that the Methodists are losing members - I blogged about this in a very early post.

  5. Incidentally, the ladies appear to have removed pro-Israel comments from their posts - I believe one was by "Offended Jew".

  6. Oh, and here's the latest trope on the Connexions thread by the preacher to whom I refer in my first comment on this thread. He uses the "A" word of Israel and he links 9/11 to the Israel/Arab dispute. His post illustrates what bigotry and ignorance abound even among presumably well-educated men of the cloth:
    'Zack, if you knew anything about the agenda of the New Atheists you would know that it was just after 9/11 that their tyres really began to grip the road. That is, it is religious violence that gives their project prima facie public credibility - including the ongoing violence in Israel/Palestine. And not Islamic terrorism alone, nor Islamic terrorism itself reductively and inanely explained as “they hate our freedoms”. In fact, in one of the more significant and sophisticated analyses of contemporary religious violence, Terror in the Mind of God, Mark Juergensmeyer cogently argues that it is the failure of nations like the US - but not only the US - to confront injustices in the Middle East that fuels Islamic extremism - injustices, I would add, in the oil-rich Arab world, absolutely - full of bastards, but bastards that oil the US’s geopolitical and economic interests - but also in Israel, in its apartheid strangulation of the Palestinian people.
    The point being that it is not my so-called irrationalism but, in part, Israeli abuses of human rights, violations of UN resolutions, etc. - and apologists for them like yourself - that make the arguments of Dawkins , Harris, and Hitchens look plausible.'


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