The injection of theology into the Israeli-Palestinian real estate dispute has rarely proved helpful, particularly in cases where one side seeks to make a claim to all the land at the expense of the other.
The Church of Scotland’s laughably regressive new document, “The Inheritance of Abraham?: A Report on the ‘Promised Land,” which wilfully mischaracterises and then dismisses Jewish claims to a state in Palestine, is equally as unwelcome.
Its premise is that Zionism is not a national but a religious ideology, grounded in specific and unconditional biblical claims to the Land of Israel. The position of Zionism is that “God promises the land to the Israelites unconditionally,” it says, adding that “Zionists think that Jewish people are serving God’s special purpose.” As such, “Christians should not be supporting exclusive or even privileged divine right” to any territory. “If Jesus is indeed the Yes to all God’s promises, the promise to Abraham about land is fulfilled through the impact of Jesus, not by restoration of land to the Jewish people.”
When it isn’t promoting supersessionism — the notion that the truth of the New Testament renders irrelevant the claims of the Old — it’s borderline anti-Semitic.
“It has to be recognized that the enormity of the Holocaust has often reinforced the belief that Israel is entitled to the land unconditionally,” it states, but “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.”
Rather, “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.”
This document has been welcomed by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign in particular. Mick Napier, the campaign chair, directed the Forward to an article in which he asserts that “The Inheritance of Abraham?” concludes “what every sane person has already decided — that the Christian or Jewish Bibles are not (any longer) to be treated as title deeds to modern real estate and that Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights is very bad indeed.”
It is true that Scotland has traditionally had a more radical political culture than the rest of the United Kingdom, and that in the past, Israel’s ambassador to the U.K., Daniel Taub, has voiced his concern over “elements of extreme hostility to Israel in parts of Scottish society.” But speaking to the Forward, Hannah Holtschneider, senior lecturer in Jewish studies at the University of Edinburgh, indicated that the document is a reflection not so much of public opinion in Scotland, but of a subset within the Church of Scotland that wishes to “change the church’s understanding of the Jewish people” and its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.