The Ancient Christian Roots of Some Modern Anti-Zionism

March 1 2019

According to a doctrine espoused by some of the earliest Christian thinkers, Jesus’ life and death brought an end to Jews’ identity as the chosen people, now replaced by the Christian church. To this idea, known as supersessionism or replacement theology, St. Augustine added what was later called the “teaching of contempt”—that Jews are condemned to suffer for their rejection of Jesus and complicity in his death. These doctrines were renounced by the Vatican and by most Protestant denominations following World War II. Yet, writes Jon D. Levenson, they have resurfaced, in modern guise, in anti-Zionist rhetoric. Take for instance, the decision of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to endorse divestment from Israel in 2004:

The gross double standard [at work in such condemnations of the Jewish state] suggests that the loudly professed moral concerns of the Presbyterians (and other Protestant groups that have passed similar resolutions) do not fully account for their anti-Israel actions. What, then, does account for them?

To answer this, we must return to [the Presbyterians’] 1987 statement renouncing the teaching of contempt. In its sixth affirmation, the statement makes the claim that the book of Genesis

indicates that “the land of your sojournings” was promised to Abraham and his and Sarah’s descendants. This promise, however, included the demand that “You shall keep my covenant” (Genesis 17:7-8). The implication is that the blessings of the promise were dependent upon fulfillment of covenant relationships. Disobedience could bring the loss of land, even while God’s promise was not revoked. . . .

[I]f we read Genesis 17 as the Presbyterian statement does, we have a ready explanation for [this] double standard: the legitimacy of China, Iran, North Korea, and other malefactors does not rest upon fidelity to a covenant with God. Israel’s does. . . .

Liberation theology has [also] long had a problem with Jewish particularism. Consider the liberationists’ penchant for interpreting the poor and oppressed as the beneficiaries of one of their favorite biblical events, the Exodus. That the God of Israel is especially concerned with the vulnerable and eager to protect them is exceedingly easy to document. [But] what links the beneficiaries of God’s intervention in the Exodus is something very different: descent from a common ancestor. . . .

When the poor and oppressed replace the people Israel as the beneficiaries of the Exodus, an idea, or social norm, has replaced a flesh-and-blood people. It then becomes possible for any group that can be made to fit into that idea or to benefit from that social norm to be the new Jews. This is the replacement theology secularized, or supersessionism without the church—and it swiftly opens the door for the old anti-Judaism to reappear in a post-Christian culture—not in the mouths of theocratic reactionaries but in those of free-thinking progressives. Les extrêmes se touchent.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, History & Ideas, Jewish-Christian relations, Liberation theology, Supersessionism

 

Despite What the UN Says, the Violence at the Gaza Border Is Military, Not Civilian, in Nature

March 22 2019

On Monday, a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry issued its final report on last spring’s disturbances at the Gaza border. Geoffrey Corn and Peter Margulies explain why the report is fatally flawed:

The commission framed the events [in Gaza] as a series of demonstrations that were “civilian in nature.” Israel and its Supreme Court, [which has investigated some of the killings that occurred], framed the same events quite differently: as a new evolution in Israel’s ongoing armed conflict with the terrorist organization Hamas. Consistency and common sense suggest that the Israeli High Court of Justice’s framing is a more rational explanation of what occurred at the Israel-Gaza border in spring 2018.

Kites, [for instance], played a telltale role [in the violence]. When most people think of kites, they think of a child’s plaything or a hobbyist’s harmless passion. In the Gaza confrontation, kites [became] a new and effective, albeit low-tech, tactic for attacking Israel. As the report conceded, senior Gaza leaders, including from Hamas, “encouraged” the unleashing of waves of incendiary kites that during and since the spring 2018 confrontations have burned thousands of acres of arable land within Israel. The resulting destruction included fires that damaged the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which conveys goods and gasoline from Israel to Gaza. . . .

Moreover, the incendiary-kite offensive was an effective diversion from the efforts encouraged and coordinated by Hamas last spring to pierce the border with Israel and attack both IDF personnel and the civilian residents of the beleaguered Israeli towns a short distance from the border fence. . . .

The commission also failed to acknowledge that Hamas sought to use civilians as an operational cover to move members of its armed wing into position along the fence. For IDF commanders, this increased the importance of preventing a breach [in the fence]. Large crowds directly along the fence would simplify breakthrough attempts by intermingled Hamas and other belligerent operatives. The crowds themselves also could attempt to pour through any breach. Unfortunately, the commission seems to have completely omitted any credible assessment of the potential casualties on all sides that would have resulted from IDF action to seal a breach once it was achieved. . . .

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Laws of war, UNHRC, United Nations