The imbroglio caused by the Church of Scotland’s report assailing Judaism and Jewish religious and historical claims to Israel is not over. Though the Scottish Church removed the report from its website and acknowledged that it “requires a new introduction to set the context for the report and give clarity for some of the language used,” this is not enough. A new introduction that somehow contextualizes the report’s offensive language is far from sufficient. This is because the report is only a symptom of a far deeper moral lapse within the Church of Scotland, exemplified by its partnerships with radical anti-Israel Christian NGOs.
One such partner is the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center of Jerusalem. This Palestinian Christian NGO (nongovernmental organization) was founded by Rev. Naim Ateek the father of “Palestinian Liberation Theology.” Ateek’s doctrine portrays Palestinians as inherently innocent and Israel and Zionism as almost exclusively guilty for the conflict.
Sabeel creates a theological basis for advancing the Palestinian nationalist agenda within Christian churches, what might be called “Christian Palestinism”. The language used by Sabeel embraces replacement theology that rejects a continued Jewish covenantal relationship with God. This Palestinian liberation theology was the cornerstone of the Scottish Church’s report.
Worse, Sabeel uses theologically loaded language such as comparing Palestinians to the crucified Jesus, and Israeli Jews to those who crucified him. Ateek wrote, “As we approach Holy Week and Easter, the suffering of Jesus Christ at the hands of evil political and religious powers two thousand years ago is lived out again in Palestine… Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him…The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.”
This is no accident. Ateek’s assigning of the “evil political and religious powers two thousand years ago” to the modern state of the Jewish people, Israel, has a strategic purpose. For Sabeel this theological weapon serves its Palestinian nationalist agenda well. This is the context of its slogan “one state for two nations and three religions,” a call for ending the Jewish people’s sovereign equality in the State of Israel.
The Scottish Church also promotes EAPPI, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, a project of the World Council of Churches. The organization’s stated mission is “to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in their non-violent actions and concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation.”
But EAPPI is much more. It participates in activities that delegitimize Israel, such as commemorating the Palestinian “Nakba” (catastrophe), promoting a so-called “right of return,” and being a partner for the South Africa Team for “Israeli Apartheid Week”.
EAPPI, like Sabeel, also endorses the Kairos Palestine Document, which also embraces replacement theology, stating that Torah without Christianity is a “dead letter.” Further, Kairos Palestine rationalizes, justifies and trivializes terrorism, calling it “legal resistance”. It states, “Some (Palestinian) political parties followed the way of armed resistance. Israel used this as a pretext to accuse the Palestinians of being terrorists and was able to distort the real nature of the conflict, presenting it as an Israeli war against terror, rather than an Israeli occupation faced by Palestinian legal resistance aiming at ending it.”
The Church of Scotland’s report was heavily influenced by Kairos Palestine, and promoted it.
Both Sabeel and EAPPI are beneficiaries of European and Canadian taxpayers’ largesse. For instance, EAPPI’s parent body, the World Council of Churches, receives direct government funding from Norway and Canada, and indirect funding from the UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Finland. Through this entanglement of public funds with religion have taxpayers in democratic countries become the enablers of religious intolerance.
These groups – Sabeel, EAPPI, and Kairos Palestine – want to have their theological cake and eat it too. To invalidate the existence of a Jewish state, they deploy theology to undermine the Jewish religious and historical connection with the Land of Israel. Yet, in an irony they do not see, they use theology to advocate for a Palestinian state.
The Church of Scotland must do much more than redraft their report, which contains deep-seated theological enmity against Judaism. The report is heavily influenced by the Church’s institutional partnerships with these radical anti-Israel Christian NGOs, and for true healing with the Jewish people, the Church of Scotland must sever its ties with these groups. Only in this manner can the Church be a true peacemaker trusted by both sides. Now, however, the Scottish Church is a full participant in the conflict. Where it could be promoting understanding, common ground and love, instead the Church of Scotland is fomenting strife, divisiveness and hate.