Good News or Bad News for the Jews? Part II

February 20th, 2007


I wondered how recent changes in the Catholic Church in Britain might impact on relations with Jews here. John Allen has been wondering about changes in the wider Catholic Church, and provides a thoughtful summary in Deep forces at work in Catholic-Jewish dialogue, based on an address he gave to the ADL.

For one thing, the realities of 9/11, Regensburg, the bombings in London and Madrid, and a host of other factors have caused Islam, at least to some extent, to supplant Judaism as the top inter-faith priority of the Catholic church. Moreover, the passage of time means that the acute personal sensitivity to the Holocaust which inspired the pioneers in Jewish/Catholic relations is fading. Bishops and theologians from the global South, who will be increasingly consequential, often don't feel the same sense of historical obligation.

He writes: “I then teased out some "good news" and "bad news" for Catholic/Jewish relations” and it is worth reading the whole article.

Good news or bad news for Jews?

February 16th, 2007


An interesting development in Britain: Catholics set to pass Anglicans as leading UK church

Roman Catholicism is set to become the dominant religion in Britain for the first time since the Reformation because of massive migration from Catholic countries across the world.

This was the situation in 2005 (when I learn that there were twice as many Catholics as Muslims) but now the number of Catholics is surging.

Figures for 2005 show that there are 4.2 million Catholics in England and Wales, under one fifth the 25 million baptised Anglicans and double the number of Muslims.

But the real Mass attendance figure is higher by many hundreds of thousands. Precise numbers are impossible to obtain because of the irregular status of so many of the migrants, who prefer to keep a low profile.

What are the implications for our small and increasingly threatened Jewish community, many of whom are leaving the country?

Most of the new Catholics are from Poland - have they brought traditional Polish anti-Semitic attitudes with them? A lot will now depend on the leadership they are given by the Catholic bishops in Britain. On the basis of the performance of the latter during the latest 'intifada', producing statements heavily biased against Israel, there might not be much cause for optimism. The new Catholics will also fall under the influence of the prevailing secular culture, where the virus of anti-Semitism is spreading, nurtured by the BBC, etc.

It's too early to tell yet, but I'm not feeling very hopeful.

"Neighborhood Bully"

February 13th, 2007

Waaah! Rev Naim Ateek wants to see Israel destroyed, but those mean Jews object. Bullies! Waaah! Israel insists on continuing to exist! How dare it. Poor little Sabeel longs for death and destruction for the Jewish State, but those bullies won’t let it have what it wants. It’s not f-a-i-r!

Dexter Van Zile has responded to the claim that Sabeel and Rev Naim Ateek “are victims of a campaign of bullying by Jewish activists“.

Sabeel and its supporters have repeatedly called for Israel to be dismantled and subsumed into a state in which Jews would be a minority. No other people, except the Jews, would be expected to embrace such a future.

…Sabeel is not a peacemaking organization, but a group that offers a false moral narrative of Arab innocence and Israeli malevolence to churches in the U.S. Sabeel's big lie is that Israel can single-handedly end the violence against it through concessions and peace offers to those vowing the destruction of the Jewish state.

Why am I reminded of Bob Dylan’s song about Israel? Neighborhood Bully".

Read it and ask yourself - who is the real bully?

What do Carter and Sizer have in common?

February 7th, 2007

I hesitate to mention Jimmy Carter and Revd. Stephen Sizer in the same sentence. Well, no I don’t. Some worthy commentators have done so recently, and these two self-described ‘Christians’ do have certain features in common.

Jimmy Carter’s prejudice against Jews and the Jewish State have recently been spotlighted. Meanwhile, Stephen Sizer’s hatred for the Jewish State has been vomited forth in the form of many books and articles.

It has also emerged that Carter was sympathetic to a Nazi who had murdered many Jews. Stephen Sizer, on the other hand, is adored by Neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers.

It appears to be an unrequited love, as Sizer has shown no affection for them in return, but there is something about him that is undeniably attractive to them. They love to quote him on their websites, so must feel he articulates their feelings about one particular group of people in a way they can normally only express by grunting noises, beating people up, smashing headstones and painting swastikas on synagogues.

In Was Israel a Mistake? Paul Merkley reviews books of interest to those who study Christian attitudes to Jews and Israel. He includes Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid and a sample of Sizer’s verbal diarrhea – an unhappy, chronic condition caused by the very existence of the Jewish State.

In Christian Zionism: Road-Map to Armageddon?, Stephen Sizer advances the fantasy, previously elaborated by a host of anti-Zionist polemicists, that the long and honorable history of defense by Christians of Israel's right to be Israel is merely an epiphenomenon of the history of a singular, off-center school of theology called premillennial dispensationalism. According to this thesis, all Christian Zionists are mindless acolytes of a Sandhedrin of pamphleteers which carries on the teachings of John Nelson Darby.

Do read the whole review.

Never Again! Well, not for a couple of days, anyway.

February 1st, 2007

After all the Holocaust memorial events, with a promise of Never Again, it’s back to business as usual.

Only a couple of days later, the usual gang go into action, attacking the world’s only Jewish State.

Actors, politicians and members of human rights, solidarity and peace movements, including Pax Christi, gathered today in Westminster for the launch of a new coalition ENOUGH: End the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.

The usual predictable Christian groups join in this hate-fest: Amos Trust, Pax Christi, Quaker Peace and Social Witness.

Reminder: Quaker Peace & Social Witness co-ordinates the anti-Israel EAPPI in Britain and Ireland.

In the anniversary year of the abolition of slavery, this might be a good moment to remind these self-righteous people that many Quakers – and other Christians – became wealthy from trading in African slaves – a dark little corner of their history they might prefer to forget.

In Bristol, the church clergy themselves did not hesitate to “turn the Penny” from the slave trade. There were as many as 84 Quaker slave traders, among them Alexander and David Barclay - who later founded today’s Barclays Bank. Rev Raymund Harris (commissioned by Liverpool Council to justify slavery) dutifully wrote that the trade was “in perfect harmony with the principles of the Word of God ...” and received £100 for his pamphlet.

Yes, I know they like to boast about the Quaker abolitionists, but conveniently forget that it was long after many Quaker families became very rich from the trade, including the Penns, who founded Pennsylvania.

'Despite the remarkable clarity of Penn's vision for liberty, he had a curious blind spot about slavery. He owned some slaves in America, as did many other Quakers. Anti-slavery did not become a widely shared Quaker position until 1758, 40 years after Penn's death. Quakers were far ahead of most other Americans, but it's surprising that people with their humanitarian views could have contemplated using slaves at all.'

It took the Quakers 40 years to realise that they were wrong to condone slavery. How long will it take them to understand what is wrong with their prejudiced attitude to Israel?