Church of Scotland: Jews Do Not Have a Right to the Land of Israel

A new church report challenging Jewish historic claims and criticizing Zionism has drawn anger and harsh condemnation from the local Jewish community.

A report by the Church of Scotland, published this week, denies any special privilege for the Jewish people in the land of Israel.

The church, which in recent years has jettisoned its once philosemitic character, opened a wide rift with the Scottish Jewish community with the report.  Among other controversial statements, the report argues that, "Christians should not be supporting any claims by Jews, or any other people, to an exclusive or even privileged divine right to possess particular territory."

The report, titled "The inheritance of Abraham? A report on the 'promised land'", was prepared for the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, to be held in two weeks. It is the latest in a series of documents published over the last decade criticizing Zionism and the Christians that support it.

The report acknowledges the fact that the Church of Scotland was once a believer in the right of the Jews to the ancient land of Israel and a Scottish minister, Alexander Keith, may even have coined the famous phrase: "A land without a people, for a people without a land." Another celebrated Zionist Scottish minister, John Brown, father of Britain's former prime minister Gordon Brown, visited Israel and was an enthusiastic supporter of the Jewish state.

However, the latest report makes clear such affection is a thing of the past. It analyzes the various scriptural and theological claims of Jews to the land and rejects those verses in which the land is promised to the children of Abraham. Furthermore, it dismisses the "belief among some Jewish people that they have a right to the land of Israel as a compensation for the suffering of the Holocaust."

Meanwhile, the report references New Testament passages which are purported to be "a radical critique of Jewish specialness and exclusivism" by Jesus. Additionally, it quotes uncritically from the writings of anti-Zionist Jews and Christians.

Responding to the political situation in Israel, the report asks: "Would the Jewish people today have a fairer claim to the land if they dealt justly with the Palestinians? The report makes much of the fact that Zionism used the Bible as a basis for its claims to Israel but argues that "it is a misuse of the Bible to use it as a topographic guide to settle contemporary conflicts over land."

Unsurprisingly, the report has drawn intense criticism from Jewish leaders in Britain. Scotland's Jewish population numbers under ten thousand but the community has strong organizations and generally enjoys good relations with the local Scottish government and religious leaders.

"[The report] reads like an Inquisition-era polemic against Jews and Judaism," complained Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. "It is biased, weak on sources, and contradictory." He accused the Church of Scotland of abandoning a dialogue with the Jewish community and "claiming to know Judaism better than we do."

Kim Traynor