The Church of Scotland's frankly disgraceful report on the Jewish people and Israel last month was hastily withdrawn and hurriedly edited in response to the furore it caused. Remember, the original report was not only offensive to Israelis, or to the wider Jewish world by denying their claim to any of the land of their ancestors. Many Christians were also deeply dismayed. Meanwhile it captured considerable media attention, and not because the Church of Scotland is a "big player": it captured media interest precisely because of its extreme nature as having crossed a line.
So lots of people worldwide were surprised, offended, dismayed. So strong was the negative reaction if was hastily pulled and underwent a re-write. But wait! We seem to have all this quite wrong, actually. It hasn't undergone a re-write because the first version was either offensive, dishonest, woefully unbalanced, politically-driven (and stupid), or because it demonstrated quite breathtaking theological idiocy. Oh no, it would appear far more sinister forces were at work, at least as far as one well-known strongly anti-Israel cleric is concerned:
It appears the Church of Scotland has censored itself and limited its own theological discussion under intense pressure from the Israeli ambassador, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities and the Council of Christians and Jews. (Stephen Sizer)
Now look again...
It appears the Church of Scotland has censored itself and limited its own theological discussion under intense pressure from the Israeli ambassador [a Jew], the Board of Deputies of British Jews [all Jews], the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities [more Jews] and the Council of Christians and Jews. [Jews, together with Christians who like Jews].
Note that there is no mention whatsoever of wiser heads within the Kirk prevailing (for now) because of the political suicide of the first report. Or the considerable embarrassment of some Kirk members about a report that has caused deep and lasting damage to Jewish-Christian relations in Scotland by the very church that has a long and noble history of philosemitism. Or that newspapers and media outlets recognised the original report as something deeply controversial (small, fading religious organisations rarely court such media attention otherwise). Or even that many everyday folk, whether Christian or not, thought the report was biased and a disgrace.
No, for Stephen Sizer "the heavily redacted revision" was the direct result of "intense pressure" from the groups he details. It sounds depressingly like that ubiquitous Jewish lobby (p 54) or "
Jewish Zionist lobby" we often hear about (sometimes referred to as the Israel lobby). And then he wonders why people accuse him of anti-Semitism.
I do not say Stephen is anti-Semitic (unfortunately, prior to our televised debate he made clear this topic was off-limits and conditional upon him participating, so I never had a chance to discuss with him where anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment spills over into something else). I do believe, however, that his obvious deep distaste of Israel doesn't help his claim to the contrary. Or that his inability to control his outbursts when it comes to Israel so that he appears incapable of being objective on the issue, does him no favours. His forthright views on who was responsible for the Church of Scotland's decision to look again at its intemperate language is a case in point.
Calvin L. Smith
New revised and Expanded edition (2013).