THE Israeli government has hit out at the Church of Scotland over a report questioning the divine right of Jews to the land of Israel.
Branding it as “truly hurtful”, the country’s ambassador said that the paper “played into extremist political positions”.
The report has also been attacked by a former Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland as “patronising and offensive” and evidence of “a growing anti-Semitic tendency within the Kirk”.
“The Inheritance of Abraham? A report on the Promised Land” was compiled by the Kirk’s influential Church and society council for its General Assembly, due to take place in Edinburgh later this month. It said that there has been a “widespread assumption by many Christians as well as many Jewish people that the Bible supports an essentially Jewish state of Israel”.
This assumption raised an “increasing number of difficulties” and Israeli policies towards the Palestinians had led to this viewpoint being increasingly questioned, the report said. The authors said Biblical promises relating to the land of Israel were never intended to be taken literally or apply to specific geographical area.
They said: “Possession of any land is conditional. The question that arises is this: Would the Jewish people today have a fairer claim to the land if they dealt justly with the Palestinians?”
Daniel Taub, Israeli ambassador to the UK, said: “This report not only plays into extremist political positions but negates and belittles the deeply-held Jewish attachment to the land of Israel in a way which is truly hurtful.
“If a document of this nature is adopted by the Church of Scotland, it would mark a step backwards for the forces of tolerance and peace in our region.”
Free Church of Scotland former Moderator Rev Dr John Ross described the report as one more step along the Kirk’s “inexorable journey away from its historical commitment to the Bible as the Word of God”. He said: “Today’s Church of Scotland is no friend to the Jewish people, on whom it has turned its back.”
Last night, the Kirk “entirely refuted” Dr Ross’s accusations of “an anti-Semitic tendency” in the Church of Scotland. A spokesman said: “Speaking out critically about Israeli government policy cannot be equated with denigrating the Jewish people.”
The Kirk issued a joint statement with Jewish groups, including Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, following talks yesterday.
The statement said: “We agreed that the drafting of the report has given cause for concern and misunderstanding of [the Church’s] position and requires a new introduction to give clarity about some of the language used. There is no change in the Church of Scotland’s long-held position of the rights of Israel to exist; the Church condemns all violence and acts of terrorism; the Church condemns all things that create a culture of anti-Semitism.”