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The Uncomfortable Truth

Why does the Church often have issues with Israel?

Now you're probably thinking that I'm being over-sensitive about the issue of anti-Semitism. Those of you from other minority cultures are used to the occasional poisonous barb or hurtful insult from the indigenous folk (even though they were immigrants once!) If so, you've probably been at the receiving end of far more racism than your average Jew living in the UK in 2011.

But there is a difference in this case.

Firstly, we have to be aware of the origin of much of the negativity thrown at Jews. For example, a Christian minister was speaking to me once of financial matters and casually remarked that how come that I was no good with money (a true statement, as it goes). The implication was that all Jews were experts with money, it's in their blood. And how did it get in their blood? It got in their blood because the "Christian" rulers of our country, from 1066 onwards, declared that one of the few professions that Jews may be permitted to have was money lending - in fact that was the only reason William the Conqueror brought them over from France in the first place. So for a modern Christian to refer to this fact - probably out of ignorance - is to refer to a past of shame and prejudice.

Even supporters of Israel are not exempt from this insidious seed within the 'British soul'. I overheard a conversation recently when a lady was enthusing about the blessings she had received through her discovery of the Jewish roots of her faith. Her companion was telling her of dealings he was having with a Jewish company, who had slapped on an unexpected surcharge on some service they were offering. "How Jewish", she exclaimed and they both chuckled. This rankled with me, but I said nothing. These people were not anti-Semites by any stretch of the imagination, but they were making themselves a channel for ancient prejudices. It is curious to me that I have never witnessed such attitudes from young people or members of other ethnic groups. It seems to be a characteristic solely of white English-born people of a certain age, though it is not, I stress, a feature of every member of that particular grouping. Or perhaps it's just sensitive old me!

It is worth making a brief mention of the article by the journalist, Melanie Philips, in The Spectator. On February 16, 2002 she wrote an article entitled 'Christians who hate the Jews'. She was reporting on a meeting of Jews and prominent Christians brought together to discuss the churches' increasing hostility towards Israel. She wrote:

'The real reason for the growing antipathy [to Israel], according to the Christians at that meeting, was the ancient hatred of Jews rooted deep in Christian theology and now on widespread display once again ... The Jews at the meeting were incredulous and aghast. Surely the Christians were exaggerating. Surely the Churches' dislike of Israel was rooted instead in the settlements, the occupied territories and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But the Christians were adamant. The hostility to Israel within the Church is rooted in a dislike of the Jews' (my emphasis).

The Christians at that meeting affirming this view were the editor of the main Church of England newspaper, the Archbishop of Wales (later the Archbishop of Canterbury), the Middle East representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of a Christian institute and relief organisation, who remarked 'What disturbs me at the moment is the very deeply rooted anti-Semitism latent in Britain and the West. I simply hadn't realised how deep within the English psyche is this fear of the power and influence of the Jews.'

Strong words indeed. But food for thought, certainly.

Steve Maltz

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation )

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