Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Christians v. Jews

From Mr Piers Paul Read

Sir: As a lifelong Christian, I was interested to read Melanie Phillips's account of `replacement theology' (`Christians who hate the Jews', 16 February): I have never come across the term before. Certainly, Christians believe that God replaced the Old Covenant with the people of Israel with a New Covenant with baptised Christians; and early Christian churchmen such as Eusebius thought that the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Titus's soldiers was part of God's plan. However, I have never before seen this presented as a Christian claim to `the land of Israel', as she suggests. Christ's kingdom is not of this world.

The Christian's dilemma on the question of Israel is this: if the Old Covenant has been replaced by the New, then the Jewish people cannot justify displacing the Palestinian Arabs as the will of God - a justification which, given that many Israelis are atheists or agnostics, and given the secular consensus of the modern world, would in any case be hard to sustain. The Christian thus falls back on a notion of simple justice - namely, the right of a people to selfdetermination. If this right was conferred on all the inhabitants of the former British protectorate of Palestine - including those displaced after the establishment of the state of Israel - it seems unlikely that they would choose to be governed by Ariel Sharon.

I cannot see how such a stance implies 'a dislike of the Jews'.

Piers Paul Read London W11

From Mr Israel Shamir

Sir: As an Israeli writer living in Jaffa, I witness the other side of Jewish-Christian relations carefully omitted by Miss Phillips. While the Hebrew Bible is respected in Europe, in Israel the New Testament is burned. While in Europe synagogues are lovingly restored and protected, in the Jewish state, churches are violated, ruined, shot at. While in order to avoid a hint of antiSemitism, European society was thoroughly de-Christianised, in Jewish communities there is a strong triumphalist tendency. Recently, a mediaeval anti-Christian pamphlet Toledoth Yeshu was reprinted again in Israel, with the introduction stating, `The Jewish people always deeply disdained Christian faith, considered Christian dogma as a collection of incongruous foolishness and Christian morals as hypocritical lies.'

It is not a fringe lunacy: a great new hotel in Eilat was given the infamous name of King Herod, while the road leading to it was unambiguously called Zeevi Promenade, after the assassinated Israeli racist and self-avowed enemy of Christianity.

Posters on the walls present pictures of Christian preachers, and call for their physical elimination. The immigrants of Jewish origin are deported if their belief in Christ is found out.

In the Holy Land, Christianity is very much on the defensive. The Palestinian Christian community shrinks daily in the iron grip of General Sharon. The believers cannot reach their shrines. Even President Arafat was not allowed to attend the Christmas Mass.

Miss Phillips, regrettably, does not mind generalisations and victimisation per se, as long as it is Muslims and Christians who are stereotyped and blamed: `Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, the director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, has been addressing Christian groups up and down the country on the implications of 11 September. When he suggests that there was a problem with aspects of Islam, he provokes uproar.' Well, if he suggested there is a problem with aspects of Judaism, would she quote him with such empathy?

We Jews must take care of the beam in our eye before addressing the mote in our neighbour's.

Israel Shamir Jaffa, Israel

From the Revd Peter W. Lockyer

Sir: I understand and share Melanie Phillips's concern about the vein of antiSemitism that has existed in the West and some sectors of the Christian Church. It is surely right for all people of good will to be on our guard against all forms of hatred based on race or religion. …

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