July 23, 2021

United Church of Christ vs Israel

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by Luke Moon

The Ninth of Av, or Tisha B’av in Hebrew, is the day when Jews around the world fast and mourn to remember the destruction of the Temple in 70AD and the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem in 132. It was also in 132 when Romans renamed the land Palestine after the Jewish people’s historic rivals, the Philistines. It is also the day the United Church of Christ (UCC) chose to affirm, by significant margin, their latest declaration against the State of Israel.

One of the original “seven sisters” of mainline Protestantism in the United States, the UCC is a once-influential denomination that boasted membership in the millions but is in an uninterrupted decline. Their recent General Synod considered resolutions on issues related to the environment, human sexuality, and even the Kingdom of Hawaii. Yet a General Synod seemingly cannot conclude without passage of a resolution uniquely condemning Israel.

This year’s resolution, “A Declaration of Just Peace Between Palestine and Israel,” claims to be for peace and opposed to antisemitism — and yet singles out Israel for special rebuke and calls on local churches to partner with some of the most radical anti-Israel organizations in the U.S. It also claims to be against supersessionism, and yet urges churches to critically examine the “use and interpretations of Scripture as well as liturgies and hymns that equate ancient Biblical Israel with the modern state…”

This type of antagonism against Israel is unsurprising. But more telling is that this resolution was adopted on the Ninth of Av. In addition to the destruction of the temple and the renaming of the land, there is a long list of anti-Israel and antisemitic acts that historically transpired on this day. A few highlights:

  • The First Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II on this day in 1095. Crusaders marched towards Jerusalem, slaughtering thousands of Jews who would not convert. Scores of Synagogues were set afire, some with Jews locked inside. Upon arrival in Jerusalem many of the inhabitants were killed. It is said that the blood of those killed in the city was up to the knees of the horses.
  • On July 18 1290, King Edward I issued the Edict of Expulsion which required all of the Jews to be expelled from the Kingdom of England. Not to be outdone, the Catholic Monarchs of Spain issued their own
    Edict of Expulsion and expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492.
  • On this day in 1942 deportations began from the Warsaw Ghetto to the new death camp at Treblinka. Unlike other concentration camps in Europe, Treblinka was expressly built for the purpose of mass killing. This was done to more efficiently fulfill the goal of the Final Solution to exterminate the Jews.
  • The bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires killed 86 and wounded more than 300 people on July 18 1994.

The UCC declaration is not the same as a terrorist attack or an expulsion but it confirms an ongoing standard against Israel not levied against any other nation or people. Although the UCC boasts of its broadminded liberality, its statements and policies show an ongoing animus against the world’s only majority Jewish country.

The UCC likes to “repent” for various historical misdeeds committed by other people often long ago. But perhaps it should repent for its own ongoing unfairness and double standards towards Jewish Israel. And perhaps it should reflect more on Christianity’s centuries of misdeeds against Jewish people and why Israel was created as a special refuge for Jews after so much persecution culminating with the Holocaust in majority Christian Europe.

Luke Moon is Deputy Director of the Philos Project. He previously served on the staff of the Institute on Religion & Democracy.

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