The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has offered the Palestinians a powerful tool of propaganda: the comparison with Jesus’ passion.
“We are to be freshly attentive to the needs of those who, like Jesus himself, are displaced and in discomfort”, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said during his Christmas Mass sermon at Westminster Cathedral. “A shadow falls particularly heavily on the town of Bethlehem tonight … We pray for them tonight”.
It would have been more in keeping with Nicholas’ mission to mention hundreds of Christians losing their lives to Islamic terrorism and oppressed by Palestinian Muslim dictatorship.
Nichols’ sermon has an historical value, because now the entire Christian hierarchy in the UK, Catholic and Protestant as well, is part of the global battle against Israel.
There is a virulent animosity towards the Jewish state in the established churches in Britain, which promulgate inflammatory libels against it.
Recently Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, compared Israel to apartheid in South Africa. “The situation resembles the apartheid system in South Africa because Gaza is next to one of the most sophisticated and modern countries in the world – Israel”, said Morgan.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, joined the Church of England’s General Synod, which voted to disinvest Church funds from “companies that make profits from Israel’s occupation”.
Archbishop Morgan said in a lecture on the relationship between religion and violence: “Messianic Zionism began a policy of cleansing the Promised Land of all Arabs and non-Jews rather than co-existing with them”.
But there has been no such “cleansing” at all in the disputed territories. The only attempt at “cleansing” has been the Palestinian attempt to kill as many Jews as possible.
According to Canon Andrew White, replacement theology is dominant and present in almost every church, fueling the venom against Israel.
The revised version of “Whose Promised Land?”, a highly influentiual book by the Anglican thinker Colin Chapman, recycles the worst Christian anti-Jewish theology. “When seen in the context of the whole Bible, however, both Old and New Testaments, the promise of the land to Abraham and his descendants does not give anyone a divine right to possess or to live in the land for all time because the coming of the kingdom of God through Jesus the messiah has transformed and reinterpreted all the promises and prophecies in the Old Testament”, writes Chapman camouflaging anti-Jewish replacement theology, which helped fuel burnings at stake and pogroms during the Middle Ages, as a dispassionate analysis of the conflict of Israel and the Palestinians.
According to Bishop John Gladwin, a separate Palestinian state would be merely a “first step”. “Ultimately, one shared land is the vision one would want to pursue”.
A Palestinian cleric, Naim Ateek, has an immense influence in contemporary British Christianity, not least through his Sabeel Centre in Jerusalem. Ateek’s denunciations of Israel include imagery linking the Jewish State to the charge of deicide that for centuries fueled anti-Jewish bloodshed.
For example, Ateek wrote about “modern-day Herods” in Israel, referring to the king who the New Testament says slaughtered the babies of Bethlehem in an attempt to murder the newborn Jesus.
At the beginning of the XIX century, the UK Christian clergy was a driving force behind the Zionist enterprise, inspired by a brave interpretation of the Bible. A century later, British Christianity is one of the major producers of blood libels against the Jews.
(The writer is an Italian journalist with Il Foglio who also writes for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary.)