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Holy Land Report has given ‘cause for concern’

The Church of Scotland has said that a report to this year’s General Assembly on the Holy Land has ‘given cause for concern and misunderstanding’.

The Church has also condemned 'all things that create a culture of anti-Semitism'.

Representatives of the Church’s Church and Society Council met today with members of the Jewish community in Scotland and the United Kingdom in the wake of the publication of the report, which was the subject of high-level criticism from Israel’s Ambassador to the Britain, Daniel Taub and leaders of Jewish groups. The report was due to be debated at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which opens in Edinburgh on May 18.

The report was also criticised by the Rev Dr John Ross, a former Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland.

However, following a lengthy meeting, a spokesman for the Church of Scotland said: “The Church of Scotland and representatives of the Jewish Community in Scotland and the United Kingdom, held useful discussions facilitated by the Council of Christians and Jews this afternoon. We agreed that the drafting of the report published by the Church and Society Council for discussion at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has given cause for concern and misunderstanding of its position and requires a new introduction to set the context for the report and give clarity about some of the language used.”

The report, ‘The Inheritance of Abraham’, rejected the argument that the Jewish people have a divine right to the Holy Land, concluding: “it is a misuse of the Bible to use it as a topographic guide to settle contemporary conflicts over land. In the Bible, God’s promises extend in hope to all land and all people.”
It also restated the Church’s previous criticisms of Israel, calling for the military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem to end and for Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories to cease.

The report has been removed from the Church of Scotland website (read the response of the Church and Society Council here.) A statement on the website said: "The Council deeply regrets creating an atmosphere of misunderstanding, and where the key issue, of raising concern about our support for justice and peace for all the people of Israel and the Palestinian Territories has been obscured." The report is to be the subject of redrafting and possible revision to 'improve' the report.

The Church spokesman added: “ In particular the Church of Scotland needs to be explicit about some things that are implicit policies of the Church:

 “There is no change in the Church of Scotland's long held position of the right of Israel to exist.

 “The Church condemns all violence and acts of terrorism, where ever they happen in the world.

 “The concern of the Church about the injustices faced by the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories remain firm, but that concern should not be misunderstood as questioning the right of the State of Israel to exist.

 “There is an equal sense of concern amongst both communities for justice and peace for all the people of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

 “The Church condemns all things that create a culture of anti-Semitism.

 “Sitting round the table and listening to each other more deeply has created a real opportunity for both communities to better understand each other and that this report now becomes a catalyst for continued and growing conversation.

 “The two communities have agreed to work together both here and in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to continue what was a very positive dialogue.”

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Church’s Church and Society Council, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Movement for Reform Judaism and Rabbis for Human Rights.


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Comments

Margaret Salmond - Friday, May 10th, 2013

“I wonder if the Church's move to rethink her stance is in some way related to the fact that she has treasured assets in the Holy Land, the Land that gave her her faith, the Land that has the power to remove from her those rather special assets. ”


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