OpinionIsrael at War

The revival of an ancient calumny

In response to the genocidal Hamas agenda, churches have turned on its Jewish victims.

A Christian cross on top of a cathedral. Source: Stable Diffusion.
A Christian cross on top of a cathedral. Source: Stable Diffusion.
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir, Guardian Angel, has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy, in 2018. To access her work, go to: melaniephillips.substack.com.

There’s an unmistakable drumbeat to the antisemitism that’s erupted across the West in the wake of the Oct. 7 pogrom. In response to the genocidal Jew-hatred fueling Hamas and the Palestinian Arabs, an even older form of the oldest hatred has surfaced—Christian hostility to the Jews.

The wholly unwarranted Western condemnation of the Israel Defense Forces for causing an allegedly disproportionate death rate among Gaza civilians echoes the ancient Christian calumny that the Jews are killers motivated by revenge and blood lust. The churches themselves are explicitly fueling this demonization.

Last Saturday, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem claimed in a statement that “a sniper of the IDF murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, where the majority of Christian families has taken refuge since the start of the war. No warning was given, no notification was provided. They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the parish, where there are no belligerents.”

This incendiary allegation was repeated uncritically as fact across the Western media.

The following day, however, Fox News reported an IDF statement that an incident took place instead “near the Latin Church in the Shejayia area,” a different church altogether in another part of Gaza where IDF troops had “operated against a threat that they identified in the area of the church.”

The Elder of Zion website reported that this didn’t stop The Christian Post from claiming the IDF had “confirmed” it had shot and killed the two women “on the grounds of Gaza City’s only Catholic church.” Yet confusingly, the paper also said the IDF had “confirmed” to Fox News that the incident took place near the church in the Shejayia area of Gaza during an operation against Hamas terrorists.

The Christian Post, whose report has been removed from the web, may have been confused by the IDF mistakenly referring to the Shejaiya church as Latin. Shejaiya is the location of a Greek Orthodox and an Episcopalian church; the Holy Family church, in Rimal, is the only Gaza parish under the Jerusalem Latin Patriarchate.

On Monday, Israel ended any such confusion when the Prime Minister’s Office stated categorically: “There was no fighting in the Rimal neighborhood on Saturday where this Catholic church was located.”

Yet that same day, the Pope’s message-board Vatican News not only repeated but even embellished the original accusation. The Israeli military, it said, had “entered the compound of the Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza, shooting at anyone leaving the church.”

On top of this fresh and unsubstantiated allegation, which ignored the Israelis’ flat denial that they had been operating anywhere near this church, the Vatican then upped the ante and framed this as a religious war by claiming: “Israelis have opened fire on Gaza’s Christians.”

This hysterical and vicious misrepresentation of Israel’s desperate battle to destroy Hamas reflects the moral bankruptcy of Pope Francis himself.

Not only did he claim that Israel was subjecting unarmed civilians to bombings and shootings and that “this even happened inside the parish complex of the Holy Family,” he has also repeatedly described Israel’s war to destroy Hamas as terrorism.

In October, he reportedly held a fraught phone call with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, whom he told: “It is forbidden to respond to terror with terror.”

Equating the attacks by Hamas with the attempt to destroy its capacity to repeat them is to strip Israel of the legitimacy of its defense against genocide.

The church has simply lost its moral compass. Although it condemned the Oct. 7 pogrom, it has rendered this worthless by attacking the victims of Hamas’s genocidal agenda. This inevitably calls to mind the shocking record of the Catholic church during the Holocaust, when Pope Pius XII turned a blind eye to Nazi atrocities.

The same prejudice has been on copious display in the liberal Protestant churches led by the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “The relentless bombardment of hospitals and civilians in Gaza is intolerable. It’s against international humanitarian law—it must stop and stop now. The misuse of hospitals by Hamas does not justify attacks by Israel. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Welby conspicuously failed to acknowledge that that under international law a hospital can be attacked if it is being used as a terrorist command center or ammunition store, as Gaza’s hospitals have been.

Moreover, for the leader of Anglicanism to represent the battle between civilization and barbarism as “two wrongs” reveals a church that has lost all claim to moral authority.

Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, blamed what he described as “this new cycle of violence” on “decades of occupation.” Even though Israel left Gaza in 2005, both the Catholic and liberal Protestant churches believe that Israel is illegally occupying the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria.

Totally ignoring the brainwashing of the Palestinian Arabs to hate and murder Jews and drive them out of the whole of Israel, and refusing to acknowledge the relentless attacks on Israelis who live in the disputed territories in accordance with international law, the churches have swallowed the left-wing view that the Palestinians are victims of Israeli oppression.   

This unholy upending of truth and morality results from the synthesis of an ancient Christian calumny with Palestinian propaganda.

Some Christians are among the most committed supporters of Israel in the world. Nevertheless, the deepest root of many churches’ hostility to the Jewish state lies in the resurrection of the previously discredited doctrine of “replacement theology,” also known as “supersessionism.”

This doctrine, which holds that because the Jews denied the divinity of Jesus they were stripped of God’s favor so that Christians became the “new Israel” while the Jews were damned, was the source of centuries of Christian atrocities against Jews until the Holocaust drove it underground.

It was given new life by Palestinian Christian “liberation theology,” which falsely states that the Palestinian Arabs were the original possessors of the Land of Israel. This invested the Palestinian claim to the land with the status of Christian writ, turning Israel into an ungodly interloper and its defenders into God’s enemies.

It is a variant of liberation theology, the doctrine propounded in the 1960s to suggest that socialist revolution was the proper fulfilment of the Christian duty to the poor—a doctrine of which Pope Francis is a leading exponent.

In its anti-Israel iteration, Jesus becomes a Palestinian persecuted by the Jews while Jesus’s “descendants” become today’s Palestinians, crucified in the very land that was supposedly promised to them. Their liberation would, of course, require the dissolution of the Jewish state.

This ludicrous and lethal fiction has been pumped out for decades by the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. Its founder, Father Naim Ateek, is a close friend of many senior Anglican bishops. Sabeel, used as a major resource by Anglican clergy, aid agencies and pilgrimage companies, is a crucial source of systematic, theologically based lies and libels about Israel.

Meanwhile, Christianity is under actual assault all over the world from radical Islam. Last April, churches in Pakistan and Uganda were attacked and burned by Muslim mobs. In the same month, dozens of Christians were murdered in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The vicar of Babwisi parish said: “In one night of unfathomable horror, men, women and children were slaughtered like chicken.” In Nigeria, more than 52,250 Christians have been butchered or hacked to death since 2009.

Yet on this worldwide Christian persecution, the churches are all but silent. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are safe. Yet the churches dump on Israel while genuflecting to Islam.

In this terrible war against the forces of evil in Gaza, the Christian church is once again tragically turning on its Jewish parent while embracing its Islamic assassin.

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