Thursday, December 11, 2008

Evangelicals Now, Israel, and "balance"

Following the frankly shocking article by David Rushworth-Smith in last month's Evangelicals Now, which I wrote about here, the latest edition contains an article by one Colin Nevin entitled "Should Christians support Israel?"
I'm not sure he actually answers the question, but it is certainly a good article. It contains much of what I would see as a solid Christian position on the question: an accurate summary of the reestablishment of the state of Israel and its subsequent struggle for survival; an acknowledgement of the terrible sufferings of the Jewish people throughout history, often at the hands of professing "Christians"; and an outline of a theological position which I believe it is possible even for amillenialist, non-dispensationalist, non-loony British conservative evangelicals to hold, namely that the state of Israel, for all of its flaws and challenges, is in fact a fulfilment of biblical prophecy and part of God's plans to save "all Israel".Given the strength of the evangelical anti-Zionist lobby in conservative circles, it is impressive that the editor has published Nevin's article and he deserves credit for this.

But does this mean that the editor has complied with the recommendation in paragraph 179 of the
Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Anti-Semitism that the media should "show sensitivity and balance in their reporting of international events and recognise that the way in which they report the news has significant consequences on the interaction between communities in Britain." In printing the Nevin article, good though it is, has EN now achieved "balance" in its coverage of the Arab-Isareli conflict?
Well, no.

Let's revisit some of the most glaring errors, untruths and distortions from David Rushowrth-Smith's piece. Here they are:

- The false claim that the Palmach was a "jewish-zionist terrorist organisation"

- the convenient omission of any mention of Arab terrorism either between 1920 and 1948 or at any other point

- the failure to distinguish between "Israel", "Gaza" and "the West Bank" and the failure to blame the correct parties for any relative lack of freedom of religion in those places

- the ludicrously false claim that there were no Jews in the area between 70 AD and 1948

- the claim that in 1948 land was "stolen from the legal owners" and that the Palestinian refugees were "herded out": while that was true in some cases, it is also the case that many fled because they were encouraged to do so by their own leaders.

- the omission of any mention of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands

- the fact that Mr Rushworth-Smith sought to bolster his "arguments" by citing Ilan Pappe (known for his fraudulent scholarship and for granting an interview to a neo-Nazi newspaper), Norman Finkelstein (known as the 'neo-Nazis' favourite Jew' and also known for his fraudulent scholarship) and Jeff Halper (likewise known for his fraudulent scholarship and radical anti-Israel agenda).

It follows that, for EN to truly "balance" this piece it would require a truly horrible article which might say some or all of the following transparently false statements:

- "All Palestinians are terrorists"

- "All of Israel's problems are down to the Palestinians and none have ever been caused by the mistakes of her own leaders"

- "Prior to 1948, there were no Arabs in what became Israel"

- "During Israel's War of Independence, no Palestinians at all were forced to leave their homes by the Jewish forces"

- "Israel is a perfect state and has never done anything wrong"

- "The Palestinians have no right at all to a state of their own, however small, and ideally they should all be forced to leave their homes"

The author of such a piece might seek to bolster his "arguments" by citing, say, the racist Israeli settlers who referred to Arabs as "sand niggers", or perhaps the late Meir Kahane, who founded the Israeli Kach party. (His agenda was to induce Arabs in the West Bank to leave by offering them compensation, or alternatively by forcing them to leave. If you've not heard of Kahane or Kach, that might be because in 1985, the Knesset passed an amendment to Israel's Basic Law, barring "racist" candidates from election.The Israeli High Court declared Kahane to be unsuitable for election. That's one of many reasons why its wrong to describe Israel as an apartheid state.)

Now, clearly, it would be deeply wrong for EN to commission or publish such a piece. So then, what should EN do to rectify the calumnies of David Rushworth-Smith? Clearly, it should acknowledge the various errors and distortions and apologize. This has not yet happened. Nor have any letters challenging David Rushworth-Smith been published.
Interestingly, a box in the letters page says that “the editorial policy of EN not to reply to abusive letters sent to the office”. This is probably a reference to strongly worded emails sent to the editor responding to the Rushworth-Smith article. Yet this stance has not stopped the editor from publishing a quite astonishingly aggressive (and abusive) letter from Jonathan Castro, entitled "Creationist idiots!", which attacks young age creationists with terms such as “nonsense”, “rubbish”, “quack” theories, incredible ignorance, “mind-boggling stupidity and wilful ignorance”, and the very serious charge that Ken Ham “and his ilk” are all liars! Is there a double standard at work here?
So where does this leave us? At present, EN has not apologized for, or acknowledged its error in publishing an article which encouraged Christians to apologize for the creation of the world's one Jewish state, replete with historical falsehoods and citations from fraudulent scholars and known antisemites.
And so, for the time being, my view of EN will remain sadly dim. At best, EN is promoting an unbalanced, one-sided view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is one of several factors serving to alienate Messianic Jews from British evangelical churches. At worst, it is sadly representative of those British evangelicals who are not only embracing theological and political anti-Zionism, but are also, doubtless unwittingly, turning a blind eye to the evil of genuine antisemitism in their midst. For shame.


James said...

The last link isn't working for some reason, my article on British evangelicals and antisemitism is available here

Jonathan Hunt said...

So I wasn't the only one to be stunned that they published the Castro letter, then. I suppose it speaks for itself, and they like to have an open policy on letters, but either the letter itself is true, or it is a lie. Still, they seem to have published a few lies already. Thank you for your helpful breakdown of this.

James said...

Thanks Jonathan. I'm sure the editor doesn't knowingly publish articles full of untruths - after all, he can't be expected to be familiar with the various nuances of Middle Eastern historiography. But it would be nice to see an apology when these things are pointed out to him!

Jonathan Hunt said...

I think the problem is largely a lack of time - he pastors a good sized church and does EN 'on the side'. I've met him, he's a nice guy.