The anti Israel roots of liberal Protestants

Ethel C. Fenig
Contemporary Protestant Christianity is roughly divided in its attitudes to and relationships with Israel. Generally the more conservative denominations are quite supportive of Israel, vigorously defending it by speaking favorably, holding rallies, raising and sending money to various Israeli charities, and by voting for candidates supporting Israel.  The less strict or the more liberal churches can be quite harsh, speaking critically of Israel while supporting the Arabs.

Analyzing liberal Protestant churches in a major paper The Historical Roots of the Anti-Israel Positions of the Liberal Protestant Churches, Professor Hans Jansen, a Dutch historian, focuses mainly on Europe. Formerly a history professor in Brussels, he had previously published
a major, frequently reprinted work in Dutch titled Christian Theology after Auschwitz. The subtitle of the first tome is The History of 2000 Years of Church Anti-Semitism. The second tome-in two volumes-is subtitled The Roots of Anti-Semitism in the New Testament. Jansen, a Dutch Protestant, taught history at the Flemish Free University in Brussels (1990-2000) and since 2002 teaches at the Simon Wiesenthal Institute in Brussels.
After examining the anti-Jewish theology of early Christianity, he traces how Martin Luther and John Calvin, especially the former, retained this philosophy and explicitly endorsed it in their writings and actions even while rejecting other concepts of Catholicism.  And although many Christian theologians of all backgrounds have recently tried to modify Christian hostility to Jews and Judaism Jansen is skeptical that this change will persist.

"For two thousand years they have been taught not to like Jews. It is mistaken to think this can be overturned in a few decades. The new expressions of Christian hatred toward Israel reflect deep psychological processes
which justify their past complicity in two millennia of hating and massacring Jews. This hatred is now projected onto Israel.
"The Germans had massively killed defenseless civilians. The Jews supposedly had done the same when given the chance. I'd be surprised if a poll showed that as many as 10 percent of the European population know that in Sabra and Shatila the murderers were Christian Lebanese and not Israelis. In the Second Intifada, many Europeans wanted to view the Palestinians as ‘new Jews' and thereby finally forget the Shoah victims."

"What shocks me is that throughout the Second Intifada, I haven't heard a prominent Christian leader or politician explicitly condemn the anti-Semitism in Arab countries. That can only be explained by the European desire for psychological liberation from the past.

"The best one could hear from the previous pope or the World Council of Churches were some general non-explicit remarks. There is still much discussion of the silence of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust. He did not come out openly against the persecution of the Jews.

"The same is true today regarding the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches. The World Council of Churches has not explicitly condemned the suicide bombings in Israel. There is a deafening silence, which is probably the main source on which the boycott attempts feed. It is an expression of anti-Semitism, which as always says much more about the anti-Semites than it will ever say about the Jews."
Update: James Arlandson writes:

"Fundamentalist" for many supporters of Israel is an insult. Implicit message: for liberals to support Israel they must become fundamentalists. Couldn't liberal Jews who don't support Israel say that Jewish supporters of Israel are "generally more fundamentalist"? How does that feel?

Editor: No offense was intended. Perhaps the word "conservative" is more appropriate. I have made that change.


Contemporary Protestant Christianity is roughly divided in its attitudes to and relationships with Israel. Generally the more conservative denominations are quite supportive of Israel, vigorously defending it by speaking favorably, holding rallies, raising and sending money to various Israeli charities, and by voting for candidates supporting Israel.  The less strict or the more liberal churches can be quite harsh, speaking critically of Israel while supporting the Arabs.

Analyzing liberal Protestant churches in a major paper The Historical Roots of the Anti-Israel Positions of the Liberal Protestant Churches, Professor Hans Jansen, a Dutch historian, focuses mainly on Europe. Formerly a history professor in Brussels, he had previously published
a major, frequently reprinted work in Dutch titled Christian Theology after Auschwitz. The subtitle of the first tome is The History of 2000 Years of Church Anti-Semitism. The second tome-in two volumes-is subtitled The Roots of Anti-Semitism in the New Testament. Jansen, a Dutch Protestant, taught history at the Flemish Free University in Brussels (1990-2000) and since 2002 teaches at the Simon Wiesenthal Institute in Brussels.
After examining the anti-Jewish theology of early Christianity, he traces how Martin Luther and John Calvin, especially the former, retained this philosophy and explicitly endorsed it in their writings and actions even while rejecting other concepts of Catholicism.  And although many Christian theologians of all backgrounds have recently tried to modify Christian hostility to Jews and Judaism Jansen is skeptical that this change will persist.

"For two thousand years they have been taught not to like Jews. It is mistaken to think this can be overturned in a few decades. The new expressions of Christian hatred toward Israel reflect deep psychological processes
which justify their past complicity in two millennia of hating and massacring Jews. This hatred is now projected onto Israel.
"The Germans had massively killed defenseless civilians. The Jews supposedly had done the same when given the chance. I'd be surprised if a poll showed that as many as 10 percent of the European population know that in Sabra and Shatila the murderers were Christian Lebanese and not Israelis. In the Second Intifada, many Europeans wanted to view the Palestinians as ‘new Jews' and thereby finally forget the Shoah victims."

"What shocks me is that throughout the Second Intifada, I haven't heard a prominent Christian leader or politician explicitly condemn the anti-Semitism in Arab countries. That can only be explained by the European desire for psychological liberation from the past.

"The best one could hear from the previous pope or the World Council of Churches were some general non-explicit remarks. There is still much discussion of the silence of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust. He did not come out openly against the persecution of the Jews.

"The same is true today regarding the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches. The World Council of Churches has not explicitly condemned the suicide bombings in Israel. There is a deafening silence, which is probably the main source on which the boycott attempts feed. It is an expression of anti-Semitism, which as always says much more about the anti-Semites than it will ever say about the Jews."
Update: James Arlandson writes:

"Fundamentalist" for many supporters of Israel is an insult. Implicit message: for liberals to support Israel they must become fundamentalists. Couldn't liberal Jews who don't support Israel say that Jewish supporters of Israel are "generally more fundamentalist"? How does that feel?

Editor: No offense was intended. Perhaps the word "conservative" is more appropriate. I have made that change.