Sunday, October 21, 2012

NGO Monitor: Foot soldiers against demonization of Israel

I ventured out after work the past Tuesday to attend a lecture in Berkeley by Professor Gerald Steinberg and Yitzhak Santis  of NGO-Monitor. The topic was "From Berkeley to Europe: Exploiting Human Rights to Demonize Israel." I highly admire this organization for their transparency and mission to make NGO's accountable. One of the topics being discussed was the funding of Christian humanitarian organizations that demonize Israel. Among the countries that blindly support these Christian organizations are Ireland, UK, and the various European Union members that use large amounts of taxpayer monies to fund NGO's that make false statements as to their goals and in truth support Boycott, Divestment, and demonization of Israel.

In explaining the agendas of the anti Israel NGOs the NGO-Monitor lists the following:
  1. Post-Colonial ideology (victims and aggressors)
  2. Political power (cooperation with Islamic Bloc at the United Nations)
  3. Media attention and funding (focus on Israel)
  4. Theological anti-Semitism (BDS in the Pews)
What is the strategy for fighting this age-old blood libel?
  • Naming and shaming
  • Identifying false claims
  • Follow the money
  • Engaging with journalists, diplomats, NGO donors
This presentation made my spine tingle, reiterating what I see online all the time but so much more shocking, seeing and hearing this presentation in person.  I was struck by the bravery of Steinberg and Santis who are on the road in their quest for the truth. I asked Gerald Steinberg: "Have you been able to sit down with or make this presentation to many of these NGO's ?"  Professor Steinberg replied, "No, not too much. They don't exactly like to talk about it."

In discussing the role of the American churches in supporting anti Israel NGOs for the boycotting, divestment, and sanctions  the term "supersessionism" came up. I hadn't head this before. What did it mean? This is a deep subject and goes back thousands of years. I asked Yitzhak Santis, "What is the difference between the mainstream Christians and the so called Zionist Christians?" Santis said, "There are many sects of Christianity, just as there are many different types of Israelis... Jews are objectified in the theology of Armageddon."

The entire New Testament is about replacing the Jews in Israel with Christians? An example is the Sabeel Organization a Christian Palestinian NGO pressing for ecumenical liberation of Israel from the Jews.

I searched this term supersessionism and found the following:

"When we begin to consider ways in which Christianity has understood its relationship to Judaism, historians and theologians have identified the teaching of supersessionism as one prominent stream in Christian theological tradition. This theological tradition teaches that the church replaces (or supersedes) the Jewish people as God's covenant community after the coming of Jesus. Supersessionism is expressed in a variety of ways. Consider this pair of sculptures which flank the medieval transept of the Cathedral in Strasbourg, France (ca. 1230). These matching figures of Ekklesia (church) and Synagoga (syngagogue) appear frequently in medieval art. The figure of the church is represented as powerfal and triumphant (notice the crown, the unbroken cross, and the upright chalice) whereas as the synogogue figure is broken and defeated."

South Transept Portal, Strasbourg Cathedral
© Mary Anne Sullivan, Bluffton College

"The iconography of the image expresses the powerlessness and rejection of Synogogue in a number of ways. Her lance is broken and hence powerless. She is blindfolded and thus blind. The tables of the Torah are pointed earthward and fall from her hand.

The theological doctrine of supersessionism is also expressed in a number of different ways. "Economic" supersession argues that God's "economy" or plan of salvation means that with Jesus' coming Israel's hope is fulfilled or completed so that the church takes Israel's place. "Punitive" supersession teaches that God has rejected Israel and replaced her with the church because of Israel's rejection of Jesus."

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