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Rabbi Abraham Cooper

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Methodist Leaders to Jews: In the Name of Peace, Forget Your Collective Memory of the Holocaust

Posted: 05/02/11 06:47 PM ET

Holocaust education is the latest obstacle to Middle East peace! That stunning contribution to Holocaust revisionism is at the core of "Jewish and Muslim Perspectives on the Land of Israel-Palestine," a document released by the Methodist Church in the U.K. that strips Hitler's war against the Jews of its meaning without denying that it happened.

One of its authors chastises Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Holocaust museum: "'Israel is the only real answer to the Holocaust' is the message ... This perspective is transmitted to young Israelis through visits to Yad Vashem organised by schools and other groups. When I visited the Centre ... I noticed that many visitors were not of European Jewish descent. As Michael Ipgrave, then Secretary of the Churches' Commission for Inter Faith Relations, wrote in his report of the visit: 'The Holocaust has come to serve as a national story embracing also Oriental Jews for whom this was not part of their family history.' Peace groups in Israel have to work against this backdrop."

Want peace? Decouple Israel from the Holocaust. Curiously, the Methodists' narrative goes beyond Palestinian chutzpah, whose historic revisionism ignores three millennia of continuous Jewish presence in the Holy Land, and insists that the Allies manufactured the State of Israel to provide a home for survivors of the WWII Holocaust that these Methodists now want Jews to forget.

Want peace? Forget the collective memory of losing a third of your people, including 1.5 million children. For it's the "collective memory of the Holocaust [that] also feeds into an ethos of victimhood." Israelis should also turn the other cheek when rockets rain down on their children's school buses; turn a deaf ear when Palestinian imams promise the faithful a day when the rocks will call out to kill the Jews hiding behind them; turn a blind eye when the "moderate" Palestine Authority names streets for martyrs who murdered Israeli civilians; when one third of that same "moderate" population supports the savage butchering of a sleeping Israeli family in Itamar, including the all-but beheading of a 3-month-old baby.

Forget collective memory. For these religious leaders, only selective memory will set you free:

Take their reference to "Oriental" -- meaning Sephardic -- Jews. These experts must have forgotten the Sephardic Jews of Greece, 87 percent of whom were murdered by the Nazis. Never mind the Jews of the Maghreb were on Hitler's hit-list. These leaders also remembered to forget that it was Christian countries who slammed their gates shut before desperate European Jews, and that millions could have been saved had there been a State of Israel in the 1930s and 40s.

Other Methodist leaders are hard at work forgetting to remember. A few weeks ago, the President of the Methodist Conference, Rev. Alison Tomlin, and Vice President Deacon Eunice Attwood toured the Holy Land, visiting with enough Palestinian representatives (but no mainstream Jewish representatives) to write disparagingly about those damn settlers. And their reaction to the Itamar massacre? Silence.

At a national conclave last summer, U.K. Methodists embraced a report that held Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza(!) to be the chief hindrance to peace, asked for an examination whether Zionism is compatible with Methodist theology and called for a boycott of Israeli products originating in "illegal" West Bank settlements. Jewish groups had shared their concerns about biases of the report with their Methodist associates before that gathering and were assured the flaws would be corrected. Never happened.

So much for partners in dialogue.

Some prominent American Methodists have not been any more balanced. The Global Missions agency of the United Methodist Church helps finance the "U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation," which rejects a two-state solution. The Church's Women's Division published a children's book, From Palestine to Seattle; Becoming Neighbors and Friends. It portrays Israel as the oppressor while omitting any mention of Palestinian terrorism. It suggests parallels between Israel and apartheid, and reminds children that, like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, they can stand against Israeli injustices. Illustrations include fearsome Israeli soldiers scaring children at a checkpoint but none of youthful Palestinian suicide bombers. For the group's adult Mideast study guide, it turned to Stephen Goldstein, who admits hating the Judaism he left. In the best tradition of Jewish apostates vengefully turning against their former co-religionists, Rev. Goldstein produced a polemic denigrating Israel's heroic 1948 War of Independence against five invading Arab armies, into a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Now, the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, after failing to convince the faithful in 2008, is again lobbying the 12 million members denomination (7.7 million in the U.S.) to join anti-Israel boycotts and divestment campaigns.

What have Jews learned from the Holocaust? First, take threats of genocide seriously. Take Tehran's nuclear threat seriously. Take 60,000 Hezbollah and Hamas missiles, seriously. The other is not to trust anyone offering protestations of love, but no real solutions to problems. Millions of Rwandans and Cambodians would be alive today if the world had acted instead of moralized.

This Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, we invite people too embarrassed by live Jews to stay away from ceremonies memorializing dead ones. We will stand with the millions of Christians, including many rank and file Methodists who we know take strong exception to statements made in their name, and who choose to remember 6 million dead Jews while standing in solidarity with the nearly 6 million live ones in the Jewish State.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Director of Interfaith Relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center contributed to this essay.

 

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