Anyone with a memory that goes back more than 2 weeks will remember how the Norwegian General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Olav Fykse, stepped right into the dog toffee with his claim that Jerusalem for Jews, is like Gothenburg for Norwegians, a town of no importance. In fairness, his exact wording was Israel, which makes his statement even more offensive, since Israel is home to people of many faiths, many of whom hole Jerusalem most holy. Mr. Fykse has not become more of a realist over time, in a recent interview with Dagen, he says (below presented as a brief summary of what he actually said)
It is high time to break illegitimate bonds between God and politics. Secularization must mean that there is more room for several religions in the public sphere, not that religion is kicked out from the public sphere and the public discourse. In Syria and in Pakistan, the fight is for a secular state where no religion gets the favorite stamp. Religion is back in politics, and politicians can no longer ignore religion.
Even acknowledging that I have selected some phrases from the total published article (where he mainly spoke about the pastoral role and opportunities for priests in a multicultural society), it beggars belief that so many contradicting, even plain wrong (ref. the fights in Syria and Pakistan) ideas can be cramped together in such a brief article.
I for one shall be very delighted if the World Council of Churches could stand up for the Christians they are there to serve and withdraw their tentacles from the politics of Jerusalem. Fykse claimed falsely in 2010 that it is thanks to “so called” Israeli aggression towards Palestinians, that Christians are fleeing Jerusalem (this is the same interview where he presents his obnoxious claim that Jerusalem is of no significance to Israelis, i.e., the Jews). He was then intoxicated with the Kairos document, which he was involved with through his position as co-chair in the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum.
In light of the Arab spring (which now more correctly must be dubbed the Arab suffocation), where Christians with no relation to ‘Palestine’, are seeing their religious rights, if not their lives taken away from them, this article from the Christian Post shows how ludicrously removed from reality Mr. Fykse is. I feel very tempted to suggest that this preacher man should first follow his own teachings before he does more harm to others.
Sadly it is not only Fykse who cannot keep his tongue straight in his mouth. Yesterday, Bishop Kvarme published an oped, The Church and the Jewish People, where he too, draws comparison between the state of Israel and the murder of 4 French-Israeli Jews in Toulouse:
The crime in Toulouse. Whatever the The State of Israel does, must not be laid on the shoulders of Jews elsewhere in the world .
by Bishop Ole Christian M. Kvarme
A father and three children were brutally shot at a Jewish school in Toulouse.This crime joins list of attacks on Jews in Europe. The shooting at the synagogue in Oslo a few years ago and bullying of Jewish children require that we too need to take anti-Semitism seriously.
Through the times, Easter has provided an opportunity to accuse Jews as “Christ-killers.” This legacy is a dark stain on the history of Europe. In 1814, Jews were denied access to Norway. The ban was lifted in 1851. But continued vigilance is required, especially in the church’s preaching.
There were several groups in Jesus’ Jewish environment. Jesus discussed frequently with the Pharisees. But the image of them delivered through the Preaching, is often distorted. Jesus and the Pharisees had much in common, and with their gentle Judaism Pharisees put their stamp on the later Jewish tradition.
It was the Pharisees who began to worship God as “Father.” They developed the tradition which was central to Jesus: the synagogue as a place for prayer and teaching, and the relationship between teacher and disciple. Unlike other schools of thought at the time, they believed in the resurrection and were opponents of capital punishment.
Jewish ethics is described sometimes as the ethics of revenge: “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” It is a mistake. This proverb stemming from the times of the Old Testament, was a break away from arbitrary revenge, a principle of connection between crime and punishment. But the Pharisees opposed corporal punishment and the death penalty referring to the sanctity of human life.
In the Easter drama the high priests hand Jesus to Pilate, the Roman who overseen his crucifiction. The Pharisee Nicodemus and the councillor Joseph of Arimathea bury him. When the apostles were accused in the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees defended them. Jesus and the apostles were characterized by the love for their people.
Even today, the Churche’s attitudes are influenced by the conflict between Israel and Palestinian authorities and groups. It requires a new vigilance in language and attitude, not to mention the distinction between Israel as a state, the Jews as larger group of people, and Judaism as a religious tradition.
The identity of Jews everywhere is linked to the Land of Israel. It is an identity we should appreciate. We must say: Let the people live with other people in the country. This is no acceptance of the state’s abuse of Palestinians, let alone by settlers on occupied land. This is also a protest against blind violence against Israelis from the Palestinian side.
For us as a Church, it is fundamental to maintain solidarity with both the Jewish and the Palestinian people, no matter how difficult this solidarity is in the current situation.
Whatever the actions of The State of Israel, this must not be brought to bear against Jews elsewhere in the world. If we do so, we are in danger of nourishing the anti-Semitism that manifests itself in actions like in Toulouse.
Jews in Norway are our fellow citizens, and we appreciate that they live out their traditions. As a church we do not hide the differences between Christianity and Judaism, but we need to renew what we have in common and appreciate the Jewish tradition in our society.
On the surface of it, it is a pretty oped. Its major fault is that it mentions the State of Israel in connection with the massacre in Toulouse. There is no such connection. The tragedy in Toulouse is that it is yet another manifestation of Europe’s failure to come to terms with its inherited and deeply ingrained expressions of anti-Semitism; it is part and parcel of European folklore.
If somebody were to suggest that there is a connection between the massacre at Utøya and Norwegian oil drilling anywhere in the world, everybody would point out the idiocy of such a claim. This is no different, and the good Bishop, who has lived in Haifa and who speaks Hebrew should be the first to appreciate this distinction.
To cite Hillel: “What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man: this is the whole Law; the rest is mere commentary”