Thursday, 30 June 2016

** FATHER FRANK’S RANTS Rant Number 686 28 June 16 ZIONISM & THE DEVIL


‘…you have brought back the Devil among us.’ So argues in The Catholic Herald Jewish writer Howard Jacobson. A warning directed at Christian anti-Zionists, whom he charges with covert anti-Semitism. A terrifying, loathsome rekindling of ‘medieval suspicions of the Jewish character’, he suggests.

For Jacobson the Devil must be a metaphor. Apparently a secular man, he is unlikely to believe in the Prince of Darkness’ reality. Still, does a paradox lurk here? An enlightened warning about intolerance and fanaticism that invokes a figure which modernity relegates to the dungeon of the rankest religious obscurantism and superstition. But of course Old Nick, even when disbelieved in, always comes handy when it comes to beating your opponents with a rhetorical stick…

Jacobson conflates Zionism and Judaism, you may protest. By no means the same thing, because there are many anti-Zionist Jews. Semantics apart, I fear that a connection, religious, practical and emotional, does exist between them. Many Jews feel attached to, and protective of Israel, the Zionist nation. They resent criticisms of it. That is only human. If you are a Jew, Israel cannot be like any other old state, religious or otherwise.

If Zionism means the aspiration for a Jewish State, there is no intrinsic reason why it should be wrong in itself. Oppressed nations like Poland and Ireland justly fought for self-determination and independence until they achieved them. Why begrudge Diaspora Jews their own little Vatican in the Middle East? Unfortunately the land Zionists chose to colonise was not vacant. Another people lived there. Palestinian Arabs were less than happy when the Zionists took over their land and are unhappy still. Mr Jacobson elegantly skims over that minor detail.

Is there something literally diabolical about Zionism? The problem is that supernatural explanations are redundant when perfectly natural ones suffice. Theodore Herzl, author of the famous 1896 pamphlet, The Jewish State, was not religious. He did not have his son Hans circumcised – not quite a good Jew! Besides, the historical origins, causes, political intentions, intrigues and strategies of the founders of Zionism are well-known. A vast literature is publicly available about them, from the roles played by Arthur Balfour, Chaim Weizmann and Ze’ev Jabotinsky to the sad and deluded idiots called Christian Zionists. Why bring in invisible demonic agencies when human ones are so visibly involved?

Making the Devil a scapegoat for human faults is unwise. It lets off too many earthly sinners. ‘The Devil made me do it’ sounds like a lame excuse for your own human, all too human crimes and misdemeanours. Men are actually responsible for their actions. His Satanic majesty may tempt but he has no power to compel anyone to sin. The will of man is free. So it is human beings who are responsible for the terrible sufferings of the people of the Middle East, not the Devil.

Anti-Semitism, as opposed to anti-Zionism, is sometimes said to hark back to misunderstood passages in the New Testament. ‘You are of your father the Devil’, Jesus chides his enemies in St John’s Gospel (8:44). However, the Lord cannot have meant Judaism per se. Because Jesus, himself a Jew, claimed to be, and indeed was, the awaited Messiah of Judaism. Had he damned Judaism as demonic, he would have destroyed his own messianic credentials. He could not have meant that. His fierce indictment applied only to those scribes and Pharisees who besmirched and rejected him.

Great Christian minds have not shrunk back from affirming the spiritual reality of the Devil. In his stupendous Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius of Loyola includes a powerful meditation on two opposed standards or flags. One is that of Jesus Christ, the other of Lucifer, the deadly enemy of humanity. Ignatius visualises him as a fearsome gangster in chief, seated on a big throne of fire and smoke and served by cohorts of countless demons. Nothing to do with Jews, note. In fact, St Ignatius loved God’s ancient people so much that he wished he had himself been of Jewish origins. (The priest himself occasionally wishes that. No chance, alas.)

True, St Ignatius’ contemporary, Martin Luther, preached some dreadful invectives against the Jews. He called them ‘full of the Devil’s dung’. Enough to make you squirm. Well, he was German, wasn’t he? And his theological language was usually impolite.

Is there a Devil’s spawn? A Devil’s party? Plotting and warring against God’s party – in Arabic, a Hezbollah? A party with a declared atheistic programme, bent on demolishing churches, martyring or persecuting Christians and enforcing sin on the people – that would indeed be a satanic organisation. The Russian Bolsheviks who took power in 1917 were probably one such a party. Today matters are less clear. The EU is bad but not quite like that. More likely, Lucifer’s vile children are spread throughout the whole political and religious spectrum, regardless of nationality, race or culture.

It won’t please peevish, non-Luciferian Mr Jacobson but the last, perfect and exemplary word concerning the Christian position vis-à-vis the Jews is set out in St Paul’s Letter to the Romans, chapters 9 to 11. To put it in a nutshell, the Apostle assures his fellow Jews that ‘in the end all Israel will be saved’.

I bow my head in reverence and say: ‘Amen’!

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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