Monday, February 26th | 17 Adar I 5784

August 30, 2022 1:21 pm

German Jewish Leader Warns of Potential ‘Antisemitic Scandal’ at World Council of Churches Assembly

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An electronic display greets delegates to the 11th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Karlsruhe, Germany. Photo: Reuters/Uli Deck

As the World Council of Churches prepares for the opening of its General Assembly in the German city of Karlsruhe on Wednesday, a local Jewish leader has warned of the risk of antisemitic rhetoric at the event as delegates debate resolutions that are harshly critical of Israel.

“An antisemitic scandal cannot be ruled out,” Rami Suliman — chair of the Jewish community in the Baden region — told the Juedische Allgemeine news outlet on Monday.

Suliman added that while the Jewish community enjoyed good relations with local Christian groups, “unfortunately, there are also other voices in the world churches, not so obvious, but if you listen carefully, then the Jews are held responsible for suffering and injustice, and the state of Israel — the only democracy in the region — is denied its right to exist.”

Draft resolutions have been tabled at the General Assembly — the 11th held by the WCC — condemning the persecution of Christians in the Palestinian territories and blaming Israel for their plight, as well as a statement condemning Israel as an “apartheid state.”

A July 1 statement issued by the WCC accused Israel of  “overtly and systematically discriminating [against] Palestinians.” It called on the Israeli government to “ensure equal human rights for all people living under their responsibility, and to ensure accountability for attacks and violations against Palestinians, against the holy places, churches, Christian communities, Muslims and other groups.”

The newly-elected head of the WCC — Rev. Jerry Pillay, a South African cleric — authored a paper in 2016 titled “Apartheid in the Holy Land: Theological reflections on the Israel and/or Palestine situation from a South African perspective.” The paper stated that a “comparison between the Israel-Palestine conflict and the South African apartheid experience is, indeed, justifiable” and described the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) campaign targeting Israel in positive terms.

When Warren Goldstein, South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, called on Pillay to withdraw his accusation of Israeli “apartheid,” his statement in response notably avoided any recognition of Israel’s right to exist. “I support the Jewish people preserving their identity and practicing their religious beliefs and values,” Pillay said, before emphasizing his support for “United Nations resolutions on the occupied territories.”

Ahead of the WCC parley, Baden’s Jewish community called on churches in Germany to affirm that “antisemitism is not an opinion, antisemitism is contempt for human beings and incitement to hatred.”

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