Weekly Update: Has the church really learned from the Holocaust?

editor - 28 January 2021

This week there are many ceremonies around the world to remember the Holocaust. Many Christians will say “Never Again”.

But have we really learned from the Holocaust?

Only a generation ago, Nazi Germany and its allies almost succeeded in wiping out European Jewry, on the soil of Christian nations. At the same time as the gas chambers and ovens were operating at full speed in Poland, the British were preventing Jews from entering Palestine.

The world community – including the church – turned its eyes away from this unfolding tragedy in their midst.

The post-war period was no better. Anyone familiar with the UN Charter negotiations in 1945 and the Paris peace negotiations in 1946-7 knows that time and again there was no place for the Jewish people. Britain continued to restrict Jewish immigration into Palestine. It is a miracle the Jewish State emerged in 1948. When Arab armies attacked the new Jewish State, the UN was nowhere to be found.

In the decades after WWII tens of thousands of Jews died in displaced persons camps, were killed in pogroms in Eastern Europe or perished in the Soviet Gulag.

Today, anti-Semitism in the West is on the rise. Jews who want to live in their ancestral homeland are called “war criminals”. Most official church denominations condemn Jews who live in the Old City of Jerusalem, Hebron or Shiloh as “illegal settlers”.

So, have we really learned from the Holocaust?

Recent research shows just how complicit the church has been in the construction of the post-war “human rights” system that today is used to condemn the Jewish nation, and tell Jews where they may, and may not, live. It all sounds so terribly familiar.

James Loeffler, Professor of Jewish History at the University of Virginia, has written a fascinating book (Rooted Cosmopolitans) about the role of prominent Jewish lawyers in the development of the human rights movement in the 20th century. In doing so, he notes that Christians, too, played a significant role in the creation of this modern quasi-religious anti-Semitic system.

In a recent interview, Loeffler made these comments. We do well to take them to heart.

Why do human rights advocates care so much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? After all, there are plenty of other conflict zones and repressive regimes which far surpass Israel in terms of human rights violations and mass deaths. Why focus on a particular place, a specific problem? To answer that, we must seek an additional explanation.

In my book, I stress a subtle trend that no one else has noticed. It began in the 1960s, and relates to what we might call the political theology of human rights. The human rights movement was shaped dramatically by the emergence of Amnesty International. As I show, its Jewish founder, Peter Benenson, went from being a socialist Zionist to a Catholic humanitarian. In the process, he set his organization—and by extension, the larger human rights movement—on a course to view Jewish nationalism as an affront to the universalist sensibilities of the liberal, Christian West. The human rights community, in other words, came to define itself as a universal Church of humanity through renouncing its Jewish origins. The State of Israel became an irresistible target, worthy of extrascrutiny and moral critique by virtue of its ties to Judaism and the Holocaust.

This was not antisemitism in the classical sense. But it was an ideological obsession with Zionism, and it saw Israel as cartoonish rogue state and icon of clannish tribalism. Thus, what we might call the “deep culture” of the human rights movement grew out of an almost missionary-like, Christian-inflected worldview, in which Israel became a symbol of the redemptive promise of human rights universalism and the failure of Jewish nationhood.

If Loeffler is right (and, sadly, he is), then no: we have not learned from the Holocaust.

We – the church – still have a lot of repenting to do.

The Editorial team
Israel & Christians Today

Zionism and Human Rights

Professor James Loeffler: “Beginning in the early 1960s, both Soviet and Arab spokesmen learned to weaponize human rights in order to attack Israel. Their propaganda efforts succeeded. Anti-colonial movements began to identify with the Palestinian cause. They adopted the smear that Zionism is Racism. Soon, a consensus emerged: Israel, in the eyes of the human rights community, was a problematic state intrinsically hostile to human rights norms.”
Read the full interview with Professor James Loeffler here..

UN ‘Experts’ Attack Israel Over Palestinian Coronavirus Vaccinations

The recent allegations that Israel is deliberately withholding COVID vaccines from Palestinians is another example of the twisted use of human rights law to condemn Israel. It has even been repeated by the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk and Tlaleng Mofokeng, the “Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” Claiming that millions of Palestinians will remain unprotected and exposed to the coronavirus while Israeli citizens, including settlers, will be vaccinated, they opine: “Morally and legally, this differential access to necessary health care in the midst of the worst global health crisis in a century is unacceptable.”
This fallacious claim is dealt with by UN Watch in its recent report..

The Aftermath of the Holocaust: Effects on survivors

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a rich source of information about the Holocaust and its aftermath. It reports: “After liberation, many Jewish survivors feared to return to their former homes because of the antisemitism (hatred of Jews) that persisted in parts of Europe and the trauma they had suffered. Some who returned home feared for their lives. In postwar Poland, for example, there were a number of pogroms (violent anti-Jewish riots). The largest of these occurred in the town of Kielce in 1946 when Polish rioters killed at least 42 Jews and beat many others.” Read more..

Are settlements illegal?  – Israel & Christians Today Podcast #9 

How should we look at occupation, the settlements and the settlers? Are the settlements illegal? What about occupation?

In Episode 9 of our Podcast series, Johannes Gerloff and Andrew Tucker discuss international law, politics and the Bible.


Scripture for the week: Psalm 52
Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit,
your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word,
you deceitful tongue!
Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at you, saying,
“Here now is the man
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying others!”
But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.


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