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Clerics Score Christians, Jews for Indifference to Plight of Israel

Two Christian theologians argued today that not only Christians should be criticized for being indifferent to the plight of Israel but so should many Jews. The Rev. Malcolm Boyd, a Protestant minister and author, and Msgr. John Oesterreicher, director of the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, made these charges during an all-day conference on “The Importance and Difficulty of Israel in Christian-Jewish Dialogue,” sponsored by the American Zionist Federation.

Boyd said that when the security of Israel is in danger, as it is now, the safety of all Jews is in jeopardy. “It would be helpful if Jews in America realized this and stopped being indifferent,” he declared. He said many Christians are unconcerned because they see no concern on the part of their Jewish neighbors. Oesterreicher, a leading Catholic supporter of Israel, said that it is claimed that Israel, Zionism and Judaism are one, yet not all Jews are Zionists and many are either indifferent or even hostile toward Israel.

He said that a conference such as today’s, which was held at the America-Israel Friendship House, was really a “dialogue of the converted. What are you going to do about the people on the outside?” he asked. He noted that before he speaks to a Jewish group he asks that each member of the audience bring a gentile neighbor, but they usually do not.

Boyd and two other speakers in the session, which dealt with “Zionism: Jewish-Christian Perspectives,” said that anti-Zionism was a disguise for anti-Semitism. Father Edward Flannery, of the United States Bishop’s Conference’s Secretariat for Christian-Jewish Dialogue, said that most of the Christian critics of Israel can be traced to “some sort of anti-Semitism, at least unconscious.” He said many in the Christian community disguise anti-Semitism with a false concern for the Arabs.

Flannery said that the Christian community should be the first to rejoice over the creation of the State of Israel because of its legitimacy as a “liberation movement, the greatest in history” and because of the responsibility of Christians for the persecution of Jews. He said a good Christian attitude toward Israel is the acceptance of the “existence of Israel within secure borders and a commitment to the survival of Israel.”

CONCERN AND WEAK SPOT

Dr. Emil Fackenheim, professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, said that Zionism today is the “proposition that the homelessness of the Jewish people, where it exists, has to come to an end.” He said after the Holocaust it is the responsibility of every Jew and every decent person to be a Zionist. “One doesn’t have to live in Israel to be a Zionist, one does not have to be a Jew to be a Zionist,” he said.

Fackenheim charged that there is a plot afoot started first by the Soviet Union at the United Nations in 1967 and then taken over by the Arabs to steal the Holocaust from the Jews by claiming that the Jews today are the Nazis and the Palestinians are the victims, the Jews. He said that many Christians who have a concern for many of the evils of the world have “a weak spot when it comes to Jews,” and do not include Jews in their areas of concern. He said that if Jesus was alive today he “would be living in Israel or in any case would be a Zionist.”

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