Church agrees to tone down anti-Israel report

A “truly hurtful” report about Israel is to be rewritten in an attempt to diffuse a row between the Church of Scotland and the Jewish community.

The discussion document compiled by the Church’s church and society council provoked outrage after apparently suggesting that Jewish claims to the land of Israel could be invalidated by the treatment of Palestinians.

Church leaders will vote on whether to adopt the 5,000-word report as policy at its annual general assembly this weekend.

But at a meeting in Edinburgh with a delegation of Jewish community leaders, representatives of the church and society council agreed to tone down the language in the document.

In a joint statement following the meeting, the Jewish groups — which included the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, the Board of Deputies, Movement for Reform Judaism and Rabbis for Human Rights — and the Church said an agreement had been reached for parts of the report to be changed.

“We agreed that the drafting of the report had given cause for concern and misunderstanding of [the Church’s] position, and requires a new introduction to set the context for the report and give clarity about some of the language used,” the statement said.

The alterations will make clear the Church’s “long-held position of the right of Israel to exist” and will condemn “all things that create a culture of antisemitism”.

Board vice-president Jonathan Arkush said: “It was a good meeting with a positive outcome. We set out our deep concerns about the report and we were listened to. The joint statement is the beginning of what we hope will be a much better process of dialogue and understanding.”

The report’s contents had provoked strong criticism from interfaith groups and threatened to cause a breakdown in relations on a par with the fall-out from the Methodist Church boycott of Israel in 2010, which saw the Board cut-off all links with Methodist leaders.

Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Daniel Taub, said the report “not only plays into extremist political positions, but negates and belittles the deeply held Jewish attachment to the land of Israel in a way which is truly hurtful”.

He added that if it was adopted by the Church’s general assembly, it would be a “significant step backwards for the forces of tolerance and peace”.

Last updated: 11:45pm, May 16 2013