Hark the Herod Manger Scene – Amos Trust and the New Theological Antisemitism

The Jerusalem Post comments on NGO Monitor’s report on anti-Israel NGOs War On Want, Amos Trust and Christian Aid here.

You can read NGO Monitor’s report here.

I have posted below Seismic Shock’s criticism of Amos Trust. You can see the original article from November 2008 here.

Stephen Sizer is a trustee of Amos Trust, and Garth Hewitt is the director of Amos Trust, a UK-based NGO which claims to promote ‘justice and hope for forgotten communities,’ yet is accused of funding terrorists and being rabidly antisemitic. Seismic Shock now analyses the impact of Amos Trust upon a new theological antisemitism which has recently appeared in Great Britain and elsewhere.

The Jewish Chronicle reports on how a Jewish anti-Israel group, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG), has rewritten Christmas carols to attack Israeli policies. The Daily Telegraph reported upon the ‘crude anti-Zionist parody’ of the popular Christmas Carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, to be sung November 26th in the Wren church in St James Picadilly, at the ‘Bethlehem Now’ event. And none other than former baroness Jenny Tonge will do a reading in the church. CNS reports anti-Zionist singer Deborah Fink as saying that “a friend first rewrote a carol six years ago.”

Back in 2002, “honorary canon” Garth Hewitt rewrote the words to O Little Town of Bethlehem.

The Yahoo group Just Peace UK, whose website includes the lyrics to nine alternative carols written by the group, boast:

“These ‘alternative’ carols were composed by Just Peace UK after an idea from Rev. Garth Hewitt of the Amos Trust whose first stanza of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ is being used here.”

Indeed, Amos Trust actively encouraged the singing of anti-Zionist carols in an email sent out by Garth Hewitt and Amos Trust Associate Director Sue Plater to friends and supporters.

Garth Hewitt and Stephen Sizer of Amos Trust appear to be closely connected with Ibrahim Hewitt, chairman of Interpal, a man who claims that Holocaust Memorial Day is offensive to Muslims, and wants to see it scrapped. Sizer, Hewitt and Hewitt all contribute to the same blog, OpenMinds blogspot, a website which appears to deny the genocide in Darfur. Amos Trust and Ibrahim Hewitt both supported Stephen Sizer’s call for the Church of England’s divestment from Caterpillar.

In December 2007, Anglican vicar and trustee of Amos Trust Stephen Sizer preached at Virginia Water about ‘the dark side of Christmas.’ He began his sermon with a version of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ adapted by Methodist pastor Dr Stephen Leah, including the lines:

“No ear may hear the outcry,
As Israel’s Wall is built.
While meek souls muse, Apartheid rules –
We speak or share in guilt.”

In this sermon, Sizer also protested against the Israeli security barrier. Sizer quotes extensively from Zougbhi Zougbhi, who is considered a good friend of Amos Trust, as saying:

“Taking our inspiration from the story in the Bible of Herod’s massacre and the flight to Egypt of the Holy Family. The inspiration comes from knowing that despite being born into those dark days, amid the harsh Roman occupation, and despite the fear that must have gone with the family as they escaped to another country, Jesus did return and was able to spread his ministry of peace and love. We are living in a similar situation 2000 years later, behind the Apartheid Wall and under the harsh occupation, many Palestinians are escaping to other countries.”

Last Christmas, in December 2007, Amos Trust released a controversial version of the Nativity scene [pictured above], which showed the Magi and baby Jesus separated by a wall. (Interestingly Amos Trust overlooked the fact that the Magi came from the East, and thus would not encounter the Israeli security barrier anyway). The perhaps aptly-named Christian website Ship of Fools contributed to the politicisation of the Christmas story by advertising the product on their website. Amos Trust thus succeeded in creating a discourse about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within a Christmas context.

Amos Trust are contributing to what may be described as a new strand of theological antisemitism. The ‘old’ theological antisemitism (which nevertheless is still a widely-held opinion in British society) regarded the Jews as Christ-killers, and the perpetual enemies of Christians.

Whereas traditional theological antisemitism is based upon interpretations of the Easter Story, the new theological antisemitism relates to Christmas. If this old theological antisemitism cast the Jews as Judas Iscariot, then the new theological antisemitism sees modern-day Israel as the evil King Herod, who ordered the massacre of the infants.

The comparison between Herod and modern-day Israel sees those with political power in Israel as baby-killers who suppress human rights and persecute baby Jesus, which instantly casts the Israeli government as the “baddy” in this story. Jews who defend Israel’s right to exist and her right to defend herself are thus considered part of the Zionist agenda, and ‘modern day Herods.’ Whilst the old theological antisemitism accused the Jews of killing Jesus, the new theological antisemitism subtly accuses the Jewish state of trying to kill baby Jesus.

Biblical stories are thus taken by those who already propagate a political form of new antisemitism and filtered through their ideology and prejudices, with the result being new theological antisemitism, expressed through contempt against Israel either theologically or politically using religious illustrations and comparisons (see here, here and here as to why Amos Trust’s Nativity scene is antisemitic). This new theological antisemitism is perhaps most evident in a sermon from Naim Ateek, head of Sabeel. Ateek’s opinions are at times propagated by Amos Trust (see here and here). In the words of Ateek,

“At this Christmas time, when we remember the message of peace and love that came down from God to earth in the birth of Jesus Christ, our celebrations are marred by the destructive powers of the modern day “Herods” who are represented in the Israeli government. The message of this Christmas is already overshadowed by the sound of war, violence, and state terror. Indeed, violence breeds violence, and innocent people have been killed on both sides. But the original sin is the violence of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East [Je]rusalem. When the Israeli leadership calls daily for the termination of the violence, for us this means, the occupation must end. It is the occupation that is evil and violent. It is apartheid in its ugliest form. Once the occupation ends, the violence will end. There is no other proper sequence. The sooner the Israeli leadership understands this, the quicker we will achieve an enduring peace.”

Through anti-Israel sermons at Christmas, politicised versions of the Nativity scene, and doctored Christmas carols, antisemitism at Christmas is becoming a worrying trend.



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6 responses to “Hark the Herod Manger Scene – Amos Trust and the New Theological Antisemitism

  1. Pingback: The new theological antisemitism in the Hispanic world « Seismic Shock

  2. Pingback: Herod Again « Seismic Shock

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  4. Pingback: More on Ken Coates and Herod « Seismic Shock

  5. Brian Orwell

    Next year they are going to have a similar Nativity scene, but this time with a terrorist bomber blowing up baby Jesus.

  6. Brian Orwell

    In case of any doubt: Nativity scene – wall = baby Jesus joins all those other people who before the wall fell victim to terrorist bombers.

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