In the two decades following the end of World War II, there was near universal acknowledgement that Christians had failed in their obligation to stand with the Jewish people during the during the 1930s and 40s. This failure led many, but not all, Christians in the U.S. to support the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948 where Jews would be a self-governing majority.
Support for Israel on the part of Christians was not universal, however. Some Christians, especially American missionaries who had served in the Middle East, either opposed or expressed ambivalence about the creation of a Jewish state in the region. This was particularly true of American Protestant churches which had sent missions to the Middle East with great fanfare in the 1800s but had largely abandoned any pretext of converting Muslims to Christianity in the ensuing years. While the missionary zeal of these churches declined, they were vocal supporters of the cause of Arab nationalism. Some of their clergy regarded support for Israel as a threat to Christian and American relations with the Arab world and a threat to Christian minorities vulnerable to an angry response by the Muslims who dominated the region. On the opposite side of the debate were theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr who while acknowledging that Israel’s creation would impose some costs on Arab aspirations, also asserted that the formation of a Jewish state was a necessary response to the Holocaust.
Intra-Christian debate between about Israel remained fierce in the years after Israel’s creation and took place against a backdrop of growing interest in Christian-Jewish relations. Researchers such as Franklin Littell, Alice and Roy Eckhardt, Sister Mary Rose Thering and others worked to document how Christian teachings about the Jewish people helped pave the way for the Holocaust. Their findings were embodied by a statement Thering quoted in the New York Times two years before her death: “It was evident from what I was reading that the church was trying to say that the Jews were not loved by God” (July 29, 2004). As a result of teachings that blamed Jews for the death of Christ and condemned them for rejecting Christianity, many Christians regarded Jews as a people sentenced to eternal wandering and not entitled to a homeland of their own.
Response to Arab Threats
Israel’s creation in 1948 seemed to put that issue to rest, but the buildup to the Six Day War, and the war itself, prompted a new round of discussion in Christian circles about Israel, Zionism and Judaism. Jews, alarmed by Arab calls for Israel’s destruction, watched this inter-Christian discussion closely, particularly in the United States. Judith Banki, an authority on interreligious relations, stated:
… Jews in America looked to their fellow citizens, including Christian leaders and church organizations, for forthright positions on Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state, her right to free passage through the international waters of the Gulf of Aqaba, and the obligation of the United States to honor its commitments to Israel – preferably through the United Nations, and in concert with other major powers, if this were possible, but unilaterally if necessary. (“Christian Reactions to the Middle East Crisis: The New Agenda for Interreligious Dialogue,” American Jewish Committee, 1968. Obtained from the John Howard Yoder Archives Collection.)
Banki reported that many Christian individual leaders expressed support for Israel in late May 1967:
In the weeks before the outbreak of hostilities, when it appeared that Israel might become the victim of combined Arab aggression, a number of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christian leaders, as well as several Christian journals of opinion, took clear positions in support of Israel’s national integrity and her navigation rights.
On May 29, 1967, a number of prominent Christians issued a statement calling on “our fellow Americans of all persuasions and groups and on the Administration to support the independence, integrity and freedom of Israel.” Signatories include Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, President of the Southern Christian Leadership conference; Dr. Franklin Littell, President of Iowa Wesleyan College; Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, Professor emeritus of Theology at Union Theological Seminary, and Rev. Alexander Schmemann, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Russian Orthodox Seminary. Soon afterwards, “similarly forthright statements were issued separately by Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston; Lawrence Cardinal Shehan, Archbishop of Baltimore; and Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan of Atlanta” (Banki). On May 31, other prominent Christian leaders appeared at a rally in Washington, D.C., organized by the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington Additionally, Christian leaders from Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland and Cincinnati issued statements in support of Israel.
Compared to these expressions of support for Israel, the silence of the National Council of Churches and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the weeks and days before the war was remarkable. In particular, there was little criticism of annihilationist rhetoric on the part of Arab leaders.
The reluctance of the two most powerful “umbrella” organizations – the National Council of Churches and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops – with whom Jews had been carrying on a continuous dialogue for some years, to commit themselves unequivocally on the basic question of Israel’s survival, especially in the face of Arab threats to annihilate the whole population, came as a surprise to many Jewish leaders. Neither of these two groups issued any clear-cut statement to this effect during the saber rattling days in May. (Banki)
Christian publications, on the other hand, indicated their support for Israel in the face of Arab threats. On May 31, 1967, Christian Century, a magazine that caters to progressive mainline Protestants in the United States, criticized Egyptian President Nasser’s “blustering protestations of his solidarity with other Arab nations in their hostility toward Israel,” stating that “it must not be assumed that Nasser is bluffing; certainly the Israeli government will not make so naïve an assumption.” In the June 7, 1967 issue, the publication condemned Egypt’s announcement that it mined the Straits of Tiran:
If Nasser’s interference with shipping through the strait is not halted by the United Nations or by the great powers working in concert, certainly Israel will undertake the job herself. Such a military move by Israel, however much it may be justified, could make a cauldron of the Middle East.
To be sure, Christian Century’s criticism was marked with ambivalence over the potential use of force to re-open the straits and a tendency to blame Israel’s response to Arab provocation, and not the provocation itself, for destabilizing the region. Nevertheless, the headline of the June 7 editorial — “Nasser’s Bluster Threatens World Peace” — made it clear the magazine directed most of its ire at Egypt’s aggression.
America, a magazine founded by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1909, acknowledged that Israel was indeed facing a substantive threat from its neighbors, that this threat could spiral into a “major East-West confrontation,” and that the U.S. had an obligation to protect the “territorial integrity of all the nations in the area.” The magazine did not stop there, but went on to criticize the American Jewish Congress for calling for unequivocal American support for Israel while at the same time expressing opposition to “American policy in South Vietnam—a policy that also involves commitment to a small, relatively defenseless nation”:
The President, we suggest, is not alone in his mystification over the attitude toward South Vietnam of many who have a deep, emotional interest in the protection of Israel. (June 3, 1967)
Banki reports that when the war began, “most Christian comment was concentrated on appeals for a cease fire, concern for the fate and rights of new refugees and the status of Jerusalem.” According to Banki, public Christian statements calling for peace in the region included:
- A June 5 telegram to UN General Secretary U Thant from Pope Paul VI who stated he was “saddened and concerned” by the war and who, in Banki’s words, “expressed his hope that Jerusalem could be declared an open and inviolable city.”
- A June 6 telegram from the National Council of Churches to the Johnson Administration calling for the U.S. Government to “continue to make the utmost use of the UN; press for a cease fire; seek negotiations through UN of all conflicting claims … to establish national and international rights in the Gulf of Aqaba, the right of Arab refugees and the recognition by all of the State of Israel.” (Ellipsis in Banki).
- A statement from the World Council of Churches calling attention to the “fate of refugees of various nationalities” and a call for churches to pressure their governments to “bring about a cessation of hostilities and to lay the foundations of a just and durable peace.”
- A June 6 statement from the World Alliance of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches stating that “war has never solved political conflicts.”
- A June 8 call by the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops for the United Nations to work to bring an end to the conflict.
- Another appeal for peace from Pope John Paul VI broadcast by Vatican Radio on June 7.
Unlike to these statements, which do not address the issue of responsibility, a group of Catholic and Protestant leaders in the Boston area made explicit reference to Arab rejectionism and genocidal hostility:
None of us can be indifferent or uninvolved in confronting the moral issues inherent in the current conflict in the Middle East. We cannot stand idly by at the possibility of Israel’s destruction, of decimating the two and a half million Jewish people. … We earnestly pray for a speedy cease fire. The end of hostilities, however, must be followed by a firm and permanent peace: one which will recognize Israel as a viable nation in the community of nations and which will include international guarantees of the territorial integrity of all nations in the Middle East. The peace must also guarantee the right of all nations without exception to free passage through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba. (Banki)
After the War
After the cease fire, Banki notes “Christian spokesmen began to look more deeply into the causes of the conflict, both immediate and long range”; opinions on the responsibility for the war “ran the entire gamut from those which viewed the State of Israel as an intruder into the Arab world to those which saw Israel’s claims as amply justified by history.” For example, on June 26, 1967, the New York Times published a letter by Rev. Henry P. Van Dusen, a former president of the Union Theological Seminary, who wrote:
All persons who seek to view the Middle East problem with honesty and objectivity stand aghast at Israel’s onslaught, the most violent ruthless (and successful) aggression since Hitler’s blitzkrieg across Western Europe of 1940, aiming not at victory but at annihilation – the very objective proclaimed by Nasser and his allies which had drawn support to Israel. (Qtd. in Banki)
Roy Eckhardt, then Chairman of the Department of Religion at Lehigh University and a leading light in Christian-Jewish relations community, responded that comparing Israelis to Nazis was an “unspeakable distortion of the facts” that was akin to calling
black white, to label as ‘aggressors’ the targets of aggression, and to identify as ‘annihilationsists’ those who barely escaped being annihilated by a foe pledged to turning them into corpses, and who, after their own victory, now manifested an almost incredible restraint and readiness to deal righteously with their would-be slayers.” (Qtd. in Banki)
The World Council of Churches was a bit more circumspect than Van Dusen, but still suggested that Arab fears of Israeli expansionism were legitimate and that Arab statements calling for Israel’s annihilation were just words. In a statement passed at its meeting in August 1967 held at Heraklion, Crete, Greece, the WCC adopted a resolution stating that
the present crisis has developed in part because the rest of the world has been insensitive to the fears of the people in the Middle East; the fears of people of the Arab nations because of the dynamism and possible expansion of Israel, and the fears of the people of Israel who have escaped from persecution on other continents only to be threatened, at least by word, with expulsion from their new home.
The resolution went onto state, among other things, that “no nation should be allowed to keep or annexe the territory of another by armed force” and that “there can be neither reconcilitation nor significant development in the area unless, in the general settlement, a proper and permanent solution is found to the problem of Arab refugees, both old and new.”
Because of the war’s short duration, Christian publications in the U.S., which were published on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, were unable to respond in detail to events as they were happening; but when the war ended, magazines devoted substantial coverage to the war and its aftermath. The coverage and commentary revolved around several issues, including Arab rejectionism and its impact on the prospects for peace, the plight of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem. As time passed, however, coverage of Arab rejectionism gave way to commentary that subjected Israel, Zionism, and Judaism to close scrutiny while portraying Arab intentions toward Israel in a benign manner.
Arab Rejectionism and Prospects for Peace
Christian Century addressed the issue of Arab rejectionism by suggesting Israel’s possession of territory previously held by Jordan and Egypt could be used by Israel as a bargaining chip to secure normal relations with its neighbors. The magazine went so far as to say that the war might have had a “healthful” effect:
Israel’s astounding military repulsion of threats from its Arab neighbors – whatever else may be said of it – has added a new, important, and potentially healthful dimension to the 20-year-old conflict between the two sides. Until now the Arab states have shouted a recalcitrant “Never” to all proposals that the quarrels between them and Israel be negotiated. They have refused to recognize Israel’s legitimacy as a state, have denied it innocent use of the Suez Canal, have precluded any settlement of the Arab refugee problems by refusing to enter into diplomatic relations with Israel ant have constantly threatened to annihilate Israel at a time of their own choosing. Until now the situation was one that kept Israel under constant pressure. Now that Israel has penetrated deeply into and controls vast areas of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, the situation is reversed. The Arab states are under pressure, and their “Never” does not have the permanence it appeared to have a month ago. Now men who refused to talk must talk. But this new dimension in the Middle East situation shifts the burden for the procuring of peace from the Arab nations to Israel. … In a situation in which Israel has demonstrated its military superiority and has put its Arab neighbors under duress, it more than they has the responsibility of deciding whether June 1967 marked the beginning of peace in the Middle East. (June 21, 1967)
Ultimately, the Christian Century’s assessment that Arab leaders would be more willing to negotiate as a result of their military loss proved to be incorrect, as was its insistence that Israel was somehow in the driver’s seat when it came to building “structures of permanent peace.” Nevertheless, at this point the magazine clearly laid the blame for the conflict on Arab leaders. For example, in its July 26, 1967 issue devoted to the aftermath of the 1967 War, the magazine published an editorial noting that normally vocal pro-Arab sources had been strangely silent after the magazine’s post-war expression of support for Israel:
A few letters, a few articles, but beyond that – silence. Perhaps this silence is an acknowledgement that in the present crisis the Arab world – Egypt and Nasser in particular – was guilty of fomenting and initiating the war in which it went down to humiliating defeat before Israel’s lightening strokes. … What can the Arab sympathizers say about this snip of history except to confess that their party planned and attempted to execute a ruthless war of extermination against Israel?
On Aug. 2, 1967, Christian Century continued to scrutinize Arab attitudes toward Israel. In an editorial titled “King Hussein’s New Offensive,” the magazine lauded King Hussein of Jordan for calling on the Arab world to accept Israel as a fact of life, but then criticized him for refusing to talk peace with Israel directly and for stating that the Arab world had no problem with Jews, just Zionists. The magazine forthrightly stated “His distinctions between Jews and Zionists may make some sense to American Jews, but it makes no sense at all to most Israeli Jews.” In reference to Hussein’s call for peace without direct talks, the magazine stated “Israel will decide what Arab proposals are realistic, and it will not be those made by King Hussein.”
To be sure, there were other voices in the magazine that offered a different interpretation. For example, Cecil Northcott, an editor-at-large for Christian Century, emphasized Israel’s obligation to make peace with its attackers:
Israel by her swift and skillful war, which to many seemed little short of aggressive action, won an advantage over her Arab neighbors and exposed their weakness and division. She is now faced with the task of living, for the time being, with the people she has defeated, and of establishing a new way of life in the Middle East. (Christian Century, August 23, 1967)
Nevertheless, the magazine’s willingness to tolerate and even affirm the use of force in defense of Jewish sovereignty against a “ruthless war of extermination” stood as a marked counterpoint to the magazine’s previous attitude of indifference, and in some instances, hostility toward the Jewish people.
As documented in Hertzel Fishman’s American Protestantism and a Jewish State, the Christian Century had long exhibited a troubling enmity toward Jews. It had condemned Jewish efforts to maintain a distinctive identity, opposed Jewish efforts to obtain a sovereign state, and expressed contempt for Jewish support for America’s entry into World War II.
Robert W. Ross, author of So It Was True, The American Protestant Press and the Nazi Persecution of the Jews, documents how Christian Century, even after acknowledging the Holocaust’s atrocities,cast doubt on the reality of the gas chambers used to kill Jews. On May 30, 1945, for example, Christian Century published an article by James Morgan Read suggesting the gas chambers may have been intended to delouse prisoners, not kill them:
Many of these camps were obviously fighting typhus epidemics and using fumigation chambers to delouse the prisoners as a preventive measure. The question is, “How many of these chambers represented genuine efforts to kill lice, and how many of them were flimsy excuses or even undisguised efforts to kill people?” Court trials could establish such facts beyond a reasonable doubt. (Qtd. in Ross)
It is noteworthy, then, that 22 years later the same magazine took Arab threats to destroy Israel seriously, and affirmed the use of force by the Jewish State to protect itself.
Christianity and Crisis, a magazine founded by Reinhold Nieburh in 1941 in response to the isolationism espoused by Christian Century before America’s entrance into World War II, published two articles on the subject on June 26, 1967. The first, written by Nieburh himself, laid heavy emphasis on Arab rejectionism and portrayed the Six Day War as a conflict between the Israeli “David,” with 2.5 million inhabitants, and “Goliath,” represented, in Nieburh’s words, by “the Arab world under Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s leadership, number a population of 20 to 40 million” which “never accepted Israel’s existence as a nation or granted it the right of survival.”
The second editorial, signed by John C. Bennett, chairman of the magazine’s editorial board, stated that while Israel “was threatened with extermination” before the war, Israel now has the obligation to end the conflict by working to solve the refugee problem.
Now that Israel has the power and the initiative in the Middle East we hope that she will put her great gifts into creating something new in her relation with the Arabs. If this victory means increasing the number of Arab refugees by scores of thousands, she will lose much moral support. Any moves toward reconciliation will be difficult because hatred of Israel has for so long been fomented by Arab leaders. But it will not be enough to say of the old refugees or the new ones that they did not have to leave Israel or that they are used as an instrument of propaganda by the Arabs. Israel must assure many Arabs that they are welcome in Israel and offer compensation to others while she has the initiative while the situation is fluid.
In the fall of 1967, the United Church Herald, a magazine published by the United Church of Christ, weighed in on the issue of refugees. The publication, had made no mention of Arab rejectionism in the months before the Six Day War but in an August 1967 editorial condemned Israel for its unwillingness to allow UN troops on its soil after the war, devoted six pages to the plight of Palestinian refugees in Jordan in its October issue. The author, A.C. Forrest, laid some blame for the suffering of the refugees on “unstable governments” and leaders in “Cairo and Jerusalem, Damascus and Amman who let these things happen year after year,” and not just on Israel.
Nevertheless, Forrest portrays Israel’s hardened attitude toward the refugees as the motivator for a future war. At one point, Forrest quotes without irony a nurse employed by the United Nations Work and Relief Agency, who says that “the Israelis are very good at frightening people they want to leave.” This was written while the memory of incessant Arab threats against Israel and its citizens were still fresh in the minds of Israelis and the international community alike.
America and Christian Century also addressed the issue of refugees. In it’s July 15, 1967 issue, America stated that the reasons behind the flight of refugees was “not the important question,” and focused instead on their resolving their plight:
The immediate and terrible fact is, however, that there are more refugees in the Middle East. Today, they are desperately in need of food, clothing and lodging. Tomorrow, they will become the core of a new and desperate political problem.
No one could have watched and listened to the parade of speakers at the special session of the UN General Assembly in recent weeks and not realized that the plight of the Middle East’s million refugees is at the heart of the problem in the area.
The Aug. 2, 1967 issue of Christian Century included an editorial stating that, “[b]y and large, the sympathies of Christian people have been with Israel in this conflict, and properly so. But we know now better way for Christians as individuals to aid Israel than by helping rescue the victims of the Middle East crisis.”
Christianity Today, a publication that served the evangelical community in the United States interpreted Israel’s capture of Jerusalem as an affirmation of biblical prophecies, and asked whether a Third Temple would be built on the Temple Mount. One piece, titled “War Sweeps the Bible Lands” and published on June 23, 1967, stated:
For two thousand years, the Jews wandered on the face of the earth without a homeland because they had disobeyed God. … But in 1948 the new state of Israel came into being, and since then it has flourished. As Christ foretold, Jerusalem has been “trodden down by the Gentiles.”
While Christianity Today rejoiced over the return of Jerusalem to the Jews, it interpreted it largely in terms of Christian eschatology:
The prophetic clock of God is ticking while history moves inexorably toward the final climax. And as that clock ticks, the Christian believer lifts his head high, for he knows that a glorious redemption draws near.
Commentators and representatives from the Roman Catholic Church did not traffic in prophecy, but instead view Jerusalem with an eye toward its importance to the historical church. According to Banki,
an article in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Daily, argued that Israelis’ military victory had in no way reduced the importance of placing Jerusalem under international control. This was widely publicized in the world press and broadcast repeatedly, in several languages over Vatican Radio. On June 14, Msgr. Alberto Giovannetti, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, circulated a note on “Jerusalem and the Holy Places” to all 122 member delegations. Internationalization of “that city and its vicinity,” the memorandum declared, was “the only solution” which offered sufficien protection of Jerusalem and the Holy Places.
Banki reports that the “Vatican appeal found some echo in the American Catholic press.” For example, The Criterion, a Catholic newspaper published in Indianapolis stated on June 23 that “Jerusalem does not belong to the Israelis or to the Jordanians. It belongs to the world.”
The Jesuit-own America appeared somewhat tolerant to the idea of Israeli control of Jerusalem, publishing an editorial on July 8, 1967 stating that “If free access is the issue, then we cannot help wondering if the case for the internationalization of Jerusalem is as urgent today as it appeared to be in 1947.”
Christian Century addressed the issue in an editorial published on July 12, 1967 that called for Israel and Jordan to “devise a system by which a united city could be mutually administered and other nations were excluded from all control of Jerusalem.”
We understand Israel’s unwillingness to surrender any of the Arab lands it has captured until the Arab states acknowledge Israel’s existence, its legitimacy and its integrity as a state. … But we also believe that Israel’s unilateral annexation of Old Jerusalem plants depth charges that will be exploding for the next hundred years.
A New Template Emerges
As quotes from Arab leaders calling for Israel’s annihilation faded from memory, the coverage and commentary began to shift away from Arab rejectionism and Israeli vulnerability to Zionist culpability and Arab benifience.
This shift was particularly evident in the Christian Century, which in 1968 began a process of whitewashing Arab enmity toward Israel and subjected Israel and Zionism to intense scrutiny. Emblematic of this process was an article that appeared the magazine’s April 3, 1968 issue. The article titled “The Arab Experience,” was authored by Mounir R. Sa’adah. After affirming the virtues of Arab nationalism, Sa’adah stated that Arabs viewed Israel as
… a maddened and dangerous fugitive who has taken refuge in the midst of Arabs against their will. Like any desperate creature, she strikes at friend and foe, lashes out against anyone who comes near because she is so sorely hurt.
Israel is an anomaly: a materialist-collectivist society, a theocracy resting upon racism and triggered by arrogant nationalism. Hers are not new or original experiments in social organization. They have been tried in many times and lands and found tragically wanting. History makes no exceptions. Israel’s own inner contradictions might destroy her as a political community. Time is on the Arab side. They will seal up Israel in her frontiers, even if their seal must be an international police force supplied by the United Nations.
Should their fears prove wrong, should Israel turn out after all to be a force for humanity, no harm will have been done to the Arab ring that surrounds it. Meanwhile, the Arabs will act as Islam bids them to: openly and vigorously.
This benign interpretation of Arab nationalism in the pages of Christian Century was followed by a powerful expression of suspicion toward Jewish nationalism. On Sept. 18, 1968, the Christian Century published a piece by Alan R. Taylor, an associate professor at American University. Taylor portrayed Zionism as a malevolent force that destroyed the humanistic impulses of the Jewish people. A cutline beneath the title stated Taylor’s thesis thusly: “The Zionists’ elevation of the material over the spiritual deprives our age of a needed witness.”
In the piece, Taylor portrayed Theodor Herzl as a puppet master intent on manipulating the Jewish people. To buttress his case, Taylor cited a passage in Herzl’s journal in which he wrote: “I conduct the affairs of the Jews without their mandate.” Taylor wrote:
… Herzl constructed a hierarchical organization. The upper echelon, the “family council,” was to be aware of the entire plan from the outset. A second echelon, established in Jewish centers throughout the world, would also be briefed on the general scheme after being sworn to secrecy. It would then be instructed to select a third echelon to which the plan of organized emigration would be revealed without, at first, any mention of a state. The Jewish masses were to manipulated by this elite organization and, once they had arrived in the territory of the projected state, they would be recruited into labor battalions along military lines, their training involving a nationalist indoctrination buttressed by patriotic songs and heroic plays.
According to Taylor, the Zionist experiment (Israel) has “in general has risked putting up before the Jewish world an idealized image of the de-Judaized Jew.” Later, Taylor wrote
It would be indeed tragic if in our own time, when our vision of man in history so greatly needs strengthening and broadening, we were to witness the decline of humanism among a people who in past ages have made such notable contributions to that tradition.
The piece prompted numerous critical letters to the editor, which appeared in the Oct. 23, 1968 issue of the magazine. One stated that “The Christian Century has lent itself to the proposition that most Jews do not understand the essential character of their own religious faith, and that it therefore falls on Christians like Alan Taylor to rescue the Jewish faith from the inimical influence of Zionist ideology. … In his lonely crusade to save Judaism from the Jews, Taylor is joined only by the Arabs, whose opposition to Zionism is now motivated by their determination to safeguard the humanist tradition of Jewish faith.” The author of this letter then went onto characterize Taylor’s description of Zionism as inspired by the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
… what we have here is a piece of vile, unadulterated anti-Semitic slander. Anyone even remotely familiar with the history of Zionism knows that the Zionist congresses in Basel were held in the full and brutal glare of public attention. Indeed, Herzl insisted that the sessions be open to the press, because of his conviction that ultimately a Jewish state could come about only if it is “publicly secured” through legally valid international covenants …
In response to the criticism the editors published in the same issue an editorial titled “To Zionists with Love.” It reminded readers that “the editorial stance of the Century is not necessarily to be identified with the articles we publish” while at the same time asserting that charges of anti-Semitism were overblown and counter-productive.
If it will serve any purpose, the Century is quite prepared once more to state its editorial support for the existence and national integrity of Israel, for the securing of Israel’s maritime rights, and for the rights of access to holy places. We also believe, however, that Israel’s retaliatory raids on Jordanian towns in late 1966 undermined the possibilities of peace accommodation with a relatively moderate King Hussein and played a part in igniting the June war of last year.
The shift from support to suspicion toward Israel began to manifest itself in the pages of America as well. For example, in a review of The Six Day War by Randolph S. Churchill and Winston S. Churchill, commentator Peter J. Henriot said any book on the situation in the Middle East needs to ask
just how militaristic is the present state of Israel? Admittedly, this seems and unfair, loaded question. But it is a query inevitably raised by the impact of TV interviews of Defense Minister Dayan, of boyish paratroopers, of ordinary Tel Aviv citizens.
Prepared over nearly two decades for a life-death struggle for the homeland, stirred by glorious and tragic memories of the 1948 and 1956 campaigns, and flushed now with stunning victories, the Israeli leaders and people today are more military oriented than Jews have historically been since biblical times. Understandable as this may be, it nevertheless must be taken into account of any realistic appraisal of recent events. Unfortunately, the authors do not seriously examine this theme.
The cycle was put in motion. In the coming years, Christian witness about the Arab-Israeli conflict would focus on Israel, not on the Arab enmity that fueled the conflict.
- America: “Commitment to Israel,” June 3, 1967; “The Six Day War,” Peter J. Henriot, February 3, 1968; “Jerusalem’s Holy Places,” July 8, 1967.
- Christian Century: “Israel Annexes Old Jerusalem,” July 12, 1967; “Israel’s Finest Future,” Cecil Northcott, August 23, 1967; “Israel’s New Burden,” June 21, 1967; “King Hussein’s New Offensive,” August 2, 1967; “The Arab Experience,” Mounir R. Sa’adah, April 3, 1968; Letter to the Editor, Henry Siegman, October 23, 1968; “The Priority of Human Need in the Middle East,” August 2, 1967; “Thunder Over Sinai,” May 31, 1967; “To Zionists, with Love,” October 9, 1968; “Wise Men in the Middle East,” July 26, 1967; “Zionism and Jewish Humanism,” Alan R. Taylor, September 18, 1968; “Nasser’s Bluster Threatens World Peace,” The Christian Century, June, 7, 1967.
- Christianity and Crisis, “Further Thoughts on the Middle East,” John C. Bennett, June 26, 1967; “David and Goliath,” Reinhold Niebuhr, June 26, 1967.
- “War Sweeps the Bible Lands,” Christianity Today, June 23, 1967.
- “She Helped Change a Church’s View of Jews,” New York Times, Chris Hedges, July 29, 2004.
- United Church Herald: “A Tangled Tragedy,” August 1967; “Homeless Over Jordan,” A.C. Forrest, October 1967.
- Christian Reactions to the Middle East Crisis: New Agenda for Interreligious Dialogue, Judith Hershcopf Banki, American Jewish Committee, 1968.
- American Protestantism and a Jewish State, Hertzel Fishman,1973.
- The Arabists: The Romance of An American Elite, Robert D. Kaplan, 1993.
- So It was True, The American Protestant Press and the Nazi Persecution of the Jews, Robert W. Ross, 1980.
- “Statement on the Middle East,” World Council of Churches Central Committee, adopted at Heraklion, Crete, Greece, at August 15-26, 1967 meeting.