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Blog by Dr. Shimon Samuels published in The Times of Israel
23 April 2020

In the early 16th century, Martin Luther – a German priest and leader of the Protestant Reformation – led a call for pogroms against Jews and synagogue desecration.

In the 1990s, the Lutheran Church belatedly condemned the antisemitism of its founder. A pale rendition of the Catholic ‘Nostra Aetate’.

The American branch of the Church reversed that position and, in 2016, voted for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) and called for the US to end financial aid to the State of Israel.

A few weeks ago, the Danish Bible Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, downloaded its new version of the New Testament, to branch churches in over 90 countries. Their new edition had excised over 70 references to ‘Israel’. The Land of Israel has now become “Land of the Jews,” the Children of Israel have become “the Children of the Jews.” Of course, in applying this policy to the Old Testament, any mention of the Patriarch Jacob would now deny his night struggle victory, rewarded with the name “Israel (the Champion of G-d).”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is an active member of the overtly anti-Israel World Council of Churches in Geneva.

Pastor Robert Smith of the Lutheran World Federation is, reportedly, a champion of BDS and has stated: “The ancient Israelites are not linked in any substantive or material way to the contemporary modern State of Israel. The Biblical narrative of Israel has almost nothing to do with contemporary, other than the manipulation of sacred texts to justify a political project.”

Palestinian Lutheran Pastor, Mitri Raheb, sarcastically noted, “It was not the Lord G-d who promised Israel the Land. It was Lord Balfour.”

Wiping Israel off the map is the most pernicious form of a people’s ID theft and denial to only the Jewish people the right to self-determination is blatant antisemitism – according to the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance), a definition that is progressively being adopted worldwide.

The Wiesenthal Centre in 2014 produced, ironically with UNESCO, an exhibition entitled “People, Book, Land” – the basic trinity defining Judaism. The Lutheran Church has taken the path of Replacement Theology or Supersessionism, arrogating to itself the status of “the new Israel,” arguably an exercise in neo-colonialism.

In 2009, my colleague Sergio Widder and I attended the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil – a meeting point between the extreme left and Jihadism – a mass hatefest against Israel and its non-Jewish friends. That year, a debate was held on the so-called Kairos Palestine document, prepared by the World Council of Churches.

A Pastor presented his thesis that the Biblical expressions “Chosen People” and “Promised Land” were racist, colonialist and discriminatory. The debate was resolved in arguing that, “we are all Chosen Peoples” and “the Land is Promised to All.” Thus, wiping the Jews and their Land out of history and geography.

To be consistent, the Lutheran Church must defrock another Lutheran Pastor, who stood up to Hitler, spending seven years in Nazi concentration camps, Pastor Martin Niemöller, celebrated for his call to speak out: 

"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out…
Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out…
Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out…
Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me."

All true Christians must now speak out against the new Lutheran version of the New Testament as ‘Fake News’.

Shimon Samuels is Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has served as Deputy Director of the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, European Director of ADL, and Israel Director of AJC. He was born in UK and studied in UK, Israel, U.S. and Japan.