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  You are in: Home > Theology & Religion > Semitism  
 

Semitism
The Whence and Whither
“How dear are your counsels”

Kenneth Cragg

Kenneth Cragg was first in Jerusalem in 1939, and subsequently became deeply involved in areas of faith between Semitic religions under the stress of current politics. He later pursued doctoral studies in Oxford where he first graduated and became ‘Prizeman’in Theology and Moral Philosophy, and where he is now an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College. He was a Bishop in the Anglican Jurisdiction in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Middle East, and played ecclesiastical roles in Africa and India. A Certain Sympathy of Scriptures is a companion book to his Readings in the Qur’an (1988; 1999), and more broadly to his Faiths in Their Pronouns: Websites of Identity (2002). Other works by Bishop Cragg, and published by Sussex Academic Press, include: With God in Human Trust –Christian Faith and Contemporary Humanism; The Weight in the Word –Prophethood, Biblical and Quranic; and The Education of Christian Faith.

 
This book is an incisive attempt by a leading exponent on Christian–Muslim relations to unravel and understand the perspectives and complexities of semitic past and present in theological, political and cultural terms. The work tackles sensitive issues of ethnicity, prejudice, persecution and state-making. Cyclone and anti-cyclone are comprehensible contrasts. Semitism and anti-Semitism are of a different order. Semitism is hardly current at all; the latter is all too grimly and darkly familiar. Both terms seem only to have come into use in the 19th century, but the reality of their meanings is harsh centuries long.

Semitism is a human story of distinctive intimacy with a God, believed to belong with birth, sealed in history and homed in given territory. “How dear are Your counsels to me, O God,” the psalmist cried – how precious, yet how costly this privilege between us. These three denominators of tribe, territory and remembered time belong to all human identities, understood as one creation in a single cosmos in the Bible and the Qur’an.

Anti-Semitism is a tragic misprision of this long conviction of the Judaic mind, bringing endless suffering to the one, shame and guilt to the other. Its effect has been to make “those counsels dearer” still, whether in Zionist will to recover and rule territory or in a secular diaspora struggling to know itself. Semitism has overtaken itself with the barbarity of a dividing Wall – a scar across a land allegedly “beloved above all”, by both God and People. Its presence resembles Solomon’s judgment on a disputed child.


Preface

Introduction


1. ‘The Place of the Name’

2. Our Human ‘Corn and Wine and Oil’

3. Interrogation from Within

4. ‘Gentiles’

5. Through Jesus to a Human Inclusion

6. ‘This World Harsh and Strange’

7. Zionism – The Realized Quest?

8. Zionism – The Great Forfeiture?

9. Inter-Testamental Relations Now

10. Marc Chagall’s Prayer Shawl

Notes

Index of Persons, Places and Names

Index of Themes and Terms

Index of Biblical and New Testament Passages


“A masterful study that demonstrates Cragg’s profound knowledge and scholarship of the historical, theological and scriptural sources of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as well as the current conflict in the Middle East. Bold and original, it provides an empathetic reassessment of the Jewish fear of anti-Semitism grounded in the context of European history that culminated in the horrors of the Holocaust and the displacement and suffering of the Palestinian people. Cragg demonstrates his impeccable analytical skills to uncover the manipulation of the fear of anti-Semitism to justify Israeli policies. Profound, enlightening, a must read for anyone concerned with the issue of anti-Semitism and the Middle East conflict.” Yvonne Y. Haddad, Center for Muslim–Christian Understanding, Georgetown University

Semitism discusses Jesus’ ministry and Messianism, election and covenant, the importance of Jerusalem to both Judaism and Christianity, troubled Jewish-Christian relations, and Israel’s dispersion after the fall of Judea in the first century to European countries where anti-Jewish sentiment eventually arose, as did Theodore Herzl’s ‘Zionist answer’ – the creation of a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel. Cragg enlists Jewish and Israeli authors, as well as Marc Chagall’s depictions of prayer shawls, some with scenes of Jesus’ crucifixion, to attest to the horrors of anti-Semitism and the Shoah and to the eventual creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Cragg’s opinion (like that of the others he cites) is similar to what Parkes (End of an Exile: Israel, the Jews and the Gentile World, reviewed in the Journal together with Semitism) had posited: It was the pragmatic Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion whose declaration of statehood in 1948 for ‘the full realization of Zionism’ led to the disqualification of the long-standing positive achievements of the lengthy, durable, and resilient diaspora – due, perhaps, to the Jewish fear of growing Palestinianism alongside Zionism.

In addition to the prolonged Arab/Israeli conflict, Semitism discusses Israel’s moral dilemma in the displacement of Palestinians and offers unreserved praise for Israeli peace activists’ refusal to serve in the West Bank and Gaza and for leading Israeli authors’ advocacy of equitable treatment for Palestinians. Cragg lauds Israel’s restoration of the ancient Hebrew tongue as the official language of contemporary Israel but bemoans its deleterious effect on the Arab population, though, as he acknowledges, it is served in both languages. He takes special note of the contemporary Israeli authors whose literature chronicles the Arabs’ plight, in contrast to those who continue to preserve what Cragg calls the ‘Amalek complex’ – perpetuating the perception of the Arabs as backward, the ‘least productive race of the world’. Cragg’s statement that Palestine was ‘as old as the Philistines and older than its Palestinian Talmud’ (p. 125) may be conjectured as positing that Palestinians are direct descendants of the ancient Canaanites/Philistines.
In the end, this reader cannot help but conclude that Cragg is biased against the State of Israel. He cites its relations to the United Nations, which brought it into being, but whose resolutions it inevitably ignores, yet he takes no note of the many anti-Israel resolutions emanating from U.N. circles. Nowhere does he recall the 1967 Khartoum Conference following the June 1967 war, where the defeated Arabs uttered three no’s: ‘no’ to recognition of Israel, ‘no’ to peace with Israel, and ‘no’ to negotiations with Israel. Palestinian terror is never mentioned, only ‘resisters’ and the deportation of ‘alleged activists’ (pp. 137, 138). Jewish terrorist activities, however, such as Baruch Goldstein’s murderous rampage in Hebron (presumably in retaliation for Arab atrocities there in 1929) are duly noted, without full investigation.

Nor is Cragg objective when it comes to the Palestinians’ plight: He is derisive of Jordan’s right to evict them from its territory when they threatened armed resistance against Israel from there. Even more surprising is Cragg’s statement that the Oslo Plan virtually made the Palestine Authority liable for the policing and ultimate elimination of Palestinian extremists, which the Declaration of Principles stipulated. At no time does he state that the Palestinians should have been rehabilitated by their own people rather than allowed to languish in refugee camps.

Despite shortcomings, however, both Cragg’s incisive, encyclopaedic Semitism and Parkes’ End of An Exile are must-reads for all who are interested in understanding the long and convoluted political, religious, and theological history of the Middle East and its three monotheistic religions. These works are especially important for those who would engage in equitable, present-day conflict-resolution without common prejudices – the disastrous results of anti-Semitism, which made the ultimate case for political Zionism – but with an open mind and a thorough knowledge of Semitism, Zionism’s and Israel’s raison d’être.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies

 

Publication Details

 
Paperback ISBN:
978-1-84519-071-2
 
 
Page Extent / Format:
224 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
 
Release Date:
February 2005
  Illustrated:   No
 
Paperback Price:
£15.95 / $32.50
 
 

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