from Haaretz: Dutch church to rethink its policy of solidarity with Israel By Cnaan Liphshiz
After 37 years of boasting of "inalienable solidarity" with the people of Israel, the Netherlands' second largest church plans to reexamine its stance this fall. A group of notables from the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PCN) warned last week that the organization, which has over two million members, is in danger of being "hijacked" by pro-Palestinian activists.
The warning - coauthored by Dr. Jan van der Graaf, who served for 35 years as general secretary within one of the three churches that make up the PCN, and three other prominent church figures - was an open letter against changing the reference to Israel. It was addressed to Minister Henri Veldhuis, a General Synod member who said the clause made the church adopt a biased view that ignored Israeli actions against Palestinians.
At a speech last month in Utrecht for Friends of Sabeel (a Jerusalem-based Palestinian organization), Veldhuis said the church should commit to a bond with Israel "as people of the Torah" instead of the "Jewish people as an ethnic group." Veldhuis also complained that currently, "the church has a stronger bond with a non-believing Alaskan Jewish person than a Palestinian Christian."
The open letter accused Veldhuis of a slanted and hypocritical approach. "We were astonished by your address before a Palestinian liberation organization that pretends to be promoting reconciliation," it read. "You accused Israel but ignored Hamas's Jew-hating ideology. You overlooked the alarming anti-Semitic upsurge in Arab countries."
Veldhuis responded that the signatories "were regrettably and falsely" trying to portray Sabeel and himself as radical left-wing activists. In a conversation with Haaretz, Veldhuis said: "It is important to preserve the lessons of the Holocaust and never forget the Jewish roots of church and bible and to fight anti-Semitism, but we have to take a more realistic position on the Jewish people as an ethnic group and on the State of Israel. The PCN's theology is now idealizing both."
He added that he believes the coauthors - Van der Graaf, Dr. Theo van Campen, Dr. Wulfert de Greef and Dr. Henk van der Meulen - are circling the wagons because of "mounting criticism of Israel's policies."
Van der Graaf said that those who advocate changing the church's charter are "only a highly motivated minority" within PCN, and he believes the clause will ultimately remain unchanged.
The PCN, which was formed in 2004 as a merger of the country's three largest protestant churches, is scheduled to discuss revising its stance on Israel in November.