Tuesday, 27 July 2010

David Cameron: Gaza is a Prison Camp

David Cameron has said that Gaza "cannot remain a prison camp", and that aid and people should be allowed in both directions across the border.

The Prime Minister was speaking in Ankara in support of Turkey's ambition to join the European Union.

Mr Cameron also said the recent Israeli attack on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza "was totally unacceptable", but should not be allowed to damage the relationship between Turkey and Israel.

Watch BBC Recording here

Monday, 26 July 2010

World Lutheran Federation Elects Palestinian as President

A Palestinian protestant bishop is the newly elected head of the Lutheran church around the world after a vote in Stuttgart. Bishop Munib Younan has said he will strive for peace in the Middle East.

Palestinian Bishop Munib Younan was elected president of the Lutheran World Federation by 300 votes to 23, a statement on the body's Web site announced on Saturday.

Younan told the Stuttgart assembly that elected him that he hoped that the church help to contribute further to peace in the Middle East.

The church "must continue to focus on shared values in order to oppose extremism and xenophobia, especially anti-Semitism and Islamophobia," said Younan, who is bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land.

"The conflict in my own home is never far from my thoughts," he said. "It is my hope that God will allow Israelis and Palestinians to see the work of God in each other, and reach a political settlement."

The post is the most important in the federation of 145 member churches from 79 countries.

Younan is president of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches and serves with three Jerusalem patriarchs and nine other bishops on the International Christian Committee of Jerusalem.

He is also a co-founder of the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, made up of the two chief rabbis of Israel, heads of the local churches, the Chief Judge of the Islamic Court in Palestine and other Muslim leaders.

Read more here and here

Press Release of the Evangelical Lutheran Church

Bishop Munib Younan was a signatory of the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The World Cup Freedon Flotilla to Gaza

Iker Casillas, was captain and goalkeeper for Spain’s World Cup-winning national team.

Casillas is among many World Cup athletes who feel a connection with the Palestinians besieged in the Gaza Strip. In light of his team’s championship win, Casillas opted out from taking part in celebrations throughout central Madrid. “It’s unthinkable that people take part [in celebrations] and laugh after seeing what is going on in the Gaza Strip,” said Casillas to al-Hayat, a London-based newspaper.

His activist doesn’t just end there. It’s been reported that Casillas will most likely join other famous athletes on the forthcoming Freedom Flotilla 2, an ambitious and noble seaborne mission to break the siege on Gaza and deliver much-needed humanitarian aid. Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal is expected to be part of Flotilla 2 as well.

It’s nice to see that the spirit of the World Cup lives on even after the final match. Its aim is to promote unity through good sportsmanship and moral character. Casillas’s aim is to promote it even further. He’s already shown us that he’s the world’s best goalkeeper, and now he gets to show us how much he cares for humanity.

Source: Spanish goalkeeper Casillas to be on Freedom Flotilla 2

See International Athletes Join Freedom Flotilla 2

The campaign said that more than 35 news organizations have requested to participate in Freedom Flotilla 2, in an attempt to provide unprecedented news coverage to detect Israeli follies against international peace activists.

See also the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza

Former EU Vice President Arrested by Israeli Army

Israeli soldiers detained the former Vice President of the European Parliament, Luisa Morgantini, in Bil’in this afternoon, injured one Israeli activist., and arrested another.

Sixty nine-year-old Morgantini, an Italian Member of the Euopean Parliament (MEP) has long been an outspoken supporter of Palestinians. She has participated several times in demonstrations in Bil’in and in June 2008 was injured when Israeli soldiers attacked a group of non-violent activists.

Morgantini, who served as Vice President of the European Parliament between 2007 and 2009, today joined the people of the West Bank village in their weekly Friday protest, which began after midday prayers. She was among a group of about 100 internationals supporting the peaceful demonstrators. People were dancing, singing and shouting slogans, among others the flag of the European Union was held aloft by Morgantini’s 50-strong delegation.

Israeli soldiers starting firing tear gas about ten minutes after the demonstration reached the fence that has been built illegally and cuts off villagers from their land. They then chased the protestors and forcefully detained the politician who was held for approximately 30 minutes before being released when her identity became clear to soldiers.

Read more here and on CNN Israelis detain former EU official at West Bank protest

See also BBC Report of pevious incident in June when Mrs Morgantini was hospitalised

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Most Popular Religion in Britain

John Ortberg writes about The Most Popular Religion in America. It fits the UK to a tee as well. He asks:

"What do you think is the number one most popular religion in America? I’ll give you a hint: its not Christianity. Its also not Islam, Judiasm, Buddhism, Taoism, or the Home Shopping Network.

According to Christian Smith, a sociologist at Notre Dame, the primary expression of faith in our day–at least for young adults–is what he calls “Moral Therapeutic Deism.

This religion is characterized by five beliefs:

1. There is a God who created earth and watches over it
2. God wants people to be nice, fair and good (as taught in the Bible and most other religions)
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about yourself
4. God doesn’t need to be involved in your life except when there’s a problem that needs Celestial Performance Enhancement
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

This is a religion that is far more about comfort, individualism and conformity than it is about meaning, calling, and sacrifice. What makes it particularly challenging is that it is not offered through a new MTD movement or denomination. It is actually catching on and being practiced in churches where we leaders think of ourselves as historically Christian."

 "God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process," Smith and Denton write.

The only problem is...

- It cannot sustain a life.
- It cannot build a community.
- It cannot call people to take up a cross.
- We need something more.

"One other piece of bad news" says Ortberg, " has to do with where young adults learn MTD. I’ll give you a hint. Its mostly from older adults. These are themes that have captured our culture in such deep ways that we’re hardly aware of them."

"The good news is that God is much bigger than Moral Therapeutic Deism. He has a way of showing us what we idolize.

– when someone goes through a crisis or pain;
– when someone is inspired to devote their life to a cause greater than themselves;
– when someone is called to sacrifice their own comfort or success for a hurting world;
– when someone engages in the intense study of the God revealed by the writers of the Scriptures;
– when someone grows bored with a faith that is nice and comfortable and distant
– then God is once more breaking through.

MTD is just one more on a long list of idols. But, somewhere deep down, the human heart keeps hungering for the real deal."

See Soul Searching by Christian Smith

See also Death by Deism

Friday, 23 July 2010

US Seeks Israeli approval for Palestinian flag to fly in Washington

The US Administration is working overtime to 'woo' Abbas into direct talks with Israel by offering to 'upgrade' the status of the Palestinian delegation in Washington. However, the US had to get Israel's permission first.

According to Haaretz today, "A week ago, American officials contacted both the Israeli embassy in Washington and the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem to see whether Israel would object to the upgrade, a senior Israeli official said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded that he had no objections."

How generous. Shame the US cannot 'woo' Israel into removing its illegal Settlements in the Occupied Territories as easily.

Read more here

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Council of Christians and Jews Defends Illegal West Bank Settlements

Established in 1942, the Council of Christians and Jews is a registered charity and the United Kingdom's oldest national inter-faith organisation.

According to its constitution, CCJ exists to:

(a) To promote religious and cultural understanding between Christian and Jewish communities.
(b) To work for the elimination of religious and racial prejudice, hatred and discrimination with particular reference to antiSemitism.
(c) To promote religious and racial harmony on the basis of the ethical and social teachings common to Judaism and Christianity.

These are laudable aims with which I concur. In recent years, however, CCJ appears to have taken a more controversial and political stance that may indeed jeopardize its charitable status.

For example, this month, CCJ's Journal Common Ground contained an A4 letter from David Gifford, its Chief Executive. Referring to the recent decision of the Methodist Church to boycott goods from illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, he writes,
"'One of the Free Churches of the UK voted at their annual Conference to accept a Report that called for, amongst other things, a boycott of goods made in the Palestinian Territories. Despite a rigorous critique and pleading by the CCJ, the Conference accepted the Report and the Resolution to accept the boycott.

The Council of Christians and Jews has repeatedly argued that boycotts will hurt Palestinian people - the very people that this boycott is supposed to help. Instead we suggested a number of exciting projects that supported co-existence and reconciliation in which the Conference may wish to invest. They were projects that encouraged Jews and Arabs, Druze and Christian to work and live together in harmony and a growing understanding. From these projects we believe tolerance and respect grow and these lead to reconciliation at a very crucial and personal level.'
Mr Gifford does not appear to believe that justice rather than injustice is more likely to lead to tolerance and respect. It is surely disingenuous for CCJ to defend the sale of products from Jewish settlements on the grounds that to boycott them will 'hurt Palestinians people' when it is the illegal Jewish settlements that are 'hurting' Palestinians by depriving them of their basic human rights.

As one Jewish friend put it, "CCJ seems to have lost its raison d'etre and increasingly acts as a shield behind which some of the more extreme elements in the Jewish community operate."

Let us hope that CCJ will return to its core values and cooperate with Jewish and Palestinian human rights organisations working for "the elimination of religious and racial prejudice, hatred and discrimination" by Jewish settlers against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and uphold the rule of international law.

The impartiality of the Church of England's own Ethical Investment Group is also now in doubt since John Reynolds, its chairman, is also a trustee of CCJ. Perhaps this is why the EIG was so reluctant to comply with the General Synod decision to sell its shares in Caterpillar.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Chris Patten: Israel's Gaza Blockade a "terrible failure – immoral, illegal and ineffective"

Harriet Sherwood writes from Gaza City in the Guardian this week on Chris Patten's powerful indictment of Israel's blockade. Chris Patten urges bolder EU approach over Middle East conflict

Former EU commissioner Chris Patten calls Gaza blockade an immoral failure and says bloc must be more independent.

Chris Patten said Israel’s relaxation of its blockade had not gone far enough.
The European Union must shake off US dominance and take a bolder approach in pressing for a settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the former EU commissioner Chris Patten said today on a visit to Gaza.

Israel's policy of blockading Gaza had been a "terrible failure – immoral, illegal and ineffective", he said, which had "deliberately triggered an economic and social crisis which has many humanitarian consequences".

Read more here

Benjamin Netanyahu: there is no such thing as the “Israeli people”

Shulamit Aloni is a former Israeli Cabinet Minister, former Minister of Education and former leader of the Shunui Party in Israel. In this article, "Jewish and Democratic" published in Israel's largest circulation newspaper, she writes:
The gist of the Citizenship Law amendment, which will entrench the ban on family unification between Arab-Israelis and Palestinians, through a demand to pledge allegiance to a “Jewish, democratic state,” is discrimination against these citizens. After all, they would not be able to make such pledge, and in fact I too would not be able to do it, because a Jewish state cannot be democratic.
On June 8, 2010, our Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that there is no such thing as the “Israeli people,” but rather, we have the “Jewish people,” and hence Palestinians and Arab Israelis must recognize the State of Israel as the “Jewish people’s” state. Now we see a more interesting, Kahane-style demand being added: A pledge of allegiance to the State.
She astutely observes:
The shift from “Israel” to “Jewish, democratic state” reflects harm to democracy, because “Jewish” and democratic do not go hand in hand. Just look at the laws pertaining to marriage and divorce and the horror of conversion, which are certainly reminiscent of the dark days in Spain when everyone was required to be Catholic.

Read more here 

See also her article A wicked, racist policy

Israeli Military Confirms Goldstone Report

Allister Sparks writing in the South African Business Day reports:
AFTER carrying out its own investigation into last year’s Gaza War, the Israeli military has finally confirmed several of the most serious incidents committed by its troops in that 22-day assault, which a United Nations commission of inquiry, headed by our own Judge Richard Goldstone, reported on last September.

In a low-key report released two weeks ago that seems to have escaped the attention of the entire South African media, perhaps because of its preoccupation with the Fifa World Cup at the time, the military has confirmed that three of the most serious findings of Goldstone’s egregiously vilified report were true.

It has confirmed the fatal shooting by a marksman of an unarmed man (the Goldstone commission said a man and a woman were killed) walking with a group of Palestinians waving a white “surrender” flag; the shelling of a mosque during a prayer service, causing casualties among the worshippers; and the ordering of a criminal investigation into a fatal air strike on a house where about 100 members of an extended Palestinian family, the Samounis, were sheltering on the advice of the Israeli Defence Force.
He concludes:
...don’t you think, Chief Rabbi Goldstein and those members of the Orthodox Jewish community and the South African Zionist Federation whom you lead, that you owe Judge Goldstone an apology? A public, abject apology.

Leaders of the federation went to the extremes of cruelty when they took their religious war against Judge Goldstone (dare I call it a fatwa?) into the heart of his family by trying to ban him from his grandson’s bar mitzvah. Eventually, but it seemed to me somewhat reluctantly, negotiations enabled the family to celebrate this important event together.

But I’m sorry, that wasn’t enough. In this land of ubuntu, this land of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, you must stand up, Chief Rabbi Goldstein, and on behalf of the co-religionists you supported in this calumny, bow your head, apologise and, like the man of God I’m sure you are, beg forgiveness of Judge Richard Goldstone.
Read more here 

See also Richard Silverstein Goldstone was Right

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Armour of God: Ephesians 6

Ephesians 6: The Armour of God from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

The 18th July is an auspicious day in history. On 18th July 1925 Adolf Hitler published Mein Kampf (My Struggle) which he wrote in prison following the Nazi Party’s abortive coup against the Bavarian government. On 18th July 1936, the Spanish Civil War began which enabled Hitler to field test the weapons he would eventually use in 1938 against Czechoslovakia and Poland.

But if those dates were too early for you, do you remember what you were doing in 1962? I was nine years old. I remember coming home from school one day and my mother calmly said, “the world nearly ended today”. It had begun on October 16, 1962, when John F. Kennedy called together his closest advisers at the White House. Late the night before, the CIA had produced detailed photo intelligence identifying Soviet nuclear missile installations under construction on the island of Cuba, ninety miles off the Florida coast.

Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara outlined 3 possible courses of action: 1. “the political course”. Openly approaching Castro, Khrushchev and allies to resolve the crisis diplomatically – an option unlikely to succeed; 2. “open surveillance” coupled with “a blockade against offensive weapons entering Cuba”; and 3. “military action directed against Cuba, starting with an air attack against the missiles.”[1] Thankfully, President Kennedy chose the second option and authorised a naval blockade in international waters against Soviet ships carrying missile equipment. In the brinkmanship that followed during the next tense 13 days as the ships carrying the missiles drew closer to Cuba, it was the Russians who blinked first and backed down.

Read more here

Monday, 19 July 2010

Andy Peck Leadership File Interview on Christian Zionism

Earlier this month, Andy Peck interviewed me for the Leadership File on Premier Radio. We spoke mostly about my book Zion's Christian Soldiers and what the Bible has to say about the relationship between Israel and the Church. You can listen to this two part interview here:

Part 1
Part 2

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Wilful Distortion or Incompetent Journalism?

Here is an article of interest detailing false claims about IHH the Turkish group that participated in the Gaza Flotilla where 9 humanitarian activists were killed by Israeli forces. The Turkish group's initials stand for İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri, or Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms; the German acronym stands for Internationale Humanitäre Hilfsorganisation, the International Humanitarian Aid Organization. As noted below there are two different organizations and while the Israeli daily Haaretz and the Financial Times got it right The New York Times and many American politicians did not.

The Times also relays the Israeli talking point that "the group has links to Al-Qaeda," despite the fact that independent journalist Max Blumenthal (MaxBlumenthal.com, 6/3/10) forced the Israeli Defense Forces to retract that false claim.

FAIR - Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 07/16/2010
NYT Ties Turkish Group to 'Terrorism'--by Mixing It Up With a Different Group

by Alex Kane
Ever since the Israeli raid on a Turkish group's boat filled with aid for the Gaza Strip, there has been a lot of attempts in the press (FAIR Blog, 6/10/10), following Israel's lead, to label the Turkish humanitarian group IHH a supporter of "terrorism."

The latest salvo comes from a New York Times article (7/15/10) about the Turkish group having "extensive connections with Turkey’s political elite."

The Times reports:

On Monday, Germany banned the charity's offices, citing its support for Hamas, which Germany considers a terrorist organization. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said the charity abused donors' good intentions "to support a terrorist organization with money supposedly donated for charitable purposes." The newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung said that from 2007 the charity collected $8.5 million and transferred money to six smaller organizations, two belonging directly to Hamas and four with close ties to it.

The charity called the ban a "disgrace" and "misanthropic" and said it would challenge it in court.

It looks like the reporters on this story didn't do their homework. Numerous news outlets have noted that the German organization, which shares the Turkish group’s initials, is not connected to the Turkish group that co-sponsored the aid flotilla, meaning that Germany did not ban the Turkish group over "terrorist" ties. (The Turkish group's initials stand for İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri, or Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms; the German acronym stands for Internationale Humanitäre Hilfsorganisation, the International Humanitarian Aid Organization.)

A report in Ha'aretz (7/12/10) states: "Despite sharing the name, the German IHH has no connection to the Turkish group that organized the flotilla"; the Financial Times (7/12/10) reports that "IHH Turkey and IHH Germany share the same roots, as they were founded as a single group in Freiburg, Germany, in 1992. But the group split in two five years later"; and a Turkish daily (Hurriyet, 7/16/10) states that "German authorities" say the group split in 1997 and "are now two separate entities."

The Times also relays the Israeli talking point that "the group has links to Al-Qaeda," despite the fact that independent journalist Max Blumenthal (MaxBlumenthal.com, 6/3/10) forced the Israeli Defense Forces to retract that false claim.

Source: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

The IHH has published a response to the Israeli Report.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

"I Stopped the Oslo Accords" Boasts Netanyahu

Gideon Levy writes in Haaretz today a 'must read' article entitled Tricky Bibi. Its about the broadcast on Friday night on Israeli TV Channel 10 "This Week with Miki Rosenthal," of a film made secretly in 2001, during a visit by Netanyahu to the home of a bereaved family in the settlement of Ofra. Levy is astounded that it has not created a stir.
This video should have been banned for broadcast to minors. This video should have been shown in every home in Israel, then sent to Washington and Ramallah. Banned for viewing by children so as not to corrupt them, and distributed around the country and the world so that everyone will know who leads the government of Israel. Channel 10 presented: The real (and deceitful ) face of Binyamin Netanyahu.
 Levy writes,
The scene was both pathetic and outrageous. The last of Netanyahu's devoted followers, who believe he is the man who will bring peace, would have immediately changed their minds. Presidents Barack Obama and Shimon Peres, who continue to maintain that Netanyahu will bring peace, would be talking differently had they seen this secretly filmed video clip. Even the objection of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to conducting direct negotiations with the man from the video would be understandable. What is there to discuss with a huckster whose sole purpose is "to give 2 percent in order to prevent 100 percent," as his father told him, quoting his grandfather.
Forget the Bar-Ilan University speech, forget the virtual achievements in his last visit to the United States; this is the real Netanyahu. No more claims that the Palestinians are to blame for the failure of the Oslo Accords. Netanyahu exposed the naked truth to his hosts at Ofra: he destroyed the Oslo accords with his own hands and deeds, and he's even proud of it. After years in which we were told that the Palestinians are to blame, the truth has emerged from the horse's mouth.
And how did he do it? He recalled how he conditioned his signing of the 1997 Hebron agreement on American consent that there be no withdrawals from "specified military locations," and insisted he choose those same locations, such as the whole of the Jordan Valley, for example. "Why is that important? Because from that moment on I stopped the Oslo Accords," he boasts. The real Netanyahu also brags about his knowledge of America: "I know what America is. America is something that can be moved easily." For the White House's information. 
These remarks are profoundly depressing. They bear out all of our fears and suspicions: that the government of Israel is led by a man who doesn't believe the Palestinians and doesn't believe in the chance of an agreement with them, who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes. There's no point in talking about Netanyahu's impossible rightist coalition as an obstacle to progress. From now on, just say that Netanyahu doesn't want it.
Richard Silverstein provides a transcription in English of the dialogue in Hebrew on the film. He observes, "Note in the first passage how Bibi brags that he has America wrapped around his thumb.  The cynicism is breathtaking."  Here is Dena Shunra’s translation:
Bibi:…The Arabs are currently focusing on a war of terror and they think it will break us. The main thing, first of all, is to hit them. Not just one blow, but blows that are so painful that the price will be too heavy to be borne. The price is not too heavy to be borne, now. A broad attack on the Palestinian Authority. To bring them to the point of being afraid that everything is collapsing…
Woman: Wait a moment, but then the world will say “how come you’re conquering again?”
Netanyahu: the world won’t say a thing. The world will say we’re defending.
Woman: Aren’t you afraid of the world, Bibi?
Netanyahu: Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right direction.
Child: They say they’re for us, but, it’s like…
Netanyahu: They won’t get in our way. They won’t get in our way.
Child: On the other hand, if we do some something, then they…
Netanyahu: So let’s say they say something. So they said it! They said it! 80% of the Americans support us. It’s absurd. We have that kind of support and we say “what will we do with the…”  Look. That administration [Clinton] was extremely pro-Palestinian. I wasn’t afraid to maneuver there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton. I was not afraid to clash with the United Nations. I was paying the price anyway, I preferred to receive the value. Value for the price.
In the following segment, Bibi boasts about how he emptied the Oslo Accords of meaning by an interpretation that made a mockery of them:
Woman:  The Oslo Accords are a disaster.
Netanyahu: Yes. You know that and I knew that…The people [nation] has to know…
What were the Oslo Accords? The Oslo Accords, which the Knesset signed, I was asked, before the elections: “Will you act according to them?” and I answered: “yes, subject to mutuality and limiting the retreats.” “But how do you intend to limit the retreats?” “I’ll give such interpretation to the Accords that will make it possible for me to stop this galloping to the ’67 [armistice] lines. How did we do it?
Narrator: The Oslo Accords stated at the time that Israel would gradually hand over territories to the Palestinians in three different pulses, unless the territories in question had settlements or military sites. This is where Netanyahu found a loophole.
Netanyahu: No one said what defined military sites. Defined military sites, I said, were security zones. As far as I’m concerned, the Jordan Valley is a defined military site.
Woman: Right [laughs]…The Beit She’an Valley.
Netanyahu: How can you tell. How can you tell? But then the question came up of just who would define what Defined Military Sites were. I received a letter – to my and to Arafat, at the same time – which said that Israel, and only Israel, would be the one to define what those are, the location of those military sites and their size. Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: “I’m not signing.” Only when the letter came, in the course of the meeting, to my and to Arafat, only then did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Or rather, ratify it, it had already been signed. Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo Accord.
Woman: And despite that, one of our own people, excuse me, who knew it was a swindle, and that we were going to commit suicide with the Oslo Accord, gives them – for example – Hebron…
Netanyahu: Indeed, Hebron hurts. It hurts. It’s the thing that hurts. One of the famous rabbis, whom I very much respect, a rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, he said to me: “What would your father say?”  I went to my father. Do you know a little about my father’s position?
…He’s not exactly a lily-white dove, as they say. So my father heard the question and said: “Tell the rabbi that your grandfather, Rabbi Natan Milikowski, was a smart Jew. Tell him it would be better to give two percent than to give a hundred percent. And that’s the choice here. You gave two percent and in that way you stopped the withdrawal. Instead of a hundred percent.” The trick is not to be there and be broken. The trick is to be there and pay a minimal price.
Netanyahu is making US President Obama, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and all his other admirers look utter fools for believing he is a 'man of peace'.

Silverstein concludes pessimistically,
"But really who is to blame for this but American presidents who allow Israeli leaders to outwit and outmaneuver them?  When has an American president, except perhaps George Bush pere, ever stood up to Israel and won?  And I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion it won’t ever happen with the current president."

Read more of Gideon Levy's article here

Dockworkers Boycott Israeli Ships

While successive humanitarian efforts to break the Gaza blockade are thwarted by the Israeli navy and Western politicians are intimidated by the Israel lobby from investigating the flotilla massacre, dockworkers around the world are taking direct action.
Three weeks after the massacre on the Freedom Flotilla, ILWU dockworkers in the San Francisco Bay area delayed an Israeli Zim Lines ship for 24 hours, the Swedish Dockworkers Union began a week-long blockade of Israeli ships and containers, dockers in the Port of Cochin, India, refused to handle Israeli cargo, and the Turkish dockworkers union Liman-Is announced their members would refuse to service any Israeli shipping. In South Africa, Durban dockers had already boycotted a Zim Lines ship in response to the invasion of Gaza last year. On the 5th Anniversary of the United Palestinian Call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, Israel faces the prospect of targetted industrial action to implement boycotts. How did it happen, what does it mean, and how can the solidarity movement respond to the new opening?
Read more of Greg Dopkin's report here

See also Swedish Dockworkers

Monday, 12 July 2010

Jerusalem Post Uncensored Revelations about Israel's Nuclear Base

Richard Silverstein has posted an update to his earlier revelations about the location of Israel's nuclear arsenal, initially revealed on an Israeli Facebook Fresh military forum, and now surprisingly by Benjamin Joffe-Walt in the Jerusalem Post 'There are things we'll never know'

See Richard Silverstein's blogs here:

Facebook Offers Furtive Peek at Israel’s Nuclear Mysteries

Read Uncensored Jerusalem Post Story on Top Secret Israeli Nuclear Base

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Christianity Today Reviews Film "With God on our Side"

The print edition of Christianity Today for July 2010 has a positive review of With God on our Side. Until it is posted online you will have to make do with this article from July 2009.

Expelled co-writer tackles Christian Zionism

Kevin Miller must like controversy. Last year, the screenwriter and occasional actor co-wrote the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which provoked a lot of debate about creationism, evolution, Intelligent Design, and the social ramifications thereof. And now, this year, he has a new documentary coming out that just might offend some of the conservatives who rallied to his previous film's defense.

As Miller puts it at his blog:
It's called "With God on Our Side," and it examines a phenomenon known as Christian Zionism. This theology teaches that the Jews are God's chosen people and that they have a divine right to the land of Israel. Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians. This leads to great suffering for Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike and threatens Israel's security as a whole.Our film suggests that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn't favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for Jews and Palestinians.
The filmmakers hope to release the movie sometime later this year, and it should be interesting to see what kind of debates this movie provokes.

Source: Christianity Today

Friday, 9 July 2010

The Sound of Music

This week I am staying with a party from McCabe Travel in the Mohrenwort Hotel in the delightful Austrian village of Fuschl near Salzburg.  The hotel is family run and highly recommended. I am leading a party attending the Oberammergau Passion Play next week. Yesterday we visited Salzburg and today, St Wolfgang, Bad Ischl and Mondsee. This region was the setting for the film, the Sound of Music.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

President Obama's admits his debt to the Israel Lobby

Philip Weiss has a 'must-read' reflection entitled Canard alert: Obama “propelled” to Senate by Jews?

Barak Obama was interviewed by Yonit Levy, a reporter with Israel's Channel 2. According to Haaretz,
During the interview Wednesday, when confronted with the anxiety that some Israelis feel toward him, Obama said that "some of it may just be the fact that my middle name is Hussein, and that creates suspicion."

"Ironically, I've got a Chief of Staff named Rahm Israel Emmanuel. My top political advisor is somebody who is a descendent of Holocaust survivors. My closeness to the Jewish American community was probably what propelled me to the U.S. Senate," Obama said.
Read more here

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Forty-two per cent

Exposed: The truth about Israel's land grab in the West Bank

As President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet, a report reveals 42 per cent of territory is controlled by settlers

By Catrina Stewart in Jerusalem and David Usborne
Jewish settlers, who claim a divine right to the whole of Israel, now control more than 42 per cent of the occupied West Bank, representing a powerful obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state, a new report has revealed.

The jurisdiction of some 200 settlements, illegal under international law, cover much more of the occupied Palestinian territory than previously thought. And a large section of the land has been seized from private Palestinian landowners in defiance even of an Israeli supreme court ruling, the report said, a finding which sits uncomfortably with Israeli claims that it builds only on state land.
Source Independent

See also B'Telem's latest report By Hook and By Crook: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank

Photos of the Occupation in Bethlehem, in Hebron, the illegal Settlments and the apatheid Separation Barrier 

Traditionalist Church of England groups warn of defections if gay bishop is ordained

Daily Telegraph  July 6th Martin Beckford

Conservative Anglican leaders have warned that parishes who oppose Dr Jeffrey John’s ordination would be prepared to leave their south London diocese and seek “alternative episcopal oversight”.
This could mean them being led by orthodox clergy elsewhere in England or even by those in Africa or South America as has happened in the USA, triggering bitter legal disputes over the ownership of their church buildings.

They believe Dr John, currently Dean of St Albans, should not be appointed a bishop as he has a civil partner and has previously admitted being in an active homosexual relationship, which they believe goes against the teaching of Scripture. He is a divisive figure in the church as exactly seven years ago he was appointed Bishop of Reading but was forced to withdraw following protests.

In addition, there is meant to be a “moratorium” within the Anglican Communion on the ordination of openly homosexual clergy. Clergy are also supposed to refrain from “border-crossing” into other, more traditional provinces.

The Rev Paul Dawson, a spokesman for the evangelical conservative group Reform, said: “If Jeffrey John were to be appointed, [some] would be looking for alternative oversight.
“There would be a number of parishes who would say we would like alternative oversight, preferably in the UK.”

Canon Dr Chris Sugden, head of the orthodox group Anglican Mainstream, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If this goes ahead, there will be a number of clergy and parishes in the diocese of Southwark that will not be able to take the oath of canonical obedience to the bishop and they will seek for episcopal oversight from elsewhere. That is very clear.

“What will happen will be what has happened in America already. They will continue to be Anglicans and they will see episcopal oversight from elsewhere, either in this country or elsewhere.”
As The Sunday Telegraph disclosed, Dr John is the front-runner in the race to become the next Bishop of Southwark, a senior post in the Church of England.

He is on a list being considered by the Crown Nominations Commission and two names will be submitted to David Cameron, who is understood to favour the appointment of a homosexual bishop.

Dr Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, denied the appointment would split the Church of England and claimed Dr John “would be a very good candidate”.

The row comes as the Church faces a battle with the Government over plans to allow hymns and Bible readings in civil partnership ceremonies for the first time, as well an important debate on the introduction of women bishops this weekend at the York gathering of its governing body, the General Synod.

Source: Daily Telegraph

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Civil War in the Church of England

Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent for the Telegraph reveals that an openly-homosexual cleric has been nominated to become a senior bishop, in a move that threatens to provoke a damaging split in the Church of England.
A confidential meeting, chaired by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has approved Dr Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, to be on the shortlist to be the next Bishop of Southwark. He is understood to be the favoured candidate. Dr John is a hugely divisive figure in the church after he was forced to stand down from becoming the Bishop of Reading in 2003 after it emerged he was in a homosexual, but celibate, relationship.
Promoting him to one of the most senior offices in the Church would trigger a civil war between liberals and conservatives and exacerbate existing divisions within the Anglican Communion. Members of the Crown Nominations Commission, the body responsible for selecting bishops, will vote this week on whether Dr John's name should now be put forward to the Prime Minister for final approval. 
Jonathan Wynne-Jones points out that:
Senior bishops led the opposition to his appointment in 2003, while African archbishops claimed that it would tear apart the Anglican Communion if an openly gay cleric was made bishop in the Church of England, considered to be the mother church. The Communion has already begun to unravel following the appointment of openly gay and openly lesbian bishops in the US Episcopal Church.
He claims, "This could shatter Dr Williams' hopes of maintaining the fragile unity which currently exists in the Church." If it does, Dr Williams will have done so knowingly and willingly and therefore culpably.

Read more here

Senior Anglican Resignations Mark the Repudiation of Liberalism

In a typically Anglican understatement, a press release from the Anglican Communion News Service tries to put a positive spin on what can only be described as a humiliating embarrassment for Archbishop Rowan Williams.

It reports the appointment of two new people to the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, lists the agenda for the next meeting, and then adds:
"They will also be discussing Standing Committee membership issues including electing a successor to Bp Azad Marshall, Bishop of Iran, and noting the resignations of Archbishops Justice Akrofi and Henry Orombi."
I wonder if they will be 'discussing' the reasons for these resignations. Losing one Archbishop is bad enough but losing two and a half is just plain embarrassing.

In April, Archbishop Orombi wrote a letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams raising concerns that the Standing Committee has assumed "enhanced responsibility" and expressing his dismay that its membership includes representatives from the U.S.-based Episcopal Church.

Matthew Davies of the Episcopal News Service has a fuller explanation:
Orombi was elected in February 2007 by his fellow primates to represent Africa on the Standing Committee, but he has not attended any of its meetings. Akrofi attended the committee's last meeting in December 2009 as Orombi's alternate.

Bishop Azad Marshall of the Diocese of Iran also resigned from the Standing Committee in late June, yet no explanation has been given.

The committee is made up of 15 members elected from among the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion's main policy-making body. The Primates Meeting also elects alternates who serve when the elected member is unable to attend.
The Anglican Communion Office release said that "the two new additions and the existing members face a packed agenda for their July meeting that includes reports on finance, mission, the Anglican Relief and Development Alliance, evangelism and church growth, and unity, faith and order including the progress of consideration of the Anglican Communion Covenant by the provinces." The Anglican Covenant is a set of principles intended to bind the Anglican Communion in light of recent disagreements over human sexuality issues and theological interpretation. The covenant is currently in its final draft and has been sent to the communion's 38 provinces for formal consideration.
These resignations are to be welcomed. There is a cancer at the heart of Anglicanism. Denial will merely delay the necessity of invasive surgery to save the body . If the Standing Committee will not act, the Primates Council of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans will.

Middle East President Bishop Mouneer Anis, who resigned his membership in February saying that his presence has "no value whatsoever" and that his voice is "like a useless cry in the wilderness." That may have been how John the Baptist felt languishing in prison awaiting his execution. But that is not how the Lord Jesus saw his role.
"Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: " 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John..." (Luke 7:24-28)

One day I believe we will see the decisions of Archbishops Justice Akrofi and Henry Orombi and Bishops Azad Marshall and Mouneer Anis in a similar light.


Thursday, 1 July 2010

Raising the Stakes in Gaza: Palestinians Set to Break the Blockade

Norman Finkelstein reports of happenings in Gaza where ordinary Palestinians are raising the stakes by approaching the Separation Barrier and Israel does not know what to do.
What will Israel do then? Shoot the thousands approaching the fence?…One can already envision the headlines calling for the dismantling of the walls of the world’s largest prison. And just as the flotilla forced us to remove the economic blockade, so such demonstrations will break the limitations of Palestinian free movement, and force Israel to open the crossings to human movement as well….As Israel sees it, exporting from Gaza is a red line today. Strengthening the economy means strengthening and shoring up Hamas’s rule, and this is liable to obscure the distinction between Gaza and the West Bank. In the Israeli view, the West Bank must prosper and Gaza must wither, so that the Palestinians understand which is preferable.
Read more here