Saturday, 30 October 2010

Will the US support the Israeli military with velcro again?

Richard Silverstein reported yesterday that the Israeli Defence Force had just censored reporting in the Israeli media about war game exercise training in preparation for an attack on Iran.
Until they were censored a few hours ago, Israeli news reported a series of critical war games conducted with the Greek air force (take that Turkey!) which simulated an attack on Iran and subsequent attacks on Lebanon and Syria to quell their responses to the Iranian bombardment. Now, the Israeli reports talk about an “attack on a distant target” whereas the uncensored version specified Iran. Foreign sources such as Maan use this uncensored headline (in Arabic): “Israel Air Force exercise simulates attacks against Iran.” I’m displaying an Israeli TV Channel 2 which says “IDF continues to train for Iran attack.” You won’t find this headline anymore. The IDF has ordered it censored.

Channel 2′s military correspondent noted during the now-censored video segment that the coming year would be a “decisive one” concerning the Iran threat. We’ve been hearing that exact phrasing for years now. But this somehow doesn’t comfort me much.The exercise included activation of missile defenses (e.g. Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome) on the premise that Syrian and Hezbollah missiles from the north, and Hamas missiles from the south, would be fired on Israeli cities.
Yesterday I just happen to be talking to a retired US Air Force pilot who saw action in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Apparently the US not ony provided logistic support to Israel through Operation Nickel Grass.

US jets were also flown to Israel and repainted with Israeli markings and the Star of David. US Air Force pilots removed their military insignia and became 'civilian' pilots subcontracted to the Israeli Air Force.

If Israel does pre-emptively strike against Iran, as seems inevitable, I wonder what level of support the US Administration will offer this time. I do know their military insignia are now attached to their uniforms with velcro.

With God on our Side: US Tour Photos

View the highlights of the With God on our Side US tour here and also on Flickr.

See photos taken on the first US tour here

Providence in Pensacola

This morning at about 4.30am I was in Pensacola Airport at the end of an amazing two week US tour promoting the film With God on our Side with Porter Speakman when we bumped into Bishop Martyn Minns and his delightful family. We had a coffee together before continuing on our respective journeys. We last met at the launch of the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem two years ago.  The Anglican Communion has changed radically in that short time. With leaders like Bishop Martyn, however, there is hope for the future of the Church of England.

Martyn Minns was elected to serve as the founding Missionary Bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) on June 28, 2006. He was duly consecrated a bishop on August 20, 2006 and installed as bishop May 5, 2007.

As CANA’s Missionary Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns provides leadership, pastoral support, and encouragement to a growing movement of faithful Anglican clergy and congregations in North America. CANA is a duly constituted convocation initiated by the largest Province of the Anglican Communion (in terms of active membership the Church of Nigeria has about 18 million members) and endorsed by Primates of the Anglican Communion. Thus, CANA has established its own indigenous episcopate and office in the USA and provides Americans an authentic connection to the Anglican Communion. At this time, CANA is larger than nearly 50 dioceses in The Episcopal Church in terms of weekend worship attendance.

The Anglican Church of San Antonio

See also this Newsweek article

On Being a Peace Church

Jonathan Martin is the Senior Pastor of Renovatus: A Church for People Under Renovation in Charlotte, NC. He wrote this piece entitled, Pastoring a Peace Church on his blog following the showing of With God on our Side at his church.

"Last night, Renovatus had the great honor of hosting a screening of the film With God on Our Side, with Producer/Director Porter Speakman Jr. and Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer as our special guests.  It was a powerful, and for me at least, gut-wrenching experience.  Speakman’s film is a devastating critique of Christian Zionism, which often results in uncritical support for any and all policies of Israel as a nation-state.  In North America especially, this system is deeply related to dispensationalism, a relatively modern theological system that interprets Scripture (particularly as it relates to eschatology–how we think about the end of time), according to a particular grid.

Porter’s film tells a side of the story that is not often heard in the evangelical Church (and I fear in our context, the Pentecostal Church).  In his own words, as an 80-minute documentary it does not present all sides of the conflict, but rather confronts the Western Church with stories and struggles of brothers and sisters whose voice is not often heard.  I had tried to prepare our congregation that this is a provocative film that would promote robust conversations.  And in that regard, the evening did not disappoint.  We had a packed house which included many that were not from the Renovatus community.  And as anybody who attended the Q and A last night would tell you, the conversations generated from the floor got somewhat heated.

I had many things ringing in my ear when the evening was over.  First and foremost, I am proud and thankful to serve as pastor of one of the greatest churches in the world, a brave community that forces people to ask hard questions about God, the Church, culture and the world.  The day we stop doing that is the day I get out of the business.  We are the people of God, and we believe the local church is the hope of the world.  So we are not remotely squeamish about having hard conversations and raising difficult questions.  In volatile times, this is a crucial part of our vocation.  I have said before and will say again–Christians who are content with pat answers and are unwilling or disinclined to wrestle with big questions about what it means to be the Church are NOT going to feel comfortable at Renovatus.  Keeping you uncomfortable is practically a core value of our local body.

This is all a long way of saying I was thrilled with the turnout last night (including those who came out to essentially protest the film), and thrilled at the hours of conversation I was blessed to have when it was over.  I am especially thankful for the courage and vision of both Speakman and Sizer, who showed exemplary grace under fire.

But it did leave me with nagging questions about my own role in all of this.  I still have the first-hand accounts of Palestinian brothers and sisters ringing in my ears, stories I feel personally accountable to share.  The weight of all I have learned under my spiritual grandmother, Margaret Gaines, is tremendous.  And if I am honest, in the course of several years of intensity in leading a thriving young Christian community, I do not feel like I have stewarded those stories well.  I have in my possession a document that (so far as I know) nobody else has access to–a short but potent little book Margaret wrote called Small Enough to Stop the Violence.  It is unpublished to date.  Margaret is often received as a saint within my tradition, so we often regard her life of service with a kind of reverent awe–while utterly ignoring what she has had to say.  She is 78 now.  As I sat in the film with tears streaming down my cheeks, I knew I had to do something with what I have been given (even if that means we self-publish the book).

Initially, I thought I might share some sections of the manuscript online as a way of generating interest.  But then I remembered another document in which I already have done much of this…  I contributed a chapter to a book called Pentecostals and Peaceamaking, and I have no idea where it is in terms of production.  But as these issues are more pressing on my heart than ever, I thought it would be appropriate to share some of it with you here.  As you will see, late in the chapter I include large chunks of Margaret’s unpublished work.  I wanted to share it with you in its entirety to give you the broader contours of my pastoral concerns, both in context of these complex matters in the Middle East and beyond.  Ultimately, the chapter attempts to capture something of the essence of Christian peacemaking in our own city.  I wrote it in 2008, and it really could be much stronger.  But I’m sharing it with you with relatively few edits, believing that there is something of the shape and scope of the ideas that need to be heard, albeit in an imperfect form. Without further ado, here is part one (several other sections to follow–so hang with me these next few days.  Several names have been changed for obvious reasons.)"

Thanks Jonathan! I look forward to reading the next installment.

Source: Jonathan Martin

Israeli Settlers Burn Church in Jerusalem

Church officials say arson was behind the fire at the Jerusalem Alliance Church, claiming extremist settlers burned a church on Prophets Street in Jerusalem on Friday.

Zachariah al-Mashriqi , one of the leaders of the church, condemned the crime and said it was intended to destabilize relations between the religious groups. He said the attack should be seen in the context of others by extremist settlers as a way of baiting Palestinians.

The church was built in 1897 and housed the Palestinian Bible College until 1948, when most parishioners fled the old city during the Nakba.

Al-Mashriqi explained that the information he received indicated that extremist settlers broke several back windows and threw Molotov cocktails into the first floor of the church. He appealed to the political sector and the public to act quickly to protect the city’s sacred sites and called on all priests and holy men to pressure the Israeli government to pursue justice.

Al-Mashriqi also stressed the need for an international authority in Jerusalem to protect the holy sites and the Palestinian population from violence and promote interfaith dialogue.

Source: Palestine News Network and Ma'an News Agency

Caterpillar Withholds Delivery from Israel: Jewish Voice for Peace

Jewish Voice for Peace have just released this important news: Caterpillar has stopped selling bulldozers to Israel... for now.

The Israeli press is reporting that Caterpillar is withholding the delivery of tens of D9 bulldozers—valued at $50 million—to the Israeli military.(1) These are weaponized bulldozers that are used to illegally destroy homes and orchards of Palestinian families. And they are the very same bulldozers as the one that killed a 23-year-old American peace activist named Rachel Corrie seven years ago when she tried to protect the home of the Nasrallah family in Gaza.

That's why the next part of the story is even more amazing. The news reports say that the deliveries have been suspended now because Rachel's parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, are bringing a civil suit against the government of Israel in a court in Tel Aviv.(2) The deliveries are to stop during the length of the trial. We take this as an indirect admission by the company that these bulldozers are being used to violate human rights and to violate the law. The Corrie story is sadly just one of thousands of stories of loss and pain.

A suspension of the sale of bulldozers is what we have been asking Caterpillar for over seven years now. This is a great win, but this is no time to let off the pressure.

Caterpillar and the U.S. government have neither confirmed nor denied the news. And news reports describe the company's move as a temporary decision only. To urge the U.S. government to make this policy permanent, please sign the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s petition to President Obama to continue this new policy

Read more from Jewish Voice for Peace here

Read also more about the Caterpillar Divestment Campaign 

(1) Report: Caterpillar to delay supply of D9 bulldozers to IDF. Jerusalem Post, Oct 25, 2010, as well as Israel's Channel 2 TV, October 25, 2010 (evening broadcast in Hebrew).

(2) For updates on the trial, visit the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice.

(3) The statistics are from the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions and run up only until July 28, 2010, a day after the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the northern Negev desert was razed to the ground. The village would be rebuilt and demolished five additional times (see Open Letter to JNF: Equal Rights, Sustainable Development for Negev, Not Dispossession of Bedouin! and El Araqib Village Demolished for Sixth Time.)

Friday, 29 October 2010

Do Palestinians Recognise the State of Israel?

"Let us be clear: Palestinians long ago recognized Israel and its right to exist in peace and security. Twenty-two years ago, to be precise. The peace process that began 17 years ago has repeatedly reaffirmed Palestinian recognition of Israel and its right to exist over 78 percent of our historic homeland.The internationally recognized obstacle to peace is the ongoing Israeli occupation. The problem is Israel's imposition of a "solution" that violates every single aspect of sovereignty while blaming us for not consenting to live in humiliation and subjugation."

Nabil Sha'ath, writes in Haaretz today, an important article in which he asked the rhetorical question, Does Israel want peace or to play the blame game?

Netanyahu's strategy is clear: He refuses to engage in serious negotiations with us on borders, security, Jerusalem and refugees, while he simultaneously peddles his own positions in public. During three months of proximity talks and our most recent direct meetings, we presented our positions for every permanent status issue, but we never received a single Israeli proposal. Now, all of what was negotiated over 22 years is being ignored as we hear Israel's new preconditions loud and clear through the world's media.
Netanyahu's most recent proposal is a clear example of his strategy: a two-month partial settlement "moratorium" in exchange for an official Palestinian declaration that Israel is a Jewish state. In other words, he demands for the Palestinian leadership to undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees and the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Sha'ath concludes:
If Israel's leadership is not content with Palestinian recognition of Israel over 78 percent of historic Palestine and diplomatic relations with 57 of its neighbors, then we must ask ourselves: Is the government of Israel engaged in the negotiation process to reach peace, or is Israel engaged in this process to advance a public relations campaign and buy time to continue its colonial enterprise on our occupied territory?
The question is not, "Do Palestinians recognise the State of Israel?" but rather "Do Israelis recognise the reciprocal rights of Palestinians?"

Read the whole article here

If you don't like the message slander the messenger

How do Christian Zionists typically respond to critics? In particular, what kind of response is the film With God on our Side attracting on the US Tour?

I can only gauge it from the feedback after the film (which tends to be polite, but not always) and from emails like these ones received this week.

Someone by the name of Scott wrote,
Your anti-semetic rants hurt the cause of Christ greatly.  Hitler would have loved you.  You look pretty old, so you'll be meeting God soon anyway.  I'm increasing my giving to Jewish causes, thanks to you, today. - a Christian. 
Ben has a Russian email address so I forgive his spelling. He wrote,
You are vile English nationalist, British imperialist, racist, antisemit,Christian bigot-classical type of lost impire weeper.
I assume he meant 'Empire'. A lady called Ruth wrote more charitably,
Are you deluded, blinded or just plain ignorant? Instead of wasting time with false teaching, inflammatory books and films why don't you read your Bible. Start with Genesis 12 verse 3. Replacement Theology is a lie from the pit, is not scriptural and is likely to get you into trouble with the Almighty. Try Hebrews 10 v 31. I hope you turn from the lies you are preaching under the banner of Christianity. In Jesus' Name.
I decided to reply to Ruth:
Thank you for your email. Genesis 12:3 says:

I will bless those who bless you,
       and whoever curses you I will curse;
       and all peoples on earth
       will be blessed through you."

It was a personal promise made by Almighty God to Abraham, no one else, and certainly not to those who have rejected Jesus.

In Acts 3:24-26 the Apostle Peter says this promise of blessing was fulfilled through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all who believe in Jesus at Pentecost, Jews and Gentiles.

"Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed. When God  raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."

The promise of Abraham is fulfilled in and through Jews and Gentiles who recognise Jesus.

The Apostle Paul insists in Romans 4,

"It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations."[c] He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were." (Romans 4:13-17)

And if there were any doubt about whether racial descent from Abraham is sufficient, Paul insists,

"A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:28-29)

The promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 has therefore been fulfilled in and through Jews and Gentiles who recognise Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour.  If this is 'Replacement' theology in your eyes, then I plead guilty.
But Paul offers this sober warning to those who presume that racial decent gives them exclusive right, for example, to the promise of Genesis 12:3.
"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself," (Romans 2:1)

May the Lord bless you and your family.
That must of softened Ruth's heart because she replied, "If I came across as judging you then I apologise as that is only God's prerogative. However, I would seriously question your theology, based on Scripture." but without commenting on my exegesis of Genesis 12.

Another email came from a lady called Hazel. She clearly has the 'gift' of evangelism  
I have been praying that you will come into a personal relationship with the living Jesus Christ. I believe that once this happens you will no longer spread the spiritual lies and deception which you do with the kind of vengeance that no true believer would have. You are very dangerous to the Kingdom of Christ. Why not just openly declare that you are an atheist instead of pretending to be a believer who tries to put the believing Church right on issues such as Christian Zionism. I am not against any people - only those who preach deception deliberately.
I am happy with the personal relationship I already have with Jesus and have no plans to convert to atheism.

Someone else by the name of Scott 'thoughtfully' wrote,  
You are another reason to love Israel, fight for Zionism and despise the anglicans, hope I get ring side seats for the Great White throne judgement when your sick lil ass gets sentenced to hell!
I'm troubled by anyone who claims to be a Christian who seems to relish the judgement of others, even if Anglicans like me deserve it.

I learnt an important lesson from Richard Bewes, the former Anglican Rector of All Souls, Langham Place, London. He once told me that whenever he received an 'anonymous' letter, he published it on the church noticeboard so that everyone could read it. That's why I figured I'd post these criticisms on my blog.I hope they give encouragenment to others to speak up for justice, peace and reconciliation and not be intimidated by those who have another agenda.

Last night, my daily Bible reading was chapter 3 of Paul's Epistle to Titus. The first verse reads, "be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone." (Titus 3:1)

Is Israel an Apartheid State? South African Government Report says Yes

Do Israel’s practices in occupied Palestinian territory, namely the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, amount to the crimes of colonialism and apartheid under international law? A summary of a legal study by HSRC of South Africa.

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, in its efforts to eliminate and prevent the kind of suffering the South African and Namibian people suffered under apartheid, commissioned a legal study of the Israel-Palestine situation. “The aim of this project was to scrutinize the situation from the nonpartisan perspective of international law, rather than engage in political discourse and rhetoric.”

This fifteen-month collaborative study set out to examine legally the question:

Do Israel’s practices in occupied Palestinian territory, namely the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, amount to the crimes of colonialism and apartheid under international law?

The study was comprehensive including discussion of pertinent international law and legal rulings, the legal status and laws governing historic Palestine from Ottoman times to present, Israeli law, discussion and rebuttal of Israel’s various legal arguments as to why international law does not apply, and a very detailed review of Israel’s practices weighed against this legal context and compared to similar practices carried out by the government of South Africa during apartheid.

To fully explore this issue, the evidence offered in the study was very broad including Israel’s practices within the state of Israel proper, Israel’s practices regarding Palestinian refugees, and Israel’s practices in occupied Palestinian territory; however, the legal question asked and conclusions drawn about apartheid were limited to Israel’s practices after 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Apartheid defined under international law

Apartheid is defined as an institutionalized form of racism in which states enact laws which function as the apparatus to commit inhuman acts for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.

Apartheid regimes rely on three “Pillars of Apartheid” to maintain their domination

  • Pillar 1: The state codifies into law a preferred identity, and then establishes adjunct laws that grant preferential legal status and material privileges to the preferred group on the basis of their identity while discriminating against the non-preferred group on the basis of the inferior status afforded them.
  • Pillar 2: The state segregates the population into geographic areas based on their identity. The favored identity receives preferential access to land, water, other resources, and to government benefits and services while the non-preferred group is confined to ever shrinking non-contiguous besieged territorial enclaves.
  • Pillar 3: The state establishes security laws and policies designed to suppress any opposition to the regime. The system of domination is reinforced through assassinations; administrative detention; torture; cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment; and arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of the non-preferred advisory opinion on the question of Israel’s practices in occupied Palestinian territory.
Using these criteria, the May 2009 South African study found that “Israel, since 1967, is the belligerent Occupying Power in occupied Palestinian territory, and that its occupation of these territories has become a colonial enterprise which implements a system of apartheid.”

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA has summarized the findings of this study to make the results accessible to the public, to help people understand that talk of apartheid is more than just rhetoric, and to provide a tool which concerned citizens can use to help bring an end to Israel’s apartheid regime.

Read the full report here

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Is Netanyahu, Lieberman's poodle?

Is Netanyahu, Lieberman's poodle? Ari Shavit thinks so. That is his answer to the question, What is paralyzing Benjamin Netanyahu? published in Haaretz today. He writes,
Netanyahu is gradually turning himself into Lieberman's poodle. He is behaving like someone who has been abducted by Yisrael Beiteinu and given himself over completely to his captors. A strange version of the Stockholm Syndrome is leading Bibi to serve Lieberman even as Lieberman ties his hands, abuses him and forces on him a humiliating political death.
You have to feel a little sympathy for Netanyahu. Shavit observes,
The reality Bibi is facing is an incomparably cruel one. The president of the United States is after him. The Palestinians are acting hostile toward him. The international community has turned its back on him. At the same time, Lieberman is sucking his blood. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Likud's Silvan Shalom want his head.
Perhaps a little war with Iran will revive his popularity. The Falkland's War did wonders for Margaret Thatcher. Read the rest of the article here.

The Parable of the 'Good' Palestinian

Yesterday I gave a sermon at the chapel service for the staff of World Vision in Washington. I was in DC with Porter Speakman to show the film With God on our Side at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation. You can watch a preview here.

At the World Vision chapel service, I spoke about the parable of the 'good' Samaritan. The Samaritans lived in what is now the Occupied West Bank, so if Jesus were telling the story today, he might have used a Palestinian as the good guy. Incidentally, the word 'good' does not appear anywhere in the story. That gives us a clue to what we have done to the story - we have domesticated it and think its a sweet story about being nice to people. But there is more to it - much more.

In reply to a question from a lawyer, Jesus told a story, a parable. A parable is simply a story with a kick in the tail, a story in which we find ourselves an active if unwitting participant rather than an objective observer or innocent passerby.

This parable of Jesus is as topical and controversial today as it was to those who first heard him. Jesus’ audience would have been very familiar with tales of hapless victims, robbed or murdered on that very road. Even today the road from Jerusalem down to Jericho isn’t the kind of road to take the family on a Sunday afternoon picnic. So Jesus had their attention. Christ talked about violence and danger – and we certainly have plenty of that today. He talked about crime, racial discrimination, fear and hatred. In this parable we also see neglect and concern, we see love and mercy. We know very well what the parable says, but what does it mean?

Check out the sermon here.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Exodus. The changing map of the Middle East

Robert Fisk, writing in the Independent, has a major article examining the worrying exodus of Christians from the Middle East which he describes as of 'biblical proportions'. He writes,
... the Christians are leaving. Across the Middle East, it is the same story of despairing – sometimes frightened – Christian minorities, and of an exodus that reaches almost Biblical proportions. Almost half of Iraq's Christians have fled their country since the first Gulf War in 1991, most of them after the 2004 invasion – a weird tribute to the self-proclaimed Christian faith of the two Bush presidents who went to war with Iraq – and stand now at 550,000, scarcely 3 per cent of the population. More than half of Lebanon's Christians now live outside their country. Once a majority, the nation's one and a half million Christians, most of them Maronite Catholics, comprise perhaps 35 per cent of the Lebanese. Egypt's Coptic Christians – there are at most around eight million – now represent less than 10 per cent of the population. 
He concludes
And while Western Christians routinely deplore the falling Christian populations of the Middle East, their visits to the region tend to concentrate on pilgrimages to Biblical sites rather than meetings with their Christian opposite numbers.
Americans, so obsessed by the myths of East-West "clashes of civilisation" since 11 September 2001, often seem to regard Christianity as a "Western" rather than an Eastern religion, neatly separating the Middle East roots of their own religion from the lands of Islam. That in itself is a loss of faith.

King Abdullah II of Jordan recently described the Christians as the glue of the Middle East. Only time will tell whether US foreign policy in the Middle East and in particular, its one sided support for Israel, has been a primary or secondary reason why the exodus of Christians has turned from a trickle into a flood. If Iraq is a barometer, then the future of the indigenous Chrsitian community across the Middle East does not look good.

Read more of Robert Fisk's article here

With Friends like These...

Just landed in sunny, humid, glorious West Palm Beach to show the film With God on our Side to faculty and students at Palm Beach Atlantic University this evening. PBA is Florida's flagship Christian university with a core emphasis in the liberal arts.  

The US tour has been an amazing success - with showings in large conservative and charismatic evangelical churches as well as three other Christian universities on the West coast in California and Washington State. These included California Baptist University in Los Angeles, Pepperdine University in Malibu, Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, Seattle and the Life Center Church in Tacoma.

Last night, Porter Speakman and I flew from Seattle across to the East coast for the second week of the tour beginning today at Palm Beach Atlantic. 

Faculty and students at PBA were unanimously enthusiastic about the film. Feedback invariably included words like 'stunned' and 'awesome' with students admitting they had never heard from a Palestinian Christin perspective before.

Tomorrow we fly to Charlotte and then to DC. You can view the schedule here.

Not everyone has been happy with the film. A few people have taken the trouble to express their opinions by email - usually anonymously. The printable ones included this from someone called Scott:
You are another reason to love Israel, fight for Zionism and despise the anglicans, hope I get ring side seats for the Great White throne judgement when your sick lil ass gets sentenced to hell!
I suggested in reply that I didn't think this was the kind of sentiment Jesus had in mind when he invited the Pharisees to cast the first stone in John 8. Another guy wrote to tell me he was a 'Bible toting, gun carrying, born again believer".  I wasn't sure if he was trying to impress me or intimidate me. Either way, it didn't work.

I suggest these are not the kind of 'friends' Israel needs right now either.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Lets Roll: Week Two of 'With God on our Side' US Tour

I’m currently sitting at the Seattle / Tacoma airport with Porter Speakman Jr awaiting our “red eye” flight to West Palm Beach, Florida for the second week of the “With God On Our Side” film tour which now heads East.

My body clock is real confused and I have not had enough caffine yet, so Porter writes,

"This week we screened at 5 different locations (California Baptist University in Los Angeles, Pepperdine University in Malibu, Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, Seattle and Life Center Church in Tacoma).

"All of the screenings have been well attended with good discussions and questions following the film. Again and again we have seen that in all locations people are being exposed to a side of the story that they have never heard before and it has expanded their understanding of what is happening in Israel and Palestine."

"It is encouraging that we are hearing more people not only wanting to get involved but wanting to share what they have learned with others and wanting to host their own screenings."

Here are the dates and locations for next week. If you are able – join us!

Palm Beach Atlantic University, FL
October 25, 2010
(Private Screening)

North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
October 26, 2010
Withers Hall Auditorium (Room 232A)
Lampe Drive, North Campus – 7:00 PM

Washington, DC

October 27, 2010 – 7:00 PM
The Lutheran Church of the Reformation
212 East Capitol Street, NE – Capitol Hill

Charlotte, NC,
October 28, 2010 – 7:00 PM
Renovatus Church
 1209 Little Rock Road 28214

Silver Hill, AL
Silverhill Covenant Church
October 29, 2010 – 6:30 PM
4th Street and Hwy 104
Silverhill, AL

You can also follow the tour on:

With God On Our Side – Facebook

With God On Our Side – Twitter

    Sunday, 24 October 2010

    Games with Hayden

    Games with Hayden is one cool website. Watching Hayden give you the low down on the games scene makes me wish I was a child again, or maybe a grandfather... I'm biased because Hayden's father Mark, used to be our Youth Pastor and it was great to catch up with them yesterday in Seattle.

    Our goal is to encourage you to turn off the TV, pull out a board game, and spend some quality time with your family.

    Go for it.

    Westminster Chapel Hosts Film 'With God on our Side'

    Last night, Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, Seattle, hosted the film With God on our Side. Showing in a series entitled, the Director's Cut, the Senior Pastor of Westminster Chapel, Gary Gulbranson hosted the evening. The auditorium was packed with people from other local churches enthusiastic to see the film. The lively Q&A following revealed a thoughtful audience deeply affected by the film, wanting to engage with the local church in Israel/Palestine in their ministry of justice, peacemaking and reconciliation.

    A representative of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) attended and contributed to the Q&A. Despite the fact that the film is critical of CUFI's role in perpetuating the injustices of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the  conversation was constructive and respectful, demonstrating a willingness to dialogue further on the best way to resolve the conflict.

    Check out the feedback previous venues on the tour - from California Baptist University in Los Angeles, Pepperdine University in Malibu and Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. For the full schedule see here.

    Saturday, 23 October 2010

    Resisting the Occupation at Michigan University

    On October 20 2010, two IDF soldiers visited the University of Michigan campus as part of a national PR campaign by Stand With Us aimed at justifying Israel's recent atrocities in the Middle East.

    Students, staff, and community members collectively engaged in a silent walk-out in memory and in solidarity with all of the silenced Palestinian children that were killed by the IDF during Israel's most recent offensive on the Gaza Strip who are unable to take a stand and give their account today.

    Way to go. Now there are some IDF soldiers worth listening to. They have formed Breaking the Silence.

    On our US tour of universities promoting the film With God on our Side we are seeing the same determination among students to get involved in direct non-violent action to help end the illegal occupation of Palestine peacefully and promote justice, peace and reconcilition between Israelis and Palestinians.

    Check out the feedback from California Baptist University in Los Angeles, Pepperdine University in Malibu and Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. For the full schedule see here.

    Friday, 22 October 2010

    Israel’s apartheid demands a response

    Ben White writes one of his most provocative pieces in today's Varsity, the Cambridge University Newspaper. Entitled, "Israel’s apartheid demands a response" he insists students shoud get behind boycotts, divestment and sanctions as the best way to bring Israel's illegal occupation of Occupied Palestine to an end, peacefully. Cynical of the language used by Zionists to justify the land grab he compares their rhetoric with that used by other racists a generation ago in the US and South Africa.
    A popular tactic by Israel’s defenders – particularly on campus – is to urge ‘dialogue’ and ‘moderation’, the same patronising words heard from preservers of the status quo in the segregated Deep South and apartheid South Africa. In 1963, Martin Luther King wrote from jail about the accusation being levelled by white ‘moderates’ that the civil rights movement was ‘creating tension’. King pointed out that activists were "not the creators of tension" but were bringing "to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive".
     On the BDS campaign he insists:
    The call for boycott from Palestinians is supported by courageous, dissident Jewish Israelis, like the ‘Boycott from Within’ group and Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. Internationally, groups like Jewish Voice for Peace in the US, and Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods in the UK, show that there is no single Jewish community or viewpoint.
    It is time to choose which side we are on:

    The real division is between those on the side of human rights and international law, and those invested in shoring up and excusing colonisation, dispossession and segregation. Israel’s apartheid policies are unsustainable and undermine the hopes of both Palestinians and Jewish Israelis to live in peace. There is another way, one of inclusion and equality, but it won’t be easy to realise this vision. Everyone can play a part.
    Read the whole article here

    Point Loma University hosts film With God on our Side

    Point Loma Nazarene University Film Forum in Santa Monica, California, hosted the showing of the new film With God on our Side last night.

    Faculty and students alike praised the film for its balanced presentation of the destructive consequences of  Christian Zionism. The Q&A which followed indicated there is a groundswell of support among young evangelical Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel and Palestine, and who want to embrace a theology that doesn't favor one people group over another but instead promotes justice, peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians.

     During the panel discussion afterward, which was chaired by Dr William A. Wood, Professor of History at Point Loma, the audience of faculty and students tackled some of the thorney issues such as the illegality of the Israeli settlements and US funding for their expansion. Theological issues addressed included the inclusive nature of God's people under the Old Covenant as well as the new Covenant. For more on the discuussion see here.

      1. For the Love of Zion: The Bible tells them so
      2. Israel and the Church: Who are God’s chosen people?
      3. The Promised Land: From the Nile to the Euphrates?
      4. Battle for Jerusalem: The Eternal Capital of the Jews?
      5. The Coming Last Day’s Temple: Ready to Rebuild?
      6. Overture to Armageddon: Want to be left behind?

    A Bible study guide for individual as well as group that compliments the film is available here and as an iPhone app.

    This was the third straight home run on consecutive nights for the film's producer, Porter Speakman, following equally popular showings of the film at California Baptist University in Los Angeles and Pepperdine University in Malibu. Tomorrow the US national tour heads for Seattle. For the full schedule see here.

    Children of a Lesser God?

    Ahmad Tibi is the deputy speaker of the Israeli Parliament. Writing in the New York Times, he delivers a timely challenge to the US Administration and American people about the consequences of their unbridled political and economic support for racist policies by the Israeli government toward the Palestinians. In an article entitled The Other Citizens of Israel, he asks,
    Is there no limit to what the American government will accept from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman?
    With Netanyahu’s backing, the Israeli cabinet voted in support of Lieberman’s loyalty oath for non-Jewish immigrants, which requires allegiance to a “Jewish and democratic state” of Israel. It was as if Mexican immigrants to the United States would have to swear allegiance to a United States that is white and Protestant, while immigrants from Europe would face no such oath. In response to an international outcry, notwithstanding silence from American officials, Netanyahu has called for an amendment that would impose the oath on all immigrants, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

    But there is far more wrong with the loyalty oath than simply the original intent of applying it only to non-Jews. Swearing allegiance to an Israel that is Jewish and democratic is logically inconsistent and an attempt to relegate Palestinian citizens of Israel to inferior status. Palestinian citizens of Israel comprise 20 percent of the population. The insistence of some Jewish leaders on the state being “Jewish” is a punch in the gut to Palestinians who for more than 60 years have struggled to achieve equal rights in Israel.

    At a time when there are over 35 laws that discriminate against Palestinians, and with more working their way through the Knesset, it is long past time for Americans to ask their political leaders what their tax money is funding in Israel.

    The arrogance of the Israeli prime minister’s initial demands toward a relatively small number of non-Jewish immigrants (remember that Israel actively promotes Jewish immigration while strenuously working against the return of Palestinians to stolen homes and properties) also extends to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
    He concludes:
    One reason American moral authority has fallen so far in this part of the world is that Arabs do not believe they are inferior to Jews. We are equals — or should be. And the unwillingness of the United States to push its Israeli ally to uphold the equality of all its citizens is not only a grave disappointment, but a strong reason to challenge the United States as the leader of the free world.

    The United States will not be regarded as such a leader so long as it is content to back and encourage an Israeli leadership recklessly racing to enshrine the legal superiority of Jews over Palestinians. 
    Read more here

    The most pro-Israel President in history accused of anti-Semitism

    Matt Duss has written an insightful piece over at the Wonk Room detailing why Zionists should thank their cotton socks for President Obama's unconditional support, and not be so dumb in accusing him of being anti-Semitic. He writes, "Please spare me the nonsense that President Obama is anti-Israel." 
    I know this is a crazy, radical idea — when America asks Israel to do something that in no way touches on its vital security but would actually enhance it, there is only one right answer: “Yes.” It is a measure of how spoiled Israel has become that after billions and billions of dollars in U.S. aid and 300,000 settlers already ensconced in the West Bank, Israel feels no compunction about spurning an American request for a longer settlement freeze — the only purpose of which is to help the United States help Israel reach a secure peace with the Palestinians. Just one time you would like Israel to say, “You know, Mr. President, we’re dubious that a continued settlement freeze will have an impact. But you think it will, so, let’s test it. This one’s for you.”

    To put this in a bit of context, let’s understand there’s simply no serious argument to be made that President Obama hasn’t been, by any objective measure, an extremely pro-Israel president. He has remained committed to ensuring Israel’s qualitative military edge, raising the amount of U.S. military aid to Israel, making it the single largest expense of the 2010 foreign aid budget. Obama also authorized $205 million to enable Israel to complete its Iron Dome short-range missile defense system.

    Obama has significantly increased the level of strategic dialogue and the depth of intelligence coordination between our two countries, particularly in regard to Iran. According an Israeli official I spoke to in June, that coordination is now “even better than under President Bush.”
    Obama has expanded trade between Israel and the U.S., and played an extremely important behind-the-scenes role in bringing about Israel’s acceptance into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

    Obama went before the United Nations General Assembly in September and challenged the international community to support Arab-Israeli peace, insisting before the world that “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” declaring that “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”

    And yet, when President Obama, acting in the clear security interests of both the U.S. and Israel, undertook, in the pursuit of a peace agreement, to hold Israel to a settlement freeze to which it had already agreed, he was rebuffed. After months of cajoling Obama finally got Netanyahu to agree to a partial, temporary freeze, which has now expired, with Netanyahu refusing to extend it despite a staggeringly generous offer of additional incentives from Obama.
    Read more of Matt Duss here

    Thursday, 21 October 2010

    Pepperdine Hosts Film 'With God on our Side'

    Faculty at Pepperdine University, California, gave their enthusiastic support last night to the showing on campus of the film With God on our Side. Students were given academic credit for watching the film dealing with Christian Zionism and the main impediments to peace in the Middle East. The auditorium was at near capacity with over 200 student and faculty present despite the showing commencing at 9.00pm. The Q&A afterwards was lively and indicated a high level of engagement with the issues of peace and justice. Pepperdine is a Christian university with conservative roots.

    Pepperdine Screens Documentary Exploring Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, With God on Our Side

    The Office of Intercultural Affairs (ICA), Middle East Peace and Awareness (MEPA), and the Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture (EMC) will partner to present a screening of the ground-breaking new documentary, With God on Our Side, on Wednesday, Oct. 20, at 9 p.m. in Elkins Auditorium, Malibu. Following the screening, EMC director Craig Detweiler will conduct a Q&A with director Porter Speakerman Jr. and theologian Stephen Sizer.

    Touching the important topics of Christian faith, American politics, and ethnic identity, With God on Our Side explores how the theology and politics of American Evangelicals has shaped the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film also gives voice to fellow Palestinian Christians and allows them to share their perspective. Combining interviews with on-the-ground footage, With God on Our Side takes an unabashed look at the way what we believe and how we vote affects others half-way around the world.

    This film demonstrates 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 both Jews and Palestinians."

    The praise for With God on Our Side has been widespread. Steve Haas of World Vision said "I dare anyone to see this film and remain unchanged." Both Christianity Today and Sojourners praised the film for shedding light on one of the most forgotten people groups in the world—Palestinian Christians.

    Find our more about the film here and download a Bible study guide here

    Wednesday, 20 October 2010

    Israel's Longstanding Middle East Plan

    Steve Lendman has written an important article about Israel's Longstanding Middle East Plan. It helps explain why successive Israeli leaders have insisted on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state while refusing to declare what they consider its borders to be.
    In 1982, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs senior advisor Oded Yinon published a revealing document for regional conquest and dominance. Still relevant today, it's titled "A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s, translated, edited, and retitled "The Zionist Plan for the Middle East" by distinguished Professor Israel Shahak (1933 - 2001), longtime activist, analyst, and outspoken Israeli critic.

    Its publisher, the Association of Arab-American University Graduates called it "the most explicit, detailed and unambiguous statement to date of the Zionist strategy in the Middle East....Its importance....lies not in its historical value but in the nightmare which it represents," what thereafter continued to unfold.

    Its two essential premises include:

    -- to survive, Israel must dominate the region and become a world power, and

    -- succeeding requires dividing Arab nations into small states - Balkanizing them along ethnic and sectarian lines as Israeli satellites, controllable satraps, the idea modeled after the Ottoman Empire's Millet (or nation) system under which local authorities governed confessional communities with separate ethnic identities.

    Israel's 1967 Golan seizure and 1978 and 1982 Lebanon invasions followed the plan, Yinon noting "far-reaching opportunities for the first time since 1967, (created by the) very stormy situation surround(ing) Israel," resurrected whenever Israel wishes. Its method involves preemptive belligerence against Palestinians and regional states, making them all eventual targets to be weakened, fragmented, divided, and reconfigured under Israeli control.
    He concludes:
    In 1985, Israeli President and Labor Party leader Chaim Herzog echoed the views of hardline extremists like Sharon and Netanyahu:

    "We are certainly not willing to make partners of the Palestinians in any way in a land that was holy to our people for thousands of years. There can be no partner with the Jews of this land," leaving resettlement (expulsion) the only option, a favored policy today, the same one revisionist leader Ze've Jabotinsky advocated, including in a 1939 letter, saying:

    "There is no choice: The Arabs must make room for the Jews in Eretz Israel. It it was possible to transfer the Baltic peoples, it is also possible to move the Palestinian Arabs." Most was accomplished in Israel's 1948 "War of Independence," again in the 1967 Six Day War. Thereafter it continued, supported and funded by Israel's Washington paymaster/partner in crime. As a result, Palestinians have been on their own resisting for over six decades, their courage and determination unreported in the West, but global support builds and offers hope.
    Read more of Steve Lendman's article here

    See here for a critique of the Zionist belief that the legitimate Israeli borders extend from the Nile to the Eurphrates taken from my book Zion's Christian Soldiers.

    See here for a sermon on the same theme Where is the promised land?

    Tuesday, 19 October 2010

    California Baptist University Faculty and Students Host 'With God on our Side'

    This week I am in California and Washington State helping Porter Speakman promote the film With God on our Side at the invitation of Christian universities and churches.

    Tonight, about 120 faculty and students at California Baptist University in Riverside gave enthusiastic support for the film. CBU is affiliated to the Southern Baptist Convention. It is encouraging to see a younger generation of conservative American Christian leaders keen to engage with this controversial and divisive issue. Feedback afterwards revealed a healthy skepticism concerning the supposed biblical basis of Christian Zionism, as well as unanimity over its destructive consequences for the Middle East peace process. 

    Tomorrow night we will be at Pepperdime University, Malibu and on Thursday at Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego.

    Porter Speakman, the film's producer writes:
    "The issues surrounding the situation with Israel and the Palestinians, whether they be historical or political bring up very passionate displays of support and activism on all sides. However, it has been my experience that when theology, whether it be Islamic, Judaic or Christian are mixed in with these issues, these passions go to a level that lead to dangerous consequences, starting with a dehumanization of the other "side". As a Christian, I wanted to look deeper at Christian approaches into some of these issues and at a theology called Christian Zionism. Although many Evangelical Christians in the United States may not know what Christian Zionism is, most would adhere to some of the basic beliefs Christian Zionists have toward Israel, the Jewish people and the end times. Christian Zionists believe supporting Israel is a mandate for all Christians and that support also means political support for the State.
    Here are some of thr easons Porter made the film:
    • To bring a different perspective to some of the historical, political and theological viewpoints we just take for granted involving Israel and the Jewish people.
    • To look at the consequences Christian Zionism has on the local people in the Middle East, especially the Palestinians, who are most directly influenced by Christian political support for the State of Israel and it’s policies, which are then defended using the Bible.
    • To raise awareness that there are Palestinian Christians, and these consequences affect them as well Muslim Palestinians.
    • We believe there is an alternative approach to Christian Zionism. An approach that sees both Jews and Palestinians as equal in God’s sight and one that promotes reconciliation, justice and peace.
    • We recognize that most people who adhere to a Christian Zionist theology have the best intentions in mind. They love and support Israel and the Jewish people out of sincere hearts and that what they feel is the Biblical approach to this situation. We also recognize that being “Pro-Israel” in the minds of most Christian Zionists is not synonyms with being “Anti-Arab”. However, this is why it is important to look at what we believe alongside with how it affects people. Good intentions can still have devastating effects. Some of the most tragic events in history have occurred from a bad interpretation of biblical texts and understanding of who God is. Any approach to the Middle East must be one that sees the needs of all people, not just one, because at the heart of who God is, is a God of love who commands us to love one another, whether that be our neighbor or someone we consider our enemy. These are not easy issues to look at and we are all continuing to learn. However we feel it is important to ask questions and we believe no topics are off limits, when the goal is truth.
    Awarding the film four stars, the review in Christianity Today said, "...Christian Zionism is officially on notice..."

    Next week we will be in Florida, Washington DC, North Carolina and Alabama. Check out the screening schedule here

    Will Britain Become Safe Haven for War Criminals?

    Stuart Littlewood  reports on a speech given by William Hague for the Conservative Friends of Israel.
    Hague told the 400 guests: “We have had good discussions with Israeli ministers on universal jurisdiction where the last government left us with an appalling situation where a politician like Mrs Livni could be threatened with arrest on coming to the UK…

    “We have agreed in the coalition about putting it right, we will put it right through legislation that will be introduced… The Justice Secretary will bring into the House of Commons adding to legislation going through the House of Commons later this year and I phoned Mrs Livni amongst others to tell her about that and received a very warm welcome for our proposals”.
    Littlewood asks "Who can forget that Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, was largely responsible for the terror that brought unspeakable death and destruction to Gaza’s civilians nearly 2 years ago? And who’d have believed a British government minister would undermine our justice system in order to make the UK a safe haven for the likes of her?
    The foreign secretary concluded his talk to the CFI by encouraging stronger business links between Israel and Britain and saying he intended to visit Israel in coming weeks. One of the delights awaiting Hague is a meeting with his opposite number, Avigdor Lieberman, who lives in an illegal squat on stolen Palestinian land and is a wanted criminal on that score alone. He is also pushing for 1.3 million Arabs currently living in Israel to be stripped of citizenship and forcibly transferred outside Israel’s future borders.
    William Hague was recruited into the Conservative Friends of Israel at the worryingly tender age of 15. In 2008 he declared: “The unbroken thread of Conservative Party support for Israel that has run for nearly a century from the Balfour Declaration to the present day will continue. Although it will no doubt often be tested in the years ahead, it will remain constant, unbroken, and undiminished by the passage of time.
    Hague told the Jewish Chronicle in an interview: “We don’t approve of expanding settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem because it makes the two-state solution more difficult.”
      Something of an understatement.

    Dutch Police Raid Supplier to Israeli Settlements

    Dutch police raided the offices of a company leasing cranes for building the West Bank Separation Fence and settlements. Company executives, including the Israeli Doron Livnat, may face trial for violating International Law. Dutch government warned the Riwal Company two years ago not to engage in construction in the Occupied Trritories. Gush Shalom: another warning sign of the abyss of international isolation into which the Government of Israel leads us

    Dutch police's National Crime Squad raided the offices of the Riwal Holding Group in the city of Dordrecht, confiscating computers documents relating to the leasing of cranes owned by the the company's Israeli branch for the construction of the "Separation Wall" and of settlements in the Occupied Territories. Police findings have been passed on to the Dutch State Prosecution, which should decide whether or not to prosecute the corporate executives - including the Israeli businessman Doron Livnat – on charges of violating International Law.

    The affair started with the 2004 ruling by the International Court in The Hague, which determined that construction of the "Separation Wall" within the West Bank territory constituted a violation of International Law, and that if Israel wants to build a border fence to prevent infiltration into its territory it should have been placed on the border, i.e. on the Green Line. Accordingly, the International Court judges called for upon all UN member states and Geneva Convention signatories not to cooperate with erection of the Wall and to prevent their citizens from any such cooperation.

    In 2006, a Dutch television crew filmed cranes active in construction of the Separation Fence and of settlements, which bore the Riwal Company logo. Dutch Labour Party MP's raised the issue and addressed parliamentary questions to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. As a result, the Dutch Government in 2008 warned the Riwal company not to engage in activities at the Occupied Territories. But the organization "United Civilians for Peace" in Amsterdam found evidence that the company ignored the government warning and continued this activity.

    Last year the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq of Ramallah engaged the Dutch law firm Bohler. On its behalf, Adv. Liesbeth Zegveld lodged this year a complaint to the legal authorities. The raid on the Riwal Dordrecht offices is a tangible result of this activity.

    Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, regards this episode as yet another alarming sign of Israel's deteriorating international position, fast slipping down to a disastrous total isolation. "A decade ago, authorities in the Netherlands would not have considered taking such measures. The Israeli Government, renewing settlement construction, promoting loyalty oaths and ever new provocations, confronts the entire the world, alienates Israel's best friends and takes us on a mad gallop into the abyss".

    Riwal is the largest company in the Netherlands in the field of building cranes, and among the largest in the world. The Riwal Israel Company, active also under the name "Lia Holding", was in the news a few years ago when a business dispute between it and the competing "Avi Cranes" escalated into violence and the setting of cranes on fire.

    Source: Gush Shalom

    Friday, 15 October 2010

    The Ten Most Influential Organisations Working for Justice and Peace for Israel and Palestine in the USA

    The Anti Defamation League (ADL) has kindly produced a list of the ten most influential organisations in the USA working for justice, peace and reconciliation in Israel and Palestine.

    True, they wouldn't put it quite in those terms, but the effectiveness of these organisations in working for justice and peace is sufficient to warrant inclusion.It is disappointing to see only one Christian organisation - Sabeel - listed this year. Never mind, maybe more next year.

    Michelle Goldberg, in the The Daily Beast,describes the ADL list as A Jewish Group's Shameful Smear
    The Anti-Defamation League has a new list out tarring human-rights activists in the name of protecting Israel. Michelle Goldberg on how the group is only disgracing itself. 
    The Anti-Defamation League, the premier American organization devoted to monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, has long had a dark side. No one has done better work investigating and exposing neo-Nazi and white Supremacist groups in the United States. I’ve spoken at several ADL meetings about my own reporting on Christian nationalism. But the ADL has also shown itself willing to smear human-rights activists when it thinks Israel’s interests demand it. It is in this context that the organization’s misguided new report on the “top 10 anti-Israel groups in America,” which includes Jewish Voice for Peace and the Council on American Islamic Relations, has to be understood.
    The ADL’s absurd new report doesn’t rise to the level of such escapades; there is no skullduggery here, just stupidity. But the impulse to smear Israel’s legitimate critics is much the same. To be sure, there are groups on the list that deserve harsh criticism: the anti-war group ANSWER, for example, has an awful record of conflating Zionism and Nazism, and of supporting the most reactionary forces in the Islamic world, from Saddam Hussein to Hezbollah.
    But Jewish Voice for Peace? This is a group with a rabbinical council chaired by respected Jewish clergy and an advisory board that includes luminaries like award-winning author Adam Hochschild, playwright Tony Kushner and Democratic messaging guru George Lakoff. Oren Segal, the director of the ADL’s center on extremism, justifies the group’s inclusion partly on the grounds that it provides cover to other, anti-Zionist organizations. Jewish Voice for Peace, he says, has “propaganda value. Some of these other groups use the fact that they’re there to kind of shield themselves from criticism that they’re anti-Jewish.” This is clearly guilt by association.
    She concludes,
    The ADL recognizes that it is losing the propaganda war. One reason it put out the list right now, Segal says, is that students are returning to campuses where there’s been an uptick in anti-Israel activism. “Online activism, as well as what’s happening on college campuses, are seeping into the younger generation,” he says.

    But the reason young people’s views are changing isn’t because of sinister organizations. It’s because, given current Israeli policy, an unequivocal defense of the country requires ever more heroic feats of denial and rationalization. It requires great barrages of defamation, against Jimmy Carter, against once-revered South African jurist Richard Goldstone, against Desmond Tutu, against J-Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace Washington group, and now, against groups like Jewish Voice for Peace. “This defense of Israel right or wrong makes them not have a moral compass,” Sydney Levy, campaign director of Jewish Voice for Peace, says of the ADL. “They cannot distinguish right from wrong. All they can do is defend Israel blindly.” George Orwell famously said, “To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.” To refuse to see it requires a constant struggle as well.
    Read more here

    And here's the ADL Top Ten list in their own words...

    1. Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition
    2. Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
    3. Council on American-Islamic Relations
    4. Friends of Sabeel—North America
    5. If Americans Knew
    6. International Solidarity Movement
    7. Jewish Voice for Peace
    8. Muslim American Society
    9. Students for Justice in Palestine
    10. US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

    The ADL point out, "There are many anti-Israel groups that did not make the above list. Many of these groups satisfy some but not all of the criteria. And the criteria for inclusion? I cannot speak for all ten organisations but those I know of personally are committed to democracy, the rule of international law, the defence of human rights and the exclusive use of non-violent means to challenge the illegal and immoral occupation of Palestine.

    If the ADL's deliberate misrepresentation of Sabeel's intent and activities is true the other nine, then to be listed is indeed a badge of honour. Knowing many of the peace activists within Sabeel in Israel-Palestine as well as North America, this is patently untrue. Sabeel is most emphatically not 'anti-Israel'. Sabeel opposes the military occupation of Palestine, calls for the removal of the Jewish settlements and withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces back to the 1967 borders. But so does the United Nations and every country in the world - apart from Israel. Does that make the whole world anti-Israel?

    For more information on the good work of Sabeel see here:

    Friends of Sabeel North America
    Friends of Sabeel UK

    Using Christian money to sue a Church for using Christian money...

    Last week the Telegraph reported, Methodist preacher to sue his own church over claim of anti-Israel bias
    "A Methodist preacher is preparing to sue his own church over claims it is using charitable donations to pursue a campaign of discrimination against Israeli Jews."
    The legal dispute has been prompted by a controversial resolution passed at the Methodist Conference which called for a boycott of some Israeli goods. If the legal action is successful, it would likely bring to an end all similar campaigns that boycott Israeli goods and services.

    David Hallam, who preaches in Methodist churches around Birmingham, has accused his own church of wasting funds to pursue a vendetta against Israel. There are no Methodist churches in either Israel or the Occupied Territories.Mr Hallam, 62, a former labour MEP, said: "What I object to is money which I am putting on the collection plate on a Sunday being used to fund a political campaign against the Jewish state. This is both discriminatory and a misuse of a charity's funds.

    "The Methodist Church seems to think it has a God given right to tell Jews how to run their affairs. It is very disturbing we are getting involved in a territory where we don't have any members or churches." Mr Hallam has recruited Paul Diamond, a barrister with expertise in human rights law and religious law, to bring the case."
    No. The Methodist Church does not "think it has a God given right to tell Jews how to run their affairs." The Methodist Church knows it has a God-given responsibility not to invest it's funds in stolen goods.

    The Settlements are illegal in international law and the chief impediment to a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Choosing not to invest in stolen good and illegal activity which exacerbates the conflict is a moral imperative. Christians suing Christians isn't.
    "If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?... Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers." (1 Corinthians 6:1-8)
    Read more of the Telegraph article here

    Read more here on the case for Morally Responsible Investment.