Saturday, 31 December 2011

An Audience with Emmy Kosgie

Read more about Emmy here

Israel, Hamas, Hizbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran

"If Islamist movements come to power all over the region, they should express their debt of gratitude to their bete noire, Israel. Without the active or passive help of successive Israeli governments, they may not have been able to realize their dreams. That is true in Gaza, in Beirut, in Cairo and even in Tehran."

That is the provocative view of Uri Avnery, in a piece entitled Shukran, Israel published by Gush Shalom. 

On Hamas he writes, "“Turning the Palestinians towards Islam, it was thought [by the Israeli secret police], would weaken the PLO and its main faction, Fatah. So everything was done to help the Islamic movement discreetly.”

On Hizbollah he concludes, “To outflank Amal [the main Shi’i political group in Lebanon in the early 1980s], Israel encouraged a small, more radical, rival: God’s Party, Hizbollah.”

On the Muslim Brotherhood, Avnery insists “Had Israel made peace with the Palestinian people somewhere along the line, the Brotherhood would have lost much of its lustre. As it is, they are emerging from the present democratic elections as the central force in Egyptian politics.”

On the Islamic Republic of Iran, Avnery observes, “Israelis made fortunes selling weapons to the Iranian army [under the Shah]. Israeli Shabak agents trained the Shah’s dreaded secret police, Savak. It was widely believed that they also taught them torture techniques.”

He concludes,
At present, all Israel is in turmoil because the powerful Orthodox community is compelling women in many parts of the country to sit separately in the back of buses, like blacks in the good old days in Alabama, and use separate pavements on one side of the streets. Male religious soldiers are forbidden by their rabbis to listen to women soldiers singing. In Orthodox districts, women are compelled to swathe their bodies in garments that reveal nothing but their faces and hands, even in temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius and above. An eight-year-old girl from a religious family was spat upon in the street because her clothes were not “modest” enough. In counter-demonstrations, secular women waved posters saying “Tehran is Here!” Perhaps some day a fundamentalist Israel will make peace with a fundamentalist Muslim world, under the auspices of a fundamentalist American president. Unless we do something to stop the process before it is too late."
Read Uri Avnery's full article here

Uri Avnery was a member of the Irgun as a teenager and sat in the Knesset from 1965–74 and 1979–81. He is the founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement

Friday, 30 December 2011

Nikon D4 and D800 Announcement: Friday 6th January 2012

The long awaited announcement of Nikon's D4 flagship and D800 semi-pro DSLR is billed for Friday 6th January, according to Nikon Rumors


The D4 will be well beyond my clergy stipend but the D800 won't even make it onto my Amazon wish-list when it goes on sale...

To view my most recent photos taken with my D700 see here

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Ethnic Cleansing of Invented People

Miko Peled has written a powerful and compelling blog in response to Newt Gingrich's vacuous denial of the  Palestinians, called Ethnic Cleansing of Invented People

Mostafa Tamimi from Nabi Saleh, Bahjat Zaalan and his son Ramdan from Gaza died on my fiftieth birthday and just a few days after Newt Gingrich declared them an invented people. They were murdered by the Israeli terrorist organization, the IDF, an organization that is supported and funded by the US.  One Israeli terrorist shot the invented Tamimi in the head with a tear gas canister, and another Israeli terrorist fired a rocket that murdered the invented Zaalan and his boy Ramadan.  Both terrorists were educated and trained by Israel, and armed by the US.  The Israeli terrorists are not invented but quite real, and they are safe, protected by the apartheid regime that trained and sent them on their missions, and the Israeli court system will make sure that they are never brought to justice. This is how Israel’s well-oiled ethnic cleansing machine operates.
Peled comes to similar conclusions about Israel's strategy to those of Jeff Halper and his Matrix of Control:
Once we connect the dots it is not hard to see that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is only a small part of the Israeli Palestinian issue. The greater issue is the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Zionist state.  The way forward for Israelis and Palestinians alike is to oppose the ethnic cleansing by opposing all its manifestations. This means supporting the movement to boycott, divest and place sanctions on Israel, or BDS for short, it means actively participating in the popular non-violent struggle in Palestine and it means challenging the racist laws that govern Israel by defying them. There has to be a clear and unequivocal call to recognize that the IDF is a terrorist organization and its officers are war criminals. Furthermore, the reprehensible discrimination against Palestinians, whether they live in Israel/Palestine or not, practiced by the security officials at Ben Gurion airport and other points of entry to Israel/Palestine must be challenged. The struggle for a democracy in our shared homeland is no different than the struggle at Tahrir square and can in fact be seen as part of the Arab Spring.
Read more here

Peled's grandfather, Dr.  Avraham Katsnelson was a Zionist leader and signer on the Israeli Declaration of Independence.   His father, Matti Peled was a young officer in the war of 1948 and a general in the war of 1967 when Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and the Sinai.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

End the Siege of Gaza Protest Rally outside the Israeli Embassy

Yesterday I joined members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim Initiative, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Friends of Al Aqsa, Stop the War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Neturei Karta, Amos Trust, Australians for Palestine and Women for Palestine, Friends of Lebanon, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine, The Muslim Association of Britain, PCS (Public & Commercial Services Union), The Fire Brigade Union, Public Interest Lawyers and Unite the Union, to protest Israel's continued siege of Gaza. Among those protesting were the veteran CND campaigner, Bruce Kent.


Yesterday was also the 3rd anniversary of Israel's massacre of Palestinian civilians in "Operation Cast Lead." The Israeli army launched a 22-day offensive on the Gaza Strip on December 27, 2008, killing at least 1,166 Palestinian civilians. The massacre was condemned by the United Nation's Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, chaired by the Jewish South African Justice Richard Goldstone, which found Israel guilty of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity for the use of white phosphorous bombs against Palestinian civilians, among others. See more photos here

 
There was a small counter demonstration in support of the Israeli siege and blockade of Gaza.
See more photos here

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Jesus, Christmas, and the Arab Spring

Botrus Mansour, General Director of the Nazareth Baptist School, has written an incisive article for Christianity Today entitled, Jesus, Christmas and the Arab Spring.

Arab Christians approach Christmas this year with feelings of intense fear just like the shepherds were as the angel appeared to them 2000 years ago.

Christmas intersects this year with the first anniversary of the Arab spring that swept the Arab world, bringing enormous change across North Africa and the Middle East.

Only one of the Arab countries, where regime changed occurred, has regained substantial stability and some measure of freedom after elections (Tunisia). Others are in the labor of the change (Egypt, Libya, and Yemen) and another is struggling with a bloody conflict with daily killings (Syria).

Are there any signs of joy that will cast out fear for Arab Christians living in the Middle East? In the short term, fear has the upper hand.

The term “Arab Christian” is viewed by some as an enigma. However, Arabs were represented in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11). Arabs accepted the new faith from the beginning and Arab Christian tribes thrived in the Middle East from the earliest days of Christianity.

What about Christians today in the city of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Jerusalem), the land of his refuge as a baby (Egypt), the place of Paul’s conversion (Damascus), or the land from where the Israelites’ passed to the promised land (Jordan)?

Arab Christians have been living in the Middle East among Muslims and Jews as a struggling minority of second class citizens for generations.

The new Pew survey of global Christianity reveals what Arab Christians experience every day. North Africa and the Middle East, a region that was once majority Christian, now has 1 percent of the world’s 2.18 billion Christians. The survey counts 12.8 million Christians in total, 4 percent of the overall regional population.

The Arab Spring has not changed this basic fact of life for Christians here.

The struggle has led multitudes of Arab Christians to migrate from the troubled region to the four corners of the earth, bringing the cradle of Christianity to the brink of being emptied of Christians.
He concludes with this hope:

I believe a new culture of democracy and freedom will eventually arrive. But the questions remain: What will the cost to Arab Christians be? Will they have the strength to stand steadfast as living witnesses until the Arab countries exercise true democracy?

In the midst of the darkness, the angel asked the shepherds not to fear. After meeting the baby Jesus in the manger, the shepherds who had feared earlier rejoiced and glorified God.

Will Arab Christians do the same and by focusing on Jesus so their fear be transformed to joy?

They will, but hopefully not alone. At Christmas, the whole earth rejoices.
Read the rest of his article here

Monday, 26 December 2011

Photographs


Accessing my photos has just got a lot easier. They are now categorised under the following headings as well as chronologically.

Africa
Asia
Europe
Great Britain and Ireland
Palestine
The Middle East
United States & Canada
Virginia Water

The photos can also be viewed in Flickr Collections and even more tastefully in FlickRiver

All these photos are copywrite and may not be reproduced commercially without permission. You may however freely use them for charitable or educational purposes if the source is acknowledged.

Some have been used by these organisations and periodicals:

Anglican Media Sydney
Anglican Mainstream
Burrswood Hospital
Decision Magazine
Elam Ministries
Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU)
Evangelicals Now
Kiwoko Hospital, Uganda
Inter Varsity Press (IVP)
The M.E. Trust
Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)
Surrey Life

To purchase originals of any of these photographs please contact Stephen

Photos taken with a Nikon D700 and Canon S95

Friday, 23 December 2011

Let's talk to Iran

In view of the Iranian government's condemnation of the storming of the British embassy by protesters and its call on the Iranian judiciary to identify and prosecute all those responsible, we find the hasty reaction of the UK government in cutting off diplomatic relations with Iran disproportionate, damaging and counterproductive (Is war with Iran inevitable?, 10 December). This overreaction could lead to a total abandonment of diplomacy and a sharp escalation of tensions with Iran. All points of dispute between the two countries should be resolved by means of diplomacy and negotiation only.

On this basis, we call on the UK government to reinstate its diplomatic relations with Iran and engage with the Iranian authorities to address all outstanding issues.

Moazzam Begg, George Galloway, Rev Dr Stephen Sizer, Lauren Booth, David Swanson, Victoria Brittain, Yvonne Ridley, Bruce Kent, Ramzy Baroud, Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Professor Abbas Edalat, Professor David Webb, Professor Mona Baker 

Guardian Letter

Thursday, 22 December 2011

European Union and UN Groups Strongly Criticize Illegal Jewish Colonies

All the regional and political groupings on the UN Security Council have criticised Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, in a highly unusual move.

The envoys said continued settlement building threatened chances of a future Palestinian state.They also expressed dismay at violence by settlers and right-wing activists.

However, the US - a staunch Israeli ally with veto powers in the Security Council - did not join the criticism.

Israel has so far made no public comment. The Israeli defence ministry last week issued tenders for more than 1,000 housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.


The envoys who criticised Israel represented the European Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and a loose coalition of emerging states known as IBSA.

They were were reacting to a briefing by Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, the UN assistant secretary general for political affairs.

Mr Fernandez-Taranco said that the search for peace Israel and the Palestinians "remained elusive in a context of tensions on the ground, deep mistrust between the parties and volatile regional dynamics".

Reading a statement by the EU group, UK permanent representative Mark Lyall Grant said: "Israel's continuing announcements to accelerate the construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, send a devastating message."

"We believe that Israel's security and the realisation of the Palestinians' right to statehood are not opposing goals. On the contrary they are mutually reinforcing objectives. But they will not be achieved while settlement building and settler violence continues."

Russia - another veto-wielding member in the 15-member Security Council - also criticised the Israeli policies.

Despite the unanimity of views, the envoys did not try to draft a single Security Council statement because they knew the US would veto it, the BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN headquarters in New York reports.

Washington argues that anything to do with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks belong in a US-led bilateral process, not at the UN.

About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Source: BBC News

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Kairos Palestine: The Bethlehem Call

Here we stand – Stand with us

Read and interpret this text with a Kairos consciousness and gaze of prophetic anger.

Preamble

How long, O God, will they steal our livelihood? Oppress, imprison and humiliate our people? Deprive our children of their childhood? Indeed how long, God, will the multitudes of Christians of the world ignore the anguish of our Palestinian sisters and brothers and all of the oppressed?

“Come and see,” said the Christians of Palestine. “Come and see the olive groves, the bulldozers, the ancient terraces, the segregated cities. The situation is worsening.”

More than 60 participants from 15 countries heeded an urgent call by Kairos Palestine. On 4-10 December 2011; they joined Palestinians in the Kairos for Global Justice Encounter/Conference in Bethlehem.

The aims and objectives of the encounter/conference were to:
Bring awareness of and share a Kairos consciousness experienced by all groups attending the encounter;
Strengthen and build ties among Kairos groups to form a committed global network for justice;
Learn from the Palestinian experience the urgency of Kairos solidarity and to end injustice by implementing concrete actions at the national, regional and global level.


On the road to this encounter/conference, there was the Amman Call in 2007, which ended 60 years without a unified Christian voice speaking against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The next milestone was the Berne Perspective in 2008, which is illustrated in the statement: “Enough is enough. No more words without deeds, it is time for action.” The cry for justice in Palestine reached a pivotal moment when, in December 2009, Palestinian Christians launched the Kairos Palestine document: “A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.”

We now say: “Injustice no more. Here we stand. Stand with us”


The current context

Today, the illegal regime and illegal forms of the Israeli occupation of Palestine assumes dimensions of systemic injustice whereby the unthinkable and unimaginable becomes globally accepted, supported and normalized. This is an example of Empire (global domination) at work. It happens in Palestine as it happens in many other contexts around the world. At the same time, Palestine is clearly a global issue. The government of Israel claims to have and indeed enjoys an exceptional status within the international community. Israel regards itself to be above the law and is treated as exempt from international law. This status provides the Israeli government the freedom to occupy Palestine with impunity.

As witnessed with our own eyes, the treacherous conditions imposed by the Israeli occupation on Palestinians and their land have reached a level of almost unimaginable and sophisticated criminality. This includes the slow yet deliberate and systematic ethnic cleansing and the geocide of Palestinians and Palestine as well as the strangling of the Palestinian economy. The brutality in the “violence of silence” internationally provides an almost impenetrable shield for the Israeli government to implement its evil designs in blatant disregard for human rights and international law. Silence is an opinion. Inaction is an action. We witness decidedly spineless cowardice in failure to resist the Israeli government by the majority of governments, political parties, media outlets, businesses, most of organized religion -- including Christianity -- and the silence of prophets worldwide. This makes us accomplices in crimes against humanity, such as the crimes of apartheid and persecution as described in international law. (1)

We witness also the resolve and resilience of Palestinians to match the imbalance of political, economic and military power with unbending steadfastness for their freedom and just peace.

Click here to read the complete statement.
 

Ben White talks about his new book 'Palestinians in Israel'



Ben White talks about his new book 'Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy' (Pluto Press).

See also Secret EU document shows concern for Palestinian citizens of Israel

Order Ben White;s book here

Dr Gareth Tuckwell on Burrswood Hospital



Burrswood is a Christian hospital in Groomsbridge, near Tunbridge Wells in Kent. In this short interview, Dr Gareth Tuckwell explains what makes Burrswood distinctive.

For more information see www.burrswood.org.uk

Monday, 19 December 2011

Arthur Christmas Meets Jesus

They say there are four phases in life. In the first phase you believe in Father Christmas. In the second phase you don’t believe in Father Christmas. In the third phase you are Father Christmas. In the final phase you just look like Father Christmas. The blockbuster film in the cinema’s this week, from the makers of Wallace and Gromit, is aptly titled “Arthur Christmas”. It includes a grandfather, father and two sons, who embody at least three of these phases in life. The film at last reveals the incredible, never-before seen answer to every child’s question: ‘How does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?’

But after 70 annual deliveries, Father Christmas, whose real name is Malcolm, is nearly ready to hand over the red cloak to his oldest son and heir, Steve. Malcolm is now merely the figurehead of what has become an ultra-high-tech global package-delivering corporation hidden beneath the North Pole.  Steve seeks the glory of the position of Santa Claus, not the joy of bringing happiness to children around the world. He runs Santa’s headquarters like a military command centre, with thousands of commando elves at his disposal, and a goatee cut in the shape of a Christmas tree.

Read more here

Watch the video here

Bethlehem Bible College Bus Attacked by Israeli Settlers


Munther Isaac reports on a violent attack near Nablus yesterday that could have resulted in fatalities.
I was hoping to write about something more pleasant regarding our Christmas ministry in Nablus. I was hoping to write about the usual; singing and rejoicing with the believers there. As always, Nablus concert was special. The Anglican church where we usually go was full. There was joy. The choir really did well. It was a real blessing!




On our way there I remembered the first time the choir went to Nablus in 2007. Back then it was really difficult to enter Nablus as it was under Israeli military siege. We had to change buses and go through many checkpoints. It took us about three hours. This time is was much easier to get into Nablus. The way back was a different story.

The road to  Nablus goes through many "shared" roads. These are roads inside the occupied West Bank that Israeli settlers use. The best and high land is occupied of course by settlers. Recently, the settlers have become increasingly violent, even attacking their own military - that military that is there to protect them. As we were passing by the illegal settlement of Ofra, we were attacked by a small group of settlers who were standing by the street. One big rock hit the front shield of the bus causing a big hole and cracks and miraculously the shield did not go down. I was in the front seat with Rudaina and we were hit by many small pieces of glass but thankfully we were not hurt - just terrorized! We were all shocked when it happened. We all thanked God for his protection and for the bravery of the driver who simply kept driving in very high speed. God protected us. But what if ...

Settlers violence is becoming the norm. We became yesterday one more victim of the "price tag policy." The question is for how long will it go unpunished? Had it been the oposite, I mean if Palestinian young people threw rocks at an Israeli bus and then hid in a Palestinian village, the Israeli military would have turned the village upside down until it finds the "terrorists".

How long will settlers activities go unpunished? How many more mosques will be burnt? Cars hit? People killed? What if the driver yesterday lost control of the bus? What if the rock went through the bus? When will Israel treat these settlers equally as they treat Palestinians who do violence (or nonviolence)? Will Mr. Natanyaho - who just last week refused to call these settlers terrorists - taken action?

Tomorrow we will go to the village of Zababdeh to sing and will we take the same road. We want to go. We must go. Life in Palestine is not easy or safe, but God never promised us safety.We will continue to sing and praise. We will continue to pray for peace and justice. We will continue to celebrate the Son of God who came to Bethlehem to reconcile us to God and to one another. We continue to hope. It is Friday ... but Sunday is coming.

See more photos here


Spitting on Christians: An Open Letter


David Michaels is Director of Intercommunal Affairs for B’nai B’rith. He has written an open letter to the Christian leaders in Jerusalem about Orthodox Jews spitting on Christian ministers.


I write with a request: for your forgiveness.

As a representative of the oldest Jewish communal organization – B’nai B’rith International, which includes members of many backgrounds in over 50 countries, including Israel, where we have been present in Jerusalem since 1888 – I feel obliged to express my revulsion over new reported incidents of spitting at Christian clergy in certain areas of the Holy City. I feel especially obliged to do so as an Orthodox Jew.

Though these acts are committed by a decided minority of young, ostensibly highly observant yeshiva students, the fact that many leaders and seminarians identifiable as Christian have experienced them compels me to ensure you know that Jews overwhelmingly find this behavior disgraceful and intolerable.

In various parts of the world, there clearly remain problems of acute anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism; demonstrations of hostility toward Christians by individual religious Jews make combating these problems even harder.

However, hateful actions toward a religious minority do not only risk harming the image and safety of Jews, in Israel and the Diaspora. These also violate essential Jewish and Israeli values, representing a desecration of God’s name.

JEWS AROUND the world rightly take pride in Israel’s diverse democracy, despite a very difficult environment, and its protection of religious freedom, not least in Jerusalem. We are taught to love peace and pursue it, to uphold the principle of free will, to treat others as we would want to be treated – and to strive to refine our character, recognizing all people as created in the Divine image.
Those relatively few religious youths who spit in the direction of Christian clergy are often responding to Christian symbols seen to conflict theologically with Judaism. They are also undoubtedly informed by a painful history of church persecution of Jews, and by a general fear of proselytism in Israel today.

But there is little consideration of the human impact of these actions. Even in a world where inter-religious acrimony can be manifested with rocks, knives and firebombs, spitting is plainly unacceptable, a gesture that impinges upon the targets’ personal dignity. And, though most haredim too are characterized by decency, by an eagerness to be hospitable and by core values shared by other traditions, there is limited awareness across various segments of Jewish Orthodoxy of the distinctions, and the evolved attitudes toward Jews, among contemporary Christians.

I, too, recall the members of my family who fell victim to violent Christian contempt in the not-distant past. But I am also mindful of my own grandfather’s rescue by an extraordinarily heroic Catholic family during the Holocaust. And I strongly believe that one need not, and must not, attack others in order to witness to the firmness of one’s faith convictions.

Thankfully, the broad spectrum of the Orthodox rabbinate – including staunchly conservative religious bodies in Jerusalem – is on record as rejecting the acts of hostility toward Christians.
OBVIOUSLY, MORE needs to be done. While there may be no way of imposing discipline on every young person, Orthodox rabbis and other leaders will work to urge counterparts to further impress upon all their students the need for conduct becoming their religious identity.

For now, we offer our modest outreach, and our acknowledgment of the routine forbearance of Christians in the face of deeply offensive treatment. We pledge to challenge intolerance in our own midst, just as we do elsewhere and just as we hope others would. And we reaffirm our commitment to the principles of peacefulness and goodneighborliness, in the spirit of the forefathers who preceded us in Zion.

I would be grateful indeed if you would share this letter with members of your communion.
Source: Jerusalem World News

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Closure of the Iranian Embassy in London

Will the closure of the Iranian Embassy in London and the expulsion of Iran’s diplomatic staff help or hinder the search for a peaceful resolution to tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme? Has the British government simply overreacted or is this a precursor to US or Israeli sponsored military intervention?

The Islamic Human Rights Commission has initiated a petition calling on the British government to restore diplomatic relations with Iran.
In view of Iranian government's condemnation of the storming of the British Embassy by protesters and its call on the Iranian judiciary to identify and prosecute all those responsible, we find the hasty reaction of the UK government in cutting off diplomatic relations with Iran disproportionate, damaging and counter-productive. This overreaction can lead to a total abandonment of diplomacy and a sharp escalation of tensions with Iran. All points of dispute between the two countries should be resolved by means of diplomacy and negotiation only. On this basis, we call on the UK government to reinstate its diplomatic relation with Iran and engage with the Iranian authorities to address all outstanding issues.
If you agree, please sign the petition here

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Christmas Story

How Evangelicals Are Learning to Be Pro-Palestine, Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Pro-Justice and Always Pro-Jesus

Munther Isaac's excellent article "How Evangelicals Are Learning to Be Pro-Palestine, Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Pro-Justice and Always Pro-Jesus" has just been published by Sojourners.
A change is taking place in how evangelicals are looking at the Middle East.

Many evangelicals, who were discouraged by the failed prophecies and the “mood of doom” that dominated the evangelical church in the second half of the 20th century, are rediscovering that the gospel also speaks powerfully to issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation.

Books about the end times, such as those written by Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsey, no longer dominate the bookshops, and people are being challenged by writings that focuses on the here and now, instead of the there and then!

In particular, the evangelical church typically has looked at the Middle East through the eyes of prophecy, leaning towards an unconditional support for Israel. Evangelicals in the West cheered the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent wars, believing them to be signs of the second coming of Christ—all the while neglecting the impact these events had on real people in the Middle East, specifically on Palestinians, and especially on the Palestinian Church.

Read more here about this growing movement which is causing some Christian Zionists apoplexy as they begin to lose their traditional support base.

For a simple deconstruction of Christian Zionism see Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions

Egypt’s elections: ‘The revolution is rebuilding Mubarak’

"The faultlines in Egyptian politics do not fall in obvious places.  Abouna Filopater who led the 9 October protest outside the Maspero TV station in Cairo that ended with 27 people being shot dead or crushed by tanks, is a Coptic priest who was himself in the army." writes Jenny Taylor in an important article Egypt’s elections: ‘The revolution is rebuilding Mubarak’ about attempts to subvert the Arab Spring in Egypt.
Street children reach for him as he gets out of the car.  His mobile phone rings ceaselessly – a monastic bell chime.  He laughs easily but also bites his finger nails.  He is in mourning, despite the ready smile. ‘I feel severe sorrow.  We love the Egyptian army very much and it is our army and I was an officer in it.’ He points to his shoulder as if to indicate his two stars earned in the engineering division over three years at the central military base in Cairo.

‘We never expected the army might kill Egyptian citizens and run over them and use live fire against them. ‘The military council [the ruling group led by Field Marshall Tantawi] gave them protection and didn’t stop it.’
This is contested, but the overwhelming weight of evidence even from the National Council for Human Rights – a government institution – indicates the military council were to blame for the attack on protesters marching against recent church burnings in Alexandria, Imbaba and most recently Edfu in the south.
Read more here

Religious Freedom in Israel on a par with Afghanistan, China and Saudi Arabia

Ophir Bar-Zohar writing in today's Haaretz Israel earns another failing score on freedom of religion index reports:

CIRI ranks Israel on par with Afghanistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia; indicates severe and widespread governmental restrictions on religious freedom.
 
What do Israel, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan have in common? All of them scored a big fat zero on the annual freedom of religion index published by CIRI, the Cingranelli-Richards Human Rights Dataset.

The index, which measures governmental restrictions on freedom of religion and freedom from religion, ranks 195 countries. Of these, fully 52 scored zero, including Russia, Romania, India, Mexico and Turkey. Israel has scored zero on CIRI's scale for several years now.

The index ranks countries on a scale of zero to two, where zero indicates severe and widespread governmental restrictions on religious freedom, one indicates moderate restrictions and two indicates almost no restrictions. The countries that received a score of two included many Western states, like the United States, Sweden, Austria, Belgium and Poland, as well as non-Western states like South Africa, Angola and Lebanon. Countries with a score of one included Italy, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Thailand, Spain and Mongolia.

CIRI has been collecting data on parameters comprising 15 "internationally recognized human rights" annually since 1981. The project is run out of Binghamton University in upstate New York, with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation. It is headed by two professors, David Cingranelli of Binghamton and David Richards of the University of Connecticut.

Read more here

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Defying the Occupation: The Gaza Surfers Club



Read more here

Journalists Under Fire: Medyan Dairieh war correspondant for Al-Jazeera

Medyan Dairieh is a war correspondent who has covered many international conflicts for Al-Jazeera. One of the first to enter Libya to cover the war, He was injured twice and travelled right across the country. Living for months with the rebels in their camps, he was with them on the frontline and during many battles. He entered Tripoli with the rebels and was injured in the last stronghold of Abu Saleem.

For his pictures taken of the Libyan revolution, Medyan won the gold award in the photojournalism competition at the international festival held in Hamburg. Al-Jazeera also won first place for four photos taken in Libya by Medyan, fighting off strong competition from 651 other photographers from 43 countries. Medyan's images stood out from a total number of 14,371 photos entered into the competition.

An exhibition of Medyan's work was shown at the Park Royal, Willesden last week.

Medyan appears briefly in this video. His photos are available from his website, Imageslive.

See more photos of the exhibition here.



Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The West is turning Iran into a new Iraq

When the Daily Mail, rather than the Independent or Guardian, criticises British foreign policy for giving uncritical support to US bellicosity toward Iran, comparing recent events with the lead up to the war with Iraq, it is time to wake up. Peter McKay wrote yesterday, 

War clouds gather over the Middle East, as the Iranians shoot down a U.S. spy drone.

With the eurozone crisis threatening global economic meltdown, perhaps on the basis that bad things always come in threes, we’ll hear that an enormous meteorite is on target to smash into Earth in 2012.

America won’t allow Iranians to develop a nuclear bomb. Their nuclear facilities must be destroyed. ‘It is our stated policy that we will not allow Iran to become a nuclear factor,’ a visiting U.S. general tells The Times.

Either America does it alone, with our approval, or it supports an Israeli attack on the sites. We witter about the importance of continuing talks but support America, whatever it decides.

This is the background to the trashing of the British mission in Tehran and the expulsion of Iran diplomats in London. America doesn’t have an embassy in Iran. As ever, the UK is America’s catspaw — or, dupe as the Yanks would say.

On November 12, an explosion at the Alghadir missile base, 25 miles south-west of Tehran, killed 17 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, including Brigadier General Hassan Moghaddam, architect of the country’s missile programme.

This came just after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had tested the fitting of a nuclear warhead onto its most advanced ballistic missile, the Shahab-3.

Three Iranian scientists have been assassinated in the past two years, allegedly by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. The Alghadir blast may have been another Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear programme. More sabotage and assassinations are expected — unless the U.S. drops the big one.
McKay concludes:
And who do you think got Iran started on its nuclear technology? America, of course, in 1957. The Shah — like today’s Iranian leaders — said he was desperate for nuclear power for economic reasons. It was ‘scandalous’ to waste their precious oil by burning it.

American and European companies made billions setting up nuclear Iran. No doubt they hope to do so again in the future, if we destroy the existing facilities.
Read the whole article here