Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Why I Believe Reconciliation Between Israelis and Palestinians is God's Will

I regularly receive comments and advice, much of it unedifying or threatening, from those who are opposed to the idea that God's will for Israelis and Palestinians is that they be reconciled, whether in one state with equal rights, or in two states, living side by side in peace.

This email, from a gentleman called Dan, is representative of those worthy of a reply.
I have read your rantings for about as much as I can stomach.  Are you purposefully deceived, or do you have no awareness of truth and righteousness?  You have to realize that the jews have continually offered to settle with the false palis, which have made agreements and not kept them.  And the leaving of supposed palis in 1947 and 1948 was voluntary as the palis were expecting a quick loss by the jews and they hoped to get their land back.  And as has been said, the refugee camps that were made for the arabs were put there by.......arabs, not jews.  The jews return to the area is a fulfillment of prophecy, and the fact that you don't like it and have set yourself to call israel as many names as you can imagine and have opposed even the most reasonable actions by israel, places you in the position of the sanhedrin when they asked gamaliel's advice regarding opposing the gospel- gamaliel warned them that they may be opposing God in their actions.  That is precisely what you are doing, Mr. Sizer.

You will stand before God to give account for the lies you have spoken against the offspring of Abraham, and your strengthening of the muslims that oppose God.  If you hadn't noticed, the muslims are the aggressors here.  And allying yourself to them, you have placed yourself in the shoes of "those who curse you, I will curse" with God speaking there.  You have chosed the road of the accursed.  Repent, please.  Leave your hate and pride behind.

Here was my reply:

Dear Dan

Thank you for your thoughtful email and concerns.

This short article summarises the New Testament case for the position I hold which is entirely consistent with all the mainline Reformed and evangelical denominations.


I commend it to you and your careful reading.


Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Lord's Day in Kampala

Today we are in Kampala and because it's Sunday we attended St Stephen's Church, Kisugu, built on a hill with a panoramic view overlooking the city.

Before the morning service we met with a group of young people keen to know more about Christianity Explored and how the course will help them reach their friends for Christ.

During the service we were blessed by the ministry of Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi who confirmed around fifty young people from the church family who want to know Jesus and make Jesus known.

Christianity Explored Launch in Burundi

This week, Craig Dyer (training director of Christianity Explored), Jim McAnlis (of Fields of Life and East Africa coordinator of Christianity Explored) and I are in Burundi to launch the new Kirundi translation of Christianity Explored.

CE is a popular ten week evangelistic course, based entirely on Mark's gospel which includes talks, group Bible discussion and personal reflection. Now available in more than 20 languages and being used in more than 70 countries, CE is designed to help participants answer three simple questions around which Mark's gospel is structured: Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? What is his claim on my life? It is literally a walk through Mark's gospel to explain, through the teaching, the miracles, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the incredible claim made in the very first verse, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (Mark 1:1).

The course is also designed to help give church members confidence in the Word of God and learn how to share their faith as well as train new church leaders. The strategy is to train hundreds to equip thousands to reach millions. CE is distinctive among other similar courses because it simply allows the gospel to teach the gospel.

This is the fourth year we have visited East Africa to train pastors and clergy to use Christianity Explored. In previous years we have held conferences at Carlisle College in Nairobi, Kenya, at Kiwoko Bible Week, and for clergy in Luwero and Masindi Dioceses in Uganda. Working closely with the Anglican Bishops, Pentecostal leaders, the Uganda Bible Society, Kiwoko Hospital and Fields of Life, we have launched translations in Luganda and Swahili and trained several thousand clergy to use the course. It is estimated that tens of thousands have completed the course in Uganda and we know of new churches that have been planted as a result.

At the invitation of the Anglican Archbishop of Burundi, the Right Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, this week we visited Matana Cathedral and trained about 70 of his clergy to use the course. In Makamba Diocese, with the blessing of Bishop Martin Blaise Nyaboho, the Diocesan centre hosted a similar conference for over 200 pastors and clergy from 35 different denominations. This was the first time many of them had experienced a small group bible discussion. They discovered the value of group study to personalise, compliment, reinforce and apply Biblical teaching.

Returning to Bujumbura, through the beautiful mountain scenery of Burundi, we stopped by the shores of Lake Tanganyika at the large stone making the place where in 1874, Livingstone, coming from the coast of Tanzania, met Stanley coming from the Congo.

The world has changed dramatically in the last 140 years, but the heart of the human problem remains the problem of the human heart. Transcending the barriers of language and culture, people are discovering through CE and the teaching of Jesus, that we are more sinful that we ever realised but more loved that we ever dreamed.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Palestine Solidarity Campaign: AGM Repudiates Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial by Overwhelming Majority

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign exists to build a mass solidarity movement on Palestine. It is founded on principles of justice, human rights, and opposition to all forms of racism.

Any expression of racism or intolerance, or attempts to deny or minimise the Holocaust have no place in our movement. Such sentiments are abhorrent in their own right and can only detract from the building of a strong movement in support of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. We welcome all those who share our aims to join PSC.

Our campaign is a positive one, working to ensure the freedoms enjoyed by people throughout the world are not denied to the people of Palestine. We seek to build a movement where all those who are in support of our core demands can take part. Join us, and let us create a world free of occupation, free of racism and where the human rights of all are protected.

See Tony Greenstein  PSC AGM – A Crushing Defeat For Gilad Atzmon and the Anti-Semites
and There's No Room for Holocaust deniers in an anti-racist campaign

See more photos here

Friday, 20 January 2012

Drums Beat for Another War in the Middle East

We, the undersigned, are concerned by the ever escalating policy, language and rhetoric of demonisation, which has been pivotal in fostering an environment in which war and destruction is the only possible inevitable result.

This policy will only have an effect of benefiting those who already have a vested interest in causing war in the Middle East as an effective diversion intended to distract from their failed policies. It seems that we have learned nothing from the slippery slope that had led us to the death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, which still continues to this day to result in the death of innocents, with no bright future in sight.

We are also extremely concerned with the increasing prevalence of the tactic of assassination and extra judicial killing, whether by assassins or impersonal drones, and the language and rhetoric that has had the effect of legitimising and normalising this kind of abhorrent behaviour. This behaviour endorses taking the lives of innocent people as the preferred tool for promoting ‘democracy, freedom and justice.’ Of urgent concern also is the legitimisation of the above through apathy and lack of commitment to identify, expose and hold to account those who commit these barbaric acts.

We urge the British government and the international community to put an end to the acceptability of this kind of irresponsible rhetoric of war, which has the effect of legitimising, promoting and giving the green light to third party action that has the potential to unleash more misery, war and destruction. The colonial mentality behind such conduct must be abandoned and all issues of concern should be negotiated through means of diplomacy and mutual respect.

Massoud Shadjareh, Islamic Human Rights Commission
Bruce Kent, Activist
Jeremy Corbyn, Member of Parliament
John Hemming, Member of Parliament
John McDonnell, Member of Parliament
John Rees, Stop the War Coalition
Lauren Booth, Broadcaster and Journalist
Les Levidow, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities
Moazzam Begg, Ex Guantanamo Bay Detainee
Professor Abbas Edalat
Professor Mona Baker
Dr Arshin Adib-Moghaddam
Ramzy Baroud, Journalist
Professor Norman Finkelstein
Salma Yaqoob, Former leader of Respect Party
Revd Dr Stephen Sizer

God Bless America

With a new American Youth Pastor at Christ Church  and some controversy over my writings on Christian Zionism (dealing as it does largely with American Christian fundamentalism), I thought it would be appropriate to clarify my views on the United States and reiterate something I said a few years ago (that got me into hot water then).

I love America. There, I've said it!
And I feel better already. Having made around 25 visits to the USA in ten years after 48 years abstinence, I admit I still have the zeal of the newly converted. In fact, it was an American who led me to a personal faith in Jesus Christ back in my first term at university in 1973. With around 10% of our Church family from the other side of the Atlantic, and growing, more and more of my best friends are American.

We love to turn our noses up
Speaking as a Brit, if we are honest (and why not) we love to turn our noses up at the Yanks. After all, they invented Big Macs, big cars and got to the moon first. In the war, they were indeed over here, overpaid and in the words of Mark Green, "stole our most genetically advanced women with the lure of nylons, cigarettes and chocolate." (not my words). Since then, they have colonised our cinemas with their values, filled our high streets with their products, bought many of our industries and succeeded in persuading us that Coca Cola, that quintessentially American drink, is actually the beverage that best captures the essence of the quintessentially British game of football.

I love the American, "can do" spirit

But I love the American, "can do" spirit even more. If you have an idea in a meeting with a group of Americans their instinctive response is to think of 10 good reasons why that was the smartest thing anyone ever said. In contrast, if you have an idea with a group of Brits, their instinctive response is to think of 10 reasons why - A. That was the silliest idea in the history of human civilisation; B. You are the stupidest creature ever to emerge from the primordial slime. A recent survey by Gallup showed that Americans are more fulfilled on a daily basis in their work environment than employees in any other country in the world. I think it has a lot to do with the positive encouragement and motivation they exude and so many British employees sadly lack.

I also love American openness
I also love American openness and hospitality. We have had two superb Thanksgiving Suppers at Christ Church, hosted by our incredibly generous American families for which we are enormously grateful. I much prefer getting invited for brunch at Shoneys within 30 seconds of touching down on American soil than all that British reserve that takes us years before we invite the neighbours over the threshold for a sherry at Christmas with all the suspicion of a Trojan considering a wooden horse.

Maybe it's just envy
Maybe it's just envy. It's bad enough that another nation is top nation and America is - but it's worse when you used to be top nation and you aren't any longer, and never will be anymore. So we comfort ourselves with a shallow disdain and romantic memories of the lost Empire. And when we see them doing things well - and they do - we grumble about the fact that it's only because they've got the money. Well, they do (or at least they know how to borrow it). And many of them know how to invest it.

Imagine a world without Americans
Think about it. Without America, there probably wouldn't be any Jews in Europe. Or Israel, for that matter. Without America the Berlin Wall would have been in Frankfurt. Without America…. actually, it doesn't bear thinking about.

The Influence of Christianity
So maybe it's not a surprise, that America is the only Western nation that has held onto Christianity to any significant degree. God remains on the agenda. And if American Christianity is less influential on the national political agenda than we'd like, well, are we doing any better? This is not to say that healthy dialogue and constructive criticism of US foreign policy in the Middle East, or other parts of the world, is not justified (and it is) but at least they listen.

Judging American Christianity
Judging American Christianity by its televangelists is a bit like judging British culture by Benny Hill. Similarly, we whinge at what we perceive to be the average American's isolationism or how coaches all over Europe disgorge brigades of glaringly dressed Americans around the great cultural sites of old Europe. When you are tempted to look down your nose at the superficiality of their tourism, ask yourself how the average Brit spends the summer. And besides, isn't it actually rather impressive that so many Americans save up for the trip of a lifetime and have the discernment to spend their money looking at some of the greatest artistic achievements of humankind? And then if we consider the great mission enterprises of this century, British Christians need to remember that 75% of Protestant mission funding comes from the US and that half the Protestant overseas missionaries in the world are American.

Humble Enough to Receive?
So if you're praying for God to send someone to save the world, there's a one in two chance that the King of the Universe is going to send an American. And when these well-funded, prayed for Americans arrive overseas, what do they find? Under-funded Europeans. And what do the Americans do? Sacrifice their money to make sure their fellow Christians have enough. So lets thank God for America.

With thanks too to Mark Greene of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity for the inspiration.

GOP Endorses One State Solution: A Civil Rights Victory for Palestinians

Mitchell Plitnick breaks the news that the GOP Officially Endorses One-State Solution

Last week in New Orleans, the Republican National Committee officially adopted a resolution supporting a one-state solution in Israel-Palestine.

This news came to me via a very trusted source, but both I and my source were puzzled by the fact that we could find nothing in the media confirming this. I called the RNC, but they would neither confirm nor deny.

So, I contacted Cindy Costa, the RNC’s National Committeewoman from South Carolina who was listed as the sponsor of the resolution. Here’s our e-mail exchange:

Me: Dear Ms. Costa,
I am a correspondent for several web-based news outlets, including Inter Press Service. I received the resolution below today, and would like to write an article about it. I just wanted to check with you that this was in fact an officially adopted RNC resolution. Can you please let me know? Thanks.

Costa: Yes it was adopted unanimously by the RNC last Friday at our winter meeting in New Orleans.  Cindy

So, that seems pretty clear. I reprint the entire text of the resolution below (and I sent it fully to Ms. Costa so she could confirm the full text), but the key passage is this one:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the members of this body support Israel in their natural and God-given right of self-governance and self-defense upon their own lands, recognizing that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others; and that peace can be afforded the region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people.

Repudiating the Two State solution favoured by President Obama, the GOP has adopted the One State solution. Perhaps unintentionally they have nevertheless given a boost to the civil rights movement calling for equal rights for Jews and Palestinians. That is, unless their agenda is the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. Which is it to be?

Source: More on the RNC Call for One State

Plitnick adds this commentary More on the RNC Call for One State

Richard Silverstein takes a more pessimistic line Republican National Committee Endorses Elimination of Palestine from Middle East

See also +972 Republican party appears to officially back one-state solution

J Street Tweet 

Think Progress Did The Republican Party Formally Abandon The Two-State Solution?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Tony Greenstein's Letter in the Church of England Newspaper

I find it hard to take seriously any analysis based on the Harry’s Place website. It is a right-wing, pro-war, Islamaphobic site that defames its opponents.

I suspect the reason that Stephen Sizer spoke about a ‘massacre’ in Gaza is that some 1400 people, including 400 children, died. Can you imagine what would be the reaction if terrorists blew up a Jewish community centre and killed say one-quarter of those figures? I know I’d be the first to condemn it as a massacre and more. Are Jewish children more important than Arab children?

This is not an idle question. It is seriously argued by hundreds of rabbis in Israel, who have backed a notorious book ‘Torat HaMelech’ by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, a supporter of the mainstream Orthodox Lubavith movement. Among the choicer quotes is the following:

‘“There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.” Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, Torat Ha’Melech (The King’s Torah)

Rabbi Dov Lior, Chair of the Yesha (Settler’s) Rabbinical Council, who has been repeatedly elected by fellow rabbis to Israel’s Supreme Rabbinical Council (& blocked by the state for political reasons) has openly stated that a Jewish fingernail is more valuable than a thousand non-Jewish lives.

The myth that Israel is surrounded by its enemies and is fighting for its existence is a typical settler myth – the product of the siege mentality common to settler colonial states. Exactly the same was said in South Africa and Rhodesia.

Stephen Sizer is to be commended for speaking out when others passed by on the other side of the street. Perhaps if the Confessional Church in Germany had not passed by on the other side of the road, if Bishop Galen had included the Jews in his famous 1941 condemnation of the murder of physically and mentally handicapped Jews, if Pastor Lichtenberg of Hedwig Cathedral had been supported for speaking up for the Jews when he was taken to Dachau (& died soon afterwards) many many more lives would have been saved.

But no doubt Bonhoffer and Lictenberg’s critics also castigated these rebellious priests for speaking out rather than giving comfort to the Volk. I know whose side I would have taken and Stephen should be congratulated not isolated and browbeaten.

Tony Greenstein

See also letters from:

Dr Mark Braverman, Author of the Fatal Embrace
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Lampeter University
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Patron, Friends of Sabeel UK
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder of the Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Exeter University
Venerable Michael Lawson, Rector of St Saviour’s, Guildford
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Biblelands
Professor Ilan Pappe, Exeter University
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain

Church Times: Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times: Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite’

The Future of Christianity in Syria

Concerned about the devastating impact Western intervention will have on Syria's Christian community, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, writes:
The battle for the regional balance of power pits an alliance of the US, Israel and the Sunni Muslim states of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Gulf against the Shi’a regime in Iran and Hizbollah, the terrorist organisation that it sponsors. Syria is integral to Iran’s position, and, says Saudi King Abdullah, “Other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself, nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria”. Much of the conflict is being driven by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are now repeating in Syria what they have done in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to establish a Sunni Wahhabi Salafist entity, thus intensifying the pressure on Iran.
A Western-backed military campaign in alliance with the Syrian rebels against the Assad regime is looking increasingly likely, and this could be devastating for the Church in Syria. Christians in Syria have enjoyed a considerable measure of freedom and protection under President Assad; if he falls, there could be a repeat of the tragic near-extermination of the Church in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
Sookhdeo cites Aisling Byrne, writing for Asia Times Online on 5 January, who argues:
What we are seeing in Syria is a deliberate and calculated campaign to bring down the Assad government so as to replace it with a regime 'more compatible' with US interests in the region… Not for the first time are we seeing a close alliance between US/British neo-cons with Islamists (including, reports show, some with links to al-Qaeda) working together to bring about regime change in an 'enemy' state.
 Sookhdeo warns,
The Christian community in Syria is already suffering as a result of the unrest there and this will surely only intensify in the event of Western-backed military intervention. Christians in the West should not stand by and allow their governments to destroy Syria – and the Syrian Church – in pursuit of their own political interests in the region. I urge Christians not to accept blindly all the mainstream media reports about this conflict but to read for themselves the carefully considered arguments of dissenting voices (links below). And we must pray that the Lord will protect His people in Syria from a repeat of what happened to the Church in Iraq following the illegal US-led war. When Barnabas Fund carried stories about the horrific anti-Christian violence in Iraq post-2003, there were many sceptics who did not believe us. Today, this is accepted reality.
Source: Christians in Syria targeted in series of kidnappings and killings; 100 Dead

See also SYRIA: false narratives and propaganda

Shane Claiborne on Christ at the Checkpoint 2012

Sometimes folks ask me if I’ve spoken at any conferences that I get excited about. I’ll be speaking more than 150 times this next year in about a dozen countries — at all sorts of events from a Spanish speaking conference in Florida to an economic think-tank in DC to schools here in North Philly and 30,000 Lutherans in New Orleans.

This year is going to be a blast. I decided to make a list of a few of the events that are real highlights for me in 2012. They are each unique and innovative, and a couple are in their infancy.

  Christ at the Checkpoint  —Named after the reality that Jesus would have a hard time making the Gospel pilgrimage because of the walls and checkpoints in the Holy Land, this gathering will address one of the most urgent justice issues of our day  —the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It will be an honor to join some of the sharpest thinkers and theologians in Bethlehem to address this struggle. 

The Spirit is moving in a wild and wonderful way. I hope to see you at one of these events… or somewhere else along the way in 2012.

Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President.

Source: Sojourners

Delighted to see even Hal Lindsey gives us a mention.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Jesus said "Love your enemy" not murder them

has written a very important and moving article in the Guardian  Iran's nuclear scientists are not being assassinated. They are being murdered.

He insists, "Killing our enemies abroad is just state-sponsored terror – whatever euphemism western leaders like to use." Referring to the assassination of three Iranian nuclear scientists, Hasan writes
These "men on motorbikes" have been described as "assassins". But assassination is just a more polite word for murder. Indeed, our politicians and their securocrats cloak the premeditated, lawless killing of scientists in Tehran, of civilians in Waziristan, of politicians in Gaza, in an array of euphemisms: not just assassinations but terminations, targeted killings, drone strikes.
Their purpose is to inure us to such state-sponsored violence against foreigners. In his acclaimed book On Killing, the retired US army officer Dave Grossman examines mechanisms that enable us not just to ignore but even cheer such killings: cultural distance ("such as racial and ethnic differences that permit the killer to dehumanise the victim"); moral distance ("the kind of intense belief in moral superiority"); and mechanical distance ("the sterile, Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim").
Cognitive dissonance abounds. To torture a terror suspect, for example, is always morally wrong; to kill him, video game style, with a missile fired from a remote-controlled drone, is morally justified. Crippled by fear and insecurity, we have sleepwalked into a situation where governments have arrogated to themselves the right to murder their enemies abroad.
 He concludes,
But how many more of our values will we shred in the name of security? Once we have allowed our governments to order the killing of fellow citizens, fellow human beings, in secret, without oversight or accountability, what other powers will we dare deny them?
This isn't complicated; there are no shades of grey here. Do we disapprove of car bombings and drive-by shootings, or not? Do we consistently condemn state-sponsored, extrajudicial killings as acts of pure terror, no matter where in the world, or on whose orders, they occur? Or do we shrug our shoulders, turn a blind eye and continue our descent into lawless barbarism?
 Read the whole article here

See also Michael Burleigh An informal addition to the laws of physics – don’t work for Iran, subtitled, "The covert war behind the latest assassination in Tehran raises moral concerns."
I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes, men who live in the real world rather than a laboratory or philosophy seminar. Except that if Israel ventures down this road, I cannot think of much of an argument to prevent Iran following them, and then anyone else who decides to follow. 
Josh Mitnick Was Israel behind Iran nuclear scientist's assassination? in the Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Tony Greenstein Responds to Allegations of Antisemitism

Church Times Letters
13-17 Long Lane

Dear Sir or Madam,

I read with interest the article 'Priest under fire for controversial web-site link' in last week's edition of the Church Times.

As a Jewish cofounder of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, I have never heard or read anything by Stephen Sizer that could possibly be construed as anti-Semitic. To accuse people of anti-Semitism when they evince not a whiff of racism is to let the real anti-Semites off the hook. Like the boy who cried wolf, such false accusations are of aid to the real wolves.

The fact that Stephen inadvertently posted a link on his blog to a web site which carried holocaust denial material is irrelevant. I have also posted links to sites that I have had to delete when their purpose and content became clear. I suspect many of Stephen’s accusers may have done likewise. Unfortunately the web is full of conspiracy sites, many of which are not obvious at first sight.

The real issue of racism which Stephen and many thousands of others address is the horrific discrimination faced by the Arabs of Israel and Palestine. Just this week Israel’s Supreme Court, in a shameful decision, decided that Israeli Arabs could not marry Arabs outside the country and continue to live in Israel. Contrast this with the position whereby I can move to Israel, any time I wish, living with whoever I wish to be my partner, without let or hindrance, and claim immediate citizenship. To this very day, half the Arab villages in Israel are ‘unrecognised’ and subject to demolition, as is happening to the Bedouin in the Negev. This, not anti-Semitism, is the real issue.

For too long the accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’ has deterred people, especially Christians, from supporting the Palestinians. Christian anti-Semitism of the past is in danger of being repeated as the Church is being guilt-tripped into supporting Zionism. The real lesson is that we should not turn a blind eye to racism, whomsoever practices it and whomsoever is its victim.

Stephen Sizer is to be congratulated for the position he has taken. He has been subject to very considerable personal vilification. I would hope that prominent Anglican leaders, including Archbishop Rowan Williams, speak up in Stephen’s support and are not intimidated by these defamatory and false accusations of anti-Semitism.

Yours faithfully,

Tony Greenstein

Tony was a founding member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign

See also letters from:

Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Professor Ilan Pappe
Dr Jeff Halper
Dr Mark Braverman
Tony Greenstein
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz

Methodist-Anglican Unity

Dear Bishop Christopher

I write to you as a Methodist who admires the work of the Rev Sizer and respects his courageous efforts to express his Christian faith in the difficult context of human rights.

Each year I travel to Palestine so that I can see for myself the sufferings of that abused nation and act as an advocate for them in my life here in London.

It is now, sadly, a commonplace for those of us who believe in Christ's message of justice and humanity to be traduced by those who support the displacement of Palestinian Christians and Muslims from their homes on the basis of flawed and mendacious readings of selected passages from the Old Testament. Each year I sit in St George's Cathedral in Occupied East Jerusalem and pray that people of all races and religions live together in harmony and mutual respect. Many are the tears I have shed for the people of Palestine whose sufferings I witness as I wait in queues in Israeli checkpoints, or walk the battered streets of the refugee camps. A few months ago I shared the tear-gas fired at children in Silwan, only two or three miles from St George's.

Stephen speaks for those with no voice, little money and no power against the rich and the powerful. He does so from a Christian perspective which I share. The Church of England should be proud of him and resist those who seek to traduce, misinform and spread a message of greed and hate.

Yours sincerely

Stephen Williams

Christianity Explored Launch in Burundi

Craig Dyer and I leave for Bujumbura in Burundi on Sunday to launch the new Kirundi translation of Christianity Explored at the invitation of the Anglican Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi. The journey takes us via Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

The BBC gives the low down on Burundi and why this kind of initiative is so important in equipping and training church leaders in communicating the Christian message of reconciliation.

Burundi, one of the world’s poorest nations, is emerging from a 12-year, ethnic-based civil war. The government and the last active rebel group signed a ceasefire in May 2008, but post-election tension in 2010 renewed fears of civil war.

This will be our fourth visit to East Africa to train pastors and church leaders to use Christianity Explored.  Previous visits have been to Kenya and Uganda. Check out the photos here

Monday, 16 January 2012

Israeli Settlements are an "act of deliberate vandalism" Nick Clegg

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, speaking after talks with Abbas, condemned the continued Israeli settlements as an "act of deliberate vandalism" that did "immense damage" to the peace process and "threatened a two-state solution."
"Once you've placed physical facts on the ground that makes it impossible to deliver something that everyone has for years agreed is the ultimate destination... it is an act of deliberate vandalism to the basic premise on which negotiations have taken place for years and years and years," Clegg said.
His strong words were welcomed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a joint news conference. "This is exactly what we wanted to hear officially from the (British) government," said the Palestinian leader.

Read more here Haaretz and BBC

Lets see if the Prime Minister sacks Nick or backs Nick. Melanie Phillips has made up her mind already. Writing in the Daily Mail today she insists the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are both supporting racism and holocaust deniers.
Clegg should be condemned in the strongest possible terms for his support of racism. For he is supporting the ethnic cleansing of Jews from a future state of Palestine... That racist agenda is what Clegg and Cameron are supporting... Why are Cameron and Clegg supporting the Holocaust-denier Abbas and his racist Palestinian Authority which pumps out hideous, Nazi-style demonisation of Jews and the intention to destroy Israel... The Prime Minister and his deputy are siding with racism against its victims – and all of Britain is besmirched by this travesty.
I wonder if this is a sign that the Daily Mail is going to shift its allegiance to the Labour party?

It seems we have conflicting, indeed mutually incompatible, definitions of racism, not helped by the use of emotive and inflammatory language by Ms. Phillips. If I have to choose, I am glad to support the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in standing against the blatant racism of the illegal Israeli settlements built on confiscated or annexed Palestinian land.

You may view photos of some I visited recently near Bethlehem here and here but please do not deduce that I therefore support them.

Postponed or Cancelled? A Red Light or Green?

Haaretz tells us that Israel and the U.S. have postponed a massive defense drill in fear of escalation with Iran
According to an Israeli defense official, Washington wants to avoid causing further tensions in the region, especially in light of the sensitive situation that has been generated after various reports in the international media that the U.S. and Israel are preparing to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. 
Richard Silverstein insists, the joint war games have been cancelled.

Now the question is why. Did the U.S. cancel them to show displeasure to Israel?  And if so, why?  Does Obama know something about Israeli intentions we don’t know?  Are plans underway to strike Iran?  Is Obama seeking to show his displeasure?  Or is he trying to soothe Iran by not going through with a highly provocative military exercise which would’ve placed thousands of U.S. troops in the heart of Israel as a show of solidarity with Israel in its crusade against Iran?  Another related option being suggested in the Israeli media is that the U.S. is signalling its displeasure over the latest Iranian assassination by the Mossad.  If this is the case, then the U.S. is saying that such black ops programs are a sideshow that achieve little and could serve as the catalyst to send the entire region into cataclysm.

Maariv adds that the reason involved:
“broad IDF operational considerations, including military preparations for achieving complex objectives.”
I don’t know if this means that Israel wanted them cancelled because it was preparing to attack Iran.  Or because the IDF wants Iran to believe this.
Either way, postponing or cancelling the US-Israeli war games has not reduced tensions off the Straits of Hormuz. Only a reduction in the rhetoric of macho brinkmanship and a return to quiet diplomacy over Iran's nuclear programme can achieve that. Re-opening the Iranian embassy in London would be a start.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Time Publishes Statistics on Guantanamo

Jan. 11 marked 10 years since the first detainees in the war against al-Qaeda were taken to the U.S. facility at Guantanamo, a slip of land held by the U.S. on the eastern tip of Cuba. Critics decry the murky legality under which hundreds of supposed "enemy combatants" have been held without normal rights of due process. Inquiries found that few detainees have had concrete ties with al-Qaeda.Yet despite earlier promises to shutter the facility, the White House seems prepared to keep it open for years to come.

Number of men imprisoned at Guantanamo by the Department of Defence since the facility was opened on Jan. 11, 2002: 779

Number of men still imprisoned there as of January 2012: 171

Percentage of prisoners at Guantanamo who were never al-Qaeda fighters according to the government: 92%

Percentage of prisoners captured by U.S. troops: 5% 

Percentage of prisoners reportedly turned over to the coalition forces in response to a bounty offer: 86%

Age of youngest prisoner held at Guantanamo: 13

Age of the oldest prisoner at Guantanamo: 98

Number of children the U.S. has imprisoned at Guantanamo: 21

Source: Time

See also The Shame of Guantanamo 10th Anniversary

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Jesus Confronts Racism and Prejudice with Compassion and Mercy

This sermon is just 1 minute 48 seconds long but it sums up the last 35 years of my full time Christian ministry. If I never preached another sermon, this is the one I'd want you to remember me by.

Here's the context - a story Jesus told about being a neighbour.
"On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" (Matthew 24:40)

Source: With God on our Side

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Shame of Guantanamo 10th Anniversary

The 10th Anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre was marked by a gathering at the Conway Hall in London sponsored by three organisations, Cageprisoners, Reprieve and the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC).

Speakers included the actress and political activist, Vanessa Redgrave, Co-founder of the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission; Victoria Brittain, former associate foreign editor of the Guardian; Massoud Shadjarah of the IHRC; lawyers who have and continue to represent Guantanamo prisoners, Clive Stafford Smith (the Director of Reprieve), Michael Ratner and Gareth Peirce; as well as former detainees, Moazzam Begg, Sami Al-Hajj and Omar Deghayes.

The audience in the Conway Hall, packed to capacity, as well as those watching live on IHRC TV heard harrowing eye witness accounts of torture, degrading treatment and human rights abuses.

The Independent editorial Ten years on, the shame of Guantanamo Remains, wrote yesterday,
But flagrant injustices remain. Of the 171 prisoners who are still at Guantanamo, a relatively small number – such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others accused of organising the September 11 attacks – can genuinely be counted "the worst of the worst". The rest are small fry, many of them innocent of any crime: some simply sold to US troops for bounty, others guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet they remain in a legal limbo that has spurred despair and hundreds of suicide attempts, at least four of them successful. Shaker Aamer, the last British resident still being held at the prison, has been there for a decade but has never even been charged. According to his lawyer, Mr Aamer is "falling apart at the seams".

This is taken from Cageprisoners:
Ten years ago, the first Guantánamo prisoners arrived at Camp X-Ray, housed in open-air cages with concrete floors. Here, former detainees and family members speak movingly about their memories of those still imprisoned there, the impact of Guantánamo on their own lives, and their hopes for the future.

One of the residents remembered is the last British man held there, Shaker Aamer, who has never been charged with an offence. After being detained in Afghanistan, Shaker was subsequently sold for a bounty to US forces, tortured in Bagram Air Force Base and Kandahar (with British agents as witnesses), before being transferred to Guantánamo for additional abuse.

Published reports indicate that Shaker is one of 89 among the 171 prisoners remaining in Guantánamo who has long been cleared for release from the prison. However, the law in the US as it currently stands requires that the US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta must certify that Britain is a safe place for him to return to, and that he will commit no future crimes there – something that apparently Panetta has been unwilling to do.

Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith, who visited Shaker in November 2011 said: “I saw Shaker…and he tries to put a brave face on ten years of horrible abuse, but it is enough to wear any human being down almost to the point of death. Why does Britain pretend it has a Special Relationship if someone from London can be held for a decade without any due process, leaving his British wife without a husband and his British children without a father?

“Notwithstanding the fact that Britain has the best record of any country with former Guantánamo prisoners (nobody released has committed any offence), and that Shaker Aamer has anyway never committed a crime of any kind, the US Secretary of Defense is apparently not willing to certify that it would be safe for him to return here.  It’s time someone in the British government told Leon Panetta what time of day it is.”  

A summary of Guantánamo Bay statistics

779 acknowledged prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay to date (there are indications that various prisoners were held in Guantánamo Bay in secret from 2003 until June 2004 when the US Supreme Court ordered that the prisoners be allowed access to courts, but these prisoners have never been identified).
242 prisoners when President Obama took office.
171 current prisoners.
Citizens of 48 countries have been held at Guantánamo.
50 countries that have accepted Guantánamo detainees.
38 men designated no longer enemy combatants by Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
156 prisoners cleared for release/approved for transfer by Obama's interagency task force.
59 cleared for transfer but cannot leave because of instability in their home countries, inability to get foreign countries to help out with resettlements and Congressional restrictions.
88 prisoners cleared for release/approved for transfer by Obama's interagency task force still in Guantánamo.
22 prisoners approved for transfer in need of humanitarian protection.
48 prisoners facing indefinite protection without trial.
It costs $700,000 extra per prisoner, to keep a captive at Guantánamo rather than in a US federal prison.

You can find out more about Guantanamo by visiting our timeline and statistics page. Click here to watch a BBC report about Obama's broken promise, featuring Clive Stafford Smith.

Photos of Guantanamo Remembered 10th Anniversary 

From Human Rights Watch:
Many detainees at Guantanamo were subjected to painful stress positions; extended solitary confinement; threatening military dogs; threats of torture and death; and prolonged exposure to extremes of heat, cold, and noise that amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
President Obama vowed to close the facility after taking office -- calling it a "betrayal of American values." Yet almost four years later, the Obama administration has been unable to live up to its promise. White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated on Monday that the administration is committed to closing the base because "it's the right thing to do for our national security interests," the AP reports. 

Today, 171 men remain detained at Guantanamo Bay. 36 are set to face trial on war crimes charges; 46 are considered too dangerous to be released but cannot be prosecuted; 57 men from Yemen are held because the U.S. does not want them to return to the unstable country; and congressional limitations prevent the release of 32 others.

See more statistics on Huffington Post

Thinking the Unthinkable: The New Middle East and the New United States

After an early morning Sunday service about five years ago, as people were leaving, a member of our church family shook my hand and mentioned he had just got back from a meeting in Washington. A senior officer in the British army, he had been at a meeting of NATO staff at which a new set of maps of the Middle East were presented by Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters. Maps proposing changes to borders based on blood lines rather than Colonial favours to create a more peaceful Middle East.

He was, I still remember, almost speechless at the presentation, pessimistic that imposing even a single border change in the Middle East would heighten not lesson tensions. I forgot about the maps but last week, with US military personnel going to Israel for war games, an American member of our church family reminded me of the maps and we speculated on whether they, or the reasoning behind Ralph Peters' presentation, are still, in any way, helping to shape US foreign policy in the Middle East.

The term “New Middle East” was used by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a speech delivered in Tel Aviv in June 2006,
“[w]hat we’re seeing here [in regards to the destruction of Lebanon and the Israeli attacks on Lebanon], in a sense, is the growing—the ‘birth pangs’—of a ‘New Middle East’ and whatever we do we [meaning the United States] have to be certain that we’re pushing forward to the New Middle East [and] not going back to the old one.
Roula Khalaf, writing for the Financial Times, notes the furore her comments caused coming so soon after the Qana massacre in Lebanon.
Ms Rice might have been simply reiterating US policy. But rarely has a phrase caught as much attention and provoked as much anger from radicals and moderates, who have seen in it a new and more determined American strategy aimed against Arab interests. Many analysts have made an association with the title of a 1993 book by the Israeli elder statesman, Shimon Peres. In the New Middle East, he argued that Jews and Arabs should develop economic relations to promote peace. It is an attitude, however, that Arabs have long regarded as an Israeli plot to control the Arab world without withdrawing from occupied lands...
Mostafa Kamel al-Sayed, an Egyptian political analyst, said the US had yet to understand Arab mentality or the nature of Hizbollah... "US policy has no credibility in the region, the talk of democracy has no credibility in the region, and the Lebanon policy was the last nail in the coffin," he said.
The maps were subsequently published in the Armed Forces Journal in an article by Ralph Peters, and reproduced by The Centre for Democracy in Lebanon.

Peters' writes:
International borders are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference — often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.

The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa's borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East — to borrow from Churchill — generate more trouble than can be consumed locally.

While the Middle East has far more problems than dysfunctional borders alone — from cultural stagnation through scandalous inequality to deadly religious extremism — the greatest taboo in striving to understand the region's comprehensive failure isn't Islam but the awful-but-sacrosanct international boundaries worshipped by our own diplomats.
Peters acknowledges,
Of course, no adjustment of borders, however draconian, could make every minority in the Middle East happy. In some instances, ethnic and religious groups live intermingled and have intermarried. Elsewhere, reunions based on blood or belief might not prove quite as joyous as their current proponents expect. The boundaries projected in the maps accompanying this article redress the wrongs suffered by the most significant "cheated" population groups, such as the Kurds, Baluch and Arab Shia, but still fail to account adequately for Middle Eastern Christians, Bahais, Ismailis, Naqshbandis and many another numerically lesser minorities. And one haunting wrong can never be redressed with a reward of territory: the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians by the dying Ottoman Empire.

Yet, for all the injustices the borders re-imagined here leave unaddressed, without such major boundary revisions, we shall never see a more peaceful Middle East...
He suggests what the military has to do all the time.
As for those who refuse to "think the unthinkable," declaring that boundaries must not change and that's that, it pays to remember that boundaries have never stopped changing through the centuries. Borders have never been static, and many frontiers, from Congo through Kosovo to the Caucasus, are changing even now (as ambassadors and special representatives avert their eyes to study the shine on their wingtips). Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works. 
Peters' concludes, "If the borders of the greater Middle East cannot be amended to reflect the natural ties of blood and faith, we may take it as an article of faith that a portion of the bloodshed in the region will continue to be our own."

Read more here

And here are the Middle East maps enlarged: Before and After a little help from our friends.

And here is a suggested map for a more harmonious North America.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Muslim Brotherhood protects churches for Coptic Christmas

Jayson Casper reports for LapidoMedia on a good news story from Egypt that defies the stereotypical view that tensions between Muslims and Christians are inevitable.
The Coptic Orthodox Church and the Muslim Brotherhood celebrated Christmas together in churches throughout Egypt on Saturday, in a display of national unity.
Christmas, celebrated in Egypt on January 7, has in recent years been a holiday of sorrow and worry, with attacks on churches and an intensifying politics of religious identity.
Many Copts are fearful over a parliament dominated by Islamists, who are poised to claim around 75% of the seats following a third round of elections.
Two Christmasses ago a church in the town of Nag Hamadi witnessed a drive-by shooting that killed six Christians exiting mass.
A church in Alexandria was bombed last New Year’s Eve, killing twenty-three.
Yet this year, Christmas passed off without violence, in a show of national unity by both church and Brotherhood.
Mohamed el-Beltagi, secretary of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told Lapido he would offer protection and greeting.
‘We will cooperate with security to make sure there are no attacks on the Church. Our presence is precautionary, but we will comfort the Copts after what happened last year.’
Beltagi stressed there was no ulterior motive. ‘Protecting churches is a social and religious obligation. It has no relation to Copts as dhimmis,’ he said, referring to the infamous second-class status accorded to non-Muslims under sharia law.
Hassan Mohamed, the assistant media coordinator for the Muslim Brotherhood in southern Cairo, also dismissed any relation to dhimmi-type protection. ‘We are here to protect our Christian brothers, as they did for us in Tahrir.
‘Christians are in the army, so how can we treat them as dhimmis? The jurisprudence of reality says this is impossible. Our scholars will figure this out later, and it is not appropriate to talk about it now.’
 Read more here

The Guardian
quoted Pope Shenouda’s comments during Christmas mass: ‘For the first time in the history of the cathedral, it is packed with all types of Islamist leaders in Egypt. They all agree ... on the stability of this country, and in loving it and working for it, and to work with the Copts as one hand for the sake of Egypt.’

Monday, 9 January 2012

When 'Anti-Semitism' Is Abused

Sarah Wildman is a columnist for the International Herald Tribune and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

She is also a contributing editor to the Jewish Daily, Forward.

This week she wrote a timely and enlightening article entitled, When 'Anti-Semitism' Is Abused: It is subtitled, "Disagreeing With Israel Doesn't Make One a Bigot" She begins:
We were raised to be vigilant. We were taught to fight oppression, admonished to be New Jews — strong, muscular, defiant.
We were told to look for the signs, the slogans and the double-speak. We learned at the knee of those with tattooed forearms; knelt at the feet of those who lost brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, parents, grandparents, lovers, spouses, children.
We have cried, we have wailed, we have lit thousands upon thousands of memorial candles. And we have sworn, again and again, that we would never forget.
That is why when anti-Semitism is falsely applied, we must also stand up and decry it as defamation, as character assault, as unjust. That is why when we debase the term by using it as a rhetorical conceit against those with whom we disagree on policy matters, we have sullied our own promises to our grandparents. For if we dilute the term, if we render the label meaningless, defanged, we have failed ourselves, our legacy, our ancestors, our children.

Wildman concludes:
And when Haredi men and women put their children in striped pajamas and place a yellow star emblazoned with the word “Jude” on their chests and parade in the streets of Jerusalem to protest the secular world, we can call that spitting on the graves of our ancestors. And we can weep that we have lost all perspective. Enough.
Whether we are Jews, Muslims, Christians or of another faith, lets commit to join in common cause against all forms of racism and anti-Semitism, and learn to distinguish the real threat from the imaginary, as Wildman urges.

Read more here

See also Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism have no place in PSC (or anywhere else)

I concur wholeheartedly with John Stott who once said,

“Away then with anti-Semitism! It has been an appalling scandal in the history of Europe, and even the Christian church has been implicated. Christians should be ‘pro-Semitic’, in the sense that we recognize how the people of Israel have been highly favoured by God. We Gentiles are their debtors, Paul wrote (Romans 15:27). We owe them a huge spiritual debt, especially in their bequest to the world of both the Scriptures and the Christ.”

I vote for Sesame Street

Damien Pearse, writing in the Guardian reports, Palestinian Sesame Street falls victim to US Congress
With its colourful band of Muppets preaching tolerance and neighbourly love, the Palestinian version of the children's television programme Sesame Street had become a beacon of hope for children in a region ravaged by decades of unrest.
But the cast of peace-loving characters have now found themselves in the crossfire of a political dispute between Palestinian leaders and the US Congress, and episodes have been axed for 2012.
Sesame Street – known as Shara'a Simsim in Arabic – is one of many US-funded Palestinian shows suffering after Congress froze the transfer of nearly £130m to the US Agency for International Development in October. The suspension aimed to punish the Palestinians for appealing to the United Nations for membership.
The funding suspension has affected a broad range of services in Palestine relying on American aid, including hospitals, education, government ministries and communications.
This week, the Ramallah offices of Shara'a Simsim, the writing workshop room was empty and the set was closed.
"If we had funding, we would be writing scripts, we would be reviewing scripts, we would be hiring film-makers to produce the videos," said executive producer Daoud Kuttab.
I feel really sad. If only we put the children first, what a wonderful world this might be.

Philip Weiss links this story with another which shows where our priorities are. U.S. continues to fund Israeli military but not Palestinian ‘Sesame Street.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Emmy Kosgei Sings Gospel

Emmy Kosgei, winner of Best Female African Gospel Artiste AGMA Awards 2011, was in the UK for a short visit to receive her award at the Kenyan High Commission. She dropped into Christ Church and sang in the Sunday services today. Here is one of her songs. Emmy will be singing in the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in the Summer.

Join Emmy on Facebook

Christ at the Checkpoint 2012: Seven Affirmations

On behalf of the conference organizing committee and the leadership at Bethlehem Bible College, we invite you to participate in the Christ at the Checkpoint 2012 Conference. Registrations are increasing daily and there is a growing sense of expectation that God will use this unique global fellowship for his purposes to further his kingdom as well as to bring justice, peace and reconciliation in Israel-Palestine.

The following affirmations reflect my personal convictions and hopes as well as those of the other conference organizers.

Affirmation #1: Israelis and Palestinians
We affirm that all people are created in the image of God. In turn we are called to honor the dignity of every human being and to respect their inalienable rights. We affirm that Jews and Palestinians are loved by God and capable of living together within peace, justice and security. This is God’s view toward all of humanity, residing in any political boundary and manifested through the mission of Jesus in bringing to everyone, “life to the full” (John 10:10).

Affirmation #2: Theology and Land

The New Testament clearly teaches that God continues to invite Jews and Arabs into His kingdom and in no way is finished with any people group. Further, Scripture speaks of Jesus as its ultimate fulfillment. For example, the need for animal sacrifices, Levitical priesthood, and expectation of a rebuilt Temple, find their ultimate fulfillment and completion in Jesus Christ.

Affirmation #3: The Palestinian-Israeli conflict

As followers of Jesus Christ we regret more than 60 years of conflict. We look forward to the time when the conflict will end and both peoples will enjoy genuine reconciliation. We commit ourselves to be peacemakers and to this ministry of reconciliation. As such we stand resolutely against all forms of violence and racism, regardless of the perpetrators.

Affirmation #4: The Second Coming of Christ
There are several views which Christ followers hold to explain the future. Rather than focus on the signs of the return of Christ, our reading of the New Testament indicates that our primary mandate is to proclaim the “Good News” to the entire world.

Affirmation #5: Zionism
Modern Zionism is a political movement created to meet the aspirations of Jews around the world who longed for a homeland. It has become ethnocentric, privileging one people at the expense of others. Christianity calls believers in Jesus to focus on building God’s kingdom on earth.

Affirmation #6: Messianic Jews
Messianic Jews are the brothers and sisters of all who follow Jesus or Yeshua. We are one family bound together in a fellowship of love. Although diversity in political opinions as well as theological emphasis inevitably exist, we refuse to allow these views to hinder our fellowship in Jesus.

Affirmation #7: Palestinian and Israeli Authority

The Bible teaches us to pray for all in political authority. We are called to obey them, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian, as an expression of our faith in God’s sovereign rule. We are also called to be a prophetic voice, challenging injustice creatively and non-violently.

We trust these seven affirmations help clarify the views of the conference organizers and will encourage you to participate in the Christ at the Checkpoint conference 2012.

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Long Awaited.... D4

Limits are there to be pushed. And this SLR is made to push them.

The D4 offers a powerful combination of up to 11 fps, a 16.2 megapixel FX-format sensor and phenomenally high ISO (extendable up to 204,800, equivalent). D-movie delivers all the flexibility you need for broadcast quality video. The Kevlar/carbon fiber-composite shutter unit boasts a standard life cycle rating of 400,000 releases, thirty percent more than its predecessor. Source: Nikon

Read Ken Rockwell's excellent review here

See also the DP Review

Yes please.....

Intimidate, Intimidate, Intimidate

Ben White writes in the Guardian about the tactics used to silence criticism of human rights abuses. Entitled, This smear against Israeli human rights activists is all too familiar, White tells the story of Adalah, an Israeli human rights organisation that defends Palestinian rights. He argues that the European Jewish Congress attack on it reflects a wider pattern of bullying.
Last week, the president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC) launched an extraordinary attack on an Israeli human rights organisation, Adalah, comparing the NGO to the far-right French National Front and British National party.
Moshe Kantor, who heads the umbrella organisation for elected representatives of Europe's Jewish communities, was responding to a leaked EU document that expressed concern for Israel's treatment of Palestinian citizens
White concludes:
Kantor's comments reflect a wider pattern, where even small efforts to do something constructive about challenging human rights abuses or discriminatory practices in Israel are met with smears, bullying and over-the-top bluster.
Documenting the facts and confronting injustice has never been without consequences (particularly for Palestinians) but the climate of paranoia and retribution is steadily growing.
Read more here

Ben White's latest book is entitled, 'Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy'

Adalah's website is here

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Separating the Sheep from the Goats

Oz Rosenberg, writing in Haaretz today, reports on the impact the Israeli Separation Barrier is having on the monks and nuns of Cremisan monastery, located on the slopes of Walaja, a Palestinian village near Bethlehem. Entitled, New segment of West Bank security fence may separate nuns from monks, Oz points out how the barrier gives "new meaning to gender segregation."
The monks and nuns of the Cremisan monastery, on a pastoral ridge opposite Har Gilo, have been living peacefully, side by side, since the place was built in the 1960s. But a new segment of the separation fence Israel is building will not only bisect the Cremisan's verdant terraces, but could also separate the inhabitants of this Salesian order, leaving the nuns on the West Bank side of the barrier, and the monks on the Israeli side. That, at least, is the solution the Defense Ministry recently proposed to the members of the Catholic monastery. 
Why would the Israeli authorities want to have the monks on the Israeli side and isolate the nuns on the Palestinian side? Is that because the nuns pose a greater threat to the security of Israel? No, there is a much simpler explanation.
For the monks, who earn their livelihood producing and selling wine, mainly in Israel, that's good news. But for the nuns who operate a Catholic school for Palestinian children from nearby West Bank villages, it's bad news. The fence will prevent their pupils from reaching their school, or at the very least, make it difficult for them to do so. 
"The monks make wine, and for them it's great. They're interested in producing wine and this enables them to send it to Israel, where their customers are located," said the Mother Superior, Sister Adriana, this week. "For us it's not good at all. If the fence passes here and they put us on the Israeli side, the children won't be able to reach us. There's only one road to the monastery. The fence will create a checkpoint here with soldiers."  
Sister Adriana insists, 'Walls do not make good neighbors.'"

Read the rest of Oz Rosenberg's article here

For some stunning photos of Cremisan see Ryan Rodrick Beiler