Saturday, 26 May 2012

The "Muslim Schindler"


Mehdi Hassan, writing in the New Statesman this week, tells the story of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, an Iranian Muslim who saved Jews from the Nazi Holocaust in France during World War 2. With heightened tension between Israel and Iran, surely we need more Sardaris willing to challenge prejudice and racial hatred by their actions and not just their words.
Have you heard of the “Muslim Schindler” who risked his life to save Iranian Jews in Paris during the Second World War? No? Neither had I, until a few months ago. 
Abdol-Hossein Sardari unexpectedly found himself in charge of Iran’s diplomatic mission in Paris during the German occupation of France. A lawyer by training, he used his negotiating skills to try to persuade the Nazis’ experts on racial purity that the 150 or so Iranian Jews living in the city in 1940 were assimilated to non-Jewish – and “Aryan” – Persians through history, culture and intermarriage. At the same time, the dapper diplomat quietly began to issue new-style Iranian passports to Jews, making it easier for them to flee France. 
Even though he was stripped of his diplomatic immunity and ordered to return to Tehran after Iran signed a treaty with the Allies in 1941, he stayed on in France to help Jews, and not just Iranian Jews, escape the Holocaust. In his 2011 book In the Lion’s Shadow, Fariborz Mokhtari estimates that there were between 500 and 1,000 blank passports in Sardari’s safe. If each of them was issued to a family of two or even three, “this could have saved over 2,000”. 
In April 1978, three years before Sardari’s death, Yad Vashem, the central Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, sent a series of questions to him about his wartime role. He replied: “As you may know, I had the pleasure of being the Iranian consul in Paris during the German occupation of France, and as such it was my duty to save all Iranians, including Iranian Jews.” Sardari the humanitarian did not distinguish between Muslims and Jews. 
So what is the connection with Britain? Sardari spent the last few years of his life in a bedsit in Croydon, south London, having lost his pension and properties in the Iranian Revolution. He never sought fame or recognition for his bravery and he died, poor and alone, in 1981. 
Depressingly, few Jews and even fewer Muslims are familiar with his name or life story. However, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Faith Matters plan to hold an exhibition this year recognising the contribution by Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust – including Sardari. The gesture is overdue. And to help fight the scourge of anti-Semitism among some British Muslims, organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain and the Islamic Society of Britain should do likewise. 
Source: New Statesman

Friday, 25 May 2012

Israel and the Last Days: What does the Bible Say?

On 9th May in Auckland and on 14th May in Christchurch respectively, Laidlaw College hosted a discussion between Richard Neville (Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Laidlaw College), and Stephen Sizer (Vicar of Christ Church (Anglican) in Virginia Water, England) on their different understanding of what the scriptures say about the ‘last days’.

For those of you who missed this event, we have now uploaded videos of the Auckland session onto our website (please see below). Alternatively, you can find these on the Video Archive section of the website.

Israel and the 'last days': What does the Bible say - Part 1 from Laidlaw College on Vimeo.

Laidlaw College National Principal Rod Thompson's introduction to the Israel and the 'last days' dialogue and discussion held at the Laidlaw College Auckland campus on 9 May 2012.


Israel and the 'last days': What does the Bible say - Part 2 from Laidlaw College on Vimeo.

Laidlaw College Senior Lecturer Richard Neville's presentation on "Israel and the 'last days': What does the Bible say?" held at the Laidlaw College Auckland campus on 9 May 2012.


Israel and the 'last days': What does the Bible say - Part 3 from Laidlaw College on Vimeo.

Stephen Sizer's (Vicar of Christ Church Anglican church in Virginia Water, England) presentation on "Israel and the 'last days': What does the Bible say?" held at the Laidlaw College Auckland campus on 9 May 2012.

See more videos of my visit to New Zealand here and on Christian Zionism here

Zeinab Assaffar on the Arab Spring

Zeinab Assaffar on the Arab Spring from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Zeinab Al-saffar is a news and political talk show host for the new Beirut based pan-Arab news network Almayadeen TV. In this interview I asked her about the Arab Spring and recent events in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

William Hague Reiterates British Commitment to Palestinian State on 1967 Borders


"I made clear the UK’s concern about the current stalemate in the Middle East Peace Process, and our view that there is an urgent need for progress. I expressed the UK’s firm view that continued illegal Israeli settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is harming Israel's international standing and endangering the two state solution. I reiterated our unswerving support for a lasting two state solution to the conflict that achieves a secure Israel alongside a sovereign and viable Palestinian State, based on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem the future capital of both states, and a fair settlement for refugees, and our readiness to work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to bring that about".

Foreign Secretary, William Hague, speaking after meeting Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the start of his two-day visit to the UK.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

TEAR Fund NZ: With God on our Side Tour


Frank Ritchie, Education and Advocacy Manager of TEAR Fund NZ, evaluates the 'With God on our Side' Tour.

 For more information see TEAR Fund NZ

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Caritas New Zealand


Caritas delivers aid and supports development overseas, as well as working for justice in New Zealand and abroad. They aim to make a difference in the lives of people living with poverty or injustice.

Mark Mitchell talks about his role in advocacy.

 For more information see Caritas New Zealand

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Alistair Donaldson on Justice in Palestine



Alistair Donaldson is a lecturer in Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics at Laidlaw College, New Zealand.

In this interview Alistair expresses his heart to see a just peace for Jews and Palestinians.

The views Alistair expresses are his own and not necessarily those of Laidlaw College.

See also The Last Days of Dispensationalism

Rod Thompson interviews Stephen Sizer



Rod Thompson interviews Stephen Sizer from Laidlaw College on Vimeo.


Laidlaw College Principal Rod Thompson interviewed me about some of the criticisms made against me, TEAR Fund NZ and the College for sponsoring my lecture tour.

Steve Tollestrup, CEO of TEAR Fund NZ has issued the following statement defending their position on Israel-Palestine and decision to sponsor my lecture tour in New Zealand.
May I begin by stating categorically that TEAR Fund:

1. Supports the right of the Jewish people to have a national homeland with safe and secure borders.
2. Considers anti-Semitism as abhorrent and evil.
3. Rejects unconditionally violence and takes seriously Christ’s call to be peace-makers and good Samaritans. 
I have had the opportunity to spend time with Stephen Sizer and his wife Joanna over the last week and have repeatedly heard him at length support a Jewish homeland, reject anti-Semitism and urgently calling on the church to be praying for peace. 
I was raised by a Jewish parent ( my step-father ) with both holocaust survivors and victims’ in my family. I know anti-Semitism when I see it. I have never heard Stephen Sizer say something that would make me feel he is anything but repulsed by anti-Semitism or that he is antagonist to TEAR Fund’s position stated above. 
TEAR Fund over the last eighteen years has been transparent with our supporters about our work with Palestinian refugees and poor families. In fact the very first grant TEAR Fund awarded in the 1960’s, was for Palestinian refugees. This is nothing new. I also work very closely with Messianic Jews in Israel as partners in local and international projects and peace-building witness. 
Stephen Sizer has been in New Zealand hosted by TEAR Fund and Laidlaw College. Likewise he works in association with World Vision and was interviewed on both Shine TV and Radio Rhema. Do you seriously think that TEAR Fund, Laidlaw, World Vision and Rhema, all Christian ministries committed to the Gospel, would support anti-Semitism? 
Stephen’s message is not complicated: Christian’s have a mandate to see that Palestinians as well as Israeli’s are also provided with rights and a secure future for their families. Further he ( and TEAR Fund ) affirm that the Palestinian church be supported and equipped to be a witness of Christ and a peace-maker in the region. 
In Christ whom we love and serve, 
Steve Tollestrup
Executive Director TEAR Fund.
Steve Haas, Vice President of World Vision USA, has made this statement in support of TEAR Fund NZ.
“I am thrilled that TEAR Fund NZ is serving as host for the very important visit of Rev’d Dr. Stephen Sizer. Stephen is clearly aware of the hurdles to Middle East reconciliation and serves as a tireless spokesman for peace in the Middle East and one that is shared by the Israelis and Palestinians that live there. Stephen has my utmost support and admiration.” 
Steve Haas
Vice President, Chief Catalyst, World Vision US

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Last Days of Dispensationalism: Alistair Donaldson




Foreword
“The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.”
These are not the views of some eccentric or extremist cult leader, but of Pastor John Hagee, the senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, San Antonio, Texas, a church of more than 19,000 members at the heart of America’s Bible belt. John Hagee’s apocalyptic speculations are disseminated to 100 million homes via radio and TV on a weekly basis. His views are shared by many other evangelical, charismatic and pentecostal leaders, seminary professors and television evangelists. Together, they are promoting a deeply pessimistic, confrontational and destructive view of Amerca’s present and future role in the world, and in the Middle East, in particular.

Alastair Donaldson could therefore not have written a more timely or needed book. He rightly insists:
“Beliefs shape how Christians live their lives. Eschatology is no mere appendage at the end of the bible with little to say to life in the present. Eschatology is the goal of God from the beginning of time; the bible is therefore eschatological from beginning to end. The past, present and future of God’s redemptive work is the Christian’s context for exegeting an understanding of who they are. To get that context wrong is to misunderstand our role in effecting God’s redeeming activity.”
Perpetuating a dualistic and Manichean world view, first Communism and now Islam are demonised as the ‘enemy’. Bible verses are quoted confidently to explain contemporary geo-political events leading to the battle of Armageddon. Religious sounding rhetoric such as “Operation Infinite Justice” and “Axis of Evil” is used to justify a beligerant foreign policy and military intervention against other sovereign States. Huntingdon’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ is becoming the self fulfilling prophecy of the Christian Right.

The Church in America, in particular, must therefore rethink its eschatology. For a century or more, the dominant eschatological view held by Christians in America has been Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism teaches that God has two separate chosen people, Israel and the Church, a heavenly and an earthly people. This has led many Chritians to believe that their responsibility is to take sides and support or ‘bless’ Israel to ensure God’s continuing blessing of America.

Typified by John Hagee, Dispensationalism is deeply sceptical of peacemaking as a Christian calling. It has largely silenced the propetic call for justice. It has sacralised unilateral military and economic support for a beligerant Zionism. It is exacerbating the deep mistrust much of the world feels toward America and more importantly, toward Christianity.

Donaldson shows with careful logic that following a literal hermeneutic does not lead to a distinction between God’s purposes for the Jewish people apart from other races. Just the reverse, God’s purposes for both are fulfilled only in and through faith in Jesus Christ. It is not that the Church has replaced Israel. Israel and the Church are one people. In the progressive revelation of Scripture through history there is a continuity among God’s people. Membership has always been on the basis of faith not race.

Donaldson shows that it is artificial and unbiblical to distinguish between Israel and the Church in God’s purposes. There has only ever been one people of God. Indeed, there is an organic unity of God’s people between the Old Testament Church and the New Testament Church. Christ has made the two – Jewish and Gentile believers – one. (Ephesians 2)

Donaldson tests the veracity of dispensationalism and finds it inherently defective. He shows that it is inconsistent and selective in its hermeneutic; flawed in distinguishing God’s purposes between Israel and the Church; acquiesces in the face of suffering and injustice because of its pessimistic and determinist eschatology; and is therefore confused about its redemptive mission to a lost world.

By contrast, in the New Testament, followers of Jesus Christ are called to be ‘peacemakers’ – indeed it is peacemaking that Jesus insists identifies the authenticity of those who claim to be his followers. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9). The apostle Paul elaborates on this radical yet intrinsic role of Christ-followers in 2 Corinthians 5:

So from now on we regard no-one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.(2 Corinthians 5:16-20)

We are to repudiate worldly criteria that distinguishes and categorizes people on the basis of wealth, race, colour or creed. God is not willing that any should perish: ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’(2 Peter 3:9) The vision of the future found in the Book of Revelation is ultimately a message of hope not despair. We see in the closing chapters, God’s dream not his nightmare: ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Revelation 21:3-4)

The closing chapter of the New Testament takes us back to the imagery of the Garden of Eden and the removal of the curse arising from the Fall: ‘Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb… On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.’ (Revelation 22:1-2) Surely this is what Jesus had in mind when he instructed his followers to work and pray that God’s kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.

In this book, Donaldson offers a more robust, biblically consistent and constructive view both of the future and of the role for the Church between now and the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“The alternative eschatological view here presented has sought to be faithful to the biblical text and to the far-reaching all-creation inclusive restoration hopes inherent in the gospel of the kingdom; God’s redeemed and restored humanity purchased from every tribe and language and people and nation as one people – one kingdom of priests, enjoying restored fellowship with God who is present with them, and reigning in the place that God intended for them to live - the new heaven and earth. This is the good news of the kingdom of God - experienced now in part - the full realization is yet to come.”

“Amen, Come Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)

Stephen Sizer

Alistair Donaldson is a lecturer in Biblical Theology, Biblical Studies, Hermeneutics and Worldview at Laidlaw College in Christchurch, New Zealand.

'The Last Days of Dispensationalism' is published by Wipf and Stock

See also Alistair Donaldson on Justice in Palestine

Steve Tollestrup Defends TEAR Fund NZ’s work in Palestine




Steve Tollestrup is the CEO of TEAR Fund New Zealand. In this interview he challenges Zionist allegations of anti-semitism and robustly defends TEAR Fund’s commitment to supporting justice, peace and reconciliation in Israel-Palestine.
Steve Tollestrup has also issued this statement on behalf of TEAR Fund NZ in response to complaints received.

May I begin by stating categorically that TEAR Fund:

1. Supports the right of the Jewish people to have a national homeland with safe and secure borders.
2. Considers anti-Semitism as abhorrent and evil.
3. Rejects unconditionally violence and takes seriously Christ’s call to be peace-makers and good Samaritans.

I have had the opportunity to spend time with Stephen Sizer and his wife Joanna over the last week and have repeatedly heard him at length support a Jewish homeland, reject anti-Semitism and urgently calling on the church to be praying for peace.

I was raised by a Jewish parent ( my step-father ) with both holocaust survivors and victims’ in my family. I know anti-Semitism when I see it. I have never heard Stephen Sizer say something that would make me feel he is anything but repulsed by anti-Semitism or that he is antagonist to TEAR Fund’s position stated above.

TEAR Fund over the last eighteen years has been transparent with our supporters about our work with Palestinian refugees and poor families. In fact the very first grant TEAR Fund awarded in the 1960’s, was for Palestinian refugees. This is nothing new. I also work very closely with Messianic Jews in Israel as partners in local and international projects and peace-building witness.

Stephen Sizer has been in New Zealand hosted by TEAR Fund and Laidlaw College. Likewise he works in association with World Vision and was interviewed on both Shine TV and Radio Rhema. Do you seriously think that TEAR Fund, Laidlaw, World Vision and Rhema, all Christian ministries committed to the Gospel, would support anti-Semitism? Stephen’s message is not complicated: Christian’s have a mandate to see that Palestinians as well as Israeli’s are also provided with rights and a secure future for their families. Further he ( and TEAR Fund ) affirm that the Palestinian church be supported and equipped to be a witness of Christ and a peace-maker in the region.

In Christ whom we love and serve,

Steve Tollestrup

Executive Director TEAR Fund.

Steve Haas, Vice President of World Vision USA, has made this statement of support for TEAR Fund NZ.
“I am thrilled that TEAR Fund NZ is serving as host for the very important visit of Rev’d Dr. Stephen Sizer. Stephen is clearly aware of the hurdles to Middle East reconciliation and serves as a tireless spokesman for peace in the Middle East and one that is shared by the Israelis and Palestinians that live there. Stephen has my utmost support and admiration.”
Steve Haas
Vice President, Chief Catalyst, World Vision US
See also:
See more photos of TEAR Fund NZ here

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Mount St John and Lake Tekapo


Lake Tekapo is near Mount Cook on New Zealand's South Island.

See photos of Tekapo and Mount St John here

For more information see tekapotourism.co.nz/


Frank Ritchie on TEAR Fund NZ and the Holy Land Trust



Frank Ritchie, Education and Advocacy Manager of TEAR Fund NZ talks about the reasons for their support of the Holy Land Trust in Palestine.

For more information see tearfund.org.nz

Friday, 11 May 2012

Rhema FM Newsrun Interview on Palestine


Andrew Urquhart of Rhema Radio in Auckland interviewed me yesterday as part of the TEAR Fund Reconciliation Tour of New Zealand. You can listen to our interview here

See more photos taken at Rhema FM here.

Steve Haas, Vice President of World Vision USA wrote this endorsement:
"I am thrilled that TEAR Fund NZ is serving as host for the very important visit of Rev'd Dr. Stephen Sizer. Stephen is clearly aware of the hurdles to Middle East reconciliation and serves as a tireless spokesman for peace in the Middle East and one that is shared by the Israelis and Palestinians that live there. Stephen has my utmost support and admiration."
Steve Haas
Vice President, Chief Catalyst
World Vision US

Dr Mark Keown, a Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Laidlaw College, School of Theology, Mission and Ministry, has made some perceptive observations about the way a small group of Zionists have tried to discredit the TEAR Fund Tour of New Zealand.
"It has been a great week having Stephen Sizer among us at Laidlaw College. We also had the privilege of having him to speak at Glenfield Presbyterian Church on Sunday and Monday night. He is a lovely man with a warm heart. Those who vilify him obviously have not met him. He is wrongly accused of being heretic, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and more. Such accusations are an utter disgrace and a direct violation of the Christian imperative to love one another! Whether we agree or disagree with him, we can walk in fellowship with him. I warmly endorse him and consider it a privilege to have met a brother in Christ who understands the central call of the gospel to justice and mercy. His preaching on the Good Samaritan (I still like the name, my bad?) gloriously reminds us of our need to above all else, show compassion. I loved the debate last night; all credit to Richard Neville and Stephen for doing so well and modelling Christian dialogue, it was a brilliant night!"

World Vision VP Endorses TEAR Fund Commitment to Justice, Peace and Reconciliation in Palestine

"I am thrilled that TEAR Fund NZ is serving as host for the very important visit of Rev'd Dr. Stephen Sizer. Stephen is clearly aware of the hurdles to Middle East reconciliation and serves as a tireless spokesman for peace in the Middle East and one that is shared by the Israelis and Palestinians that live there. Stephen has my utmost support and admiration."

Steve Haas
Vice President
Chief Catalyst
World Vision US


See also:

Steve Tollestrup Defends TEAR Fund NZ’s work in Palestine
TEAR Fund NZ Hosts ‘With God on our Side’ Tour
Steve Tollestrup, CEO of TEAR Fund NZ on Palestine
Frank Ritchie on TEAR Fund NZ
Rhema FM Newsrun Interview on Palestine
World Vision VP Endorses TEAR Fund Commitment to Justice, Peace and Reconciliation in Palestine
Israel and the Last Days: What does the Bible say? Laidlaw College, Auckland
Church Times: Dr Sizer is Cleared
Response to the Council of Christians and Jews
Sabeel Challenges Allegations of anti-Semitism
TEAR Fund NZ Women’s Empowerment Projects in India

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Israel and the Last Days: What does the Bible say? Laidlaw College, Auckland


Dr Mark Keown, a Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Laidlaw College, School of Theology, Mission and Ministry, has made some perceptive observations about the way some Zionists have tried to discredit the TEAR Fund Tour of New Zealand.
"It has been a great week having Stephen Sizer among us at Laidlaw College. We also had the privilege of having him to speak at Glenfield Presbyterian Church on Sunday and Monday night. He is a lovely man with a warm heart. Those who vilify him obviously have not met him. He is wrongly accused of being heretic, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and more. Such accusations are an utter disgrace and a direct violation of the Christian imperative to love one another! Whether we agree or disagree with him, we can walk in fellowship with him. I warmly endorse him and consider it a privilege to have met a brother in Christ who understands the central call of the gospel to justice and mercy. His preaching on the Good Samaritan (I still like the name, my bad?) gloriously reminds us of our need to above all else, show compassion. I loved the debate last night; all credit to Richard Neville and Stephen for doing so well and modelling Christian dialogue, it was a brilliant night!"
Read more here A Reflection on the Perspective of Stephen Sizer

Here's feedback from a couple of others who attended the Laidlaw discussion night.
"For me the crowning moments came from Richard in the Q&A. I'm totally with Stephen theologically but was keenly aware that there would have been many siding with Richard thinking he was their guy so there were two things he said that were significant and Stephen seemed closer to the Zionist position ;) When asked about 1948 and restoration, Stephen took an agnostic position and said it could be a restoration but not necessarily the one everyone is looking for. Richard said he saw no significance in it and did not believe it was a prophesied restoration. When asked if there was any significance in being Jewish, Stephen pointed to Romans 3 and Paul's list of benefits whereas Richard said there was none." 
"I was a little disappointed last night, especially with Richard’s approach. A row of old ladies in front of me were saying plenty of amens and nodding happily when he spoke. I am sure that went away convinced. Certainly the OT prophets looked to the restoration of Israel, but they could only speak in the categories they were familiar with. The disciples and their contemporaries also looked to the restoration of Israel. But one can’t read the NT for too long without discovering that the restoration that has happened looks quite different from what Richard implied it might look like. In a sense the two presentations dovetailed quite nicely. He set the scene with a discussion of restoration hopes, and you showed what it looked like. But few would probably have noticed that. I think I can detect a presentation along these lines inside me somewhere! 
The so-called progressive dispensationalists can say all they like that Dispensationalism has changed. But it still looks much the same to me, especially the bit that claims mainstream scholars for support, when with 10 minutes digging it becomes quite clear they are saying something quite different. And on Heb 11 he is just wrong!" 
See the rest of my New Zealand schedule (sponsored by TEAR Fund NZ) here

See also:

Steve Tollestrup Defends TEAR Fund NZ’s work in Palestine
TEAR Fund NZ Hosts ‘With God on our Side’ Tour
Steve Tollestrup, CEO of TEAR Fund NZ on Palestine
Frank Ritchie on TEAR Fund NZ
Rhema FM Newsrun Interview on Palestine
World Vision VP Endorses TEAR Fund Commitment to Justice, Peace and Reconciliation in Palestine
Israel and the Last Days: What does the Bible say? Laidlaw College, Auckland
Church Times: Dr Sizer is Cleared
Response to the Council of Christians and Jews
Sabeel Challenges Allegations of anti-Semitism
TEAR Fund NZ Women’s Empowerment Projects in India

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Defence of Children International - Palestine

DCI’s Detention Bulletin for April was released today. Some key points to note in this issue are:

· The number of children in Israeli military detention increased by 7 percent in April.

· The number of young children (12-15 years) in military detention also increased by 7 percent in April.

· The number of children held in military detention since December has increased by 63 percent.

· An interview with Jeff Halper discussing the possible annexation of 60 percent of the West Bank.

· New DCI report looks at the recruitment of children by the Israeli army and Palestinian armed groups.

· New DCI submission to the UN Committee against Torture.

Check out their website here

TEAR Fund NZ Hosts 'With God on our Side' Tour


"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

To contribute to the Christian dialogue about the problem and especially how Christian theology relates to it, TEAR Fund NZ inverted me to give a series of talks on the topic. Alongside this we have a limited number of screenings of the film With God on Our Side, followed by Q&A. 

On two occasions, I will be having a public discussion with Dr Richard Neville on "Israel and the Last Days: What does the Bible say?"

The Palestinian/Israeli conflict is a continued tragedy that still regularly appears in global news headlines. As Christians it has a special place for us as this conflict is unfolding in the land of the Bible. Often it can be hard to sort through the varied ideas about how we should approach the issue. TEAR Fund is committed to exploring the different viewpoints around this issue and encouraging healthy debate.

My schedule is here


Steve Tollstrup (CEO) and Frank Ritchie (Education and Advocacy Manager)


Steve Tollstrup (CEO TEAR Fund NZ)




Frank Ritchie (Education and Advocacy Manager)



See other photos from TEAR Fund here

Monday, 7 May 2012

New Zealand Through the Lens

Here are some albums of photos taken in and around Auckland this week. The photos are raw and unedited because I am on the move. The scenery is stunning. I hope you like them. Next week we will be in Christ Church and Wellington on the South Island hopefully spending some time in Lord of the Rings territory.

Rangitoto
Muriwai
Karekari
Auckland
Auckland Harbour
Devonport
Mount Eden


Saturday, 5 May 2012

Descending from the Summit of Rangitoto Island


Rangitoto means 'bloody sky' in Maori. The island near Auckland was created by a volcanic eruption only 600 years ago, making it the youngest in New Zealand. Most of the landscape is made up of rugged lava flow. The 360 degree view from the summit is stunning.

Steve Tollestrup, CEO of TEAR Fund NZ on Palestine



TEAR Fund NZ sponsors several humanitarian and reconciliation projects in Palestine. Steve Tollestrup, CEO of Tearfund explains why they got involved and how they overcame the prejudice and opposition to do so.

For more information visit tearfund.org.nz

TEAR Fund NZ Women's Empowerment Projects in India



TEAR Fund NZ supports several projects in rural India empowering women. Frank Ritchie, Education and Advocacy Manager of TEAR Fund NZ, talks about them here from the summit of Rangitoto Island near Auckland.

For more information see tearfund.org.nz

Auckland Museum and Art Gallery

View photos of Auckland War Memorial Museum here. Visit the Museum website here.

View photos of Auckland Art Gallery here. Visit the Art Gallery website here.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Ben White: Israel and Palestine: Two States, Two Peoples

Ben White has written a good article for Aljazeera on the moribund 'Two State' solution, pointing out that 'Israel's idea of 'two states' is based on expulsion of Arabs, so the Jewish character of its country is not threatened.'
The slogan "two states for two peoples" has long been used by those who support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Ironically, however, such a framework risks cementing Israeli apartheid and Jewish privilege, evoking the same sorts of arguments put forward by defenders of South Africa's historical regime of systematic discrimination.  
There are three problems with the "two states for two peoples" formulation. Firstly, the meaning of a Palestinian "state" has changed to the point that it is problematic to even use the term. Support for Palestinian statehood - at least rhetorically - has become the shared position of everyone from Tony Blair to Netanyahu, via Ariel Sharon. Some Israel advocacy groups (the slightly smarter ones) even campaign on this basis.

Israel's unwanted citizens 
So what's going on here, when someone like Netanyahu can boast to Congress how he has "publicly committed to asolution of two states for two peoples"?  Well note the wording of the Israeli government's position when Ehud Olmert was prime minister and Tzipi Livni was foreign minister. 
"The government will strive to shape the permanent borders of the state of Israel as a Jewish state, with a Jewish majority."
In other words, the question of borders is not so much about land, as it is about demographics.
He concludes,
The unpleasant reality at the heart of the "two states for two peoples" - a framework based on expulsion and exclusion - has become clearer as more and more Zionists link Palestinian "statehood" with the need to "save" Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state". In doing so, they unwittingly emphasise how only one half of that latter formulation is true.

Read more here

Church Times: Dr Sizer is Cleared

Ed Thornton writes in today's Church Times (4 May 2012)

THE Crown Prosecution Service has decided that a cleric who was accused of posting anti-Semitic con­tent online did not commit any criminal offence. The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, was investigated by Surrey Police after a complaint was made about an article he posted on his Facebook page (News, 16 March). 
A statement issued by Surrey Police on Tuesday of last week said: “Surrey detectives carried out a thorough and extensive review of the material in question and following liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service it has been determined that no criminal offences have been committed. The matter has now been closed and no further action is being taken.” 
Dr Sizer said last week that Surrey Police’s conclusion “will come as no surprise to those who know and work with me.” 
He said: “My support for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, based on interna­tional law and recognised borders, achieved by peaceful and democratic means, has unfortunately left me open to what can only be described as an unbalanced and targeted cam­paign from certain quarters, a situa­tion which is deeply regrettable. . . 
“Having consulted a number of Jewish friends, I now keep a small list of websites to avoid in future. I will be more careful about the origin of material I post on my blog and Facebook, and welcome opportuni­ties for discussion with members of the Jewish community to move for­wards in a spirit of mutual respect.” 
The Council of Christians and Jews, which alerted the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, to the website, said in a state­ment that it had believed that it was for Guildford diocese and Surrey Police “to decide whether or not appropriate action should be taken. The Council of Christians and Jews has now received the advice of the Surrey Police, together with that of the appropriate legal authorities.” 
A spokeswoman for the diocese of Guildford said: “Dr Sizer has always made clear that he denies racism and anti-Semitism and regrets any hurt that may have been caused by his drawing attention inadvertently to a website that contains offensive material. 
“Dr Sizer hopes that this may now draw a line under the matter.”

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Sabeel Challenges Allegations of anti-Semitism

Dear Bishop Christopher,

Ref. Rev. Stephen Sizer

We write respectfully concerning Stephen Sizer, whom you will know well as one of your diocesan clergy. As you aware, he is based at Christ Church, Virginia Water and is a high profile individual who has developed a considerable expertise on issues affecting the Israel – Palestine conflict.

In particular, Stephen has made it his speciality to study & inform the world about the phenomenon which we recognise as Christian Zionism, which manifests a theology upholding a privileged and exclusive “biblical” claim to a greater Israel & thus to the detriment of non Jewish residents of the lands. Stephen’s call is to Christians & Christian churches to denounce any theology of privilege contrary to the Gospel & its consequences.

We have become aware that Stephen is now the subject of concerted allegations of anti–Semitism & calls for disciplinary measures against him by the Church. On the basis of long acquaintance with Stephen, we are at pains to lay such allegations to rest.

We believe Stephen has demonstrated impeccable credentials in these matters. He has long working associations with Christians, Muslims & those Jews who also work hard in the field of Justice for both Palestinians & Israelis. We believe that those Jews with whom Stephen is associated would also support this point of view, refuting any accusation of anti–semitism.

It is in sorrow that we feel obliged to write such a letter, made necessary by forces determined to silence & destroy a vital prophetic voice, a true evangelist.

We are grateful for your support for Stephen.

Yours sincerely

Anne Clayton, Coordinator, Friends of Sabeel UK
David Toorawa, Chair, Friends of Sabeel UK Board

Friends of Sabeel UK
C/O CMS
Watlington Rd
Oxford

Co-op boycotts exports from Israel's West Bank settlements


Subtitled, "UK's largest mutual takes lead among European supermarkets" Tracy McVeigh and Harriet Sherwood writing for the Guardian, break the news that:
The Co-operative Group has become the first major European supermarket group to end trade with companies that export produce from illegal Israeli settlements.
The UK's fifth biggest food retailer and its largest mutual business, the Co-op took the step as an extension of its existing policy which had been not to source produce from illegal settlements that have been built onPalestinian territories in the West bank.
Now the retail and insurance giant has taken it one step further by "no longer engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements". 
The decision will hit four companies and contracts worth some £350,000. But the Co-op stresses this is not an Israeli boycott and that its contracts will go to other companies inside Israel that can guarantee they don't export from illegal settlements.
A very good reason to shop at the COOP. Read the rest of this Guardian article here

The Palestinian Ambassador to the Uk has issued this press release:

Co-operative Corporate Group cuts ties with Israeli Colonies

"I congratulate the Co-operative Group on its divestment decision. Modern, open and ethical business and investing in Israel cannot dance Tango. Colonialism is part of history and doing business with an occupying state is unsuitable for the 21st century" says Ambassador Hassassian.

The Co-operative Group has become the first major European supermarket group to end trade with companies that export produce from illegal Israeli colonies. The UK's fifth biggest food retailer and its largest mutual business, the Co-op took the step as an extension of its existing policy which had been not to source produce from colonies. Now the group has taken it one step further by "no longer engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements". The Co-op's decision will immediately affect four suppliers, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, Israel's largest agricultural export company. These companies are benefitting from Israeli occupation and its systematic policies, such as annexing land, exploiting occupied natural resources and importantly being an obstacle to the two-state solution.

Colonies are illegal under international law. In the face of the failure of the international legal system, it is corporations and consumers that must take an ethical stance. The divestment by the Co-operative Group from Israeli colony produce is the right step both legally and ethically.

"Eating the fruit from colonies must trigger corporate criminal responsibility. In a few years time we will see more companies divesting from Israel to avoid charges of benefitting of Israel's occupation policies." says Ambassador Hassassian.

Ambassador Manuel Hassassian
5 Galena Road
Hammersmith
W6 0LT

Frank Ritchie on TEAR Fund NZ




Frank Ritchie is Education and Advocacy Manager for TEAR Fund NZ. TEAR Fund have sponsored my Middle East lecture tour of NZ. http://www.tearfund.org.nz/sizer/ I asked Frank about his role and and the work of TEAR Fund in New Zealand.

TEAR Fund stands for The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund, an organisation formed in Britain in the 1950s in response to African famine. It later became a permanent organisation. The New Zealand group was formed in 1975.

TEAR Fund represents the compassion of Jesus. For over 30 years we have worked through child sponsorship, microenterprise, community development and disaster relief projects throughout the developing world. Assistance is provided regardless of the religious beliefs of recipients.

TEAR Fund partners with local Christian organisations and churches in developing countries. Our partners use local staff who work directly with the poorest people, helping them find their own solutions, cutting out the middleman and reducing costs. Our key activities are child sponsorship, Microenterprise, community development projects and disaster relief.

The purpose of TEAR Fund is to glorify God by extending his kingdom in ministry to the poor, oppressed and disadvantaged, and to encourage God's people in New Zealand to live out the values and principles of his kingdom, by sharing with those in need.

For more information see tearfund.org.nz/index.html

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

‘Israel’s gone way beyond apartheid'

Frank Barat  interviewed Jeff Halper, long-time Israeli peace activist, author and director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), for New Internationalist magazine while he was on a European speaking tour about the situation in Israel and Palestine. 

Could you give us an update on the demolition of Palestinian homes and of what people now often refer to as the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Jerusalem. 
I think what’s coming down the pipeline is that Israel today has basically finished this. We’ve gone beyond the occupation. The Palestinians have been pacified and from Israel’s point of view the whole situation has been normalized. Netanyahu went to Washington to meet with Obama last month. When he came back his adviser was asked what was new about this meeting and said ‘this is the first time in memory that an Israeli Prime Minister met with a US president and that the Palestinian issue was not even mentioned, it never came out.’
So, in this situation where the USA is really paralysed because Netanyahu has [influence over] both parties in congress and Obama does not want to do anything, Netanyahu is going to make the last move in nailing this whole thing down. Israel could well annex area C, which is 60 per cent of the West Bank. Now, a couple of months ago the European Council diplomats in Jerusalem and Ramallah sent a report to the EU saying that Israel has forcibly expelled the Palestinians from area C. Forcible expulsion is hard language for European diplomats to use.

‘We're finished. Israel is now from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, the Palestinians are confined in areas A and B or in small enclaves in East Jerusalem, and that's it’

So area C contains less than 5 per cent of the Palestinian population. In 1967 the Jordan valley contained about 250,000 people. Today it’s less than 50,000. So the Palestinians have either been driven out of the country, especially the middle class, or they have been driven to areas A and B. That’s where 96 or 97 per cent of them are. The Palestinian population has been brought down low enough, there is probably somewhere around 125,000 Palestinians in area C, so Israel could annex area C and give them full citizenship.

Basically, Israel can absorb 125,000 Palestinians without upsetting the demographic balance. And then, what is the world going to say? It’s not apartheid, Israel has given them full citizenship. So I think Israel feels it could get away with that. No one cares about what’s happening in areas A and B. If they want to declare a state, they can, Israel has no interest in Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron.

In other words, we’re finished. Israel is now from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, the Palestinians have been confined in areas A and B or in small enclaves in East Jerusalem, and that’s it.  
Read more here


Frank Barat is a human rights activist based in London. He is the coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. He has edited two books, Gaza in Crisis, with Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, and Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation with Asa Winstanley. He has also contributed to Is there a court for Gaza? with Daniel Machover.