Thursday, 29 November 2012

Church of England Newspaper: Sizer Complaint

Sizer Complaint

Sir,

I was surprised and disappointed to read your article about Rev Dr Stephen Sizer ("Board of Deputies in Sizer complaint", 25 November). Surprised because when I have contacted both the Board of Deputies and the Bishop of Guildford to express my support for Dr Sizer, I have received standard replies to the effect that the matter, being the subject of a legal process under the Clergy Discipline Measure, is sub judice and cannot be discussed.

This is understandable, so why does the Vice President of the Board of Deputies blog about the CDM complaint on the Board's website, accusing Dr Sizer of anti-Semitism and of "trawling dark and extreme corners of the internet for material to add to his website"? These comments, which your article uncritically republishes, will surely have the effect of prejudicing any eventual disciplinary tribunal?

The Vice President of the Board of Deputies is a barrister, so his undermining of the very legal process which he initiated is all the more baffling.

I was disappointed by the article because there was no opportunity (given the legal process) for Dr Sizer to defend himself against the public accusation of anti-Semitism. These accusations have been made before, by the Council of Christians and Jews and others, and have been found to have no substance. The reform rabbi and theologian Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, an expert on anti-Semitism, wrote to Dr Sizer's bishop back in March stating that accusations of anti-Semitism against Sizer were "completely without foundation". Stephen is a strident critic of Christian Zionism, and of Israeli policy, but this does not make him anti-Semitic. Indeed, in his book "Zion's Christian Soldiers", a seminal text for those who want to understand an evangelical critique of Christian Zionism, Sizer states that "Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally".

Dr Sizer's is a prophetic voice on the issue of Christian Zionism yet he has been the subject of repeated vilification and ad hominem attacks from institutions who should know better. There is not a shred of evidence to back up accusations of anti-Semitism, so surely enough is enough?

Jeremy Moodey
Chief Executive - Embrace the Middle East
Amersham, Bucks

Letter published in the Church of England Newspaper, 29th November 2012

Weapon of Mass Instruction


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Street Child World Cup

I am delighted that four of the staff of the new charity, Street Child United are members of Christ Church, Virginia Water.

The Street Child World Cup is a global campaign for street children to receive the protection and opportunities that all children are entitled to.

Ahead of each FIFA World Cup, we unite street children from across five continents to play football and join us in a unique international conference.

Together through football, art and campaigning we aim to challenge the negative perceptions and treatment of street children around the world.

In 2014 we will be in Brazil. You can join us on the Road to Rio by signing up to our supporters club now.

This is more than a game.

David Beckham: I look forward to Brazil in 2014 when street children from around the world will play football and represent the millions of children who still live or work on our streets.“  Read further endorsements here

For tickets contact Christ Church Office

 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Professor Mary Grey Defends Vicar from Charge of Anti-Semitism

Rt Revd Christopher Hill,
Bishop of Guildford.

March 21st


Dear Bishop Christopher,

I do not think we have met, but I have a long association with St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, (I’m still Visiting Professor- a Roman Catholic theologian ) which was originally validated by the University of Surrey, before it became independent. I write to defend Revd Stephen Sizer from the charge of anti-Semitism and first want to explain my own position.

Of course it is tragic that this issue is being aired at a time when Europe grieves over the deaths of the Jewish children and their Rabbi-father in Toulouse.

For many years I belonged to CCJ – and even ICCJ. I was a member of the ICCJ Theology committee and went to some of their conferences. I am a good friend of Rabbi Dan Cohn Sherbok – we wrote a book together in 2005- “Pursuing the dream – a Jewish-Christian conversation”. Gradually I realised that, whereas I still belong to CCJ, I could not stand aside from Palestinian suffering.

I’m now a patron of Friends of Sabeel UK – and that is how I met Revd Stephen Sizer. Sabeel works for the liberation of Palestinian Christians. I’ve worked with them for over 10 years and have never heard an anti-Semitic remark: indeed the Revd Naim Ateek, Sabeel’s founder, stresses the need to make peace with justice-seeking Israelis. Every Sabeel conference I attend gathers together peace-seeking groups of Israelis.

And that is also the motivation of Stephen Sizer. Like many of us, he runs the danger that, in criticising the Israeli occupation of the west Bank as unjust, as I do, he will be called anti-Semitic. As I understand, the cartoon at the origin of this controversy was anti-Semitic, and once Revd Sizer realized the seriousness of the error of linking his Facebook entry with the offending website, he did remove it and wrote to the Jewish Chronicle on 4 January.

At all the meetings I have attended where he has been present, or giving a lecture, I have never heard an anti-Judaistic/anti-Semitic statement. Indeed I have heard him criticise violence on both sides. Like all of us who work for peace, Stephen Sizer walks the dangerous tightrope that in criticising the unjust actions of the Zionist government, (actions which have frequently been condemned by the United Nations) he will be called anti Semitic. Such is his commitment to justice and peace that he is willing to walk this tightrope. But there is a question as to how long a person can endure such persecution. I would like to recall to you Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, (a reform Jewish Journal) who lives in San Francisco. He similarly takes a strong stance against the Israeli occupation –and pays the price that his house is frequently vandalised. Stephen’s case is similar. There are many people who cannot envisage the case on both sides of the divide.

Rather than make Rev Stephen Sizer suffer further, should we not, Jews and Christians join together in a struggle for truth and justice – and bring an end to this oppressive state of affairs while affirming the need for Jews and Christians , Israelis and Palestinians, to live together in peace?

I am happy to discuss these issues further – or even to come to Guildford to do so.

Yours in hope of peace and reconciliation,

Mary Grey

(Patron: Friends of Sabeel UK)


Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient. 


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’

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Children of the Arab Spring in Bethlehem


See more photographs here

Venerable Michael Lawson, Chairman of CEEC, Challenges Accusations of anti-Semitism

11th April 2012

Dear Bishop Christopher and Bishop Nigel,

I write about the Revd Dr Stephen Sizer and the recent accusations of anti-Semitism made against him.

Though Bishop Christopher, you know my credentials in relation to Judaism, for Bishop Nigel perhaps I may outline them here.

I was born into an orthodox Jewish home (my original family name is Levi,) and all through my childhood and teenage years was made conscious of the evils of the holocaust and of anti-Semitism. On my mother’s side many of our (Polish) family from Lodz perished in Auschwitz, and I grew up with, and have retained, an abhorrence of all anti Jewish attitudes and action. When I became a Christian at Sussex University, I did not throw off my Jewish identity and values at all, but rather absorbed my heritage into my new Christian commitment. Perhaps this is why today I have so many Jewish friends, and for these reasons of friendship and promoting understanding of Jewish Christian relations of I was made an honorary life member of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain in 2002.

Stephen Sizer has been accused of “Explicit anti-Semitism, implicit anti-Semitism; and complicity with anti-Semites.” Furthermore the delay in removing the link from his Facebook page has been described as “disgraceful and unbecoming for a clergyman of the Church of England.” The CCJ have understandably described the Ugly Truth website as ‘obscenely anti-Semitic’ which it is. However, Stephen has offered his own convincing explanation for the delay in removing the link.

My purpose in writing these few words, is therefore to give a personal perspective on Stephen and his views, not to comment on the alacrity or otherwise with which he removed his Facebook link.

I have known Stephen very well as a friend and later as a ministerial colleague for forty years. This I would imagine is considerably longer and more thoroughly than most people who would seek to comment on him and his outlook on the Jewish people. I feel I know him well enough to comment with some authority.

May I say I don’t agree at all with everything Stephen Sizer writes. We approach things in a different way, though both of us are very concerned for the rights of Palestinians. Nonetheless, I have not read any statement in any of his books, articles, or teaching or any other place where Stephen could ever be said to be anti-Semitic. Pre-programmed as I am from my upbringing and its unquenched flow into my present convictions, I would pick up any nuance of this kind like a shot, and I would have done so at any point over the forty years we have been friends. He simply is not ant-Semitic and it is very wrong indeed to suggest that he is so.

In his book, “Zion's Christian Soldiers” Stephen wrote, "Racism is a sin and without excuse. Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally...I respect Judaism, repudiate anti-Semitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist..." Those are clearly not the words of an anti-Semite. I can assure you that if there were even a whiff of ant-Semitism about him, our friendship would have ended years ago.

I hope this personal perspective is useful to you.

All good wishes

Michael Lawson

Venerable Michael Lawson
Archdeacon Emeritus
Chairman of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC).

Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient. 


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’

Vicar is not anti-Semitic: Church Times

Originally published January 2012

The Church of England Newspaper picked up the story from the Jewish Chronicle last week about a single web link to an article I made back in October - one out of the hundreds of links posted last year on my blog and Facebook page.
An Anglican Vicar has sparked calls for his suspension after posting a link on his website to an anti-Semitic website.
On his Facebook page, the Rev Stephen Sizer linked to an article on the American website the Ugly Truth, which critics claim supports Holocaust denial and warns of a Zionist conspiracy to take over the world.

Mr Sizer this week dismissed the protests. “It is presumptuous to assume citing the source of an article means one endorses anything else on the website. Data mining is, however, a useful way of discrediting someone when you want to avoid addressing what they are actually saying,” he told us.

He added that he recently appeared on Revelation TV, which has a stated position of being pro-Zionist. “Does that therefore make me a Zionist?” he asked.

However, the inclusion of the link to the article sparked a protest with calls for his suspension. His Bishop, the Rt Rev Christopher Hill, said that Mr Sizer “repudiates anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.” He added that the article in question dealt with the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. The link has since been removed and the Bishop dismissed calls for any disciplinary action.

He said he could see nothing “which would merit disciplinary matters, not least because differing political opinions are definitely exempted from disciplinary proceedings in the Church of England”.

However, the Anglican Friends of Israel called for a full investigation. “The allegations against Mr Sizer, if substantiated, are potentially extremely damaging to Jewish-Christian relations and undermine the good work of church leaders to atone for historical institutional anti-Semitism."
Mr Sizer pointed out that in his book Zion’s Christian Soldiers, he argued: “Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally. However, we must not confuse apples and oranges. Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as anti-Semitism, despite attempts to broaden the definition.”
Source: The Church of England Newspaper

And posting this link to the Church of England Newspaper does not necessarily mean I support, approve, agree with, or endorse any other article in the said newspaper, its website, advertisers or blogs, any more than you would.


The same story appeared in the Church Times today, 13 January 2012 page 7.
Vicar ‘is not anti-Semitic’
The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, and his diocese have been forced to defend one of their clerics over allegations that he is an anti-Semite.
          The Revd Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, is well known for his opposition to Christian Zionism, but a recent link on his Facebook page, to a US website that ran a cartoon depicting Dracula as a Jew, has led to condemnation.
         Nick Howard, who works for the Association of Evangelists and is the son of the former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard, attacked Mr Sizer in a political blog, and called on Bishop Hill to discipline him.
         A statement from Bishop Hill and the diocese of Guildford said, however, that Mr Sizer had posted the link to one article on the US website, and had withdrawn it when he saw some of the other material on the site, which included a celebration of Holocaust-deniers. The statement said that Mr Sizer had “made it clear on many occasions that he repudiates racism, anti-Semitism and denial of the Holocaust”.
         In a response to Mr Howard, Bishop Hill said: “I see nothing which would merit  disciplinary matters, not least because differing political opinions are definitely exempted from disciplinary proceedings in the Church of England according to the Clergy Disciplinary Measure.”
         Mr Sizer, in his book Zion’s Christian Soldiers, wrote that he “repudiated unequivocally” anti-Semitism, and said: “Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as anti-Semitism despite attempts to broaden the definition. Criticising a political system as racist is not necessarily racist. Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system.”
         The Jewish Chronicle is running a poll asking whether Mr Sizer should be sacked. By Wednesday, it had recorded 380 votes, 53 per cent of which were against his sacking.

How thoughtful of the Jewish Chronicle to poll readers on whether I should be sacked. Apparently a majority of Jewish Chronicle readers like me.

Yes 47% (189 votes)
No 53% (209 votes)
Total votes: 398

Writing to my Bishop a letter of complaint? Fair enough, although copying me in would have been polite. But instead, copying it to each of my 13 staff, not once but twice in a week? A little intimidating don't you think?


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Dr Jeff Halper Responds to CCJ Statement About Antisemitic Website

Everyone loves peace, but not everyone loves peace-makers. The work of people like Stephen Sizer is crucial to peace-making. “Peace” is not merely a goody-goody term that we use on Christmas or Passover. It has to do with hard realities like conflict, injustice and suffering, all of which require not only good will, but an analysis which identifies the causes of the conflict and offers a way out. Hardest of all, peace-making requires self-reflection, self-criticism and the ability to see the viewpoint of the Other, the “enemy,” especially when “your side” is involved. And one more thing is essential to peace-making: an ability to reach out, even to your detractors, so that a common ground of action can be established.

In all these things my fellow peace-maker Stephen excels. Over the years he has shown both courage and good-will, but most important, in my mind, he has provided us with tough analysis, primarily around issues dealing with Christian Zionism, a fundamental obstacle to a just peace in Israel and Palestine, that helps us get to the foundations of the conflict in order to resolve it. One would think Stephen’s work would be appreciated by everyone – Christian Zionists excepted, (although a sizeable number of critical Evangelicals do support his analysis). His seminal book, Christian Zionism, accompanied by films and presentations, provides an authoritative de-bunking of the spurious theology underlying that school’s seemingly “pro-Israeli” positions which make genuine peace-making so difficult.

Why Stephen is attacked and demonized by the organized Jewish community is an absolute mystery to me. After all, Christian Zionism is supremely anti-Semitic: at the End of Days those Jews who do not accept Jesus die. Indeed, the Jews are sacrificed in the battle of Armageddon; witness Pat Robertson’s outrage at Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he ended the attack on Lebanon in 2006, an attack that, in the eyes of Robertson and other Christian Zionists, was supposed to trigger Armageddon – no matter what befalls the Jews/Israelis. Jewish demonization of Stephen, rather than of the Christian Zionists, who Jewish and Israeli leaders cynically consider our allies,” demonstrates nothing more than bad faith. It is perfectly acceptable, apparently, to be anti-Semitic if, like Robertson, you are “pro-Israel.” Simply professing a doctrine in which the Jewish people is exterminated and disappears is no crime, in their view, as long as it somehow serves short-term Israeli interests (and Stephen shows that Christian Zionism does not serve Israeli or Jewish interests in any way). Ironically, then, it is the peace-makers – anti-anti-Semites like Stephen and even critical Israeli Jews like me – who are the enemy. If that is the case, then all the protestations of the Jewish community against anti-Semitism are hollow. What they really mean is, be anti-Semitic by all means if you combine that with a pro-Israeli position, but woe be unto those who fight such an anti-Semitic creed as Christian Zionism because by opposing Christian Zionism you are somehow opposing Israel. In attacking Stephen in his criticism of Christian Zionism, Jewish leaders have gone so far as to define “pro-Israeliness” in anti-Semitic terms.

But peace-makers are themselves tough people, willing and able to face down bigotry and bad faith. Indeed, this willingness and ability are what makes us peace-makers. To the organized Jewish community I would only say, as an Israeli Jew: remove your moral and intellectual blinders so as to be able to differentiate your true (if critical) friends from you true enemies.

Jeff Halper
Jerusalem
29th March 2012

Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient. 

See also:

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

Friday, 23 November 2012

John Piper on Israel, Palestine and the Middle East

In 2004, John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, delivered a sermon from Romans 11:25-32 titled "Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East." In it, he offers seven principles concerning the ever-contentious issue of "the Land":
1. God chose Israel from all the peoples of the world to be his own possession.
2. The Land was part of the inheritance he promised to Abraham and his descendants forever.
3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.
4. Jesus Christ has come into the world as the Jewish Messiah, and his own people rejected him and broke covenant with their God.
5. Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.
6. By faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land.
7. Finally, this inheritance of Christ's people will happen at the Second Coming of Christ to establish his kingdom, not before; and till then, we Christians must not take up arms to claim our inheritance; but rather lay down our lives to share our inheritance with as many as we can.
This is similar to John Stott's view illustrated in his sermon The Place of Israel published in my book Zion's Christian Soldiers

For John Piper's award winning books see here. He is a currently serving as Pastor for Preaching and Vision of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok on Anti-Semitism

16 March 2012

From: Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok PhD, DD
Emeritus Professor of Judaism
University of Wales


Dear Christopher

I am writing to you about Dr. Stephen Sizer whom I have known for several years. I am very concerned about recent accusations made in the press that he is antisemitic.

Perhaps I should say something initially about my knowledge of antisemitism as well my involvement in a recent court case dealing with Jew-hatred as an expert witness for the Counter Terrorism Agency of the Crown Prosecution Service. I have written three books dealing with the topic of antisemitism: The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian Antisemitism (Harper Collins, 1992 ), Antisemitism: A History (Sutton, 2004), and The Paradox of Antisemitism (Continuum, 2006). The aim of the first two books was to trace the historical development of Jew-hatred through the ages, and to illustrate its evil nature. The third book was designed to demonstrate the paradoxical nature of antisemitism: although Judaeophobia is one of humanity’s greatest crimes and must be eradicated wherever possible, the Jewish people have paradoxically survived due to persecution and suffering. Our agonies have drawn us together and enabled us to endure: this may be the meaning of the concept of God’s suffering servant.

On the basis of these and other publications, I was hired by the Counter Terrorism Agency of the Crown Prosecution Service to be an expert witness in an important trial of two individuals who had disseminated antisemitic material on the internet. The trial took place in Leeds in 2009 and was dealt with by two separate juries. Eventually the two defendants, Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle, were found guilty of inciting racial hatred against Jews (and others) and were sent to prison. This was an important legal case because one of the central issues that was discussed at the trial was whether the Jewish community should be considered strictly a religious body or an ethnic group. This was critical because if the Jewish community is solely a religious group then the defendants could not be tried under the Race Relations Act. During the trial I attempted to demonstrate that the Jews are in fact both a religious and ethnic community--the jury eventually agreed, and this set a precedent for any further cases of antisemitic attack. During the trial the police informed me that the Attorney General was particularly interested in the case because of its legal significance.

I mention all this because I have had substantial experience with prosecution of individuals who encourage racial hatred. Given this background, I have been disturbed to read about the allegations made against Stephen Sizer. These are, I believe, completely without foundation: there is simply no evidence that he is an antisemite. It is true that many of his writings are highly critical of Israeli policy; in this respect they echo the views of a number of important Jewish historical revisionists including Professor Avi Shlaim of Oxford University and Illan Pappe of Exeter University who in a variety of publications have castigated Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. It would be a mistake to consider their views antisemitic, as it would to construe Stephen Sizer’s political criticisms as evidence of antipathy against Jews.

What is true, however, is that Stephen Sizer is an international expert on the origins and growth of Christian Zionism. Some time ago I read his seminal study of Christian Zionism: Christian Zionism: Road-Map to Armageddon (IVP, 2004) which I subsequently quoted in my own study of Christian Zionism: The Politics of Apocalypse: The History and Influence of Christian Zionism (Oneworld, 2006). Several years later he published another significant study: Zion’s Christian Soldiers (IVP, 2007) which was highly praised by such scholars as Professor Ronald E. Clements, the Right Rev Kenneth Cragg, and Professor Gary M. Burge. This is what I myself wrote about the book:
Stephen Sizer deftly expresses the many exegetical missteps of contemporary Christian Zionists. He advocates a more just and Christ-centred alternative to the politically and ethically problematic views espoused by many contemporary end-time popularizers.
In these two books, Stephen Sizer is highly critical of Christian Zionism, yet it would be a profound mistake to interpret his views as constituting an attack on Jewry.

This week I have been in contact with Stephen Sizer regarding the issue of the website that has been referred to in the press. I asked him how it happened that this offensive website (which relates to Israel’s action) on his Facebook was not removed straightaway. He has sent me all the relevant information including the offending website material. What he tells me is as follows: He assumed Nick Howard was based in the United States and did not in fact read Nick Howard’s complaint. This was a mistake and he regrets ignoring it, but due to his active involvement in Middle East affairs, he gets criticism on a daily and weekly basis. However, once he realized the seriousness of the error of linking his Facebook entry with the offending website, he did remove it and wrote to Marcus Dysch at the Jewish Chronicle on 4 January. He states that he had thought he had done so before. In his letter to Marcus Dysch (which he put on his blog), he states that he has over the years made his position clear on antisemitism and holocaust denial. Citing material from his own website, he writes:
I have for example:

*lamented the suffering of Christians under Islamic rule
*criticized the Iranian government’s human rights record
*criticized Hamas
*repudiated suicide bombers and terrorism
*repudiated holocaust deniers
*repudiated antisemitism
*repudiated racism and the British National Party
*distinguished anti-Zionism from antisemitism
*advocated a diplomatic solution to resolving tensions with Iran
*advocated for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by peaceful means based on the implementation of international law
He then went on to quote from his book, Zion’s Christian Soldiers:
"It is true that at various times in the past, churches and church leaders have tolerated or incited antisemitism and even attacks on Jewish people. Racism is a sin and without excuse. Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally. However, we must not confuse apples with oranges. Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as antisemitism despite attempts to broaden the definition. Criticising a political system as racist is not necessarily racist. Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate antisemitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within borders recognized by the international community. But like many Jews, I disagree with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world while denying the same rights to Arab Palestinians born in the country itself."
I am sure Stephen Sizer is giving an honest account of his mistake in failing to read Nick Howard’s email and not removing the offending website more speedily. I hope the Church will forgive him for his mistake (Perhaps I should mention in this regard that I am in the process of publishing a book about the Middle East crisis: it is due out next week. Alongside this book, I have also written a Companion Website (which will be available online) including about 70 websites related to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In the light of Stephen Sizer’s experience, I realize I must carefully scrutinize each website to make sure there is no offending material, and I have told the publishers that they must delay putting the Companion Website online until I have done so.)

No doubt Stephen Sizer’s detractors are acting in good faith, and I agree with them that antisemitism must be confronted. But they are regrettably misguided in their allegations about Stephen Sizer. He is in no sense antisemitic, and instead is fully in sympathy with those who seek to eradicate all forms of Jew-hatred in the modern world. Let me turn finally to the trial I mentioned in Leeds. Following the conviction of the two defendants, Bassetlaw MP John Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism commented:
The conviction of Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle is proof that if you write, disseminate and publish antisemitic racist propaganda in the UK, or on the internet from here in the UK, the police will come after you and the courts will convict. This case sets an excellent precedent-- antisemitic hate is not welcome here in the UK.
Having worked with the Counter Terrorist Agency of the Crown Prosecution Service, I am fully in agreement with such sentiments. We in the Jewish community must be vigilant to insure that our community does not suffer from attack. But it would be a travesty of justice to construe Stephen Sizer’s mistake in linking an offensive website to his Facebook and not removing it immediately as a deliberate attempt to encourage racial hatred.

Yours ever,

Dan

Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok

Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient. 


Antisemitic? We don’t think so either

Tanas Alqassis, Chairman, Arab Vision International
Revd Andrew Ashdown, Enham Team Rector and Trustee of Embrace the Middle East
Right Revd Riah Abo El Assal, 13th Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem
Fr Robert Assaly, Priest in the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa
Dr Bishara Awad, Founder and President Emeritus, Bethlehem Bible College
Dr Mark Braverman,
Author of the Fatal Embrace
Canon Dr Mike Butterworth, former Academic Registrar, Oak Hill College
David Carter
, Director, Middle East Evangelical Concern
Anne Clayton, Coordinator, Friends of Sabeel UK
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Professor Emeritus of Judaism, University of Wales
Michael Connarty MP, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Katherine Cunningham, Moderator, IPMN, Presbyterian Church USA
Dr Martin Davie, Theological Advisor to the House of Bishops
Professor Philip Davies, Department of Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Adam Estle, Executive Director of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding
Right Revd John Gladwin, former Bishop of Guildford and Chairman of Citizens Advice
Anthony Gratrex, member of Christ Church, Virginia Water
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Emeritus Professor of Theology, University of Wales
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Hank Hanegraaff, President, Christian Research Institute
Revd Phil Hill, Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder, Amos Trust
Lawrence Jones, former member of Christ Church, Virginia Water 
Dr Ghada Karmi, Fellow of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University
Manfred W. Kohl, Ambassador, Overseas Council
Dr Attorney Jonathan Kuttab, Chairman of the Board, Bethlehem Bible College
Venerable Michael Lawson, Chairman, Church of England Evangelical Council
Anne Martin, member of Christ Church, Virginia Water
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Embrace the Middle East
Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan
Diana Neslen, Ex-officio, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Professor Ilan Pappe, Director, European Centre for Palestine Studies, Exeter University
Revd Chris Rose, Director of the Amos Trust
Canon John Salter, Vice Chair, Garden Tomb Association
Revd Jack Sara, President, Bethlehem Bible College
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain
David Toorawa, Chair, Friends of Sabeel UK
Revd Dr Donald Wagner, National Director, Friends of Sabeel North America
Revd John Woodger, Retired vicar, St Mary's Watford
Church Times: Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times: Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite’

Trials of the Diaspora


Trials of the Diaspora, by Anthony Julius is a magisterial 800 page examination of the history of Anti-Semitism in England, published in 2010 by Oxford University Press.

The final chapter includes an analysis of the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. In it, Julius writes of me,
"He has recently explained, however, that he 'categorically reject[s] any position that threatens the territorial integrity of Israel as a sovereign nation.... Stephen Sizer's work has the merit of clearly setting out the issues that divide the two sides, and furthermore doing so without the rancour or sheer nastiness of tone typical of the polemics in the conflict." (p.571)
It is ironic that much of the "rancour or sheer nastiness" comes from Zionists unable to distinguish between the two.
 
See the following reviews:
Antony Lerman : Guardian
Gerald Jacobs : Telegraph
Bryan Cheyette : Independent
James Shapiro : Financial Times
Jonathan Beckman : New Statesman

Anthony Julius is chairman of the London Consortium and a Visiting Professor at Birbeck College, University of London.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

John Angle from Bethlehem Bible College



John Angle from the roof of Bethlehem Bible College from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

John Angle gives his assessment of the background to the clash between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youth on the streets of Bethlehem last night.

Frank Ritchie on the Arab Spring in Bethlehem

Frank Ritchie is the Education and Advocacy Manager of TEAR Fund New Zealand. In this interview he gives his assessment of the Arab Spring in Bethlehem.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Alex Awad on the Bethlehem Spring



Alex Awad of Bethlehem Bible College explains the reasons for the demonstration in Bethlehem today.

For more information see here

Sami Awad on the Holy Land Trust




Through a commitment to the principles of nonviolence, Holy Land Trust aspires to strengthen and empower the peoples of the Holy Land to engage in spiritual, pragmatic and strategic paths that will end all forms of oppression. We create the space for the healing of the historic wounds in order to transform communities and build a future that makes the Holy Land a global model for understanding, respect, justice, equality and peace.

While Holy Land Trust is not a religious organization, we aspire to learn from the spiritual teachings of all faiths that bring unity to the human family and closeness to the Creator of all things. We seek to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ, a man who brought a message of peace, goodwill and hope to the land where we live. We believe that, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, Jesus Christ in his teachings, compassion and interactions “was an extremist for love, truth and goodness”. We seek this extremism in our work and mission.

The Bethlehem Checkpoint



The Israeli Checkpoint at Bethlehem at 5:00am from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Join me at the Israeli military checkpoint in Bethlehem as Palestinians try and get to work in Israel at 5:00am in the morning. This is degrading and humiliating. This is apartheid on steroids.



The Bethlehem Checkpoint 5:00am from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

House of Hope Bethlehem




The House of Hope was started in 1963 by a blind local Christian named Aunty May. The Lord had prepared her for this ministry through years of caring for vulnerable young people. When God called her to start this new ministry, she stepped out in faith, relying on God to meet the needs of herself and those she cared for. This ministry has only continued through faith in God’s provision.

Today, the House of Hope remains a vital ministry to many people who are blind or have special needs from Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. All of these children and adults desperately need to experience the love and compassion of Christ expressed through interaction with believers. Here at the House of Hope, our goal is to foster in these individuals a sense of value through caring for them. We aim to help people grow in their abilities, get an eduation, learn new life skills or find a place of employment with us. We seek to encourage people to begin and develop a relationship with God, by providing Christian fellowship through our staff and volunteers.

See House of Hope



Stephanie is a volunteer at House of hope in Bethlehem. She shares her story.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Gaza: Lives in the Balance

Remembering is Not Enough

See more photos from Westminster Abbey here

I've been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war

And there's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs

On the radio talk shows and the t.v.
You hear one thing again and again
How the u.s.a. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends--
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can't take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
There are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can't even say the names

They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Rabbi and the Vicar: Sarum Concern for Israel/Palestine





Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok Responds to CCJ Statement About Antisemitic Website 

16 March 2012

From: Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok PhD, DD
Emeritus Professor of Judaism
University of Wales


Dear Christopher

I am writing to you about Dr. Stephen Sizer whom I have known for several years. I am very concerned about recent accusations made in the press that he is antisemitic.

Perhaps I should say something initially about my knowledge of antisemitism as well my involvement in a recent court case dealing with Jew-hatred as an expert witness for the Counter Terrorism Agency of the Crown Prosecution Service. I have written three books dealing with the topic of antisemitism: The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian Antisemitism (Harper Collins, 1992 ), Antisemitism: A History (Sutton, 2004), and The Paradox of Antisemitism (Continuum, 2006). The aim of the first two books was to trace the historical development of Jew-hatred through the ages, and to illustrate its evil nature. The third book was designed to demonstrate the paradoxical nature of antisemitism: although Judaeophobia is one of humanity’s greatest crimes and must be eradicated wherever possible, the Jewish people have paradoxically survived due to persecution and suffering. Our agonies have drawn us together and enabled us to endure: this may be the meaning of the concept of God’s suffering servant.

On the basis of these and other publications, I was hired by the Counter Terrorism Agency of the Crown Prosecution Service to be an expert witness in an important trial of two individuals who had disseminated antisemitic material on the internet. The trial took place in Leeds in 2009 and was dealt with by two separate juries. Eventually the two defendants, Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle, were found guilty of inciting racial hatred against Jews (and others) and were sent to prison. This was an important legal case because one of the central issues that was discussed at the trial was whether the Jewish community should be considered strictly a religious body or an ethnic group. This was critical because if the Jewish community is solely a religious group then the defendants could not be tried under the Race Relations Act. During the trial I attempted to demonstrate that the Jews are in fact both a religious and ethnic community--the jury eventually agreed, and this set a precedent for any further cases of antisemitic attack. During the trial the police informed me that the Attorney General was particularly interested in the case because of its legal significance.

I mention all this because I have had substantial experience with prosecution of individuals who encourage racial hatred. Given this background, I have been disturbed to read about the allegations made against Stephen Sizer. These are, I believe, completely without foundation: there is simply no evidence that he is an antisemite. It is true that many of his writings are highly critical of Israeli policy; in this respect they echo the views of a number of important Jewish historical revisionists including Professor Avi Shlaim of Oxford University and Illan Pappe of Exeter University who in a variety of publications have castigated Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. It would be a mistake to consider their views antisemitic, as it would to construe Stephen Sizer’s political criticisms as evidence of antipathy against Jews.

What is true, however, is that Stephen Sizer is an international expert on the origins and growth of Christian Zionism. Some time ago I read his seminal study of Christian Zionism: Christian Zionism: Road-Map to Armageddon (IVP, 2004) which I subsequently quoted in my own study of Christian Zionism: The Politics of Apocalypse: The History and Influence of Christian Zionism (Oneworld, 2006). Several years later he published another significant study: Zion’s Christian Soldiers (IVP, 2007) which was highly praised by such scholars as Professor Ronald E. Clements, the Right Rev Kenneth Cragg, and Professor Gary M. Burge. This is what I myself wrote about the book:

Stephen Sizer deftly expresses the many exegetical missteps of contemporary Christian Zionists. He advocates a more just and Christ-centred alternative to the politically and ethically problematic views espoused by many contemporary end-time popularizers.
In these two books, Stephen Sizer is highly critical of Christian Zionism, yet it would be a profound mistake to interpret his views as constituting an attack on Jewry.

This week I have been in contact with Stephen Sizer regarding the issue of the website that has been referred to in the press. I asked him how it happened that this offensive website (which relates to Israel’s action) on his Facebook was not removed straightaway. He has sent me all the relevant information including the offending website material. What he tells me is as follows: He assumed Nick Howard was based in the United States and did not in fact read Nick Howard’s complaint. This was a mistake and he regrets ignoring it, but due to his active involvement in Middle East affairs, he gets criticism on a daily and weekly basis. However, once he realized the seriousness of the error of linking his Facebook entry with the offending website, he did remove it and wrote to Marcus Dysch at the Jewish Chronicle on 4 January. He states that he had thought he had done so before. In his letter to Marcus Dysch (which he put on his blog), he states that he has over the years made his position clear on antisemitism and holocaust denial. Citing material from his own website, he writes:
I have for example:

*lamented the suffering of Christians under Islamic rule
*criticized the Iranian government’s human rights record
*criticized Hamas
*repudiated suicide bombers and terrorism
*repudiated holocaust deniers
*repudiated antisemitism
*repudiated racism and the British National Party
*distinguished anti-Zionism from antisemitism
*advocated a diplomatic solution to resolving tensions with Iran
*advocated for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by peaceful means based on the implementation of international law
He then went on to quote from his book, Zion’s Christian Soldiers:
"It is true that at various times in the past, churches and church leaders have tolerated or incited antisemitism and even attacks on Jewish people. Racism is a sin and without excuse. Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally. However, we must not confuse apples with oranges. Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as antisemitism despite attempts to broaden the definition. Criticising a political system as racist is not necessarily racist. Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate antisemitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within borders recognized by the international community. But like many Jews, I disagree with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world while denying the same rights to Arab Palestinians born in the country itself."
I am sure Stephen Sizer is giving an honest account of his mistake in failing to read Nick Howard’s email and not removing the offending website more speedily. I hope the Church will forgive him for his mistake (Perhaps I should mention in this regard that I am in the process of publishing a book about the Middle East crisis: it is due out next week. Alongside this book, I have also written a Companion Website (which will be available online) including about 70 websites related to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In the light of Stephen Sizer’s experience, I realize I must carefully scrutinize each website to make sure there is no offending material, and I have told the publishers that they must delay putting the Companion Website online until I have done so.)

No doubt Stephen Sizer’s detractors are acting in good faith, and I agree with them that antisemitism must be confronted. But they are regrettably misguided in their allegations about Stephen Sizer. He is in no sense antisemitic, and instead is fully in sympathy with those who seek to eradicate all forms of Jew-hatred in the modern world. Let me turn finally to the trial I mentioned in Leeds. Following the conviction of the two defendants, Bassetlaw MP John Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism commented:
The conviction of Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle is proof that if you write, disseminate and publish antisemitic racist propaganda in the UK, or on the internet from here in the UK, the police will come after you and the courts will convict. This case sets an excellent precedent-- antisemitic hate is not welcome here in the UK.
Having worked with the Counter Terrorist Agency of the Crown Prosecution Service, I am fully in agreement with such sentiments. We in the Jewish community must be vigilant to insure that our community does not suffer from attack. But it would be a travesty of justice to construe Stephen Sizer’s mistake in linking an offensive website to his Facebook and not removing it immediately as a deliberate attempt to encourage racial hatred.

Yours ever,

Dan

Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok


Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient. 


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, Embrace the Middle East
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’

Friday, 16 November 2012

Israel/Palestine: The Bible - is it a help or a hindrance in finding a solution?



Speakers

The Reverend Canon Edward Probert, Canon Chancellor of Salisbury Cathedral.

Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Professor Emeritus of Judaism at the University of Wales Trinity St David and Visiting Professor at St Mary's University College.

The Rev Dr Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Christ Church,Virginia Water, Surrey.

Prof Mary Grey, Theologian and Consultant to INSPIRE: Centre for Initiatives in Spirituality and Reconciliation.

Dr. Mark Owen, Director, The Centre of Religions for Reconciliation and Peace University of Winchester.

Cost: £25 with Middle Eastern buffet lunch. To book a place contact: 01722 502781

How do we read and hear the Word of God in Scripture? Our own culture and experience inevitably colour our understanding of the Bible and often it is difficult to move beyond our own perspective but move we must. In a rapidly changing world, each generation needs to assess afresh how the overarching theme of the Bible - God's love for all people and not simply for particular individuals or groups - relates to present day situations and circumstances. The on-going conflict in Israel/Palestine is a particular situation where the way in which the Bible is read and understood is open to abuse. In other words, is the Bible a help or a hindrance in finding a solution to the conflict? This question will be explored at this day conference hosted by Sarum Concern for Israel/Palestine.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Alone




Defence of Children International

Defence for Children International-Palestine Section (DCI-Palestine) is a national section of the international non-governmental child rights organisation and movement, Defence for Children International (DCI), established in 1979. As such, it is a member of the International General Assembly of DCI, which convenes every three years. Currently, DCI has 45 national sections and associated members throughout the world, an international secretariat in Geneva and consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, UNICEF, UNESCO, and the Council of Europe. Each national section and associated member is an autonomous entity affiliated to the movement by pledging to follow the broad mandate of promoting and protecting the rights of children according to international standards. Thus each national section adapts its vision, mission and strategies to the particular context in which it is operating. Consequently, DCI-Palestine develops its own programmes according to Palestinian children’s needs and priorities.

The General Director of DCI-Palestine, Rifat Kassis, was also a co-founding member of the organisation in 1991. He served as President of the international governing body of DCI (International Executive Council) for six years, until March 2012.

 Vision

“A Palestinian community fit for all children”

• A community that is free and independent;
• A community where justice, equality and respect for human dignity prevails;
• A community where children can enjoy and exercise their human rights without any kind of discrimination.


Mission Statement

DCI-Palestine is dedicated to promoting and protecting the rights of Palestinian children in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as well as other international, regional and local standards.

Motto: Affecting positive change in the best interests of children


Key Guiding Principles

1. Children’s participation
2. The best interests of the child is our paramount consideration
3. Principle of non-discrimination
4. Right to life, survival and development

These principles, as reflected in the UN CRC guide our intervention strategies and practice.


Core Values

• Strong commitment to the UNCRC and other human rights standards.
• Promoting civil society, social justice, democracy and the rule of law
• Adopting a rights-based approach in designing and implementing our programs and projects
• Learning organisation committed to ongoing institutional development
• Exhausting all available resources and channels in defending children’s rights
• Adopting participatory developmental approaches in our work
• Gender sensitivity and equality
• Encouraging Teamwork
• Information and experience sharing
• Creating synergies and avoiding duplication (Networking and complementary work)
• Accepting others and diversity
• Efficiency and Professionalism High quality services
• Flexibility and Openness
• Supporting and promoting voluntary work
• Sustaining independency and objectivity while not being donor-driven
• Appreciation of creativity and initiative
• Accountability and Transparency
 
Source: Defence of Children International

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Statement from 100 Christian Community Leaders in the Holy Land to European Countries: Support Palestine’s Membership in the UN

Palestine, the Holy Land is our homeland. Our roots here stretch for centuries. We, Palestinian Christians are the descendents of the first Christians. We are also an organic and integral component of the Palestinian people. And just like our Palestinian Muslim brothers and sisters, we have been denied our national and human rights for almost a century.

We have endured dispossession and forced exile since 1948, when two thirds of Palestine's Christians were forcibly expelled from their homes in the Holy Land. Our presence in our Holy Land has been under threat since then, choked by a snaking wall that has devoured our land and deprived our congregations of hope and peace in the land that was blessed with the birth of the Prince of Peace. We have persevered through 64 years of exile and 45 years of occupation, holding on to His message of peace. We, Palestinian Christians say enough! Our message is simple: to achieve peace, the world must also say enough to occupation and the degradation of human dignity.

As Christian community leaders in Palestine, we are entitled to seek a just peace that will lead to reconciliation and the realization of our people's natural rights. The current status quo is untenable. On one side, there is a people under occupation and on the other, a belligerent occupying power that works tirelessly to distance us from the peace we seek and pray for. We Christians have a duty to confront oppression. In our Kairos document, we Palestinian Christians declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God.

Ending Israeli occupation is the only way for Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, to enjoy a life of prosperity and progress. It is also the surest way to secure continued Christian presence in this, our Holy Land. It is the way to preserve our history and help tear down the occupation's wall that disconnected Jerusalem and Bethlehem for the first time since the birth of Christianity.

We, Palestinian Christian leaders, part of the indigenous people of the Holy Land and descendents of the first Christians, have witnessed the changes of this land over the centuries. We have suffered the loss and have carried the cross for all these years. The occupation, oppression, exile and Apartheid, have made of every day a good Friday. We hope that your actions and prayers, along with ours, will help us get closer to the day of our own resurrection as a free nation.

We believe the Palestine Liberation Organization's initiative to enhance Palestine's status in the United Nations to an Observer State is a positive, collective, and moral step that will get us closer to freedom. This is a step in the right direction for the cause of a just peace in the region. We fully endorse this bid, just as we supported Palestine's application for full membership of the United Nations a year ago. That is why we call upon European governments to fully endorse the just Palestinian plight for freedom and independence.

The international community, and particularly Europe, have a historic responsibility towards Palestine's rights. Europe has long championed the values of peace and human rights. Now, Europe can reflect this principled position by helping Palestine. We call on you to support our effort in bringing about a real peace by aligning their positions and actions with international law and UN resolutions and supporting Palestine's UN Bid. From the Holy Land, we call on you to take this peaceful, righteous, and collective step towards deliverance so that our halleluiah soon becomes a celebration of a peace we live and not a yearning for a reality we are unjustly denied.

Signatures:

1) Patriarch Emeritus Michael Sabbah, Occupied Jerusalem.
2) Archbishop Atallah Hanna, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Occupied Jerusalem.
3) Monsignor Rafik Khoury, Latin Patriarchate Seminary.
4) Dr. Zoughbi Zoughbi – Director of Wi'am Center, Bethlehem.
5) Vera Baboun, Mayor of Bethlehem, Bethlehem.
6) Hind Khoury, Vice President of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center and Ambassador, Occupied Jerusalem.
7) Fr. Faysal Hijazeen – General Director the Christian Schools in Palestine
8) Sami El-Yousef – Regional Director for Palestine and Israel, Pontifical Mission for Palestine, Occupied Jerusalem.
9) Reverend Alex Awad, Pastor of the East Jerusalem Baptist Church and Dean of Students at Bethlehem Bible College, Occupied Jerusalem / Bethlehem.
10) Fr. Aziz Halaweh – Parish Priest of Taybeh
11) Claudette Habash, General Secretary of CARITAS – Jerusalem, Occupied Jerusalem.
12) Mira Rizek – National Secretary General of YWCA Palestine, Occupied Jerusalem.
13) Hanna Siniora, Head of the European – Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, Occupied Jerusalem.
14) Nabil Mushahwar, Head of the Palestine Bar Association, Occupied Jerusalem.
15) Afif Safieh – Ambassador, Occupied Jerusalem.
16) Fr. Jamal Khader – Dean of Arts, Bethlehem University.
17) Fouad Kokali – Member of Parliament, Beit Sahour.
18) Rifa'at Kassis, Kairos Palestine General Coordinator, Beit Sahour.
19) Yacoub El-Yousef – President of the Arab Orthodox Club, Occupied Jerusalem.
20) Dr. Bernard Sabella, University Professor and Member of Parliament, Occupied Jerusalem.
21) Fr. Ibrahim Shomali – Parish Priest of Beit Jala.
22) Dr. Elias Iseed – Head of the Arab Orthodox Society, Beit Sahour.
23) Khader Abuabara – Head of the Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Jala.
24) Dr. Na'el Salman – Mayor of Beit Jala
25) Fr. Johnny Abukhalil, Parish Priest of Nablus.
26) Hanna Karkar, St. Jacob's Orthodox Cathedral Board of Trustees, Occupied Jerusalem.
27) Antonian Society, Bethlehem.
28) Hani Hayek, Mayor of Beit Sahour.
29) Ibrahim Matar, President of National Christian Association, Occupied Jerusalem.
30) Ramzi Zananiri, Executive Director of Near East Council of Churches, Occupied Jerusalem.
31) Samia Khoury, Civil Society Activist, Occupied Jerusalem
32) Fayez Saqqa – Member of Parliament, Bethlehem.
33) Hanna Amira, Member of the PLO Executive Committee, Occupied Jerusalem.
34) Nader Abu Amsha, Director YMCA, Occupied Jerusalem.
35) Dr. Kholoud Daibes, Member of the Church of the Nativity Rehabilitation Committee, Bethlehem and former minister.
36) Tony Khashram, Businessman, Occupied Jerusalem.
37) Ziad Bandak, Adviser to the President, Bethlehem.
38) Fr. Raed Sahlia, Parish Priest of the Holy Family Church, Ramallah.
39) Lena Saleh, Educator, Occupied Jerusalem.
40) Edmond Shehadeh, General Director of the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation, Beit Jala.
41) Simon Kouba, Engineer and Community Activist, Occupied Jerusalem.
42) Xavier Abu Eid, Adviser to the PLO Negotiations Team and honorary Member of the Papal Scout Troup, Beit Jala.
43) Kamal Boullata, Artist and Art Historian, Occupied Jerusalem.
44) Salim Hodali – Head of Diaspora Section - Bank of Palestine, Beit Jala.
45) Francis Tams, Civil Society Activist, Occupied Jerusalem.
46) Pauline Nunu, Spokesman for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel, Occupied Jerusalem.
47) Fr. Hanna Salem, Vice Director of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary, Beit Jala.
48) Yusef Daher, Jerusalem Inter Church Center, Occupied Jerusalem.
49) Manuel Hassasian, Ambassador, Occupied Jerusalem.
50) Dr. Samir Hazboun, President of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, Bethlehem.
51) Elie Shehadeh, Palestinian National Initiative, Bethlehem.
52) Antoine Nesnas, Community Activist, Occupied Jerusalem.
53) George Lama, Center for Cultural Heritage Preservation, Bethlehem.
54) Honey Thalgieh, Captain of the Palestine National Women' Football Team, Bethlehem.
55) Renee Bahu, Retired Teacher, Ramallah.
56) Kamal Daibes, Member of Ramallah Municipal Council, Ramallah.
57) Albert Hani, Head of Papal Scouts Group, Beit Jala.
58) Saint Vincent de Paul Society, Beit Jala.
59) Fr. Iyad Twal, Parish priest of Beit Sahour, Beit Sahour.
60) Dr. Muna Mushahwar, Arab Orthodox Club, Occupied Jerusalem.
61) Fr. Johnny Bahbah, Latin Patriarchate Seminary, Beit Jala.
62) Fr. Emcula Sema'an, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Beit Jala.
63) Diana Safieh, Dame of the Holy Sepulcher, Occupied Jerusalem.
64) Dr. Suleiman Abu Dayyeh, Head of Palestine Desk – Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty, Occupied Jerusalem.
65) Sister Hala George, Occupied Jerusalem.
66) Hania Persekian, Arab Orthodox Club, Occupied Jerusalem.
67) Issa Kassasieh, Arab Studies Society – Orient House and member of the Arab Orthodox Club, Occupied Jerusalem.
68) George Bahu, University Lecturer, Ramallah.
69) Diana Mushahwar, The Four Homes of Mercy, Occupied Jerusalem.
70) Fr. Yousef Hodali, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Beit Jala.
71) Tony Salman, National Christian Coalition, Occupied Jerusalem.
72) Antony Habash, Regional Director – Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Bethlehem.
73) Nidal Abuzuluf, Manager of Joint Advocacy Initiative – YMCA, Beit Sahour.
74) Mireille Ghnem, President of YWCA Jerusalem, Occupied Jerusalem.
75) Mazin Qumsieh, Professor Bethlehem University, Beit Sahour.
76) Vivien Sansour, writer and photographer, Beit Jala.
77) Yasmine Khoury, Kairos Palestine, Bethlehem.
78) Michel Awad, Executive Director SIRAJ Center, Beit Sahour
79) Anton Hanna Siniora, The National Christian Association, Occupied Jerusalem.
80) Maher Sahlieh, Palestine Scouts Association, Occupied Jerusalem.
81) Usama Zoughbi, Civil Society Activist, Bethlehem.
82) Ramzi Sansour, Assistant Professor and Consultant, Bethlehem.
83) Ghassan Daoud, Head of the Association of Orthodox Housing Project, Beit Sahour.
84) Fr. Boulos Alam, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Beit Jala.
85) Near East Council of Churches – Jerusalem, Occupied Jerusalem.
86) Issa Kassis, CEO Palestine Mortgage & Housing Corporation, Ramallah.
87) Arab Orthodox Club – Bethlehem, Bethlehem.
88) Fr. George Shahwan, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Beit Jala.
89) Dr. Varsen Aghabakian, Development Consultant – Occupied Jerusalem.
90) Haifa Baramki, Vice President – YWCA Palestine, Ramallah.
91) Raed Abed Rabboh, Public Relations Director at Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) and Member Mar Mansour Christian Association, Beit Jala.
92) Issam Moghannam, Head of the Holy Family Scout Troup, Ramallah.
93) Wassef Daher, Head of Board YMCA – Palestine, Occupied Jerusalem.
94) Dr. Aghlab Khoury, President of the Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Sahour.
95) George Rishmawi, Head of SIRAJ Center and Alternative Tourism Group, Beit Sahour.
96) Mouhib Awad, Member of Parliament, Ramallah.
97) Fr. Louis Hazboun, Parish Priest of Bir Zeit, Bir Zeit.
98) Andre Batarseh, Secretary General of YMCA, Occupied Jerusalem.
99) Nizar Habash, Journalist and former head of Holy Family Scout Troup, Ramallah.
100) Nora Karmi, Kairos Palestine, Occupied Jerusalem.

This letter has been endorsed by hundreds of Priests, Reverends and other community leaders in Europe.

Source: Palestine News Network