Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Bishop Kenneth Cragg on Christian Zionism

There is admirable depth and careful perspective in Stephen Sizer’s comprehensive survey of the political, exegetical and moral implications of Christian Zionism. If the apocalyptic ones, darkly suggested by the cover design, remain the hidden future, the logic for them is well clarified. Basic terms are clearly defined and the 18th-century origins of ‘premillennial Restorationism’ in Britain, taken as further in the 19th by speculative dispensationlism, caught up as these were in their idiosyncratic perceptions of the nature of mission and the place of Jewry in its sights. This shape of biblical handling coincided with broader evangelical sympathies in the political realm, symbolised by the eminent Lord Shaftsbury. The tangled negotiations behind the issue of the Balfour Declaration, in the form of a letter to Lord Rothschild, a prominent British Jew, late in 1917, are assessed against this background.

The analysis then shifts to the emergence of Christian Zionism in the USA and the confluence of sundry factors as to ‘restoration’, covenantal faith and—Arno Gaebelein—an inverted suspicion of ‘anti-Semitism’ in the strictures he had for ‘secular Jews’ whose reprehensible behaviour queried his predilection for ‘worthy Zionist’ Jews.

If the British factors, all the way from Irving and Darby to Shaftsbury and Spurgeon, facilitated the Balfour Declaration in its Zionist intent, the American narrative paved the way for still more defining consequence in the Partition Vote of thirty years later (1917-1947). The Biblicists are all diligently reviewed with references textual, and graphs, before Sizer moves to examine the organisational activity by which, in and away from Israel, objectives were pursued. Those hundred or so pages are followed by another equally meticulous hundred on the theologies at stake, in respect of futurism, covenant, chosen-ness and its bearing on non-Jewish relation, and the concept of ‘return’. How these concepts were translated on the ground in Eretz Israel leads to the vexed issues of borders, of the status of Jerusalem, the Temple and anticipations of the future as the bias in eschatology might discern of distort it. It remains for the author to assess the current political situation, the elusiveness of peace and the immediate crisis to which the long narrative has led. Readers who can match the author’s capacity for incisive documentation and his rigorous way with complexity are rewarded with a masterly presentation with which to wrestle.

Doing so suggests to any reviewer two responsive reflections which belong together. The one is the tragic misnomer that talks of ‘Christian Zionism’. The other is the triple irony that hangs over it—over its story and its cast of mind. Doubtless the term is now so far current that there is no avoiding it. Yet it remains a contradiction in terms and so obscures how ‘a Christian Zionism’ could be of a very different order. Review might well conclude in pondering what it might be—and why.Meanwhile, anticipating that, there is the triple irony in the conventional sense of ‘Christian Zionism’. It has better be thought ‘the Zionism of some Christians’, or ‘Christians and Zionist—issues between’, or, with that ever elusive conjunction: ‘Christians and Zionism’. The three ironies will show why the phrasing matters. They are inter-related as (1) the primacy of ‘God in Christ’ in Biblical exegesis, (2) the integrity at stake, and (3) neglect of the supreme moralism of the great Hebrew prophets.

The duties of Biblical exegesis are taxing and easy literalism eludes them. It fails to set all under the priority of ‘the Word made flesh’ and the ‘redemptive work of Christ’ in its inclusive meaning in ‘whosoever will may come’, and its ‘authority’ to make all ‘the children of God’ on the sole, sufficient ground of faith. This does not cancel the historical precedence of ‘the chosen people’, or mean ‘supersession’, inasmuch as their inclusion perpetuates their standing inside the New Testament denominator of ‘whosoever will’ and the consequent vocation of all human ethnic and cultural identities to learn themselves ‘chosen’ instruments of the divine employ, of which original Israel had been a ‘pilot scheme’, a world exemplar in its given destiny—a destiny splendidly realised in the universalling of that ‘people-of-God’-calling accessible, by personal faith, to the acceptance of all and sundry. Hence that ringing Ephesians word of ‘… no more Gentiles’, and the insistent tautology of ‘all peoples, tongues, kindred and nations’ in the mind of John of Patmos.

This New Testament event, the mutual emergence of ‘things historical believed’ and the Church ensuing from believing them, deserves to control and discipline all Biblical exegesis lest its priority be forfeit. The ‘two covenant theory’, often adopted by ‘Christian Zionists, does violence to the entire New Testament, ignores the initiatives of a wholly Jewish apostolate in opening ‘a door of faith to Gentiles’, and implies, or insists, that the Christian Church is where Jews are neither expected nor wanted—a most heinous form of anti-Semitism, as if to argue a faith-world without Jews. Inter-testamental relations now plead to be on far more solid theology than this facile one which ‘heals all hurts slightly’ and does justice to neither faith.

There was a healthy reproof in the teaching of Jesus himself for over-much subtlety about ‘times and seasons’. It is well to have them stay in the keeping of the Lord we can trust on the ‘event-told’ trustworthiness of ‘God in Christ’. ‘Why stand ye gazing?’ is a call we need to heed when trapped in over-much ‘intuiting’.

Meanwhile vast moral issues wait for us here and now. One is our own integrity. There has often been a wry humour for the Menahem Begins of the Golda Meirs who have welcomed American ‘Christian Zionists’ to the Holy Land, accepted their ample dollars and taken them to visit the shrine of Yad-va-Shem. The wry-ness belongs with the vision, via help to Zion, of a duly mass entry of Jews into Christian faith. The one ‘ingathering’ will be prelude to the other. Was it well—the mixed motive apart—to read Paul’s yearning for his people in quite those literal terms, terms that override his own constant insistence that the faith ‘saved’ was the faith of the private heart? Was it not truly ‘evangelical’ both to love and give disinterestedly and to have ‘the kingdom of heaven’ increase by gentle persuasion of its invitation, all other motives out? But that integrity issue deepens far in the third irony we noted, namely the way in which ‘Christian Zionism’ ignores the ethicism of an Amos, a Hosea, an Isaiah or a Micah. It has been well said that these are the surest, deepest mentors of Eretz Israel today, its most rigorous monitors of its destiny. What of steady settlement creation, at great Palestinian cost, in the light of Isaiah’s cry: ‘Woe to them that join house to house and field to field, until there is no room, that they may dwell alone in the midst of the earth’ (5.8)? How would Micah’s ‘do justly …’ square with bulldozed dwellings and uprooted olive groves and demolished houses under the exigencies of military sequestration or illegal confiscation?

Or how might Jeremiah’s famous sermon at the Temple gate (7.1-7) rings in the ears of would-be invasive Israeli elements bent on enflaming highly inflammable emotions of religious enmity (here grimly analysed by Stephen Sizer, pp. 234-39)? Or could these bitter ‘lamentations’ attributed to Jeremiah not somehow echo in the souls of Palestinians, grieving at the forfeiture of their patrimony in the slow, sometimes cunning, always sinister, process of Israeli self-creation? To be sure, there was the compassionate reminder (Exodus 23.9) about ‘loving the stranger’ in recollection of the like Jewish experience in the land of Egypt. But what when ‘the stranger’ had been made such, where they believed that they authentically belonged, where they had never been fugitive guests as Israel had been, thanks to the Pharaonic reception of a Jewish Joseph? One nationalism, the Zionist, had contrived to threaten another, the Palestinian, and could even hint that the other had only discovered itself thanks to the Israeli presence, as though it were a pseudo thing. That implied negation of another’s legitimacy came to be symbolised in the construction of ‘the wall’, ironically truncating a single land allegedly loved above all by those who built it. Could it be that Zionism could assert itself and make itself good territorially only at the price if the effective de-legitimising of another people no less married to the same territory and with no less lengthy emotional tenancy and a more continuous practical one?

It is not difficult on moral ground to realise how a Hosea or an Isaiah would now passionately interrogate and accuse the patterns of Israeli story since Balfour. ‘On moral grounds’ we must say. For the contexts do not correspond. Those great accusatory figures addressed the courts of political power but never occupied the thrones. They were within the Judaic power equation (hence their moral relevance now) but that power focus was itself under Assyrian or Chaldean threat—the threat from which some Amos drew his judgement as to guilt. How would he or his kindred spirit address the ruling, power-girt Jewish reality now?

At least Hosea leaves us in doubt. Things ethical are prior to things political, whatever the fashion of the latter. In Hosea 1.9 he is bold to cancel—by direct quotation the first ‘God peopling’ mandate in Exodus 3.14. ‘I am not the “I am” you think I am’ and (in those terms) ‘you are not my people.’ Surely in his anguish of heart he is using the utmost negation only in order to tell the supreme condition of its ever being positive.

‘Chosen’ status is not a perquisite but a vocation, not a prize but a privilege. It is here surely that any ministry of a truly ‘Christian Zionism’ to Zion in Israel should find its ministry of heart and hand. Only so would it be in obedience to the perspective of the New Testament and the divine intent of grace that, thanks to the first mentor in the ‘the Old’, all peoples should have individual access to ‘the people of God’ and then aspire to read their own nationhood as servant as newly and essentially also ‘His people’.

That perception has one final pointer to reflection which readers of Sizer’s excellent study may ponder with his help. It has to do with any Christian relation to the current crisis in the meaning of Judaism itself, as between a ‘secular’ diaspora and a re-asserted Zion. All religion today is caught in something of the same issue—as Islam certainly is. ‘How—and who—is the Jew?’ Initially Zionism was always a minority answer. During its course it has oddly—at times—used anti-Semitic rhetoric, castigating what it saw as supine, anonymous Jews, languishing among incorrigibly hostile ‘Gentiles’. But were not these, or some of them, nobly striving to be ‘enlanded’ anywhere, finding a morally Jewish destiny in working out in moral contribution their happy compatibility with the tensions and the challenge of a shared, if ever bewildering, modernity? Marc Chagall was glad to salute the generous welcome he had found in the USA and to make his abiding in his beloved Saint-Paul-de-Vence (France) while ever cherishing the memory of his Vitebsk (Russia). Such will to be diligently cosmopolitan in today’s exacting world-scene has better Jewish realism than David Ben Gurion’s notion that all Jewry should repair to Israel, or that—by the sixties—we should be talking of ‘post-Zionism’, all things being now de facto done. Both diaspora and Israel have to know that all things are still indeterminate, whether the honest, viable, justly defined size of Israel, or the shape and spirit of a dispersed Jewry among the nations in translation of their ‘chosen-ness’. Stephen Sizer’s thoughts on these ultimate themes are summarised on pp. 261-64. His commendable labours will well equip his readers to address them. Meanwhile, perhaps we have to say that Armageddon also is sub judice.

The Right Revd Kenneth Cragg, retired Assistant Bishop in Jerusalem (author of The Call of the Minaret; The Arab Christian; Mohammed and the Christian; Readings in the Qur'an; The House of Islam; Islam among the Spires; Troubled by Truth; The Dome and the Rock.)

You can purchase copies of Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? from IVP or Amazon.

Professor Donald Wagner on Christian Zionism

Until recently, most Middle Eastern scholars and activists viewed Christian Zionism and the impact of the Christian 'Right' on US Middle East policy as a marginal issue. Despite the fact that Christian Zionists had been instrumental in advancing the cause of Zionism with British politicians prior to the emergence of political Jewish Zionism, few if any of the highly regarded political and historical writings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have dealt with this topic in a serious manner. Perhaps now there will be a long needed corrective given the undeniable influence of this movement both inside and outside the Bush Administration.

This important new study by the Rev. Dr Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water in Surrey and Chair of the International Bible Society (UK) offers the most comprehensive treatment of the phenomenon of Christian Zionism to date. His careful and thorough survey of the historical development, theological beliefs, and political implications of Christian Zionism fills a void that will hopefully encourage the inclusion of these Christian fundamentalists in the political and historical discourse while at the same time alert not only academics, but Christian leaders to take action.

Sizer's volume, Christian Zionism: Road-Map to Armageddon, is based on his PhD dissertation and represents a profound and critical analysis of the historical background and theological belief system that gave rise to the movement. Moreover, the author presents his case in a highly readable style that is readily accessible for the non-specialist, which is not always the case with converted academic dissertations. Sizer's strongest skills are demonstrated in his comprehensive grasp of the historical and biblical material utilised by Christian Zionists and their contemporary leaders, theo­logies, and organisations. His critical analysis of the distorted theology and sometimes frightening political consequences rightly claims that the modern theological movement called 'premillennial dispensationalism’[1] is a rather novel theological system that emerged in rural England during the early 19th century and produced the political step-child we now call Christian Zionism. Here he delineates the various beliefs of the theological movement that were quickly translated into various political expressions beginning with Rev. Louis Way (1770-1840) and the London Jews' Society, which was originally designed to evangelise Jews and 'restore' them to Palestine. This movement made political overtures to the British government and European heads of state, thereby embracing an embryonic political form as early as the 1820s. It was followed by the great evangelical social reformer Lord Shaftesbury (1801-1885), who may have formulated the Zionist mantra ‘a land of no people for a people with no land’[2] some sixty years before the Jewish Zionists utilised it. In England, the political aspects of Christian Zionism culminated in the political efforts of Lord Arthur Balfour, whom Sizer rightly calls 'the most important British politician in relation to Zionism'. Not to be forgotten is the British prime minister David Lloyd George, who worked with Balfour during the critical World War I period to facilitate the Zionists' aspiration. Both Balfour and Lloyd-George were committed Christian Zionists, and while their imperial vision for the Middle East may have been their primary motivation in sup-porting Zionism, one cannot discount the fact that they were predisposed to Zionist arguments due to their Christian Zionist orientation.

Readers will also note the signifi­cant role played by the Anglican chaplain to the British embassy in Vienna, the Rev. William Hechler (1845-1931), who assisted Theodor Herzl with high-level political contacts. Herzl acknowledged the importance of Christian Zionists in his Diaries, where he claims Hechler told him: 'We have prepared the ground for you!' Indeed, as readers follow Sizer's narrative, they will sense the importance of Christian Zionism in 'preparing the way' for Jewish Zionism's acceptance by the British and American political elite.[3] Sizer is also well versed in the development of the movement in the United States, where it now plays such an important political and religious role. He traces the emergence of John Nelson Darby (1800-82), the renegade Irish Anglican, who became the most influential apostle of Christian Zionism not only in England, but on the European Continent and throughout North America. Darby's theology represents a radical departure from the `Restorationists' and `Covenantal Premillennialism’[4] of his immediate predecessors like Way and the enormously influential Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, whose goals were to evangelise Jews and `restore' the Jewish state in Palestine' to fulfill biblical prophecy and prepare for the return of Jesus. Darby developed novel doctrines such as the `Rapture' and God's separate and eternal covenant with Israel, the latter of which elevates Israel's role in the latter days as fore-ordained by God and is thus deserving of our unconditional political, economic, and theological support. These radical doctrines are novel in church history and depart from not only mainstream Christian evangelicalism, but all Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and Catholic theologies. Nevertheless, Darby's influence on the newly emerging American Evangelical movement cannot be overstated, as he single-handedly advanced his novel doctrines during the 1850s-80s, and found ready acceptance. One of his early American disciples, William E. Blackstone (1841-1935) would go on to organise in 1891 the first lobby effort in the United States that called for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, a full six years before Herzl convened the initial World Zionist Congress.

In the political section I thought Sizer understated the impact of Israel's creation in 1948, which Christian Zionists took as confirmation that the `latter days' had begun and the world was in the countdown phase in which would occur various signs, such as Israel's control over the West Bank, all of Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip (even the Golan Heights and South Lebanon), plus the rebuilding of the Third Temple, and the imminent return of Jesus.

I also raise a concern over his treatment of the Carter era (1976-80) when the emerging Moral Majority (Rev. Jerry Falwell) and Pat Robertson's political initiatives began to align themselves seriously with the pro-Israel lobby and Israel's Likud Party, in many ways triggered by their opposition to Jimmy Carter[5], an Evangelical Christian who did not take the Christian Zionist position on Israel. On the other hand, his analysis of the Reagan Administration is superb as he demonstrates why Ronald Reagan was `the Christian Zionist President', believing the state of Israel fulfilled bible prophecy and that we were in the last days, awaiting the Battle of Armageddon and Jesus' imminent return.

Sizer's theological section is utterly remarkable in its grasp of the various nuances within millennial and dispensational theology, both in the UK and US. His `insider's view' is of significance here, since he grew up in conservative evangelicalism and remains an evangelical, he is able to interpret the various forms of millennial theology and assist the reader in recognising both the theological and political consequences. The volume is especially important in this regard as it is addressed specifically to Christian Evangelicals, the fastest growing sector of Christianity worldwide. While the extreme Christian Zionist doctrines and practices are reaching their zenith during the present Bush Administration in the United States, it is important to recognise that perhaps less than a third of all Evangelicals have adopted dispensational doctrines and Christian Zionist ideology.

The fact that his volume has been published by one of the most respected Evangelical Christian publishers (InterVarsity Press-UK), gives Sizer's work a valid sense of legitimacy and hence the book will be more acceptable to evangelicals. My only significant criticism of this otherwise remarkable volume is the final political section, where important developments are described but are often underdeveloped, and not presented with sufficient context and nuance. One readily sees the dire consequences of Christian Zionist alliances with the extreme right-wing in Israel such as the Temple Mount faithful and the settler movement, and much more, but I had the sense that perhaps for space reasons, Sizer was forced to cut significant political material that he has published in other monographs. Nevertheless, he does present a useful outline of the political consequences of Christian Zionist manifestations today in such categories as supporting Israeli colonialism, facilitating aliyah from Russia, sustaining the illegal Israeli settlements, opposing the peace process, and calling for the construction of a Jewish Temple (on the al-Haram al-Sharif).

While the historical and theological chapters provide the deep analysis and various nuances of these aspects of Christian Zionism, the political section seems somewhat rushed and in need of context and deeper analysis. Perhaps this material is already planned for his next volume. As it is, I fear that he may be set up for the usual nit-picking and discrediting one might anticipate from both Christian and Jewish Zionist organisations that may undermine the importance of this otherwise brilliant volume. Despite this criticism, I strongly urge those concerned about Israel and Palestine to read and digest this book. Those unfamiliar with the historical development and theological foundations of Christian Zionism will understand why this movement has emerged as a major political factor in the United States, particularly as it is aligned with the powerful pro-Israel lobby and the neo-conservative ideologues that are currently, driving US policy in the Middle East. Despite its shortcomings, the political chapter does point out the organisations and belief systems that provide the belief system, world-view, and inspiration for such troublesome projects as the rebuilding of the Third Temple over a destroyed Dome of the Rock and ail-Aqsa Mosque and the hastening of the Battle of Armageddon. While we await Sizer's next volume, may those who advocate more just and peaceful solutions redouble their efforts and may Stephen Sizer's volume Christian Zionism receive the broadest possible distribution and readership.

Donald E. Wagner, Professor and Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies North Park University, Chicago, Illinois (author of Anxious for Armageddon & Dying in the Land of Promise). Published in Holy Land Studies, Volume 4, 1, May 2005, Edinburgh University Press

You can purchase copies of Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? from IVP or Amazon.

Canon Gordon Bridger on Christian Zionism

“Stephen Sizer has written a masterly book on a controversial subject. Some of us have soaked up teaching about Christian Zionism from the footnotes of a Schofield Reference Bible or from Hal Lindsey’s bestseller The Late Great Planet Earth, or from the leaders of certain Christian tours to Israel. Probably we have read very little that critically examines its basic assumptions. Sizer sets out to evaluate Christian Zionism critically from a biblical and historical perspective. First, he describes the historical roots of Christian Zionism.

He defines ‘Zionism’ as ‘the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel’. Christian Zionism can be defined simply as ‘Christian support for Zionism’. Sizer traces the emergence of Christian Zionism as a movement from early 19th-century rural England to 21st-century America, and its transition from British sectarianism to mainstream American evangelicalism. In his second chapter he evaluates the theological emphases of Christian Zionism. These include a literal futurist interpretation of the Bible which inevitably becomes arbitrary. So, according to Mel de Haan (1946), the horsemen of Revelation 9 stand for ‘a supernatural army of horrible beings, probably demons’, while Hal Lindsey (1973) believes the reference is to Chinese soldiers, and their horses symbolic for ‘mobilised ballistic-missile launchers’. Both claim they are offering a ‘literal’ interpretation of the text. Sizer also challenges the view that ‘the Jews remain God’s chosen people, enjoying a unique relationship status and eternal purpose within their own land, separate from any promises made to the church.’ He points us to Romans 9 as the key passage to study. The return of the Jews to Zion (Restorationism); reclaiming Judaea, Samaria and beyond (Eretz Israel); making Jerusalem exclusively Jewish; rebuilding the Temple; and the detailed road map to Armageddon are all aspects of Christian Zionism which are critically examined.

There follows a further fascinating chapter on the ‘Political implications of Christian Zionism’. Sizer describes several ways in which Christian Zionism has been translated into political action such as facilitating Jewish emigration, supporting the settlement programme and funding the proposed rebuilding of the Temple. A final chapter discusses the constructive and destructive aspects of Christian Zionism. It is good that dialogue between Jews and Christians has been encouraged; that humanitarian work has been carried out among Jewish refugees, and that anti-Semitism has been discouraged. But there are some worrying signs too.

Sizer argues that Christian Zionism has tended to justify a kind of apartheid within an exclusive Jewish state; that it has undermined some Christian witness in the Middle East by its partisan support for Israel; and that it has incited some religious fanaticism by supporting the building of the Temple on the Temple Mount and disputed Jewish settlements. Sizer explains that the purpose of his book has been to ‘make a case for a covenantalist approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by focusing on and critiquing its antithesis, namely dispensational Christian Zionism. He defines convenantalism as that understanding of the Bible that teaches ‘that God has only ever had one people throughout history . . . those who share the faith of Abraham, whether Jews or Gentiles .. . and one means of atonement, the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ in our place. . . ’. Romans 9-11 and the rest of the New Testament surely support this covenantalist interpretation. Sizer’s clear thinking, scholarly and reverent critique of Christian Zionism certainly needs to be read alongside the Scriptures, with the utmost seriousness.”

Canon Gordon Bridger, former Principal of Oak Hill College, 1987-96, (author of The Man from Outside, A Day that Changed the World, Bible Study Commentary 1 Corinthians-Galatians), presently serving at Cromer Parish Church. Reviewed in Evangelicals Now

You can purchase copies of Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? from IVP or Amazon.

Professor Paul Boyer on Christian Zionism

No one who follows events in the Middle East can fail to be aware of the involvement of so-called Christian Zionists in the politics of the region. These are evangelical Protestants whose reading of Bible prophecy convinces them that God has a distinct end-time plan for the Jews—a plan whose fulfillment is integral to Christ’s second coming and thousand-year Millennial reign. According to this interpretive system, known as premillennial dispensationalism, as the End approaches, Israel will expand to incorporate the lands God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their seed, from the Euphrates to “the river of Egypt.” The Jews will also take over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and rebuild the Temple on the site now occupied by two sacred Islamic shrines.

Stephen Sizer, an evangelical Anglican clergyman, offers a history and critique of this version of Christian Zionism. His book may seem heavy going in places for readers not immersed in this belief system, but it does illuminate prophetic beliefs that shape the attitudes of millions of evangelical Protestants worldwide, and especially in the United States, toward Israel, the Palestinians, and Islam. (These End-Time beliefs also influence believers’ view of the United Nations, the global economy, and U.S. mass culture—but that is another story.)

Sizer begins by tracing the British origins of dispensationalism and its Zionist component. This belief system is usually credited to John Darby, a founder of the Plymouth Brethren, an English dissenting sect. Sizer, however, stresses the role of such now-obscure figures as Edward Irving, a Scottish preacher popular in London in the 1820s, and Henry Drummond, a banker and politician with an interest in Bible prophecy. He traces the influence of these beliefs on later British leaders, including David Lloyd George, the prime minister who oversaw the issuance of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, calling for “a National Home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.

Readers interested in the evolution of American attitudes toward Israel will welcome Sizer’s discussion of dispensationalism’s migration to the United States through John Darby’s evangelistic tours and the preaching and writings of James H. Brookes, Arno C. Gaebelein, Cyrus Scofield, and other late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century figures. Sizer notes the importance of the wealthy Chicago real-estate developer William Blackstone, a committed dispensationalist and early Zionist. Visiting Jewish agricultural colonies in Palestine in 1888–89, Blackstone saw them as exciting portents of Christ’s soon return. In 1891, five years before Theodor Herzl’s Zionist manifesto Der Judenstaat, Blackstone drafted a “Memorial” calling for a Jewish state in Palestine, “according to God’s distribution of nations,” as a response to Czarist pogroms. He secured signatures from J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, the Chief Justice of the United States, and some 400 other government and business leaders. With reason, Louis D. Brandeis later praised Blackstone as “the Father of Zionism.”

Sizer’s chapter on dispensationalism’s political implications is particularly timely. Popular writers and televangelists like Hal Lindsey, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Tim LaHaye, and James Hagee, together with politicians who share their beliefs (or seek the votes of those who do), have been outspoken supporters of Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza, as a step toward the prophesied expansion to the biblical boundaries, and of all Jerusalem and Temple Mount—essential to the rebuilding of the Temple. These Christian Zionists reject Palestinian political or territorial claims; denigrate the Palestinian people in language that Sizer finds disturbingly analogous to Nazi stereotypes of the Jews; and, in their prophecy-fueled worldview, demonize Islam as vile and sinister. Such figures, reinforced by a network of like-minded organizations, writes Sizer, constitute “probably the most powerful lobby in the United States today, influencing not only American foreign policy but also the chances of a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict” (p. 105).

Sizer only passingly mentions the darker side of the dispensationalist version of Zionism: the belief that the long history of antisemitic persecution, including the Holocaust, represents God’s “chastisement” of his chosen but wayward people. Dispensationalists also teach that in the End Times a demonic figure, the Antichrist, will rule the earth for seven years—the socalled Great Tribulation—before Christ returns to defeat him at Armageddon. During this interlude, they believe, Antichrist will persecute and slaughter Jews with unprecedented ferocity. An evangelical Christian himself, Sizer directs his book to evangelical readers. (Inter-Varsity Press is the publishing arm of an Anglo-American evangelical organization that targets college and university students.) While criticizing the dispensationalist version of Zionism, he champions an alternative view, Covenantal Premillennialism. According to this view, God does not have a separate end-time plan involving national Israel, its future expansion, or a rebuilt Temple. “Access to heaven no longer has anything to do with the earthly Jerusalem,” Sizer assures us (p. 168). Rather, all people, Jews and non-Jews alike, will be judged according to whether they accept Jesus Christ as a divine savior whose crucifixion, as an atonement for mankind’s sins, represents the only means of salvation.

However one feels about such matters, Sizer’s well-researched study is of considerable value. Supplemented by other works such as Timothy P. Weber’s On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend (2004); Yaakov Ariel’s On Behalf of the Jews: American Fundamentalist Attitudes toward Jews, Judaism, and Zionism, 1865–1945 (1991); Bernard Wasserstein’s Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City (2001); Grace Halsell’s Prophecy and Politics: Militant Evangelists on the Road to Nuclear War (1986); and my own When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (1992), Christian Zionism unearths the taproot of a belief system that exerts enormous influence in contemporary America. Based on supposedly infallible sacred texts, these beliefs help determine how millions of Americans, and millions more worldwide, view the bloody and seemingly insoluble conflicts that torment the Middle East, bringing such suffering and heartache to its peoples.

Professor Paul Boyer, Merle Curti Professor of History Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison (editor-in-chief of the Oxford Companion to American History, author of Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft, Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half-Century Encounter With Nuclear Weapons). Published in Shofar, An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Case Western University

You can purchase copies of Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? from IVP or Amazon.

Comment From Bishop of Birkenhead on TEC Decision to Depose Bishop Duncan

I was privileged to meet +Bob at the Lambeth Conference and I can’t understand why those also present have now acted against him in this way. To have split the Communion by ignoring all the pleas not to innovate against the clearly expressed mind of the Communion and then to pretend that it is +Bob who has in some way departed form the faith is an example of profound self deception.

To have proceeded in this way seems to myself, who first met TEC Bishops at Lambeth, that for all the fine words, a deeper force is driving this which is immune to the calls for unity and truth. TEC asked for diversity to be respected. Where is even elementary respect for the diversity of gospel orthodoxy represented by +Bob and the diocese of Pittsburgh?

If the diocese was still undecided as to how to proceed in relation to TEC, this action would surely move them to leave. TEC may want to uphold its own distorted sense of its own polity. It should not now be surprised if the rest of the Anglican Communion now moves to assert its polity, without TEC.

Keith Sinclair
Bishop of Birkenhead, England


Screwtape Proposes an Episcopal Toast

Screwtape Proposes an Episcopal Toast: A Satirical Essay

By David W. Virtue

My Dear Wormwood,

The Council of Hades is deeply concerned about your most recent actions. You seem to think you have scored a significant victory for our side by getting rid of that dreadful Duncan fellow in Pittsburgh.

You could not be more wrong.

All you have done is stir up the wrath of those fearful Global South Primates as well as inducing Church of England evangelicals and a handful of orthodox TEC bishops into standing tall for their frightful life changing gospel. We have just received word that the Pakistani bishop in England has called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to create and recognize a North American Anglican province that they might escape to!

On NO account must you let this happen.

Rowan Williams must not bend the knee to this vagante act. He must be made to see the big, long term picture, which is to keep everybody at the table “listening” and talking, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth. It is absolutely imperative that no one leaves the table. Talk, talk, talk, listen, listen, listen, but never, never under any circumstances let anyone say they KNOW the truth. If they do, they will be in hot water. You, my nephew, will be in even hotter water.

Prevaricate, prevaricate and stall for time while we come up with a more permanent solution and strategy to this disastrous situation.

As most of the HOB is firmly in our grip, we want to chip away at the remnant. We can only do so if they stay at the TEC table where we can undermine them with endless, gracious talk of inclusivity and diversity.

Your genius, Wormwood, lies in your ability to be as snake like as our father who is in Hades. Clearly you have much to learn. The more obvious the other side is, the more devious you need to become in order to conceal our real intent.

You need to re-hone your charm skills. That Bonnie Anderson woman is always laughing and smiling when she does her theological tap dance in orthodox dioceses. One should only get serious with those on our side, like Jefferts Schori and Beers (her legal pit bull) when they go for the legal jugular vein…then it is a fight to the death.

What has surprised us is the growing case of spinal strength we are witnessing from the other side. This is not something we had planned. For more than 40 years, we have managed to get them to draw lines in the sand and keep them at the table while all the while undermining them. Now all that is changing.

The stories they have been getting through the Internet have undermined our exclusive take and spin from such sources as ENS and ACNS from within the institutional structures. The Internet has been both a curse (truth telling) and a blessing (porn). We are still evaluating how to undermine the former.

The Anglican Communions’ ability to get and give information in nano seconds has truly undermined a lot of our best efforts. You will need to work harder, Wormwood, to make the Internet work for our side.

Rowan Williams’ ongoing silence about the Duncan deposition is a delicious abdication of authority and leadership. May his silence continue. If he speaks, one side or the other will clobber him.

If he complains that deposing this horrible creature in Pittsburgh was ungracious and a failure to find a way forward, the left will say he is interfering in their internal political and ecclesiastical affairs. He should stay out of The Episcopal Church’s affairs and mind his own business. If he doesn’t say something, the Global South will accuse him of abdicating his authority and failing to defend their abominable faith.

Keep playing up the necessity for a covenant, probably the most useless (but to us useful) document since the failed Windsor Report. Drag out the timelines till the year 3,000 if you must, but under no circumstance must there be a resolution to the Anglican Communion’s problems.

Williams’ dashing off to Lourdes this week looking for a miracle won’t save him. I must confess to you Wormwood, the High Council of Hades laughed themselves silly when we read of his flight to France. It seemed to coincide at precisely the same moment Duncan went down in the House of Bishops! You don’t think…of course you don’t.

Perhaps Cardinal Kasper who is with him, will give him some friendly advice about defending the faith. This could be disastrous. If he whispers in his ear that he should hold fast to catholic faith and order, he might just tell him to tell Mrs. Jefferts Schori where to get off.

On no account must Lourdes be anything more than a distraction.

Alarm bells sounded here in Hades yesterday when we read that awful statement by that fellow in Uganda, Orombi…it sounds just like bombi and it could do just that -- explode in our faces.

He actually said that Duncan is still the Bishop of Pittsburgh and that he would welcome him as a future Primate of the Anglican Communion when a new North American province is formed!

What in Hell are you thinking of Wormwood? Undermine this man, NOW. Say his plan to eradicate HIV/AIDS in Uganda with their ABC program advocating abstinence is homophobic. Get the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC News, and the Guardian...anyone you can find, onto this story, but don’t let this moment go unanswered.

This Orombi fellow is getting more like that awful lion like Akinola fellow in Nigeria who has done more to expose our side and the intentions of the pansexual takeover of the church than any other Primate.

THEY MUST BE STOPPED, Wormwood. Your life depends on it. You know the punishment our father in Hades will heap on you.

Your blood will be the cup of his salvation.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Thought for the Day

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:15-17 NIV)

The Future of the Church of England

Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Men in the Shadows

Just back from a tour of Florida and North Carolina, with the Presidential election race hotting up and an escalation in the war of words with Iran, I can't get this song by Jackson Browne out of my mind. Check out the moving videos that follow the lyrics.

"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 youve 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 TV
You hear one thing again and again
How the USA 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 cant 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 cant 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."

Jackson Browne (1986)

YouTube Lives in the Balance (1986), here (live in 2007) and here (live in 2005) and here also.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Anglican Archbishops and Bishops in Solidarity with Bishop Bob Duncan


Six CoE Diocesan Bishops Make Joint Statement of Support for Bishop Bob Duncan

23 September 2008

As bishops in the Church of England, we are deeply saddened and shocked by the proposed deposition of Bishop Robert Duncan in the Episcopal Church, USA. We declare that we continue to believe that Bishop Bob is a bishop in the Church of God and a bishop in good standing in the Anglican Communion. We continue to pray for him and for his diocese of Pittsburgh.

+Nicholas Blackburn [The Rt. Rev. Nicholas Stewart, Diocese of Blackburn]
+Peter Cestr: [The Rt. Rev. Peter Forster, Diocese of Chester]
+John Cicester: [The Rt. Rev. John Hind, Diocese of Chichester]
+Michael Exon: [The Rt. Rev. Michael Langrish, Diocese of Exeter]
+Michael Roffen: [The Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael James Nazir-Ali, Diocese of Rochester]
+Michael Winton: [The Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, Diocese of Winchester]

Archbishop Akinola signs on to Primates’ Statement in support of Bishop Duncan|

September 22, 2008

Archbishop Peter Akinola, leader of The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the largest Anglican province in the world, has signed on to this previously released statement in support of Bishop Duncan.

A Joint Statement from Archbishops Akinola of Nigeria, Venables of the Southern Cone, Gomez of the West Indies and Nzimbi of Kenya.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We the undersigned are grieved at the violation of catholic order in the declaration of deposition of The Right Rev. Robert Duncan by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and consider it to be invalid. Legitimate actions of catholic order must rise from Biblical catholic faith. Actions such as this continue to alienate countless Christian people not only within, but beyond the limits of the Communion.

We continue to recognize the fidelity and validity of Bishop Duncan’s orders, role, and ministry. Without reservation, we continue in full sacramental communion with him as an Anglican bishop. We thank God that by the vote of the Provincial Synod he has been given membership in the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone. Our fellowship and shared ministry with him is not disrupted.

Yours in Christ,

The Most Rev Gregory Venables
The Most Rev Peter Akinola
The Most Rev Drexel Gomez
The Most Rev Benjamin Nzimbi

Statement from the Province of Southeast Asia on the Deposition of the Bishop of Pittsburg

22nd Sept 2008

We received with great distress the news of the deposition of the Rt Revd Bob Duncan, the Bishop of Pittsburgh, by the House of Bishops (HOB) of The Episcopal Church (TEC).

The Communion has repeatedly asked TEC to make pastoral provisions and avoid steps that will alienate further those within TEC who wish to live by the Anglican faith which they believe to be true and remain in fellowship within the Anglican Communion. Even as recent as at the recent Lambeth, the great majority of Bishops present, including those from TEC, have expressed sincere desire for healing and reconciliation and to observe restraints on contentious issues for the Windsor-Covenant process to proceed.

The HOB has instead proceeded to depose a faithful bishop of the Gospel and the diocese under his care. This raises serious questions yet again, and more strikingly so soon after Lambeth, as to how sincere TEC and some of its bishops are in wanting to bring reconciliation, healing and resolution to the Communion crisis at hand.

The Province of Southeast Asia will continue to support, remain in full communion and prayerfully explore steps to strengthen our shared life with Anglican leaders like Bishop Bob Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh as well as other TEC bishops who respect the mind of the Communion and remain faithful to the teaching of Scripture as expressed in the tradition and life of the Church. We urge those who have not chosen to ‘walk apart’ to work actively and sincerely with the Windsor-Covenant Process and other measures agreed at the Communion level. This is probably the only remaining opportunity to bind the Communion together out of this crisis which will strengthen our future common life, witness in the world and our place as an Anglican ecclesial family within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Most Rev’d Dr John Chew
Province of Southeast Asia

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Apples and Oranges: Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism

A new anonymous blog called Seismic Shock has been set up by someone called the Maverick to discredit me and other Christians committed to justice, peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.

I fear that this blog has been created by misguided Christians. I hope I am wrong, because in the New Testament the apostle Paul insists:

"Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God." (2 Cor. 4:2)

It is for this reason I do not normally respond to anonymous letters or emails and have always been open about what I do, where I go and with whom I meet. Some of the photos of me in Lebanon and Iran posted on the anonymous blog are actually taken from my website (without permission and therefore in breach of copywrite).

As a minister of the gospel, my primary motivation is to share the good news of Jesus Christ with all who will listen. "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)

Having discovered the names of some of those associated with the anonymous blog, I have written to them privately to answer their criticisms and ask them to meet with me or at least engage in open debate in future.

To clarify my position and to anticipate such criticisms, in my book Zion's Christian Soldiers, I wrote the following:

"It is true that at various times in the past, churches and church leaders have tolerated or incited anti-Semitism 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 and oranges. 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. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate anti-Semitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within borders recognised by the international community and agreed with her neighbours. 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 the Arab Palestinians born in the country itself."

In any future edition, I will emphasize, as I have done elsewhere, that I also believe the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means and through the implementation of international law.

Followers of Jesus Christ are:

1. called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)

2. to fulfill a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)

3. to disavow the use of violence or intimidation to further the will and purposes of God (Matthew 5:38-48).

4. and when they disagree, seek reconciliation privately and if necessary, with the advice of others (Matthew 18:15-19)

The following are some examples of where I have done so:

Gerhard Falk
Irene Lancaster
David Pawson
Melanie Philips

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Sir Cliff and gays: What we can all learn

September 12th, 2008 by Dr. Lisa Severine Nolland

Both the Times and CEN have given some high publicity to Sir Cliff Richards’ latest comments on same-sex relationships.

According to the latter (’Tearfund to stand by Sir Cliff’, Matt Cresswell, 12 September 2008), ‘On homosexual relationships [Cliff] writes: “Same-sex marriages are perhaps a modern example of how things have changed. I think the church must come round and see people as they are now.“ Gone are the days when we assumed loving relationships would be solely between men and women. In the end people will be “judged for what they are,” he writes. Meanwhile, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said they welcomed his comments … [T]he spokesperson expressed ‘genuine surprise’ that someone with Sir Cliff’s highly evangelical leanings had come to this conclusion’.

Sir Cliff’s long-standing involvement with Tearfund, as well as AB Desmond Tutu’s recent meeting with this group were both mentioned as well, and therein lies another and very important tale, the end of which is not in sight.

Here, however, I would like to note one simple fact. More than ever, this is now our issue which we must address. It is not an anglo-catholic or liberal or emergent church or ? issue - it is a bona fide evangelical issue. The only possible way Cliff could affirm what he says here is that he has not been given — or been willing to receive — critically important information which would not allow him to make such patently false statements. For the historical record, we have always had men in committed, ‘loving’ same-sex relationships! Paul knew all about them - see Robert Gagnon below. So Cliff’s attempts to legitimize SS civil partnerships or marriage on this basis is vain indeed.

We also have had and presently have bisexual folk who engage in ‘loving relationships’ with people of both genders, sometimes sequentially, other times simultaneously. What about them? They claim they are ‘wired’ this way - just like our gays and lesbians do. What about them and their ‘relationships’? For them, the binary model is just as discriminatory as the heterosexual model is to our same-sex-attracted folk.

But of course, as we have always known and sometimes managed to remember, ‘is’ does not mean ‘ought’. There must be another and adequate basis for deciding that previously immoral behaviours and lifestyles are now good, acceptable and holy.

Finally, for all those who think this is going to go away, please think again! A response will be given - and if no official response is forthcoming then in effect there is a tacit acceptance that evangelicals are just as divided as liberals, and that what the word, ’evangelical’, used to mean, does so no longer.

Dr. Lisa Severine Nolland


http://www.westernsem.edu/files/westernsem/gagnon_autm05_0.pdf esp pp. 73-80

http://www.robgagnon.net/articles/homosexWinterResponse.pdf… Appendix II

Monday, 8 September 2008

GAFCON and the Future of the Church of England: Saturday 11th October, Virginia Water

Click to enlarge or PowerPoint and Adobe PDF publicity available to download.
A day of teaching, video, discussion groups, Q&A and prayer. Bring your own lunch. Refreshments served throughout the day from 9:30am. For directions see here

Saturday, 6 September 2008

End of an Odyssey - by Jeff Halper

Now, a few days after my release from jail in the wake of my trip to Gaza, I’m posting a few notes to sum things up.

First, the mission of the Free Gaza Movement to break the Israeli siege proved a success beyond all expectations. Our reaching Gaza and leaving has created a free and regular channel between Gaza and the outside world. It has done so because it has forced the Israeli government to make a clear policy declaration: that it is not occupying Gaza and therefore will not prevent the free movement of Palestinians in and out (at least by sea). (Israel’s security concerns can easily be accommodated by instituting a technical system of checks similar to those of other ports.) Any attempt on the part of Israel to backtrack on this – by preventing ships in the future from entering or leaving Gaza with goods and passengers, including Palestinians – may be immediately interpreted as an assertion of control, and therefore of Occupation, opening Israel to accountability for war crimes before international law, something Israel tries to avoid at all costs. Gone is the obfuscation that has allowed Israel to maintain its control of the Occupied Territories without assuming any responsibility: from now on, Israel is either an Occupying Power accountable for its actions and policies, or Palestinians have every right to enjoy their human right of travelling freely in and out of their country. Israel can no longer have it both ways. Not only did our two little boats force the Israel military and government to give way, then, they also changed fundamentally the status of Israel’s control of Gaza.

When we finally arrived in Gaza after a day and a half sail, the welcome we received from 40,000 joyous Gazans was overwhelming and moving. People sought me out in particular, eager it seemed to speak Hebrew with an Israeli after years of closure. The message I received by people of all factions during my three days there was the same: How do we ("we" in the sense of all of us living in their country, not just Palestinians or Israelis) get out of this mess? Where are WE going? The discourse was not even political: what is the solution; one-state, two-state, etc etc. It was just common sense and straightforward, based on the assumption that we will all continue living in the same country and this stupid conflict, with its walls and siege and violence, is bad for everybody. Don't Israelis see that? people would ask me.

(The answer, unfortunately, is "no." To be honest, we Israeli Jews are the problem. The Palestinian years ago accepted our existence in the country as a people and are willing to accept ANY solution -- two states, one state, no state, whatever. It is us who want exclusivity over the "Land of Israel" who cannot conceive of a single country, who cannot accept the national presence of Palestinians (we talk about "Arabs" in our country), and who have eliminated by our settlements even the possibility of the two-state solution in which we take 80% of the land. So it’s sad, truly sad, that our "enemies" want peace and co-existence (and tell me that in HEBREW) and we don't. Yeah, we Israeli Jews want "peace," but in the meantime what we have -- almost no attacks, a feeling of security, a "disappeared" Palestinian people, a booming economy, tourism and ever-improving international status -- seems just fine. If "peace" means giving up settlements, land and control, why do it? What’s wrong with the status quo? If its not broken, don't fix it.)

I also received Palestinian citizenship when I was in Gaza, including a passport.

When I was in Gaza everyone in Israel -- including the media who interviewed me – warned me to be careful, to watch out for my life. Aren’t you scared? they asked. Well, the only time I felt genuine and palpable fear during the entire journey was when I got back to Israel. I went from Gaza through the Erez checkpoint because I wanted to make the point that the siege is not only by sea. On the Israeli side I was immediately arrested, charged with violating a military order prohibiting Israelis from being in Gaza and jailed at the Shikma prison in Ashkelon. In my cell that night, someone recognized from the news. All night I was physically threatened by right-wing Israelis -- and I was sure I wouldn't make it till the morning. Ironically, there were three Palestinians in my cell who kind of protected me, so the danger was from Israelis, not Palestinians, in Gaza as well as in Israel. (One Palestinian from Hebron was in jail for being illegally in Israel; I was in jail for being illegally in Palestine.) As it stands, I'm out on bail. The state will probably press charges in the next few weeks, and I could be jailed for two or so months. I now am a Palestinian in every sense of the word: On Monday I received my Palestinian citizenship, on Tuesday I was already in an Israeli jail.

Though the operation was a complete success, the siege will only be genuinely broken if we keep up the movement in and out of Gaza. The boats are scheduled to return in 2-4 weeks and I am now working on getting a boat-load of Israelis.

My only frustration with what was undoubtedly a successful operation was with the fact that Israelis just don't get it – and don’t want to get it. The implications of our being the strong party and the fact that the Palestinians are the ones truly seeking peace are too threatening to their hegemony and self-perceived innocence. What I encountered in perhaps a dozen interviews – and what I read about myself and our trip written by “journalists” who never even attempted to speak to me or the others – was a collective image of Gaza, the Palestinians and our interminable conflict which could only be described as fantasy. Rather than enquire about my experiences, motives or views, my interviewers, especially on the mainstream radio, spent their time forcing upon me their slogans and uniformed prejudices, as if giving me a space to explain myself deal a death blow to their tightly-held conceptions.

Ben Dror Yemini of the popular Ma’ariv newspaper called us a “satanic cult.” Another suggested that a prominent contributor to the Free Gaza Movement was a Palestinian-American who had been questioned by the FBI, as if that had to do with anything (the innuendo being we were supported, perhaps even manipulated or worse, by “terrorists”). Others were more explicit: Wasn’t it true that we were giving Hamas a PR victory? Why was I siding with Palestinian fishermen-gun smugglers against my own country which sought only to protect its citizens? Some simply yelled at me, like an interviewer on Arutz 99. And when all else failed, my interlocutors could always fall back on good old cynicism: Peace is impossible. Jews and Arabs are different species. You can’t trust “them.” Or bald assertions: They just want to destroy us. Then there’s the paternalism: Well, I guess it’s good to have a few idealists like you around…..

Nowhere in the many interviews was there a genuine curiosity about what I was doing or what life was like in Gaza. No one interested in a different perspective, especially if it challenged their cherished slogans. No one going beyond the old, tired slogans. Plenty of reference, though, to terrorism, Qassam missiles and Palestinian snubbing our valiant efforts to make peace; none whatsoever to occupation, house demolitions, siege, land expropriation or settlement expansion, not to mention the killing, imprisoning and impoverishment of their civilian population. As if we had nothing to do with the conflict, as if we were just living our normal, innocent lives and bad people decided to throw Qassam rockets. Above all, no sense of our responsibility, or any willingness to accept responsibility for the ongoing violence and conflict. Instead just a thoughtless, automatic appeal to an image of Gaza and “Arabs” (we don’t generally use the term “Palestinians”) that is diametrically opposed to what I’ve seen and experienced, a slavish repeating of mindless (and wrong) slogans which serve only to eliminate any possibility of truly grasping the situation. In short, a fantasy Gaza as perceived from within a bubble carefully constructed so as to deflect any uncomfortable reality.

The greatest insight this trip has given me is understanding why Israelis don’t “get it:” a media comprised by people who should know better but who possess little critical ability and feel more comfortable inside a box created by self-serving politicians than in trying to do something far more creative: understanding what in the hell is going on here.

Still, I formulated clearly my messages to my fellow Israelis, and that constitutes the main content of my interviews and talks:

(1) Despite what our political leaders say, there is a political solution to the conflict, there are partners for peace;

(2) The Palestinians are not our enemies. In fact, I urge my fellow Israeli Jews to disassociate from the dead-end politics of our failed political leaders by declaring, in concert with Israeli and Palestinian peace-makers: We refuse to be enemies. And

(3) As the infinitely stronger party in the conflict and the only Occupying Power, we Israelis must accept responsibility for our failed and oppressive policies. Only we can end the conflict.

Let me end by expressing my appreciation to the organizers of this initiative – Paul Larudee, Greta Berlin and Bella – the wonderful group of participants on the boats and the great communication team that stayed ashore. Special appreciation goes to ICAHD’s own Angela Godfrey-Goldstein who played a crucial role in Cyprus and Jerusalem in getting the word out. Not to forget our hosts in Gaza (whose names are on the Free Gaza website) and the thousands of Gazans who welcomed us and shared their lives with us. May our peoples finally find the peace and justice they deserve in our common country.

For more information visit Free Gaza Movement and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions