Tuesday, 31 March 2009

BNP Exploit Jesus in European Elections

The British National Party has stooped to new levels in using a picture of Jesus and quoting the Bible in their European election campaign. Claiming they are a victims of persecution, the party's new poster advert quotes Jesus “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20) The advert then asks: “What would Jesus do?”

Nick Griffin claims: “The British National Party is the only political party which genuinely supports Britain's Christian heritage. It is the only party which will defend our ancient faith and nation from the threat of Islamification. What has become of the Christian church in this country?"

Targeting the Church of England and the recent overwhelming decision of General Synod to ban clergy from membership of the BNP, Griffin argues,

"Instead of inclusively ‘embracing all’ which the church claims is its basis, certain groups within that body have banned people from their ranks simply because of their membership in the British National Party. Surely if God calls a man to his service, no church has the right to contradict HIS holy will! For many years, the churches in this country scrupulously avoided being politically biased. Nowadays however we see a small number of clerics and bishops openly preaching hatred towards the BNP."

According to the Telegraph, "Spokesmen for the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu and for the Church of England refused to comment saying the BNP was mounting a "publicity stunt" designed to give the party the "oxygen of publicity".

However, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, accused the party last week of preaching a message of "division and hatred" and urged people not to vote for them in the European elections on June 4.

Anne Thomas, writing in Christian Today says "The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church said they wanted to reminded people of the true Christian message of love for all people following the inclusion of Jesus in the poster."

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relations for The Methodist Church, said: “When Jesus was asked about what was the most important rule of life he said, 'Love God with all of your being and love your neighbour as yourself.'

“It’s ironic that the BNP is using the world’s most famous Jew to promote its racist message. Our traditions have a history of promoting racial justice and inclusion and rejecting messages of hate and fear. It is always important that people go out and vote, especially in these extremely difficult economic times. Sadly, in the past, economic problems have been exploited by extremists as opportunities to scapegoat minorities.”

Co-director of Ekklesia, Jonathan Bartley, said the advert was a “gross misrepresentation” of Jesus Christ and Christianity. Jesus was completely opposed to bigotry. He is recorded in the Gospels as challenging those who didn’t welcome foreigners - not as working for their exclusion," he said.

During the debate in Gerneral Synod, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, were among the Synod members who backed the motion.

Dr Williams said, “There is a theological issue, one of whether someone who accepts their policies can conceivably have the sensibility required of a Christian pastor who has responsibility for the whole parish.

"I think we have to name names, we have to talk about particular political organisations and not just racism in general.”

Dr Sentamu told Synod he was from the Baganda tribe but added, “The day I became a Christian I joined another tribe. It is the tribe of Jesus Christ and in that tribe all are welcome, all are invited, all are accepted. There is therefore now no Jew, Greek, slave, free, male or female, because all are in Christ. So how could you be a member of such a tribe and then seek another group to belong to that actually contradicts that very message?”

See here for more on the Church and the BNP.

See also Bishop Attacks BNP

Apartheid and Occupation under International Law

While international law tolerates military occupation, it does not approve it, specifically one that has continued for over 40 years as in the case of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. Furthermore, during that time, Israel has introduced two other elements—colonialism and apartheid. Although there are many similarities between apartheid as it was applied in South Africa and Israel’s policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the systems are not identical. There are features of the Israeli regime in the occupied territory that were unknown to South Africans.

This year’s Hisham B. Sharabi Memorial Lecture sponsored by the Jerusalem Fund was delivered by Professor John Dugard. Professor Dugard is the former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and visiting distinguished professor of law at Duke University. His lecture was delivered at the Palestine Centre, Washington D.C., on Friday 27 March 2009.

In his lecture Professor Dugard said,

"... I’ve just recently been to Gaza, but I can’t speak freely about my visit to Gaza. I was part of a mission established by the League of Arab States to investigate violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Gaza. We visited at the end of February for a week, and we’re still writing the report. So at this stage, I cannot really comment on our findings. You will appreciate that any attempt to attach responsibility to Israel is a sensitive issue and is bound to result in considerable criticism. So, we want to do a very careful job in preparing our report.

But what I can say is that I have been visiting Gaza twice a year since 2001, and I have on previous occasions witnessed evidence of horrendous bombings and killings and house destructions. But the most recent attack surpassed all the others. There were more killings--1,434 deaths of which 288 were children, 121 women--and it’s estimated that of the 1,400 over 900 were civilians. Of course, the Israeli government disputes this, but I think this is largely because the Israeli government tends to view anyone over the age of 16 as a potential terrorist. And certainly, the Israelis view policemen as militants whereas in fact policemen are, under international law, classified as civilians. And one must remember that the opening salvo, which was very much like an attack on Pearl Harbor, was an attack directed at a police parade in which fifteen new recruits were killed. It’s not only the number of deaths but also the manner of killing. We spoke to a number of eyewitnesses who spoke about the way in which their parents, children had been shot in cold blood between their eyes by a member of the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] at fairly short range. I find it very difficult to believe some of these stories, but they have now been confirmed by members of the IDF. You may have read that at a military academy in Israel there was an open discussion about the conduct of the war, and many members of the IDF spoke with some horror about the way in which their fellow soldiers had behaved.

Also, some of the weaponry used was bound to cause unnecessary suffering. There was the use of white soft phosphorous which Israel has conceded it used and the use of flechettes. Both these weapons when used in densely populated areas do cause tremendous suffering. And then, there was the destruction of property that we witnessed. What was extraordinary was the number of minarets of the mosques that had been shot out. It was quite clear that members of the IDF were simply having fun targeting minarets because they serve no security purpose. And then, there was the case of the Al-Wafa Hospital which in bold letters has “HOSPITAL” on the front, and there was a shell that had gone right through the letter “H.” So, it was quite clear that they were deliberately targeting a hospital. And then, there was the Islamic University which was partially destroyed. Allegedly, its laboratories were being used to manufacture armed weapons. And then, there was the American School, which was hardly a Hamas target, which had been flattened. And then, of course, factories and businesses had been destroyed. Again, one couldn’t easily describe them as Hamas targets. So, the destruction of property and the killings were really very distressing. But as I say, we are dealing with issues of accountability and responsibility, and we would have to wait until our report is completed.

Let me just say on the subject that I’ve been really disappointed about the international response to the conflict in Gaza. The secretary general of the United Nations has initiated a limited inquiry into the bombing of U.N. property, but it goes no further. The secretary general of the United Nations did visit Gaza. I think he was the first one ever to have visited Gaza, but he carefully refrained from speaking to any of the victims or visiting any of the destroyed property other than U. N. premises. This created quite an impression, poor impression, in Gaza itself. There has been a request from 16 distinguished international lawyers and peace activists to create a proper independent inquiry commission. An approach has been made to the Security Council, but that doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. The Human Rights Council has mandated the establishment of a commission of inquiry, but the Human Rights Council is having difficulty persuading people to join that commission. So, it seems that the commission established by the League of Arab States may well be the only independent commission of inquiry to examine this situation.

Today, I’m not going to talk about Gaza. I’m going to talk about occupation and apartheid. The mere comparison with apartheid is a very sensitive issue. I appreciate that. I should just mention this connection, it’s a subject that is likely to be raised in the Durban Review Conference in Geneva later this month or I think it’s the middle of April. There’s also a study being made of the comparisons by the South African Human Sciences Research Council, and that study group will publish its report on the subject, a fairly lengthy report running to about 300 pages, in London in May and in South Africa in June. So, this is a very topical issue even though it is regarded as offensive in certain quarters.

I will be speaking about occupation and apartheid. Let me begin with the subject of occupation. The Palestinian territory is clearly occupied territory. There’s no question about this as far as the international community is concerned in respect to the West Bank. Israel has argued that since 2005 when it withdrew its settlers and its military force from Gaza itself that it has seized to be an occupied territory, but the International Committee of the Red Cross and I think the whole of the international community, with the possible exception of the United States, rejects this argument. They take the view that Gaza is effectively occupied by Israel because Israel has control of its land borders, its sea space, its air space and it conducts military incursions fairly regularly into the territory. I think the United States’ position, announced by [former U.S. Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice, was that it was a quite hostile entity. One doesn’t quite know what that means. But one hopes that the [U.S. President Barack] Obama administration will make it clear that it regards Gaza and the West Bank as occupied territory.

Military occupation is a regime that is tolerated by international law. It’s not approved. In terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention which regulates the conduct of the occupying power, the occupying power is obliged to care for the welfare of the occupied people and, in particular, to ensure that medical facilities and educational facilities are respected and fostered. But, of course, we all know that Israel just ignores this obligation because in Palestine the international donor community is largely responsible for the welfare of the Palestinian people. It’s quite clear that international law does not contemplate a lengthy period of occupation, a prolonged occupation in this case running to over 40 years. The Israeli government tends to take the view that the longer the occupation, the less the obligations. But I think the general accepted view is that the exact opposite applies.

So, Israel is in occupation. But over the past 40 years, we’ve seen the addition of two other elements. That is colonialism and apartheid. And this tends to aggravate the status of the Palestinian territory. I don’t think there’s any question about colonialism in the Palestinian territory, particularly in the West Bank since settlers withdrew from Gaza in 2005. We have nearly half a million Jewish settlers in the West Bank. This number is growing despite promises by successive Israeli governments that they will stop settlements. It’s interesting that constructions are taking place in some 88 of the 149 settlements in the West Bank. The growth rate in the settlements is 4.5 [percent] compared with 1.5 [percent] in Israel itself. It’s important not only to look at settlements but also at territory in the West Bank that is set aside for military purposes and as nature reserves. And someone can say that roughly 38 percent of the West Bank is off limits to Palestinians. So, there is a form of colonialism in the West Bank, and colonialism is not tolerated by international law. It’s clearly unlawful. Not only do settlements constitute a form of colonialism, but they also violate the Geneva Convention. So, that’s a clear illegality on the part of Israel.

The other element that has been introduced is that of apartheid. And it’s important to stress that apartheid is not only illegal in South Africa itself but it’s also been declared to be unlawful in international law. In 1973, there was a convention on apartheid adopted by the United Nations. Briefly, this convention provides that the infliction on members of a racial group of serious bodily or mental harm, inhumane or degrading treatment, the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of a racial group and so on by denying to such a group basic human rights and freedoms when such acts are committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them. So, [there] is a definition, a general definition of apartheid. This definition has now been transferred to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the crime of apartheid is seen as a species of crime against humanity. So, it’s quite clear that apartheid is unlawful under international law. Israel, of course, argues that its policies do not constitute apartheid. It claims that there’s no racial discrimination in its practices or policies. It argues that the purpose of its occupation is simply to maintain law and order pending a peace settlement. It’s not to maintain domination of one group over another."

A full transcript can be read here and a video viewed here.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Zionists Attack UNWRA the UN Relief Agency

The Unity Coalition for Israel is a coalition of 200 autonomous Jewish and Christian organizations with an active membership of 40 million, making it the largest network of pro-Israeli groups on the world.

This week UCI urged supporters to lobby US politicians to severe ties with the UN relief agency UNRWA. Citing a Washington Times article entitled "Cut off Relief Agency" Ileana Ros-Lehtinen the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee argues,

"For six decades, the United States has voluntarily contributed billions of dollars to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which was created strictly to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees.

In return for our generous investment, UNRWA subverts our laws, aids violent Islamist extremists, propagandizes against our ally Israel and in favor of Hamas, and works with banks targeted by the United States for money laundering and terrorist financing.

As our nation faces growing economic challenges, Congress must cut off funding to UNRWA and use our foreign aid to advance, rather than undermine, American interests and values."

Ms. Ros-Lehtinen may not be aware that on January 9th 2009 the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) used US weapons to shell a UNRWA school, killing over 40 people in and near the school grounds in Gaza. The IDF of course, first denied it happened, then it denied anyone was killed, then it denied the number killed, then it denied the identities of the dead.

According to independent sources,the following week,

"on January 15, at least three IDF white phosphorus shells struck the main compound of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in central Gaza City, wounding three people and starting fires that gutted four buildings and destroyed more than US$3.7 million worth of medical supplies.

UNRWA officials told Human Rights Watch that they had been speaking with Israeli military officers throughout the morning, asking them to halt fire. According to the UN, about 700 civilians were sheltering in the UN compound at the time.

In the attacks on the UNRWA compound and another at the UN Beit Lahiya school, where 1,600 civilians were taking shelter, Human Rights Watch's investigation revealed no apparent military justification for using white phosphorus as an obscurant because Israeli forces were not on the ground in those areas at the time..."

So it perhaps not surprising that UCI is so callously wanting the US House of Representatives to cut off funding to UNWRA. Blaming the victims is not enough. Now they want to silence the international community too.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Right Revd. Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester to step down

Bishop Michael of Rochester has announced that he is to step down as Bishop of Rochester.

Ruth Gledhill, writing in the Times asks, "The inevitable question now is, will his plan 'to work in education and mission overseas' see him emerge as a new 'bishop' of an emerging Global South? His outspoken views on Muslims are thought to have cost him Canterbury, but it is in this area that he wants now to focus his attention. He is an Islamic scholar and has good relations with Christians in Islamic areas in Pakistan and the Middle East, and it is to this mission field and churches in the developing world that he wishes to devote his remaining years in service. In February last year he had to be given police protection after he and his family received death threats. He had claimed that parts of Britain had become no-go areas for non-Muslims. His fearless conservative evangelicalism has won him the hearts of the Anglican churches in Asia and Africa that were behind Gafcon."

The press release from Rochester this morning says: 'Bishop Michael is hoping to work with a number of church leaders from areas where the church is under pressure, particularly in minority situations, who have asked him to assist them with education and training for their particular situation. Details of this arrangement are still being worked out.'

Bishop Michael, who will be 60 in August, is the 106th Bishop of Rochester. He is originally from Asia and was the first non-white Diocesan Bishop in the Church of England. He was appointed to Rochester in 1994. Before that he was the General Secretary of CMS from 1989-1994 and before that Bishop of Raiwind in Pakistan and theological Assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Since 1999 he has also been a member of the House of Lords where he has been active in a number of areas of national and international concern.

Bishop Michael says, “We thank God for his blessings and for friends we have made in the Diocese in the past 15 years. I am so grateful to God for the friendship and loyalty of those around us and ask for people’s prayers as we take this step of faith ‘not knowing where we are going’ (Heb 11:8).

The Archbishop of Canterbury says: 'Bishop Michael's decision to undertake this new and very challenging ministry will leave a real gap in the ranks of English bishops. His enormous theological skill, his specialist involvement in the complex debates around bioethics, his wide international experience and his clarity of mind and expression have made him a really valuable colleague, and he has served the Church and the wider society with dedication and distinction.

'In his new work with churches in minority situations, he will need all our prayer and support. It is a courageous initiative and a timely one. I am personally very glad that I shall still be able to draw on his expertise and friendship, and wish him every strength and blessing in his work.'

The Bishop of Tonbridge, the Rt Revd Dr Brian Castle says: “Bishop Michael has had a distinguished ministry locally, nationally and internationally. He has been a true prophet in the way that he has courageously spoken out against both injustice and compromising the Word of God. His talks and statements, always prayerfully conceived, are listened to carefully, even by those who disagree with him. His Presidential Addresses at Diocesan Synod merit publication. Bishop Michael, so faithfully supported by Valerie, has exercised a leadership which inspires, challenges and takes full account of the complexities of contemporary culture, ensuring that the structures of the diocese serve its vision. He will be greatly missed by Rochester whose people he has faithfully loved and nurtured over the years.”

The Dean of Rochester, the Very Revd Adrian Newman, says: “Bishop Michael has exercised an influential and high profile ministry within and well beyond the Diocese of Rochester. His passion for making Christ known is matched only by his ability to communicate across cultural divisions, and this has opened doors of influence that he has always been courageous enough to walk through, often at personal cost. It has been a privilege to serve alongside him within the Diocese, and I am delighted that his unique gifts will continue to be offered to the wider life of church and society.”

The Diocesan Secretary, Canon Louise Gilbert, says: “Bishop Michael’s tenure has been characterised by a determination to see some significant Diocesan challenges through to successful conclusion. Through his leadership we now have a senior staff which operates as a cohesive body following a comprehensive Diocesan structures review. This is of benefit to the entire Diocese. In addition, we have reformed partnerships with neighbouring Dioceses. Rochester Cathedral is now positively flourishing thanks to Bishop Michael’s keen interest and thoughtful appointments. His considerable gifts leave the Diocese with a legacy of exemplary arrangements for pastoral care, teaching and a positive environment in which faith can flourish. We will miss his guidance and on a personal note, I wish him every joy and fulfilment in his new role.”

Bishop Michael’s farewell service for the Diocese will be held at Rochester Cathedral on 12th September 2009 at 3.15 p.m. and further details will be circulated at a later date. Details about the process of appointing a new Bishop and the arrangements during the interregnum will also be published later.

There Definitely is a God: Religious Hate Crime

Police are investigating a suspected case of "religious hate crime" following the vandalizing of the office of the Christian Party.

The Christian Party launched their campaign on Thursday (12 February) with 50 buses carrying the message ‘There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life’.

Christian Party leader Revd George Hargreaves said: “I believe this is the dark side of atheistic secular fundamentalism at work – a vicious hatred all too often accompanied by a violent response to anything pertaining to God. We, however, are not cowed by this action. On the contrary, we are even more resolved to continue to fight good fight of faith.”

Police have visited the Christian Party’s offices and are treating the incident as a suspected religious hate crime.

The battle of the London bus adverts began when the British Humanist Association sponsored adverts suggesting “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Interesting word ‘probably’ isn’t it? Try substituting other words and see how farcical their logic is. “There are probably no consequences to drink driving….” Or “There’s probably no truth in climate change…” And anyway telling people not to think about something tends to have the opposite effect doesn’t it? But it’s not a joke or a game. Richard Dawkins is deadly serious. He says rather cynically: “This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion.”

But contrast that logic with the atheists’ atheist Woody Allen. Rather more honest than Dawkins, he admitted recently, ‘I am an atheist. I’ve never found any comfort for the misery of life, or the terror of death’.

As Matt Sieger says over on Jews for Jesus' blog, "A worry free, enjoyable life? Woody Allen has a good awareness of what life on earth without God is really like. Without God there is no logic to pain, frustration, suffering, acts of mindless cruelty, nor of why death is written into our DNA and into that of the cosmos – death remains for all, a terrifying prospect. But equally, there is for the atheist, no explanation for the existence of ‘good’ either!

No, for all their rhetoric, the New Atheists are actually wimps compared to the old atheists. When Nietzsche declared that God was dead, he understood that if there is no God, there are no morals. The New Atheists are afraid to go that far. They like to say we can have moral standards without God. But if there is a moral law, there must be a moral lawgiver. Where does our conscience come from, if not from God?"

Times Online "BBC Censored Christian Party Broadcast"

Daily Mail "'There definitely is a God': Christians hit back at atheist buses with own adverts"

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Rico Tice speaking at Christ Church

You can listen to Rico's talk here.

Check out some photos here or on Flickr

Bible Prophecy Fulfilled Radio Programme

I am being interviewed by Gary Parrish on the Bible Prophecy Fulfilled radio programme on Saturday 9:00pm GMT. Gary is based in sunny Hawaii. Unfortunately I won't be in the studio but on the end of a phone line.

For more information on their ministry visit BibleProphecyFulfilled.org

Bishop Criticizes the BNP for Hijacking the Cross

The Right Revd David James, Bishop of Bradford, has rightly criticized the far-right British National Party for hijacking the Christian faith by misusing the popular hymn “Onward, Christian
Soldiers” and claiming the flag of St George as its own.

Michael Brown, writing in the Church of England Newspaper, quotes the Bishop of Bradford as saying, “If you go on YouTube and put in ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers BNP’, you can watch a video clip of an angelic choir of men and boys - all white - singing this well-known, rousing hymn.” But the scene “quickly changes,” says the bishop, who goes on: “The choir is now singing to Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, walking through an admiring crowd at their annual conference, enjoying their affirmation as might a conquering hero returning from deeds of great dirring do.”

And immediately following Nick Griffin through the crowd is someone bearing the flag of St George, says Bishop James, who adds: “It’s pure theatre.”

The 63-year-old church leader, a former Bishop of Pontefract who has been at Bradford seven years - a period which has seen race riots in the city - goes on to recall that earlier this year he was in trouble-torn Kenya. There, in a country where the troubles have been tribal, children
asked him “Which tribe do you belong to?” - a question which, he says, “completely knocked me back”. Bishop James says: “I wish I had had the presence of mind to answer that I am part of one race which is the human race - or to respond as does the Archbishop of York. He understands the tribal mindset from the inside - ‘I belong now to the tribe of Jesus Christ’.”

Without again directly mentioning the BNP, the bishop adds: “Vincent Donovan, the Catholic missionary in East Africa, has said that only Christianity can overcome the tribalism which threatens to tear Africa apart. “How sad it is, then, when people seek to hijack the Christian faith in the course of division - whether in Europe or Africa. Many groups of people have claimed the cross of St George as their own, including the Church of England and supporters of the England football team... and we fly the flag accordingly. “But our task as Christian is to BE the sign of the cross, to be in our lives the symbols of the reconciling love of God who longs to embrace us all as one."

Report from the Church of England Newspaper

See here for my own take on the Church and the BNP

And here on Globalizing Hatred the New Antisemitism

Richard Batholomew has a useful debate going on how English 'Patriots' capitalise on Islamism.

Gary Lineker supports Amos Trust Street Child World Cup Project

Footballer Gary Lineker has kicked off the latest project by the Amos Trust, which aims to give poor children around the world a voice through football.

The Street Child World Cup will bring together teams of street children from around the world to play in a football tournament in a year that will raise the profile of their human rights.

The BBC presenter said: “It is great that the Street Child World Cup will use this game, which is loved all over the world, to help give kids a fairer deal. No child should have to be on the streets, so if football can be a part of making a difference, that’s fantastic.”

Asked if this was the best way for children to achieve their identity, Douglas Alexander, cabinet minister for International Development, said: “I think children all over the world can learn something through football.”

Teams of street children from eight countries across Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe will compete in the football tournament that will be hosted in South Africa during March 2010, before the FIFA World Cup.

The project co-ordinator, Jenny Dawkins, said: “Typically, hunger, neglect and violence force children onto the streets, and hunger, neglect and violence meet them there. Children participating in the Street Child World Cup will be given opportunities to challenge parliamentarians, decision-makers and the media.

Source: Church of England Newspaper

Further Information: Amos Trust & Umthombo

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

War Crimes: Israel accused of indiscriminate phosphorus use in Gaza

Human Rights Watch report claims Israel committed war crimes in its use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells

This report by Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem for the Guardian.

"Israel's military fired white phosphorus over crowded areas of Gaza repeatedly and indiscriminately in its three-week war, killing and injuring civilians and committing war crimes, Human Rights Watch said today.

In a 71-page report, the rights group said the repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells in populated areas of Gaza was not incidental or accidental, but revealed "a pattern or policy of conduct".

It said the Israeli military used white phosphorus in a "deliberate or reckless" way. The report says:

• Israel was aware of the dangers of white phosphorus.

• It chose not to use alternative and less dangerous smoke shells.

• In one case, Israel even ignored repeated warnings from UN staff before hitting the main UN compound in Gaza with white phosphorus shells on 15 January.

"In Gaza, the Israeli military didn't just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops," said Fred Abrahams, a senior Human Rights Watch researcher. "It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safe smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died." He said senior commanders should be held to account.!"

Read more here.

Saturday 4th April Update: BBC Report: UN Appoints Gaza War-crimes Team

A Conversation with Susan on Getting to Heaven

A lady called Susan from Philadelphia emailed me this week. Here is our conversation:

"Zionism is simply the belief that Jews can and should control their destiny. It has nothing to do with exactly where the borders of that state should be. It is perfectly possible to be a Zionist and believe that Israel should exist within the pre-1967 borders. The Christian idea of the Apocalypse has nothing to do with Zionism. It has to do with the theology of some Evangelical Christians. These Evangelical Christians believe that the Messiah will come when Israeli Jews convert to Christianity. Israel would become a "Zionist state" with no Jews in it. Christian "Zionists" are not real friends of Israel. I can live in the US because Israel already exists. If Israel didn't exist, I would be there helping to create a Jewish state."

The next day she emailed again:

"When I wrote to you yesterday. I had not been aware of your statement about sharing Jesus with Jews. First of all, Jesus was a Jew. It is Jews who are sharing Jesus with Christians. You cannot be Jewish and accept Jesus as you savior. If your attempt to "share Jesus" were successful, the planet would be Judenrein. What you call "sharing Jesus", I call spiritual genocide. Then you turn around and call Zionists racists?"

With help from a Messianic friend I responded:

Dear Susan, You are absolutely right! It would be impertinent for me, an ignorant goy, to share Jesus with Jewish people, when he is already Jewish, and Jewish people who believe in him (Messianic Jews) are simply discovering that one of the greatest Jewish teachers is also the Messiah. However, since I have been blessed with this wonderful discovery, and I am not even Jewish, how could I not want to share this good news with everyone I meet. Wouldn't it be antisemitic to deny Jewish people the opportunity to find out about their Messiah? So shall we forget for a moment the easily made allegations of antisemitism, and talk seriously about who Yeshua ha Notsri (Jesus of Nazareth) actually claimed to be, and examine those claims in an open-minded discussion? I recommend you start here on a Jewish website. http://www.jews-for-jesus.org

She responded,

"Jews for Jesus is not a Jewish web site. I am familiar with the literature. You are never going to convince me that I can be Jewish and accept Jesus as my savior. If you are not antisemitic, you would let us alone and keep your "good news" to yourself. You couldn't help using my e-mail as an excuse for proselytizing. Jesus was not the Messiah. The Messianic age has yet to start. We are far alway from the unviersal peace. love and understanding that the Messiah is suppoed to bring. That means that Jesus cannot have been the Messiah. I can't forget allegations of antisemitism as you continue your attempt to make the planet Judenrein. I certainly would not call the Jews for Jesus web site a good place for an open discussion. There is a line in a Sabbath prayer, God is my saviour and redeemer. I need no other. I have read most of The New Testament and it is filled with hatred and contempt for Jews. I live in Philadelphia and the founder of the local Jews for Jesus was a Baptist who changed his name to a Jewish sounding last name."

I replied one more time:

Dear Susan, Can I make you a deal? I’ll pray for you and if you feel able, you pray for me, then if one of us or both of us gets to heaven we will be thankful to the other for their prayers. Blessings Stephen

Susan has emailed again (having discovered that I blogged about our converation).

"I'm the Susan who wrote to you about "sharing Jesus. I now realize that you responded to my e-mail with the idea of posting your response on your web site. It certainly makes you look much better than you are.

I believe that you are an antisemite. Your beliefs contain the anti-Judaism that you rail against. Anti-Zionism if another form of antisemitism. Why should Jews be the only people who shouldn't have a home land? I repeat that if you achived you goal of bringing all Jews to Jesus, there would not be a Jew left on the planet. That is an attempt at spiritual genocide."

I replied:

Dear Susan,

Thanks for your email. I did not reply to you with a view to publicizing the correspondence. That would indeed have been deceitful. I decided to do so subsequently. I am what you see - no more no less. I have blogged a series of dialogues I have had with Zionists (carefully avoiding giving their names or identifying them). You are free to do the same.

I profoundly disagree with you that to oppose Zionism is in any way anti-semitic - to believe so is to abuse the memory of those who have genuinely suffered from anti-semitism. The strongest opponents of Zionism (as well as advocates ) are Jewish people. I happen to agree with the former not the latter.

I also disagree with you, as do hundreds of thousands of Messianic believers, who know that they remain Jewish and recognise Jesus as their Messiah. Again - I respect their position - you do not - further evidence of your own tendency to a form of anti-semitism - denying Jewish people the right to affirm their Jewishness.

I will be adding this further exchange to my blog (as you are free to) except at the moment I am open and above board about doing so and you are not, at least not yet.

Yours warmly

Rowan Atkinson warns of creating ‘a culture of censoriousness’

Mr Bean, aka the Blackadder star, Rowan Atkinson, warns of creating “a culture of censoriousness" by removing free speech.

The comedian Rowan Atkinson has urged the House of Lords to vote against a Government attempt to delete free speech protection from a ‘homophobic hatred’ offence. The Government is using the Coroners and Justice Bill to delete the protection added by Parliament in May last year. Mr Atkinson was speaking at a meeting on the issue held at the House of Lords on Tuesday. An amendment to keep the free speech protection may be voted on in the Commons next week. But the Government is expected to use its majority to force deletion through. The matter will then be passed to the House of Lords.

Mr Atkinson, famous for his roles in Blackadder and Mr Bean, told Peers in the House of Lords: “Do I think that I would risk prosecution because of jokes or drama about sexual orientation with which I might be involved if we don’t have the free speech clause? “Not really – but I dread something almost as bad – a culture of censoriousness, a questioning, negative and leaden attitude that is encouraged by legislation of this nature but is considerably and meaningfully alleviated by the free speech clause.”

He added: “It would provide succour and reassurance to those of us in the creative world and I would plead for its retention.” Mr Atkinson also criticised “hate speech” legislation in general. He said: “The last thing that any academic, or cleric, or practitioner in creative writing wants to hear, is of police officers walking round with a tool box bulging with sanctions against speech and expression that ‘could be useful one day’. “I do not believe that legislation of such a censorious nature as that of Hate Speech, carrying as it does the risk of a seven year jail sentence for saying the wrong thing in the wrong way, can ever by justified merely by the desire to ‘send the right message’.”

Read more here on Anglican Mainstream

See here Rowan Atkinson Amazing Jesus

War Crimes: Israel used human shields in Gaza war

Further evidence of war crimes committed during the recent Gaza operation have emerged.

Clancy Chasey, writing in the Guardian reports the testimony of three teenage boys say they were made to kneel in front of tanks to deter Hamas attacks. His report contains video material.

Palestinian brothers: Israel used us as human shields in Gaza war (Monday 23rd March)

Guardian investigation uncovers evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza (Tuesday 24th March)

Palestinians claim children were used as human shields and hospitals targeted during 23-day conflict.

Watch all three documentaries

"The Guardian has compiled detailed evidence of alleged war crimes committed by Israel during the 23-day offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, involving the use of Palestinian children as human shields and the targeting of medics and hospitals.

A month-long investigation also obtained evidence of civilians being hit by fire from unmanned drone aircraft said to be so accurate that their operators can tell the colour of the clothes worn by a target.

The testimonies form the basis of three Guardian films which add weight to calls this week for a full inquiry into the events surrounding Operation Cast Lead, which was aimed at Hamas but left about 1,400 Palestinians dead, including more than 300 children."

Read more here.

Donald Macintyre, writing in the Independent reports on similar stories:

"My terror as a human shield: The story of Majdi Abed Rabbo"

As battle raged in Gaza, Israeli soldiers forced Majdi Abed Rabbo to risk his life as a go-between in the hunt for three Hamas fighters. This is his story...

The BBC has a similar report based on UN investigations:

"United Nations investigators have accused the Israeli army of using an 11-year-old boy as a human shield during its recent Gaza offensive. Their report says troops ordered the boy to walk in front of them for several hours under fire, entering buildings and opening suspect packages. The UN team responsible for protection of children in war zones says it found "hundreds" of similar violations"

Read more here.

Saturday 4th April Update: BBC Report: UN Appoints Gaza War-crimes Team

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Israel annexing East Jerusalem, says EU

Writing in the Guardian, Rory McCarthy reports,

"A confidential EU report accuses the Israeli government of using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and the West Bank barrier as a way of "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem. The document says Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority's credibility and weakening support for peace talks. "Israel's actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making," says the document, EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem.

The report, obtained by the Guardian, is dated 15 December 2008. It acknowledges Israel's legitimate security concerns in Jerusalem, but adds: "Many of its current illegal actions in and around the city have limited security justifications." "Israeli 'facts on the ground' - including new settlements, construction of the barrier, discriminatory housing policies, house demolitions, restrictive permit regime and continued closure of Palestinian institutions - increase Jewish Israeli presence in East Jerusalem, weaken the Palestinian community in the city, impede Palestinian urban development and separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank," the report says. The document has emerged at a time of mounting concern over Israeli policies in East Jerusalem. Two houses were demolished on Monday just before the arrival of the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and a further 88 are scheduled for demolition, all for lack of permits. Clinton described the demolitions as "unhelpful", noting that they violated Israel's obligations under the US "road map" for peace.

Please read the rest of this article on the Guardian's website.

Clinton Condemns Israeli House Demolitions

B'Tselem, the Israeli information centre for human rights in the Occupied Territories, released the following statement yesterday, calling for Support the Obama Administration's efforts to end house demolitions in East Jerusalem :

"On March 4, during her trip to Israel and the West Bank, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton surprised many by making a strong statement against the Israeli practice of demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. Hillary Clinton and Tzipi Livni Calling the practice "…unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations [Israel] entered into under the roadmap," Clinton said she would raise the issue with the Israeli government. Click here to send President Obama an e-mail telling him you support Secretary Clinton's statement and urging him to do everything he can to support her efforts to end the demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.

Israeli policy regarding housing in East Jerusalem has created an impossible situation for Palestinians. Israeli law and bureaucracy make it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain the permits necessary to build or add on to existing homes to accommodate the needs of growing families.

Severe overcrowding and no hope of obtaining a building permit lead many Palestinians to build without permits. They do so knowing they will forever live in fear that, after investing their life savings to build, their home may be demolished.

From 2004 through 2008, 402 houses were demolished in East Jerusalem for being built without permits, which are rarely granted to Palestinians. Click here for more background on the discriminatory practices in planning and building in the city.

Israel has issued demolition orders for an entire neighborhood in the East Jerusalem village of Silwan. This is one of the issues which spurred Secretary Clinton's statement. Click here for more background on Silwan.

The policy of home demolition stands in blatant contradiction to Israel's commitment to equality and human rights. The demolitions leave families homeless, and increase feelings of hostility toward Israel. Please let President Obama know that you support Secretary Clinton's statement and urge the whole administration to follow these words up with actions to ensure Israel's respect for human rights."

The British Government and EU issued similar statements yesterday also condemning the Israeli actions.

For further information see the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

Monday, 23 March 2009

Israeli settler leader calls for assassination of Mahmoud Abbas

Over at Mondoweiss, Philip Weiss writes about Nadia Matar, the Israeli settler leader who called for assassination of Abbas-- and tax-deductible contributions - in a New York synagogue.

Weiss writes, "In a speech at a New York synagogue Wednesday night, Nadia Matar, a leader of the Israeli settlers' group "Women in Green," called for the assassination of Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, as a way of bringing peace to Israel. Just as Churchill understood that in order to bring peace to Europe, "he had to destroy the Nazi beast," Matar explained, "today we must destroy all the terrorist organizations. We must kill all the terrorist leaders, starting with Mahmoud Abbas and all others...Nobody had any moral qualms at destroying the Nazi regime. We have to abolish the Oslo Agreements, there's no difference between the PA, the Islamic Jihad, the Hamas, whatever names you have, they're all terrorists and we cannot have peace with them."

A taperecording of Nadia Matar's call for the assassination of Mahmoud Abbas

"A number of people have asked if I have a recording for the report that Israeli colonist Nadia Matar called for the killing of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas last night during a lecture at the Safra Synagogue on E. 63rd Street in New York. Here's an audio, including about 10 minutes of the 1-1/2 hour lecture. At the beginning, a guy in the crowd (somewhat inaudibly) asks Matar, What do you do with a million Palestinians? Matar gives a rambling and hair-raising answer, most of which is here, including the statement that Israel should have kicked out all the Arabs in '48 or '67 and grabbed the Temple Mount, too. At 2:30 or so she starts in about Neville Chamberlain and Hitler and Churchill, which brings her, at 3:15 or so, to Abbas. Notice the rousing applause for Matar's call for his murder, which I failed to register when I posted late last night."


Philip Weiss is an investigative journalist who has written for The New York Observer, The Nation, The American Conservative, National Review, Washington Monthly, New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Harper's Magazine, and Jewish World Review. He also wrote the 2004 book American Taboo: A Murder In The Peace Corps. He describes himself as an anti-Zionist and rejects the label "post-Zionist" (from his Wiki page).

Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC) seeks to provide a semblance of credibility and support for the racist settler movement. Read how they justify what they term "Israeli communities"

European Union condemns Israeli Evictions

This statement was released today by Bill Rammell, Minister for the Middle East on behalf of the British Government.

"The UK strongly supports the EU statement issued after the Israeli government issued eviction notices to the al-Rawi and Hanoun families in East Jerusalem.

Bill Rammell, Minister for the Middle East, reiterated the EU's call to suspend these eviction notices. He said:

"These eviction notices are not conducive to peace. We call on the Israeli government to suspend these eviction notices immediately."

Read the EU statement

"The EU is deeply concerned by the issuing of eviction notices to the al-Rawi and Hanoun families in East Jerusalem. These eviction notices follow other recent orders which adversely affect Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and, combined with the increase in settlement activity in East Jerusalem, further threaten the chances of peace. We have raised our concerns with the Israeli government and call on Israel to suspend these eviction notices immediately and, in addition, to allow the al-Kurd fa mily to return to their home."
Please click on the link to view the article: here

Statement from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions

One can only describe Israel’s obsession with demolishing Palestinian homes in light of the exclusive Jewish claim to the entire Land of Israel harking back a century or more. It is not a policy specific to any particular time or place, nor is it confined to the Occupied Territories. In 1948 and for years after, Israeli governments systematically demolished more than 500 entire villages, towns, urban centers and neighborhoods, both to prevent the return of the Palestinian refugees and to take their lands and properties. Since the Occupation began in 1967, another 24,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished, including 4000 in the latest attack on Gaza. And in 2004, the Israeli government announced the establishment of a Demolition Administration within the Ministry of Interior; targeted for destruction are 20-40,000 homes of Israeli (Arab) citizens classified as “unrecognized villages.” (One Bedouin village in the Negev, al Twazil, has been demolished 18 times.)

It must be stressed that Israel has never explained or justified its long-standing practice of demolishing Palestinian homes by security. For the most part it has offered no explanations at all, treating the phenomenon as a purely internal matter. Occasionally it justifies the wholesale destruction of homes in military operations as “collateral damage.” According to Ha’aretz (15.2.09), “Israel Defense Forces investigations into last month's offensive in the Gaza Strip indicate the army could face significant difficulties justifying the scale of destruction of civilian homes during the fighting. A military source involved in the investigation told Haaretz, “It's clear to us that in a small portion of the combat sectors immeasurable damage was caused, and that is very difficult to justify from a legal perspective, particularly if such justifications are called for in legal proceedings with international organizations.” As for the thousands of homes demolished due to a lack of building permits, which Israel justifies on a legal basis, it neglects to say that its explicit policy since 1967 has been to deny permits to Palestinians, or to restrict them severely.

When one surveys the consequences of Israel’s house demolition policy from 1948 until the present, the conclusion is inescapable: a systematic and ongoing campaign is being waged to either rid the country of its Palestinian population or, failing that, to confine the remaining Palestinians to tiny, delimited, disconnected and impoverished enclaves, in Israel as well as in the Occupied Territories.

At this very moment, together with the “routine” demolitions that are the Palestinians’ daily fare, 88 homes in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem – the entire al Bustan quarter – are threatened with immediate destruction, as are two apartment buildings housing 34 families in the adjacent al Abbasiyya quarter. House demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem are illegal under international law, serve no obvious purpose, have severe humanitarian effects and fuel bitterness and extremism. They also violate the first phase of the Road Map. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) calls on the international community to enforce its stated opposition to this cruel policy and end it immediately.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Please visit our websites:


Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques - IDF fashion 2009

This article from Haaretz by Uri Blau helps explain why a war crimes investigation is needed following the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza.

"The office at the Adiv fabric-printing shop in south Tel Aviv handles a constant stream of customers, many of them soldiers in uniform, who come to order custom clothing featuring their unit's insignia, usually accompanied by a slogan and drawing of their choosing. Elsewhere on the premises, the sketches are turned into plates used for imprinting the ordered items, mainly T-shirts and baseball caps, but also hoodies, fleece jackets and pants. A young Arab man from Jaffa supervises the workers who imprint the words and pictures, and afterward hands over the finished product.

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children's graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques - these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription "Better use Durex," next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter's T-shirt from the Givati Brigade's Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, "1 shot, 2 kills." A "graduation" shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, "No matter how it begins, we'll put an end to it."

Read the rest of Uri Blau's article here.

Philip Weiss picks up the issue under the heading
Racist and sexist Israeli military shirts show the mindset that led to war crimes in Gaza

Weiss notes: "Below are some examples of shirts that were printed, along with some of the images. These images only appeared on Ha'aretz's Hebrew-language website:
  • Sdfsd A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription "Better use Durex," next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him.
  • A sharpshooter's T-shirt from the Givati Brigade's Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, "1 shot, 2 kills."
  • After Operation Cast Lead, soldiers from that battalion printed a T-shirt depicting a vulture sexually penetrating Hamas' prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh
  • A "graduation" shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, "No matter how it begins, we'll put an end to it."
  • There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, "Bet you got raped!"
  • A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies - such as "confirming the kill" (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim's head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.
  • "Let every Arab mother know that her son's fate is in my hands!" had previously been banned for use on another infantry unit's shirt. A Givati soldier said this week, however, that at the end of last year, his platoon printed up dozens of shirts, fleece jackets and pants bearing this slogan.
  • "It has a drawing depicting a soldier as the Angel of Death, next to a gun and an Arab town," he explains. "The text was very powerful. The funniest part was that when our soldier came to get the shirts, the man who printed them was an Arab, and the soldier felt so bad that he told the girl at the counter to bring them to him."
  • In 2006, soldiers from the "Carmon Team" course for elite-unit marksmen printed a shirt with a drawing of a knife-wielding Palestinian in the crosshairs of a gun sight, and the slogan, "You've got to run fast, run fast, run fast, before it's all over." Below is a drawing of Arab women weeping over a grave and the words: "And afterward they cry, and afterward they cry." [The inscriptions are riffs on a popular song.]
  • Another sniper's shirt also features an Arab man in the crosshairs, and the announcement, "Everything is with the best of intentions."
  • A shirt printed after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza for Battalion 890 of the Paratroops depicts a King Kong-like soldier in a city under attack. The slogan is unambiguous: "If you believe it can be fixed, then believe it can be destroyed!"

These shirts have to get the approval from IDF commanders and are a military tradition, although the explicit nature of these shirts seem new. Bar-Ilan University Sociologist Dr. Orna Sasson-Levy is quoted as saying the shirts are "part of a radicalization process the entire country is undergoing, and the soldiers are at its forefront." Israeli anti-militarism activist Sergeiy Sandler, who works for the important organization New Profile, emailed this article out saying the shirts are "a long-standing tradition in Israeli military units; you see those shirts, although usually with less outrageous designs, on the streets all over the place. A picture's worth a thousand words, isn't it?"

See more reporting on this from the BBC Israeli army rides out T-shirt row

Guardian Gaza war crimes claims gathers pace

MSNBC Israeli soldiers' shirts joke about killing Arabs

Veolia and the 4th Geneva Convention

This article is designed to draw your attention to the actions of a multi-national company called Veolia and their effect on the Palestinians.

You will be aware that Israel has built numerous settlements both in Palestinian East Jerusalem and on the West Bank. Under international law these settlements are illegal and this has been confirmed by numerous UN resolutions as well as the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall. The settlements violate the 4th Geneva Convention where article 49 states “…the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” and article 53 forbids the destruction of property. In some cases the violation of the Geneva Convention (cf. articles 146 abd 147) is so grave that they amount to war crimes. i.e. they involve the appropriation of Palestinian property not justified by military necessity.

Israel is now in the early stages of building a light-rail tranway connecting the East Jerusalem settlements to those in West Jerusalem. Furthermore, one of the stations on this tramway, called Ammunition Hill, will act as the feeder station for settlers from Ma’aleh Adumin – a large West Bank settlement – and settlements in the Jordan Valley.

The tramway is being built and will be run by a consortium of which Veolia is a leading member. The company is, therefore, not only undermining the chances of a just peace for the Palestinians, but is also implicated in war crimes. As the tramway also constitutes a significant alteration to the infrastructureof the occupied territories it is contrary to section 3 of the Hague Regulations of 1907 which are part of international law.

Veolia is a large company with many subsiduaries, but it is noteworthy that it refers to these subsiduaries as divisions and that they all operate under one name. The company publishes its revenues and profits as a single figure, covering all divisions, and it regards their contracts as its own. It follows that action taken against Veolia in this country may well affect what the company does in Palestine. Veolia has four main divisions: water, waste management, transport and energy. It is known that Veolia Environmental Waste Management Services have quite a number of contracts in the UK, in some instances with faith organisations, but also with others including local authorities. The skips may be marked Onyx (the earlier name used) or Cleanaway (a company bought by Veolia) as well, of course, as Veolia.

Check whether Veolia operates for your church or in your borough and to request urgently that the contract be cancelled - until they themselves withdraw from this illegal project.

See also:

Why Boycott Veolia?

Holding Veolia to Account: Adri Nieuwhof & Daniel Machover

Irish Union refusing to train Israeli tram drivers

Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign triumph over French multinational involved in Israeli tram project

Connex Ireland forced to cancel contract with Occupation

Divestment campaign gains momentum in Europe

The Swedish national pension fund AP7 is the latest institution to follow the socially responsible investment example of Dutch ASN Bank by excluding the French transportation giant Alstom from its portfolio. Alstom was excluded because of the company's involvement in Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.

Activists and researchers claim that the French companies Alstom and Veolia are directly implicated in maintaining illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and are playing a key role in Israel's attempt to make its annexation of Palestinian East Jerusalem irreversible. For this reason Dutch ASN Bank decided in 2006 to exclude Veolia from its portfolios, also excluding companies that benefit from the Israeli occupation. Other banks have since followed ASN Bank's example towards socially responsible investment.

Swedish activists informed the public about the role of companies in benefiting from the occupation through several actions. The Swedish non-governmental organization Diakonia's research on Mul-T-Lock factory in the Barkan Industrial Park in a West Bank settlement led to the October 2008 decision of owner Assa Abloy to divest from the company. At that time Veolia was bidding for an eight-year, $4.5 billion contract to run the subway in Stockholm county. Swedish journalists questioned politicians about Veolia's role in an Israeli tramway project that links Israeli settlements and normalizes the illegal situation of the settlements. At the Give Veolia the Red Card event on 15 November 2008, passengers on the Stockholm subway were asked to attach a red card to their clothes to protest Veolia's involvement in the the Jerusalem tramway on occupied Palestinian territory.

The protests are thought to have contributed to the decision of Swedish national pension fund AP7, one of the most important investors in Sweden and well-known for its highly ethical profile, to blacklist Alstom. AP7, which manages pension savings worth around 90 billion kronor ($15 billion), listed in its annual report for 2008 the companies it has to exclude from investment for ethical reasons. Alstom is pointed out as a company AP7 would have liked to invest in. However, the report said Alstom's involvement in reported human rights abuses regarding the company's participation in a railway project in Jerusalem made it not suitable for AP7's investments.

Additionally, in mid-2008 AP7 decided to sell all its holdings in companies making cluster bombs and nuclear weapons. Chief executive Richard Grottheim told the press, "I expect other pension funds will follow my initiative." The fact that AP7 diagnosed Alstom as a company not suitable for investments will most likely have the same effect.

On 16 March, Sandwell Council in the UK announced that Veolia failed to reach the shortlist of three companies bidding for a 25-year waste collection and recycling contract worth 1 billion pounds ($1.43 billion). The Palestine Solidarity Campaign started the Sandwell Bin Veolia Campaign, asking the public to sign a petition requesting that the council remove Veolia from the list of contractors approved. The petition argued that Veolia be removed because the company accepted contracts in Jerusalem in contravention of international law and United Nations resolutions.

Asked for the reasons for excluding Veolia from the shortlist, a Sandwell Council press officer responded that Veolia's alleged activities played no part in the council's decision-making process. "By law, the council is not permitted to allow non-commercial factors to influence the choice of a partner for its plans to improve waste, recycling and street cleansing services in Sandwell." However, in a 10 Feburary 2009 article published by The Electronic Intifada this author along with attorney Daniel Machover asserted that UK law makes it perfectly legal to exclude Veolia from public contracts due to its "grave professional misconduct."

In Melbourne, Australia the Veolia campaign will take off with the Dump Connex campaign to be launched on 30 March, focusing on the Veolia subsidiary that runs the train service in Melbourne. Activists will distribute 100,000 pamphlets to Melbourne's train commuters. The pamphlets explain that riders should not only be angry because the company is providing an unsatisfactory transport service in Melbourne, but also because Veolia has signed a 30-year contract with Israel to operate a tramway that runs also in occupied Palestinian land. Commuters are asked to sign the card in the pamphlet and post it to Victorian State transport minister Lynne Kosky.

Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.

See also Have the Church Commissioners secretly sold their shares in Caterpillar?

Eddy Ekmekji on Zion's Christian Soldiers

A few years ago, one of my Seminary professors said to me that the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East comes from American Christians who have bad theology. While I agreed that many Christians do have bad theology in relationship to the Middle East, I was not so cynical to believe that Christians have that much influence and power to keep peace from being achieved in the Middle East. In this book, Stephen Sizer explained to me that my professor was right.

It took me some two paragraphs into the preface before I knew that I would like and promote the theology of Stephen Sizer. In this book, Sizer gives a Biblical framework to interpret the events of the Middle East and those concerning the end-times, which is far different than what the traditional evangelical line promotes.

There are not too many Christian authors who write a critique of Christian Zionism, so I welcome the writing and leadership of Sizer in the ongoing discourse on how Christians ought to think about the Middle East. I know of only one other author, Colin Chapman (Whose Promised Land?) who has written extensively on the issue from a perspective that is more in line with my understanding of Scripture and theology.

In contrast to Chapman, who does more to explain his amillennialism theology, Sizer takes on an offensive stance against the premillenialists who promote a political and theological position that are not only unbiblical, but dangerous. He goes after the likes of John Hagee of Cornerstone Church, Hal Lindsey of The Great Late Planet Earth, and the Dispensationalists such as Scoffield, tearing down their theology and eschatology. He concedes that his theology is in the minority in the United States, and this book is a sort of appeal not only to American Christians, but Christians everywhere to reject the bad theology that has become the norm in most Christian circles.

At the very onset of the book, Sizer laments that the greatest threat to the church among the Palestinians has been the theology of Christian Zionists. He convincingly argues that Christian Zionism “probably has a greater detrimental effect” (on the Church) than Jewish Zionism, militant Islam and Christian indifference combined. Christian Zionists (most of whom are Dispensationalists) believe that the creation of the state of Israel was a prophetic event in history that more or less hastened the return of Jesus. Their theology basically says that those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse it will be cursed (taken from God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12).

In this book, Sizer debunks this sort of thinking and provides an alternative interpretation on how God relates to the Jews, how to read the prophesies, and how to understand the end-times. In addition to a more Biblical understanding of the End Times and the theology of Israel, Sizer also raises the warnings of allowing Dispensational theology to continue to define American and Christian foreign policy.

Christians in the United States continue to lead the way in funding organizations and ministries in Israel who are focused on making sure that the “Biblical” boundaries of Israel are respected and that the temple is rebuilt on the Temple Mount (which would mean the destruction of one of the holiest Islamic shrines). Christian Zionism is a dangerous theo-political position that is hell-bent on supporting the state of Israel by all means possible, while turning a blind eye to the teachings of Jesus and Scripture.

In this book, Sizer says that Googling his name will turn out the ways that he has been criticized and demonized. I hope that my post here will provide some support for an author who has taken a courageous stand in defending Scripture and the plight of the Palestinian people.

Eddy Ekmekji serves with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Cal State Northridge

He website is called Serving Bread. This review was originally published here.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Muslims Offer to Guard City Synagogue

Two weeks ago I participated in an interfaith meeting at Edinburgh University with Jewish, Muslim and Christian participants sharing a common concern to challenge racism.

Last week Muslims and Christians living in Edinburgh were given an opportunity to show solidarity toward their Jewish neighbours, following a racist attack on Edinburgh's synagogue.

This response was published on the Scottish Islamic Foundation Blog

"In response to the shocking news of the attack on the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, today several mosques in the city will use the Friday prayer sermon as an opportunity to address the issue. Below are guidance notes sent by SIF to Edinburgh’s imams:

On Thursday of last week (12/3/09), a brick was thrown through the window of Edinburgh’s synagogue. Two young men have been charged, and it seems that they were both Muslims and may have targeted the synagogue as an attack on the Jewish community.

As responsible Muslim leaders, we wish to make clear our stance on this attack and to draw the community’s attention to some important points about relations between Muslims and Jews in this country and worldwide.

1. Targeting the Jewish community with abuse, vandalism or violence is just as abhorrent to us as an attack on the Muslim community by others. Islam is clear in its opposition to these crimes.

2. In particular, attacking a synagogue or other place of worship is contrary to Islam’s clear teachings of peace. Indeed, even in the context of battle, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) always forbade any form of vandalism, especially of the houses of worship, “in which God’s name is mentioned much.” [Qur’an 22:40]

3. Communities of different faiths are living together in peace here in Scotland, and we must oppose any efforts to disturb this peace and cause rifts between people.

4. We are, of course, deeply opposed to the actions of the Israeli state, including the recent slaughter in Gaza – but nothing in that conflict justifies taking anger out on our Jewish neighbours. What we need is constructive dialogue, not to make scapegoats out of innocent people.

5. Leading scholars make clear that the conflict in Palestine is about injustice, not about religion. The kind treatment of the Prophet (pbuh) and subsequent Muslim rulers of their Jewish minorities is a shining example in history, which we should study well. Muslims and Jews have lived in harmony for many centuries, and it is only the Zionist occupation of Palestinian lands which has created the present turmoil.

6. Rather than resorting to criminal vigilante actions, we urge the youth to get involved in any association which seeks to work constructively for the Palestinian cause. There are many Muslims involved in such positive activities, as well as Jewish people and others in the society who share our hope for justice and peace in Palestine and the whole world.

On the 19th March, the Scotsman carried an article headed, Muslim leaders offer to guard Synagogue. The article included news that,

"Scottish Islamic Foundation chairman Ken Imrie has written to Rabbi David Rose of the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation to voice the group's "revulsion and horror" at the attack.

"We trust you have adequate security arrangements in place, in line with places of worship across the country. If not, such is our strength of feeling on this matter, we would wish to physically guard the synagogue ourselves," he added in the letter.

It is the second time the Newington synagogue, which serves an estimated 700-strong Jewish community in Edinburgh, has come under attack in seven years and comes amid a reported increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in Scotland and across the UK following the recent conflict in Gaza.

The Scottish Islamic Foundation's offer to provide security at the synagogue is intended as a show of strength between the two religious communities in a bid to prevent further unrest.

Mr Imrie wrote in his letter: "We wish you to know that the Muslim community stand full square with you in revulsion and horror at this vandalism. To violently damage any building is wrong. That this is a respected place of worship, faith and spirituality makes the crime even more heinous."

That I suggest is the kind of solidarity we need to show one another if we are to defeat racism in Britain.

See also Bishop Criticizes the BNP for Hijacking the Cross

Richard Batholomew has a useful debate going on how English 'Patriots' capitalise on Islamism.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Israelis told to fight 'holy war' in Gaza

In a follow up to yesterday's report by Donald MacIntyre from Jerusalem, the Independent Newspaper has an article, entitled, "Israeli's told to fight 'holy war' in Gaza". If true this is a lamentable example of how religious Zionism is justifying racism and ethnic cleansing.

MacIntyre writes, "Many Israeli troops had the sense of fighting a "religious war" against Gentiles during the 22-day offensive in Gaza, according to a soldier who has highlighted the martial role of military rabbis during the operation.

The soldier testified that the "clear" message of literature distributed to troops by the rabbinate was: "We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the Gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land."

One has to ask which rabbinate? Perhaps the one the Apostle John refers to in the Book of Revelation 2:9-10, 3:9?

Back in May 2007, the Jerusalem Post reported that Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu wrote to the Israeli Prime Minister Olmert about Gaza. Under the heading "Eliyahu advocates carpet bombing Gaza" Matthew Wagner writes,

"Eliyahu ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings.
.. Eliyahu's son, Shmuel Eliyahu, who is chief rabbi of Safed, said his father opposed a ground troop incursion into Gaza that would endanger IDF soldiers. Rather, he advocated carpet bombing the general area from which the Kassams were launched, regardless of the price in Palestinian life."If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand," said Shmuel Eliyahu. "And if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop."

In a separate development, Bibi Netanyahu has chosen Uzi Arad as his security advisor who will head the Israeli National Security Council. Arad, a former Israeli spy is currently not allowed to enter the United States for spying against it. Recently Netanjahu snubbed Hillary Clinton when he insisted on Arad's presence in a meeting with her.

Next to being a spy, Arad is also alleged to be a fascist. In War in Context a video interview he said this about the two-state solution:

"I don’t think that one has to go that far because at the end of the day, I don’t think the majority of Israelis want to see themselves responsible for the Palestinians. We do not want to control the Palestinian population. It’s unnecessary. What we do want is to care for our borders, for the Jewish settlements and for areas which are unpopulated and to have our security interests served well. But also to take under our responsibility these populations which, believe me, are not the most productive on earth, would become a burden. We want to relieve ourselves of the burden of the Palestinian populations - not territories. It is territory we want to preserve, but populations we want to rid ourselves of."

The full 10-minute interview is on YouTube here. The above quote is at 8:30.

With Avigor Lieberman already signed up in the new coalition government elect, the direction Netanyahu is steering his country is very definitely to the Right and away from an intregrated society and peace with the Palestinians. Barak Obama is going to have his work cut out to keep the Two State solution alive.

Other news reports on the influence of rabbis and of Israeli soldier testimonies on the war in Gaza:

Reuters: Soldier says rabbis pushed "religious war" in Gaza

Jerusalem Post: Chief Rabbi advocates carpet bombing Gaza

Times: Israeli soldiers admit to deliberate killing of Gaza civilians

Haaretz: Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques - IDF fashion 2009

Haaretz: IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism and lax rules of engagement

Haaretz: IDF violated medical ethics in Gaza op

Haaretz: IDF soldiers ordered to shoot at Gaza rescuers, note says

Independent: Israel's dirty secrets in Gaza

BBC: Israel troops admit Gaza abuses

Sorry - no US papers...

Saturday 4th April Update: BBC Report: UN Appoints Gaza War-crimes Team