Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Does Israel Mistreat Palestinian Child Prisoners?

This week's Time Magazine publishes a bold if controversial article by Tim McGirk's alledging Israeli mistreatment of Palestinian children in prison.

"Walid Abu Obeida, a 13-year-old Palestinian farm boy from the West Bank village of Ya'abad, had never spoken to an Israeli until he rounded a corner at dusk carrying his shopping bags and found two Israeli soldiers waiting with their rifles aimed at him. "They accused me of throwing stones at them," recounts Walid, a skinny kid with dark eyes. "Then one of them smacked me in the face, and my nose started bleeding."

According to Walid, the two soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed him, dragged him to a jeep and drove away. All that his family would know about their missing son was that his shopping bags with meat and rice for that evening's dinner were found in the dusty road near an olive grove. Over the course of several days in April last year, the boy says he was moved from an army camp to a prison, where he was crammed into a cell with five other children, cursed at and humiliated by the guards and beaten by his interrogator until he confessed to stone-throwing. (See pictures of Israeli soldiers sweeping into Gaza.)

Walid says he saw his parents for only five seconds when he was brought before an Israeli military court and accused by the uniformed prosecutor not only of throwing stones but of "striking an Israeli officer." The military judge ignored the latter charge and chose to prosecute Walid only for allegedly heaving a stone at soldiers.

The boy got off lightly: he spent 28 days in prison and was fined 500 shekels (approximately $120). Under Israeli military law, which prevails in the Palestinian territories, the crime of throwing a stone at an Israeli solider or even at the monolithic 20-ft.-high "security barrier" enclosing much of the West Bank can carry a maximum 20-year-prison sentence. Since 2000, according to the Palestinian Ministry for Prisoner Affairs, more than 6,500 children have been arrested, mostly for hurling rocks.

Walid's story is hardly unusual, judging from a report on the Israeli military-justice system in the West Bank compiled by the Palestine office of the Geneva-based Defense for Children International, which works closely with the U.N. and European states. Human-rights groups in Israel and elsewhere have also condemned the punishment meted out to Palestinian children by Israeli military justice. Most onerous, says Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human-rights group B'Tselem, is that inside the territories, the Israeli military deems any Palestinian who is 16 years and older as an adult, while inside Israel, the U.S. and most other countries, adulthood is reached at age 18.

Read the rest of Tim McGirk's Time article here

Israeli Navy Attacks, Boards and Commandeers Free Gaza Boat


[23 miles off the coast of Gaza, 15:30pm] - Today Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S.

The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel. "This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip," said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate. "President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that's exactly what we tried to do. We're asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey."

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in despair." Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel's December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip.

The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel's disruption of medical supplies. "The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza, hope that the sea route would open for them, and they would be able to transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of "Cast Lead".

Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that they are not alone" said fellow passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland. Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: "No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children's toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson.

Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters." Arraf continued, "Israel's deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release."

Monday, 29 June 2009

Israel Orders Demolition of Christian Homes in Jerusalem's Old City

Today the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre has learned of new house demolition orders against at least four Christian families living inside the old city of Jerusalem where local Churches accommodate more than 500 homes for Palestinian families.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Catholic Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land own most of these homes. Churches are already facing difficulty in attaining renovation permits and expansion is almost impossible. One of the Church lawyers confirms that even the Churches already have court cases with the municipality of Jerusalem on similar issues.

One of the Church leaders bitterly criticize the different treatment given to Jewish settlers inside the city wall where they are granted permits for expanding and renovating the properties under their control. In these four cases in particular, the families were addressed individually by the Israeli municipal authorities and court cases are underway. One of the defendants, Sami Wakileh, recalls the Judge telling him, “It is a waste of your precious time. Do not dream of receiving any permit…”

This means that the existing home will be demolished sooner or later. Sami's house is actually an old building that he leased from the Church and spent over a hundred thousand dollars to fix and renovate. In another case, Bassam Ayyash, who rents a 50 square meter apartment from the Greek Orthodox Church inside the Patriarchate's convent has also received a demolition order claiming that this 50 square meter apartment is an expansion to his home! Bassam is puzzled with the persistence of the authorities in not agreeing to come and investigate the matter when he confirms, “My only home is the 50 square meter apartment."

Last month, ten Christian families in Beit Hanina, a suburb area of North East Jerusalem, received demolition orders for their six year old apartments in the Al-Sunbula building. Half of the building was licensed originally while permits to formulate the rest were not given. Now all the inhabitants face the same fate if the municipality carries out its threats. Housing inside Jerusalem has been a burden for all Palestinian families. With an extremely difficult process and impossible permit system coupled with the high cost of living in Jerusalem, building or having one’s own apartment is becoming a dream.

The Christian community struggles with the family re-unification system and residency rights restrictions imposed by the Israeli Authorities. When one Jerusalemite cannot live together with his or her spouse who is a West Banker under one roof inside Jerusalem, the ultimate effect is that less and less couples decide to get married. Father Ibrahim Faltas, the Roman Catholic Parish priest of Jerusalem, declared last week that the number of Catholic marriages this year is almost half of what they experienced during the previous years. New Jerusalem Christian families are more and more forced to leave their home city either to the neighboring West Bank or emigrate if they have the chance.

Source: Yusef Daher, Executive Secretary
Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre - JIC P.O.Box 741, Jerusalem 91000
Tel :+972 (0)2 627 4534, 628 9858 (Ext. 105) Mobile 050 5545 179

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Louise gains a 1st at Chelsea Art College

Louise Sizer from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

You can view her final piece of work which was a live design brief for Zirkeltraining – Distributors Pack Promotional sports and fashion campaign

You can also view photos taken at the Chelsea Art College "Showing Off" Final's Exhibition here and on Flickr here

Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical Bishops back UK launch of Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans

Five English Bishops are to take part in the launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in London on July 6, expressing the breadth of support the fellowship, which had its roots in the Gafcon conference in Jerusalem last year, is experiencing.

Organisers, who booked Westminster Central Hall for the day-long event, have seen registrations from church leaders flooding in since the launch was announced just two months ago.

In addition to video and personal greetings from international guests including Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Bishop of Asaba and Archbishop of Bendel, Nigeria, and Archbishop Henri Orombi from Uganda, delegates will also learn of the depth of support and good wishes from English bishops, leaders of both the evangelical and Anglo Catholic wings of Anglicanism.

English Bishops John Broadhurst (Fulham), Wallace Benn (Lewes), John Hind (Chichester) and Michael Nazir-Ali (Rochester) are all billed to speak to the gathering, and Peter Forster (Chester) has sent greetings. Two other diocesan bishops will attend the event.

Leading Anglo Catholic Bishop, Keith Ackerman, will lead a main session on how FCA is a catalyst for united mission, ministry and focus for both orthodox Anglicans, be they evangelical or Anglo Catholic.

Bishop Ackerman, who is President of Forward in Faith in the USA, said: “One of the reasons I am really looking forward to being with my friends in England is so that I might be able to share with them the anointing of the Holy Spirit that has occurred at this gathering (of the installation of Archbishop Bob Duncan as Primate of the Anglican Church in North America at Christ Church Plano on June 24) here in Texas.

“Some people say that they really like to stand in line and have a little bit of food from here and there – a smorgasbord – other people like casseroles. At this event the Holy Spirit has brought this meal forward, he has blended together those unique contributions that each of the strains brought and while not losing its integrity is able to put forth that which is well pleasing in his sight and to God be the glory. “The time is right for us right now not to lose sight of what he is calling his entire Church to. The entire Anglican Communion is being called to stand up and Be Faithful! at this very time. Luke-warmness has gone and we are now ready to talk about the light of the world, Jesus Christ who is ready to ignite the work he has placed before us at this time. I cannot wait to see everyone.”

Event spokesman, the Revd Paul Perkin, a vicar from London, added: “Some are staying in the Church, but failing to stand for Christian truth and practice; others are standing firm for Christian truth and practice, but are not staying. We are standing, and we are staying."

The gathering will also hear from a personal video message from veteran evangelical and Anglican statesman, Dr. Jim Packer, before Archbishop Peter Jensen from Australia will give a 30 minute presentation on Why the Jerusalem Statement, agreed at Gafcon in 2008 is central to the fellowship’s development across the globe, and in the UK.

For more information about FCA (UK), visit www.fca.net

Saturday, 27 June 2009

First Steps to Remove Death Penalty for Apostasy in Iran

A decision has been made by the Iranian Government’s Parliamentary Committee to remove articles stipulating the death penalty for apostasy from the Islamic Penal Code Bill.

Ali Shahrokhi of the Legal and Judicial Committee of the Parliament reportedly told the Iranian state news agency (IRNA) of this pronouncement according to a BBC Persian news service report on 23 June.

Mr Shahrokhi also stated that stoning was not ‘in the interest of the regime’. He told IRNA that “Islam has set a strict set of conditions for the implementation of punishments such as stoning, that they can rarely be proven. Hence the legal and judicial commission members concluded that some of these laws are unnecessary to mention.”

The Islamic Penal Code Bill was approved in its preliminary vote by 196 for, seven against, and two abstentions, by the Iranian Parliament on 9 September 2009. It was then passed on to the Committee for judicial review.

The bill’s initial approval has been strongly condemned by the international community. The Islamic Penal Code bill will now be sent to the Iranian Parliament for a final vote before its review by the Guardian Council.

Alexa Papadouris, Advocacy Director at Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said: “CSW warmly welcomes this positive development in the progression of the Islamic Penal Code Bill. However, until the Islamic Penal Code Bill is finalized by the Iranian Parliament and Guardian Council, there is still a danger that the judicial committee’s revisions may not be taken into account. The international community must continue to urge the Iranian Government to ensure that the final text of the bill does not include any punishment for apostasy.”

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

See also Christian Minorities Living Under Muslim Rule

And Robert Fisk "The Jury is out..."

Thursday, 25 June 2009

CEEC Chairman and President send greetings to Anglican Church in North America

To Bishop Bob Duncan

Dear Bishop Bob and dearest friends in the fellowship of ACNA

We write both personally and on behalf the Church of England Evangelical Council to send you warmest greetings for the new mission the Lord has given you in the United States - to be faithful witnesses to the everlastingly good news of Jesus Christ. Here in the UK we are so thankful for your faithful orthodoxy, zeal and determination to make disciples - even though you have had, and to continue to have to pay a high price for this wholehearted ministry for God and his Word.

We wish you to know that we consider it a privilege given by God that we are joyful to be in full communion with you all. We are especially grateful for your unity expressed among Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical traditions, and recognise that this is in part a fruit of the Jerusalem Conference where the Primates present encouraged you to form a new and orthodox entity in North America. You are of course in fellowship with 80% of the Anglican Communion who share with us in the historic orthodox faith. It is for this reason that we call on may more of our brothers and sisters worldwide to affirm that they recognise the authentic marks of the Apostolic church and true Anglican identity in your witness.

Thank you dear brothers and sisters for all you are, and all that you do and will do in the name of our Lord Jesus.

Archdeacon Michael Lawson (Chairman)

Bishop Wallace Benn (President)

For further information on ACNA

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Rick Warren Endorses Anglican Church in North America

"The Rev. Rick Warren gave a rousing Gospel message today to a historic gathering of conservative Anglicans in Bedford, Texas.

“We stand with you in solidarity as God does something new in your midst,” said Warren, a Southern Baptist, to a standing room crowd of more than 800 people in an air-conditioned tent near St. Vincent’s Cathedral.

The Anglican Church in North America invited Warren – author of the mega-bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life, pastor of massive Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., and invocation-giver at Barack Obama's inauguration - to be one of the headline speakers for its first provincial assembly, which continues through Thursday.

The group formed last year as a conservative alternative to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Warren, who has offered support to clergy and congregations leaving the Episcopal Church, kept his focus on biblical imperatives to ministry and evangelism. But he did refer to lawsuits filed by the Episcopal Church against departing congregations, seeking to retain church buildings and other assets.

“You may lose the steeple, but you won’t lose the people,” he said. “The church has never been a building.”

Warren said that God had not called the new group to be “reactionary,” but instead to evangelize and help new Christians to spiritual maturity."

Source: Sam Hodges, Dallas Morning News

Iran and Israel: Comparing the Two Intifadas

Philip Weiss has written an important article observing how the "Iranian 'intifada' is celebrated in the US, while Palestinians are still ignored"

Note that the heroic Iranian woman on the CNN page is about to throw a stone. Have you ever seen coverage of a Palestinian throwing a stone during a protest highlighted so prominently and positively?

Joseph Dana has pointed out the similarities between the popular resistance being displayed on the streets of Iran and that in the West Bank. While Robert Fisk sees similarities in the repressive response of the Iranian and Israeli governments:

Unleashing a rabble of armed government forces on to the streets and claiming that all whom they shoot are "terrorists" is an almost copy-cat perfect version of the Israeli army's public reaction to the Palestinian intifada. If stone-throwing demonstrators are shot dead, then it is their own fault, they are breaking the law and they are working for foreign powers.

When this happens in the Israeli-occupied territories, the Israelis claim that the foreign powers of Iran and Syria are behind the violence. When this happens on the streets of Iranian cities, the Iranian regime claims that the foreign powers of the United States, Israel and Britain are behind the violence.

And it is indeed an intifada that has broken out in Iran . . .

For all the similarities in the inspiring David vs Goliath imagery, it has been crushing to see the vast difference in the way Iranian protest is being handled in the US versus the ongoing Palestinians nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. And it's not just in the media. Today in a press conference President Obama said:

The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.

I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran's affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.

If Obama is to be judged by his actions, that last sentence is simply a lie. In the first six months of the Obama administration at least two Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military while nonviolently protesting the theft of their land without a comment from the US. Israel even shot and critically injured a US citizen during a nonviolent protest in the West Bank and the administration had nothing to say.

This is in no way to take away from the outrage or solidarity people feel when watching incredibly brave people taking to the streets in Iran. But there are brave examples in other places as well. And in the case of Palestine, the US is funding the repressive regime putting the protests down with over $3 billion a year.

Read more here

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Jewish Ultra-Orthodox Attack on Church in Israel

With attacks mounting, parishioners fear hostilities could escalate.

St. Nicolay parishioners

St. Nicolay parishioners

MIGDAL HA-EMEQ, Israel, June 22 (Compass Direct News) – When the congregation at St. Nicolay church in this northern Israeli town gathered on that quiet Friday morning of May 29, they never expected to be showered with stones.

The Russian Orthodox worshipers, including many women, children and the elderly, had filled the small building to overflow with several outside when they were stunned by the rain of stones. Some were injured and received medical care.

“The church was crawling with people – the worshipers stood not only inside the church, but also outside, as the building is very small, when suddenly a few young men started throwing stones at the direction of our courtyard,” Oleg Usenkov, press secretary of the church told Compass. “Young children were crying, everyone was very frightened.”

The church had also been attacked earlier that week, during a wedding ceremony. Stones and rotten eggs were thrown from the street, hitting guests as they arrived.

The same night, the Rev. Roman Radwan, priest of St. Nicolay church, filed a complaint at the police station. An officer issued a document to confirm that he had filed an official complaint and sent him home, promising that measures would be taken. But within 24 hours, the attackers again appeared at the church’s doorway and no police were present to deter them – although the police station is located a few dozen meters from the church.

The identity of the assailants is unknown – a police officer said the complaint “lacked the exact description of the attackers” – but eye-witnesses claimed they were ultra-orthodox yeshiva students who frequently cursed the church on their way to the school or synagogue.

“They often assault us verbally, curse and yell at us, although we tried to explain that this is a place of worship, a holy place,” said a frustrated Usenkov, adding that the police inaction amounts to nonfeasance.

Another member of the congregation identified only as Nina, born in Moscow and now living in Nazeret Ilit, said that she didn’t understand where all the hatred is coming from.

“They are heading to the yeshiva or going back home after praying at the synagogue – are they inspired to attack us during their prayers?” she said. “I hope not. We are all Israeli citizens, we pay taxes, serve in the army and are entitled to freedom of choice when it comes to religion.”

She and other members of the congregation fear hostilities could escalate quickly if measures are not taken soon. Already the small building, which barely accommodates the worshipers, is surrounded by a stone fence by order of Migdal ha-Emeq officials following a series of arson attempts and other attacks.

Members of the congregation, a few hundred Christians from Migdal ha-Emeq, Afula, Haifa, Nazareth and other Israeli cities still remember how their building was vandalized in June 2006. Under cover of darkness, unidentified men broke in and broke icons and modest decorations, smashed windows and stole crosses.

The identity of those responsible remains unknown.

Established in 2005, the church building was constructed to meet the needs of Christians who do not belong to the Arab Christian minority, mostly Russians who came to Israel from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. Besides the Christians, these immigrants included other non-Jews, as well as atheistic Jews and Jewish converts to Christianity.

No official data on religious make-up of the immigrants are available, especially since many fear deportation or persecution for talking openly about their faith, but Usenkov – a Russian Jew who converted to Christianity after immigrating to Israel in the 1990s – said he believes there are at least 300,000 Christians of Russian or Russian-Jewish origin who live in Israel today.

According to Israeli law, non-Jewish relatives of a Jew are also entitled to citizenship, but Jews who have converted to other faiths are denied it.

Most of the Russian and Russian-Jewish Christians in Israel belong to the Russian Orthodox Church and find it difficult to adjust to Greek or Arabic services common in the Greek Orthodox churches of Israel. Since St. Nicolay’s church opened its doors, hundreds of worshipers from across Israel have visited it.

“Many people fear they might pass away without seeing a priest, or they dream of a Christian wedding service,” said Radwan, an Israeli-Arab whose family once owned the land on which the St. Nicolay church is located. “Here we can answer their needs. We do not want to harm anyone and wish that no one would harm us.”

Source: Open Doors

Monday, 22 June 2009

Ed Moll in the Churchman Reviews Zion's Christian Soldiers

The latest edition of Churchman, published by the Church Society, includes a review of Zion’s Christian Soldiers written by Ed Moll,

“Does God have a purpose for the nation and land of Israel today? This is a major point of difference between Dispensational and Covenantal readings of the Bible. In Zion’s Christian Soldiers Sizer exposes the foundations of Dispensational views, and the error of their strong support for certain views about Israel today. Given the widespread influence of this school of thought, there is the frightening propsect that the US might adopt foreign policy under (Dispensational) Christian influence.

The key issue in understanding the relationship between Israel and the Church is to read the Bible literally and contextually. Ultra-literalists ignore the historical settingof prophetic and apocalyptic passages and then read contemporary events back into prophetic passages. As a consequence Old Testament texts are made to speak about present and future events almost as if the New Testament had never been written. But by reading the Bible as a whole and in context it becomes clear that there is not, in fact, two chosen people (Israel and the church) but one (Israel and now the church).

A second consequence is that those who believe the promises made to Abraham still apply to his phisical descendents today oppose the dismantling of Jewish settlements in Gaza and the Occupied Territory; but the Bible makes clear that the Land is God’s and that residence in it was always conditional on faithful obedience. Jesus redefined the kingdom as a spiritual and heavenly reality, which is why the New Testament teaches that the land has served its purpose: ‘it was and remains, irrelevant to God’s on going redemptive purposes for the world’ (p. 98). In a similar way, Christians are to look to Jerusalem as a vision of a city inclusive of all nations-not as a place which must remain undivided at all (political) costs.

Two of the stranger beliefs promoted by Dispensationalist thinking are the rebuilding of the Temple, and the Rapture. Attempts by Zionists (Jewish and Christian) to rebuild the Temple are taken seriously by the political authorities, and may well ignite an apocalyptic war with Muslims worldwide. But when Jesus died to atone for our sins, the temple in Jerusalem became redundant: that is why Sizer must say that ‘To advocate rebuilding the Temple is heresy’ (p. 130). The Rapture is ‘the novel idea that Jesus will return twice’ (p. 131), made popular by the hugely successful “Left Behind” books. It accompanies an outlook which is inherently pessimistic about the Middle East and looks for an “Armageddon” confrontation. But biblical references to Armageddon do not necessarily lock us into believing there has to be an apocalyptic war between Islam and Christianity; surely as peacemakers, Chrisitans can have nothing to do with stoking such a conflagration.

The key issue remains, ‘What difference did Jesus’ coming make to traditional Jewish hopes and expectations?’ Sizer shows by his clear and direct treatment how Dispensational writers (including Hagee, Scofield, Darby and Hal Lindsey) fail to address this question. This is a clear and helpful book, which requires no prior understanding of Dispensationalist thinking. It will equip the reader to understand these views and to appreciate what is at stake when thoswe who believe these things try to make governments and Christians follow them.”

Ed Moll
Vicar of St George’s, Wembdon, Somerset
and a Trustee of the Latimer Trust

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Church leaders back new critique of 'Israeli apartheid'

In January 2009, people around the world watched in horror as the Israeli army pounded the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

Now, a new book backed by a range of Christian leaders, academics and human rights activists, argues that the problems of occupation and violence in the region are deep rooted in “the essence of Zionism and Israeli policies in Palestine”.

Journalist and commentator Ben White's powerfully-argued new book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide was published on 17 June 2009 by Pluto Press, with a major launch near Parliament in London.

Its arguments pitch right into the debate created by the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's recent call for the recognition of Israel as an explicitly Jewish state - a demand which critics say enshrines racial privilege as the state's defining characteristic.

With a foreword by Professor John Dugard, South African ex-UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (2001-2008) and endorsements from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, politicians, academics, activists, and church ministers, White's book has been hailed by supporters - including Israeli academics and a Conservative MP - as “groundbreaking”, “essential reading” and "bound to result in heated discussion".

Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think tank Ekklesia, which advocates a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians and also promotes nonviolent methods for tackling conflict, commented: "Ben White has a passionate commitment to justice and to facing difficult facts. This book is likely to produce strong reactions but it will also hopefully provoke real thought.”

The launch event for the new book took place at Portcullis House, Westminster, during a meeting chaired by Brian Iddon MP and organised by the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU).

The Nobel Peace Prize winner and anti-apartheid activist, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has called White's book “a highly commendable effort to throw light on a fraught subject”, while Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappe has praised it as an “excellent guide” to the subject.

The Rev Stephen Sizer, an evangelical Anglican cleric who has written extensive critiques of 'Christian Zionism' says that White “helps us see much more clearly both what is happening in Israel/Palestine but also what we must do about it”.

Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide distils the work of academics and experts into a single readable introduction, say its publishers.

Ben White, himself an active Christian, though writing from a broad humanitarion perspective, begins by explaining the origins of Zionist theory and colonization. He details what happened in 1948 during the creation of Israel as Palestinians were killed, driven from their homes and deprived of their land and livelihoods.

White also examines current examples of what he calls "Israeli apartheid" - a term also used by ex-US President Jimmy Carter and others, including dissident Jewish campaigners, to draw attention to the uncomfortable factual parallels between the constitution of the Israeli state and what happened under 'separate development' in South Africa.

The author has extensive on-the-ground experience in the region. His book also includes short testimonies by Palestinians who describe how Israeli policies affect their daily lives.

A large number of Christian authors and academics have endorsed Israeli Apartheid, including the Rev Alex Awad, professor at Bethlehem Bible College and pastor of East Jerusalem Baptist Church; Dr Gary M. Burge, Wheaton College & Graduate School, author of Whose Land? Whose Promise? (2003), ecumenist Dr Kevin Bray from Canberra, Australia; and Garth Hewitt, Canon of St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem.

More information here: http://israeliapartheidguide.com/

Source: Ekklesia

Rights or Responsibilities: Which comes first?

The Christian Institute has highlighted the intentions of the organizers of this year's 'Gay Pride' rally in London:

"Gay campaigners are set to use this year’s Pride London event to press the National Blood Service to accept blood from men who have engaged in medically risky sex.

Under current rules a man who has had anal intercourse with another man is not allowed to donate blood because such sexual behaviour is medically dangerous.

Weakening the safety rules would “result in a fivefold increase in the risk of HIV-infected blood entering the blood supply,” the National Blood Service (NBS) warns.

The NBS rules are supported by the Terrence Higgins Trust, a leading HIV and sexual health charity.

But Paul Birrell of Pride London wants the rules to change. While he accepts the NBS is “correct to ensure that there are adequate protections on donated blood,” he says the ban is “prejudiced”.

Explaining the ban, the NBS said: “The reason for this exclusion rests on specific sexual behaviour rather than the sexuality of the person wishing to donate.

“There is, therefore, no exclusion of gay men who have never had sex with a man, nor of women who have sex with women.”

The NBS added that the policy “would only be changed on the basis of clear evidence that patients would not be put at jeopardy. In addition, scientific advances in virus testing and inactivation are monitored”.

In November last year two student unions in the North East of England decided to ban the NBS from advertising in their buildings because it does not take blood from active homosexuals.

Critics said the decision placed more value on ‘gay rights’ than on the need for life-saving blood donations."

Read the rest of the story here »

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Ex-paramilitaries unite with Protestant and Catholic Clergy in Ireland to support the Middle East Peace Process

Yesterday I was in Belfast at the invitation of the Irish Council of Churches to give four lectures on Christian Zionism at Coke Centenary Presbyterian Church.

Among those present were Presbyterian, Methodist and Church of Ireland clergy as well as representatives of the International Christian Embassy and Council of Christians and Jews. Also present were four ex-paramilitaries from both sides of the divide (Republican and Unionists) now working together for reconciliation in Ireland.

What unites them is the common realisation that Christian Zionism is deeply destructive and exacerbating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians as it has done in Northern Ireland. It was very encouraging to dialogue wiyth them on best to achieve justice, peace and reconciliation in the Middle East through non-violence.

Today I travelled south by train to gave the same four presentations at Trinity College, Dublin, again sponsored by the Irish Council of Churches. Although a smaller gathering, it was nevertheless heartening to meet and engage with Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Church of Ireland clergy, university chaplains and academics working in common cause to further the Middle East Peace Process.

You can watch two interviews with Alan Martin, former chaplain of Trinity College, Dublin and Alan Lobergan, Church Liason Officer for the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

US Support for Israel drops from 71% to 44% in one year

Philip Weiss writes, "One of my new themes on this site is that the Israel lobby as we know it is over. Gaza and Netanyahu shattered it. Obama gave his speech in Cairo because he knew he would have political cover from American Jews to reach out to the Muslim world. Marty Peretz and Charles Krauthammer didn't like the speech, but Jeffrey Goldberg and Roger Cohen (and Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod) did. That's the ballgame."

This morning Ori Nir of Peace Now provides powerful evidence for my theory from a still-secret poll that says that women and Democrats are defecting:

"Israel Radio ran a scoop this morning: poll data showing a sharp drop in Americans’ perception that Israel’s government seeks peace. The poll was conducted by a U.S. organization that strives to improve Israel’s image here."

You see: When Obama distances himself from Israel, the American people are listening. And the poll was conducted by The Israel Project, a lobby organization that I gather had a couple of people on hand in Cairo to interpret Obama's speech to reporters."

Read the rest here

Iran's Political Coup

An Iranian friend has sent what appears one of the best assessments so far of the election result in Iran from Gary Sick at Columbia University.

While it is indeed too early for a comprehensive analysis of the implications, here are some of his initial thoughts:

"If the reports coming out of Tehran about an electoral coup are sustained, then Iran has entered an entirely new phase of its post-revolution history. One characteristic that has always distinguished Iran from the crude dictators in much of the rest of the Middle East was its respect for the voice of the people, even when that voice was saying things that much of the leadership did not want to hear.

In 1997, Iran’s hard line leadership was stunned by the landslide election of Mohammed Khatami, a reformer who promised to bring rule of law and a more human face to the harsh visage of the Iranian revolution. It took the authorities almost a year to recover their composure and to reassert their control through naked force and cynical manipulation of the constitution and legal system. The authorities did not, however, falsify the election results and even permitted a resounding reelection four years later. Instead, they preferred to prevent the president from implementing his reform program.

In 2005, when it appeared that no hard line conservative might survive the first round of the presidential election, there were credible reports of ballot manipulation to insure that Mr Ahmadinejad could run (and win) against former president Rafsanjani in the second round. The lesson seemed to be that the authorities might shift the results in a close election but they would not reverse a landslide vote. The current election appears to repudiate both of those rules. The authorities were faced with a credible challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who had the potential to challenge the existing power structure on certain key issues. He ran a surprisingly effective campaign, and his “green wave” began to be seen as more than a wave. In fact, many began calling it a Green Revolution. For a regime that has been terrified about the possibility of a “velvet revolution,” this may have been too much.

On the basis of what we know so far, here is the sequence of events starting on the afternoon of election day, Friday, June 12.

  • Near closing time of the polls, mobile text messaging was turned off nationwide
  • Security forces poured out into the streets in large numbers
  • The Ministry of Interior (election headquarters) was surrounded by concrete barriers and armed men
  • National television began broadcasting pre-recorded messages calling for everyone to unite behind the winner
  • The Mousavi campaign was informed officially that they had won the election, which perhaps served to temporarily lull them into complacency
  • But then the Ministry of Interior announced a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad
  • Unlike previous elections, there was no breakdown of the vote by province, which would have provided a way of judging its credibility
  • The voting patterns announced by the government were identical in all parts of the country, an impossibility (also see the comments of Juan Cole at the title link)
  • Less than 24 hours later, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene`i publicly announced his congratulations to the winner, apparently confirming that the process was complete and irrevocable, contrary to constitutional requirements
  • Shortly thereafter, all mobile phones, Facebook, and other social networks were blocked, as well as major foreign news sources.

    All of this had the appearance of a well orchestrated strike intended to take its opponents by surprise – the classic definition of a coup. Curiously, this was not a coup of an outside group against the ruling elite; it was a coup of the ruling elite against its own people..."

    Read more here.

    "In their own paranoia and hunger for power, the leaders of Iran have insulted their own fellow revolutionaries who have come to have second thoughts about absolute rule and the costs of repression, and they may have alienated an entire generation of future Iranian leaders.

    At the same time, they have provided an invaluable gift to their worst enemies abroad. However this turns out, it is a historic turning point in the 30-year history of Iran’s Islamic revolution. Iranians have never forgotten the external political intervention that thwarted their democratic aspirations in 1953. How will they remember this day?"

For further analysis see also Stealing the Iranian Election by Juan Cole, President of the Global Americana Institute.

Photos of the demonstrations following publication of the election results.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Demolishing the Peace

I feel angry. Really angry. The Israeli Supreme Court has just ruled that the home of Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh in Anata, which has already been demolished by the Israeli authorities four times, can be demolished yet again. The Shawamreh home has become a symbol of resistance to Israel’s house demolition policies and deserves our support.

Now an international Peace Centre, their home represents all that is best about Arab-Israeli cooperation. It stands for all who identify with contructive, peaceful, non-violent resistance to the cruelty inherent in Zionism and the naked racism of the present Israeli government. Not content, the Israeli authorities are determined to demolish it for the fifth time.

Jeff Halper writes, "Since 1967, the Israeli authorities have demolished more than 24,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories, some as “collateral damage” in military operations (4000 homes were demolished in the recent invasion of Gaza), some as collective punishment (the obliteration of the Jenin refugee camp in 2002 being just one example), many others for lack of a building permit, though Israel intentionally withholds building permits from Palestinians. In a particularly cruel twist used by the courts, thousands of Palestinian families have been forced to demolish their own homes under pressure of fines and imprisonment. Tens of thousands of demolition orders remain outstanding in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and can be implemented at any time.

The issue of house demolitions first penetrated the public consciousness on July 9, 1998, when the Civil Administration, Israel’s military government in the West Bank, came to demolish the home of Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh and their six children in “Area C” of Anata, northeast of Jerusalem. Mobilized in time by Israeli and Palestinian activists, it was the first opportunity for Israelis, diplomats and journalists to actually witness a home demolition. The courageous resistance of the Shawamreh family and the international attention the demolition received, put the issue of house demolitions on the political map. Over the years many local and international NGOs have highlighted this issue, including Amnesty International. Recent reports by OCHA and the EU have also focused on the illegality of house demolitions. Today the obligation of Israel to cease demolishing Palestinian homes is enshrined in the first phase of the Road Map initiative. Much of this success is due to the Shawamreh family’s resistance.

Now they need our help. Last week, after a delay of more than two years, a three judge panel of the Israeli Supreme Court (Justices Eliezer Rivlin, Ayala Procaccia and David Cheshin) rejected the Shawamreh family’s second appeal to have the 17-year demolition order on their home rescinded. The Shawamrehs’ petition to the Court to issue them a building permit was also rejected. As of Sunday, June 7th, the Civil Administration is authorized to demolish their home for the fifth time. It is clear that the Shawamrehs cannot find justice in the Israeli court system. One of the family’s chief claims, rejected out of hand by the Court, argues that the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids an Occupying Power from extending its law and administration into an occupied territory, rendering the very process of granting or denying permits to Palestinians patently illegal under international humanitarian law.

Understanding that this argument has no standing in Israeli courts (who rule on the basis that there is no occupation and therefore the Fourth Geneva Convention protecting civilians under occupation is irrelevant), the family then argued that the legal basis accepted by Israel for demolishing their home and thousands of others in the West Bank – RJ-5, a 1942 British-era plan that designated the entire southern portion of the West Bank as “agricultural land” – was itself illegal since it has never been revised over the past 67 years despite significant changes in demography and land use. Besides using the plan to deny the Shawamrehs their fundamental right to housing, RJ-5, they argue, is also used in a discriminatory manner, since the Israeli authorities set it aside when approving dozens of Israeli settlements on the same land denied to Palestinians for building. This argument, too, was rejected by the Court.

The Shawamrehs then argued that their failure to obtain a permit, despite repeated requests for building permits from the Civil Administration (for which they had to spend $15,000 in fees), was based on no substantive reason. Indeed, the Civil Administration itself had declared in an interview in Ha’aretz newspaper that the Shawamrehs would be granted a permit if they provided what the Civil Administration claimed were two missing signatures on their deed of ownership – yet it would not reveal what signatures were required despite repeated queries, finally saying they lost the Shawamreh file altogether.

All this, plus their repeated appeals to the Supreme Court, constituted, the family argued, an unreasonable state of affairs in which all legal channels of redress were denied or closed. They had demonstrated good faith and a willingness to do whatever the Israeli authorities required, despite the illegality of Israeli policies, but were nevertheless refused. Not only did the judges reject this argument, but in their ruling they accused the Shawamrehs of “bad faith” and “unclean hands” since they had rebuilt their home four times without the proper permit. To add insult to injury, the judges then fined them $2000 for having the audacity to bring their case to court.

ICAHD is extremely concerned that the Shawamrehs’ home will be quickly demolished by the Civil Administration. Beit Arabiya, as it has become known, is a central meeting place for Palestinians, Israelis and international peace activists. The Shawamreh family deserves the support of the international community in their time of need. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, residents of occupied territories are supposed to enjoy double protection. The Occupying Power, Israel in this case, is enjoined to protect the rights and well-being of Palestinians under its control, while the international community, through the High Contracting Parties, is required to guarantee the same. In both cases the Shawamrehs and the thousands of families they represent have been let down. When they take steps to actualize their fundamental rights, such as rebuilding their demolished homes, they find they have no effective legal or political protection.

Governments will only act if pushed by the people. We call on you to raise your voices against the impending demolition of the Shawamreh home – and in so doing against Israel’s overall policy of demolishing Palestinian homes as it attempts to drive them from the country."

Please express solidarity with Salim and Arabiy. Contact the ICAHD office at info@icahd.org or telephone 00972-2-624-5560. Check out the latest news on the ICAHD website.

See more photos of the Occupation.

Anglicans need to repent and focus on mission

ANGLICAN clergy and laity attending the launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK and Ireland in London on July 6 will hear the Bishop of Rochester call for ‘repentance and a renewed commitment to evangelism and mission’.

The launch of FCA in the UK and Ireland comes less than a year after the GAFCON conference in Jerusalem, leading to a Declaration of Orthodox beliefs to which Anglicans throughout the community have rallied as a sign of fellowship and solidarity. At a time when the Anglican church in North America and Canada is facing major splits between liberals and orthodox members, the FCA is providing a home, focus and support for orthodox churches in diocese and provinces which they believe they can no longer be aligned with, or have been excluded from over their beliefs.

Delegates gathering at Westminster Central Hall will hear from a wide range of international speakers, including Bishop Keith Ackerman, president of Forward in Faith (North America), Archbishop Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney, and Baroness Caroline Cox. The morning sessions will focus on the global Anglican Communion, with welcome messages from the Archbishops of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya, before looking in detail at the key issues of unity, orthodoxy, the uniqueness of Christ and holiness of life. The Bishops of Chichester, the Rt Revd John Hind, and Fulham, the Rt Revd John Broadhurst will also speak.

Afternoon sessions will address the challenges of mission in a society of aggressive secularism, with special input from the Rev Vaughan Roberts (St Ebbe’s Oxford) and Canon Vinay Samuel (India). Following teaching by Bishop Wallace Benn on biblical fellowship, delegates will then focus on the opportunities and challenges for mission in the British Isles, with film and interviews from around the UK.

The launch event will conclude with Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, preaching and presiding at the Service of Holy Communion. Organisers say he will call delegates, on behalf of the wider Church, to “repent of capitulating to cultures around them and to refocus on the faith of the church down the ages and on authentic mission to our nations”.

The Revd Paul Perkin, chairman of the event planning team said: “We are thrilled that clergy and laity are coming from right across the UK and Ireland, and from evangelical, charismatic and Anglo-Catholic traditions – which we see as one of the great strengths of the new fellowship. We believe this will be a day full of vision and encouragement to witness to the Gospel and to the historic teachings of the Church.

“We also want to express the public co-operation of all orthodox Anglicans to ensure the continuance of orthodox Anglican faith in the Anglican churches of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and to express publicly our support for those orthodox Anglicans who are under severe pressure and persecution in North America and Canada.

“We believe the Bishop of Rochester’s closing address to us will bring together a time of sorrow, expressed for brothers and sisters marginalised by Diocese and Provinces, but also joy, as together, we stand and recommit ourselves into God’s service for mission and ministry.”

For more information about Be Faithful – the launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK and Ireland, visit www.anglican-mainstream.net

Friday, 12 June 2009

Jesus, Barak and George

Over at Times Online, Daniel Finkelstein asks what appears to be a rhetorical question "Who invokes God most frequently in public – Bush or Obama?"

Guess what? Apparently, it’s Barak Obama.

"Eamon Javers, in Politico, points out that Obama has mentioned Jesus in a number of high-profile speeches while Bush – the president whom God ‘told’ to run for office - rarely did so.

Here’s a recent sample:

Thursday, Cairo: Obama tells the crowd that he is a Christian

May 17, University of Notre Dame: Obama talks about Christian community groups in Chicago:

“I found myself drawn — not just to work with the church but to be in the church. It was through this service that I was brought to Christ.”Church

April 14, Georgetown University: Obama uses Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to explain his economic policies:

“We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand,” Obama said. “We must build our house upon a rock.”

“Obama’s invocation of the Christian Messiah,” writes Javers, “is more overt than Americans heard in the public rhetoric of Bush in his time in the White House — even though Bush’s victories were powered in part by evangelical voters...

... “I don’t recall a single example of Bush as president ever saying, ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ,’” said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Christian group Family Research Council. “This is different.” ”

So there you go. What about the word "Armageddon"? Barak Obama has some way to go there to beat Ronald Reagan.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Google map of Israeli settlements from leaked database

I've only just discovered this Mondo exclusive published back in February by Philip Weiss. Given the insistance of the new Obama administration that Settlement expansion must cease it is worth highlighting.

"The "Spiegel settlement database" is already creating waves in Israel. Israeli NGO Yesh Din has announced they will use the database to help Palestinians sue Israel for reparations and the removal of settlements from privately owned land.

To help get the word out, Mondo reader Jamie Dyer has used the information in the translated excerpts of the database to create this google map. "Making the map helped me to see the strategic placement of these settlements. The hilltops are being systematically taken in a sort of inversion of the topography of justice," Dyer writes. Click on the blue donkeytails to get a report on each landgrab:

The map will continue to get updated as more parts of database are made public.

While the Spiegel database is important, as Yesh Din's work attests to, it is also important to remember that in the end the database is telling us what we already know. Israel separates out the settlements into "legal" and "illegal" categories, and creates their own "legal" processes for zoning and building settlements in the West Bank, but under international law all Israeli settlement in the occupied territories is illegal. Period.

The Spiegel report is interesting in that it demonstrates Israeli government support for activity "illegal" under Israeli law, but this has been known, if not officially acknowledged, for a long time. For a good discussion of this, head over to jews sans frontieres. Money quote:

"Hence, what the new leaked database reveals is that, in addition to taking control of all the public land that belongs to the Palestinian people and using it for Jews only, in addition to the million of dunums confiscated "legally" from private Palestinian owners, Israeli authorities also took some land from a few dozen owners without attention to legal niceties. This is like discovering that a bank teller was pickpocketed during a bank robbery."

For more info:



Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Christian Exodus from the Holy Land: National Geographic

As a geographer before I became a theologian, I have subscribed to National Geographic for decades and cherish both the quality of the articles as much as the photographs.

Indeed it was National Geographic that first inspired me to take up photography. Until my wife put her foot down I was well on the way to accumulating a complete collection of 60 years of magazines.

But if you needed just one article to convince you to become a subscriber, it would be this month's cover and lead article The Forgotten Faithful, by Don Belt with photographs by Ed Kashi.

"Easter in Jerusalem is not for the faint of heart. The Old City, livid and chaotic in the calmest of times, seems to come completely unhinged in the days leading up to the holiday. By the tens of thousands, Christians from all over the world pour in like a conquering horde, surging down the Via Dolorosa's narrow streets and ancient alleyways, seeking communion in the cold stones or some glimmer, perhaps, of the agonies Jesus endured in his final hours. Every face on Earth seems to float through the streets during Easter, every possible combination of eye and hair and skin color, every costume and style of dress, from blue-black African Christians in eye-popping dashikis to pale Finnish Christians dressed as Jesus with a bloody crown of thorns to American Christians in sneakers and "I [heart] Israel" caps, clearly stoked for the battle of Armageddon."

Read more here

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The End is Here Again: Plain Truth Ministries

Just what is "End Times" teaching? Greg Albrecht interviewed me recently in sunny California. Listen here.

Greg Albrecht is president and CEO of Plain Truth Ministries, Pastor of PTM’s online church, Christianity Without the Religion, and Editor of the Plain Truth magazine.

After recording three podcasts for PTM, I turned the tables on Greg and interviewed him. You can watch it here.

You can view some photos I took of Greg and their offices. The first one is of Marv, one of the sound engineers and an internet geek. I couldn't resist saturating him...

There is protesting and then there is advertising

Video Game Publisher Stages Fake Religious Protest

About a dozen people pretend to protest 'Dante's Inferno.'

This piece by Sarah Pulliam appears in Christianity Today and shows the lengths advertisers will go to promote their products. Does this one cross the line? You decide.

"Religious stereotyping was at play at a recent video-game trade show where a game company hired 13 people to protest the upcoming game "Dante's Inferno."

A group of protesters claiming to come from a church held signs such as "Hell is not a Video Game" and "Trade in Your PlayStation for a PrayStation" in front of the nation's biggest video-game trade show last week. They pretended to fight Electronic Arts' new game "Dante's Inferno," loosely based on the first part of Dante's Divine Comedy.

Ben Fritz from the Los Angeles Times originally offered this report:

The protesters, who came from a church in Ventura County, held signs with slogans such as "trade in your playstation for a praystation" and "EA = anti-Christ" as they marched and handed out a homemade brochure that warns, "a video game hero does not have the authority to save and damn... ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE. and he will not judge the sinners who play this game kindly."

Matthew Francis, one of the protesters, said he and his fellow church members were particularly upset that Dante's Inferno features a character who fights his way out of Hell and uses a cross as a weapon against demons.

The Associated Press clears it up by talking to a spokeswoman, who said the stunt was arranged by a viral marketing agency hired by EA."

Read more here

Monday, 8 June 2009

Veolia Pulls out of Jerusalem Railway Project

In what appears to be another success for peaceful, non-violent ethical investment, Veolia, the Jerusalem rail operator has jumped ship, leaving the project to link the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumin with Jerusalem, in tatters.

According to Haaretz, "The light rail projects for Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are both facing difficulties. In a body-blow to the future Jerusalem light rail, the French company Veolia, which was supposed to run the train system after its construction, is abandoning the project.

Moving on to Tel Aviv, the city can't even get a response to the compromise it offered MTS, the consortium supposed to build an urban train system, in order to settle issues in dispute. It's waited a month and gotten no answer, causing not a little consternation in government circles.

As for the Jerusalem system, Veolia not only wants out of running the future train; it's trying to sell its 5% stake in Citypass, the light rail consortium.

In recent days Veolia has been sending feelers to the Egged or Dan bus consortiums, to potentially replace it as project operator.

Any change in the ownership structure of Citypass, or in the identity of the project operator, requires the permission of the state. Also, the attempt to add Egged to the consortium could arouse opposition at the Antitrust Authority.

Veolia has had to contend not only with the delays and difficulties in building the light rail project itself, but with political pressure at home as well. Two months ago a French court heard a lawsuit by a pro-Palestinian group, demanding that the light rail project be halted.

The organization based itself on an article in French law that allows the court to void business agreements, signed by French companies, that violate international law.

The political pressure on Veolia has been mounting in another direction. According to various reports abroad, the French firm had been losing major projects in Europe because of its involvement in the Jerusalem job. Observers claim that's the real reason Veolia opted out."

Read more here

See also Veolia and the 4th Geneva Convention.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

AIPAC's Hidden Persuaders

Richard Silverstein, writing in Friday's Guardian, exposes AIPAC's agenda in softening up the American establishment for a pre-emptive strike against Iran. He writes,

"Despite the ballyhoo of the recent Aipac national policy conference in Washington, when Israel-US bonds were feted, relations between the two countries are currently more strained than at any time since 1991. That was when the elder George Bush, as US president, fiercely lobbied Yitzchak Shamir to join in the Madrid peace conference. Relations then reached their nadir when James Baker uttered his infamous remark about Israel's American-Jewish supporters: "Fuck the Jews, they don't even vote for us."

If relations continue to deteriorate in coming months, we might have to go back in time to the Suez crisis of 1956 to find a time when relations were this fraught.

A case in point is Iran. That bogey-nation was everywhere at the Aipac conference. Every keynote speech – if they weren't directly written by that group's staff – seemed unmistakably scripted and "on message", dedicated to the existential threat that Iran poses not just to Israel, but the entire world.

A glossy brochure distributed at the Aipac meeting showed a map (pictured below) centred on Iran and beyond, with a dark ominous ring around Iran's neighbours and as far away as India, Russia, Africa and eastern Europe. The message: these are the countries under imminent threat of Iranian ballistic missiles.

The brochure copy even intimates that the next step for Iran is "building a missile with range to reach US territory". (Never mind that Iran doesn't yet have any ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, nor will it have the bomb itself for anywhere from a year to five years depending on which you source you choose to believe.)

Israel is in the midst of a massive diplomatic, political and intelligence campaign, both public and covert, that could lead – if those officials behind it have their way – towards a military strike on Iran. It is a war for the hearts and minds of Americans. Or you might call it the war before the war. In intelligence circles, this Israeli project is known as perception management and defined by the department of defence as:

Actions to convey and/or deny information … to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders … ultimately resulting in foreign behaviours and official actions favourable to [US] objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception and psychological operations.

The Israelis are following the template of the Bush administration's run-up to the Iraq war. First, the US government advocated half-hearted efforts at diplomatic engagement. Then it ratcheted up pressure through sanctions and UN resolutions. That is where the Israeli campaign stands now.

Aipac's members carried a unified message to Capitol Hill during their lobbying of US senators and members of Congress. They demanded that Congress pass the most draconian sanctions ever proposed against Iran. They demanded that Iran be offered a limited time in which to respond to an ultimatum insisting it drop its nuclear programme."

Read the rest of the article here

Friday, 5 June 2009

The Marks of a True Church are seen in ACNA - Bishop John Ellison

Bishop John Ellison reflects on the marks of a true church as found in the Anglican Church in North America

As I have been thinking about the first Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) I have wondered how leaders, especially those bishops in the Church of England who have been invited, will in fact respond. Will we as a church make sure we are represented? My firm conviction is that the ACNA shows the marks of the true church as affirmed by the Nicene and the Niceno Constantinoplan Creeds, that it to say apostolicity, catholicity, holiness and unity.

1. The mark of apostolicity. Then as now apostolicity links the contemporary church with the Apostles of the New Testament and ensures that the church is both earthed historically as well as establishing the vital link of continuity. To speak of apostolicity is to affirm that there is a clearly definable content to the Bible which is not ours to tamper with. The ACNA in its commitment to Scripture and apostolic teaching is clearly worthy of our encouragement and support.

2. The mark of catholicity. Catholicity speaks to us of the church worldwide across national and international boundaries, as well as temporally across the centuries. “Where Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church”, famously wrote Ignatius of Antioch in 110AD. Here is the vital safeguard against parochialism, being concerned only with the local and negligent of the wider church catholic. “Those to whom God is Father, the church may also be Mother”, wrote John Calvin (Institutes 4.1.1) He added “One may not put asunder what God has joined together”. As English Christians we should rejoice in the coming together of so many different expressions of North American Anglicanism embracing the vision of both Ignatius and John Calvin. At a time when TEC is sadly but relentlessly turning its back on the wider Anglican Communion, we should be glad to know of the continuing witness to the church both catholic and reformed that is represented within the ACNA and give it our support.

3. The mark of holiness. Holiness has been so emphasized as a mark of the church by both Protestant and Catholic theologians, that we might be tempted to take it for granted. Nevertheless, given the worldliness of so much of the contemporary church in the West, it is reassuring to have in the ACNA a firm testimony to the Christian difference seen in the holy living of the church over against the surrounding secular culture. The ACNA unequivocally affirms that holiness is God’s calling to God’s people, both individually and collectively. In the coming together of different Anglican traditions within the new province there is a renewed emphasis on the corporate nature of our common discipleship. ACNA represents a clear turning away from the excessive individualism that we have seen in TEC and gives us hope that in other western cultures by God’s grace, orthodox belief and behaviour can be brought back together again.

4. The mark of unity. The unity of the church only assumes significant meaning as it grows out of apostolicity, catholicity and holiness. We have in the new province a serious expression of all these characteristics. We might also add that if the church’s suffering is a further sign of authenticity, then the ACNA has much to teach us.

We need to hope and pray that the Church of England will be properly represented at the inauguration of this new province at Forth Worth later this month.

Bishop John Ellison on the Anglican Church in North America from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Bishop John was interviewed this week by Stephen Sizer on the ACNA. The transcript is below.

Q What would you say to those who say you are breaking up the Church in forming a new province?

JE That only makes sense if your priority is some sort of institutional unity and that you actually put order above doctrine. My fear is, looking at this from within the English perspective, that the priority in the Church of England is order rather than doctrine - order in the sense of conforming to the rules and regulations that we as a church have put in place which no longer function and have not been exercised to stop the spread of heresy both in belief or behaviour either in the TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) Those who have had the courage to stand up and be counted on these issues are the very people who are part of this new province.

Q What are the specific issues that have led to the formation of this province?

The fundamental issue is the loss of the focus on gospel. However you look at TEC or the ACoC, The people of deep gospel conviction who have obviously been there as the classic evangelicals over the decades and also within the anglo-catholic end of the spectrum, they have been chopped off. What you have ended up with is a bland middle – that is particularly the case in the ACoC, and in the TEC you have not a bland middle but an aggressive neo-liberal leadership which is actually preaching a different gospel. That is well documented on the various websites. That is the heart issue - it is a rejection of authentic Christianity.

Q. Were these issues prevalent while you were a serving in Paraguay as bishop?

JE They were in South America where we in the process of establishing new congregations and founding new dioceses, you have to ask what is the church, who are we and what we are doing that neither Roman Catholic nor Pentecostal Churches are already doing. What is our reason for being here as Anglicans? We have received immense encouragement to be ourselves from the Roman Catholic leadership and the leadership of many Pentecostal denominations. What shocked them and the areas where we were called to give account was when they asked the question over recent years – “Is the Anglican Communion a serious church?” because of the things we were tolerating both about belief and behaviour. So we had to redouble our efforts to make sure our people were taught about the nature of the true church and that we are part of it.

Q What is the timescale for this new province?

JE Later this month there will be the inauguration of a new province in North America, moving beyond the different strands that have been working together and seeing growth over recent years and coming together as never before. The exciting this is that it brings together people of deep conviction both of a more catholic and more reformed background.

Q What do you think the response is going to be from the Church of England towards the new province.

JE The evidence at the moment is that it is trying to ignore it. My hope and prayer is that a diocesan bishop who will have the courage to say that this is something we must identify with for the sake of the global communion. That is where the majority of Anglicans worldwide will be. They will be identified with what is happening in the United States. Not to do anything , to pretend it is not happening, will be further evidence to our brethren, particularly in Africa but in many other parts of the Communion too that the Church of England is moving out of the mainstream of Anglican identity worldwide.

Q The primary support that we are seeing so far for ACNA seems to be coming from the provinces that have been planted as missionary churches in Africa and South America.

JE It is this old story of the family grows up and the children assume responsibility and leadership. How do we as aging parents, if you like grandparents, respond to the new reality. The Church of England is finding it desperately difficult to respond to this new reality – of leadership being given in quite extraordinary ways by non-Anglo-Saxon leadership.

Q. We see TEC trying to seize properties of faithful gospel churches, removing the licences of clergy, seek to defrock bishops in North America, and numerous court cases are going on as well. Where do you see this going?

JE. The litigation culture saturates North American society and it is prevalent within the life of the church. The first thing you do is to go for the properties. These are measurables. What we are seeing in the process is a part of what was once the Anglican Communion beginning to move in its own direction to become an independent organization. It is no coincidence that it simply calls itself The Episcopal Church and seeking to influence many others worldwide. They have their own agenda which they will follow fairly relentlessly.

Q Where do you see Global Anglicanism in the next 10 years? What would your hope be for the Anglican Communion and what is your fear?

JE We see the historic shift of the Church from the East to the West and now to the South. That movement will continue. It does not depend on the Church of England. It has its own momentum and its own pattern. The question is whether we are prepared to learn from the experience of the wider church or not. They want to learn from us. The high regard with which many Anglican leaders and many others hold the Church of England is quite remarkable. We have to enter into a different kind of partnership where we are prepared to learn from one another and much more humbly recognize our interdependence. My hope is that we will do just that. We need the help of the wider church catholic to move forward here in England. They are ready to give it. It is a prayerful yearning for the restoration and the renewal of the Church here in England. They want to be alongside us so that by God’s grace that can happen.

My fear is that we will further isolate ourselves from what is happening in the church worldwide and without being aware of it get further out of step with God the Holy Spirit in terms of the moves that is so dominant in the south and in the worldwide church. We must avoid the terrible kind of parochialism which is not just there in parishes but also in provinces which forget the global catholic reality. This could happen in the provinces of Canterbury and York if we further isolate ourselves from the vibrant Anglicanism of the wider Communion.

Q Where do you see the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans gathering on July 6th having a strategic role to play?

JE. It can be a key moment for raising our awareness of the global Catholic church and to help us to see the great things that God is doing in other parts of the world and saying : “This is tremendous. What more could we do in England with the support of these our brethren and what do we by God’s grace have to give them so that we are truly working together, perhaps as we never believed possible in recent years in partnership in the gospel.

Watch the interview here

The Episcopal Horror Show

Over at Anglican Curmudgeon we find some insights into the current litigation culture bankrupting the Episcopal Church, morally and financially.

What They Saw Is Exactly What They Got

"The reign (a word I use advisedly) of ECUSA's current Presiding Bishop has been marked thus far by a some striking characteristics in contrast to anything that ever came before:

1. First and foremost, the number of lawsuits in which the Episcopal Church (USA) is a plaintiff in court against its own---the initiator of litigation against fellow Christians---has multiplied enormously. A summary of cases I gave last August showed there were then eighteen pending suits that had been brought by ECUSA (either as an original plaintiff, or as a subsequent intervenor) in five different states: California (four lawsuits, counting three in Orange County and one in San Joaquin), New York (two lawsuits, one of which settled in September 2007), Virginia (eleven separate lawsuits), Georgia, and Connecticut. Of those, only the three in Orange County had been brought before Katharine Jefferts Schori became Presiding Bishop. Since that post, ECUSA has filed two more lawsuits: one in Pittsbugh and another in Fort Worth, and it was named as a defendant in a preemptive lawsuit brought by the Diocese of Quincy in Illinois, before ECUSA filed suit itself. So under the current Presiding Bishop, ECUSA initiated suit in eighteen separate instances, and there are twenty-two lawsuits for which she now has responsibility. (And that is the case despite the fact, as I pointed out in this post, that the Constitutions and canons nowhere give the president of a body which is not itself a member of the unincorporated association of dioceses authority to bring suit in court "on behalf of" the association as a whole.)

2. The amount of its resources which ECUSA is devoting to litigation in the civil courts has multiplied even more enormously. As detailed in this post, ECUSA's budget for litigation went from an original estimate (at GC 2006) of $300,000 for the triennium 2007-2009 to a currently budgeted $4,704,138 for that same triennium, plus a further $1.8 million proposed to be budgeted for the next three years, for a total of over $6.5 million.

3. The number of clergy deposed since November 2006 (when the Presiding Bishop's term began) comes to 121 --- and counting. (With the recent action in San Joaquin, the number more than doubled.) That number is up from just 36 in the years 2004-2006 --- nearly a fourfold increase. (The details---excluding San Joaquin---are on pages 22-25 of this Report.) And now there are a potential 72 more depositions scheduled in Fort Worth.

4. Three bishops were "deposed" (not canonically) under the current Presiding Bishop, while she "deemed" another six to have voluntarily renounced their orders --- without their ever having in fact done so (see page 25 for details). That makes nine bishops removed in less than thirty-six months without bothering so much as once to observe the canonical procedures. (Previously, such an abuse had occurred only once in Presiding Bishop Griswold's term, and once in Presiding Bishop Browning's term; no one saw them for the canonical violations they were at the time, but an illegality can never serve as a precedent. And counting those two, there had been just five bishops of ECUSA deposed in the entire four-hundred year history of the Church, before Presiding Bishop Schori started her current campaign.)

5. Despite an unprecedented downturn in its revenues, with resulting layoffs and downsizing in ECUSA's staff, the Presiding Bishop has found room in the budget to hire a personal legal adviser, in addition to her Chancellor.

6. At the same time that she has sought novel ways to fund litigation costs, the Presiding Bishop has urged the Church to hold fast to maintaining the Millennium Development Goals as its "first mission priority".

Read the rest here