Tuesday, 30 March 2010

World Vision – Willow Creek Association Holy Land Tour

World Vision and the Willow Creek Association are hosting a unique and exclusive study tour of the Holy Land for Church leaders from September 28 – October 8, 2010.

Led by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, one of the founding fathers of Willow Creek Community Church, and Professor emeritus of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College, this will be his last study-program to the land of the Bible, a truly “one-of-a-kind” experience.

 
Four Objectives in Collaboration with World Vision and the WCA
1. To renew appreciation for the ministry of Jesus the servant in a power-obsessed world as the model for our personal commitment to God’s purposes.
2. Experience the land and its culture so as to:
  • broaden our knowledge and understanding of Scripture
  • confirm the historical foundations of our faith
  • renew Spiritual commitments
  • To develop an understanding of current events in and around the Land and of their global impact.
3. Facilitate interaction with local religious leaders for their own encouragement, and for team-members to gain perspective about the challenges pertaining to ministry and peace concerns in the Middle-East
4. To open opportunities for Western churches to partner with Middle Eastern communities, churches and children.

Dr Bilezikian writes, “The unique character of this study tour is that it is designed for pastors and Christian leaders, especially as a training tool for those who may aspire to conduct their own groups in the future. Whether you eventually intend to lead a group of your own to the “Holy Land” or not, we can promise that this experience will enrich your ministry immensely.”

Four Reasons For Participating


Steve Haas, Vice President of World Vision, gives four reasons why this will be a strategic opportunity to engage with the Christian community in Israel/Palestine:

First, as you probably know, for more than three decades, Dr. Bilezikian has led multiple trips to the Middle East, under the auspices of Wheaton College and Willow Creek Community Church always with the purpose of studying Scripture where Jesus lived and ministered..  “Dr. B” as he is affectionately known, has served as counselor to thousands of church leaders, most prominently those who founded and led Willow Creek Community Church.  As a result of these trips, countless leaders have experienced recommitment to the dominant motif and calling of their lives.

Secondly, Jesus was born and raised a Palestinian Jew.  Like in no other study program, participants will immerse themselves in the cultural context of which Jesus was a part.  Vital elements of the environment in which He lived continue to survive among the native people of Palestine—some of whom are the descendants of the original occupants of the land since Canaanite times.  In this way, we will grow in our understanding of Jesus the Servant in His own cultural context, and be challenged to redefine our roles as church leaders while moving in current social settings not much different from those in which Jesus lived.

Third, during this trip you will visit sites where New Testament events took place under the tutelage of a prominent biblical scholar.    We believe the theme and purpose of this journey—Jesus the Servant in a Power-Obsessed World— offers a message that you will want to share to your congregation and others.  Therefore the program is also designed to equip participants to lead their own groups in the future if they so desire.

Finally, serving as a co-host for this journey are your friends and partners in ministry, World Vision. For over 35 years, World Vision has served the poor in bringing “life in all of its fullness” to the people of the Middle East.  As one of the largest Christian organizations serving the poor, WV continues to have significant interest in the establishment of peace in the region. World Vision continues to work to encourage and maintain the stability of the indigenous Church that exists there.”

You can access the brochure that provides all the travel details including itinerary, costs, and the “fine print.”  Please note that the cost includes registration, entrance fees, most meals, lodging, gratuities, and land travel while in the Middle East.  Travellers will be responsible for their own inbound and outbound air travel to Tel Aviv, as well as transportation by taxi between the airport and Jerusalem.  We ask that you plan your arrival at the hotel in Jerusalem in time for the welcome dinner on Tuesday, September 28.  Departure from Jerusalem will be on Friday, October 8.  For any wanting to extend their trip to include a visit to Jordan, this is also offered.

Currently, Dr. Bilezikian is holding open 40 places on a first-come, first-served basis.  In order to obtain additional information or to secure reservations, you can connect directly with Jim Schiltz, field administrator of the program, via email at Jim630@sbcglobal.net.

Monday, 29 March 2010

US Threatens to Abstain in UN Vote on Jerusalem

According to the BBC yesterday, The US is considering abstaining from a UN Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, sources suggest to the BBC. This is very, very good news. An 'abstention' from Israel's closest ally will not stop the construction of the illegal Jews-only settlements in East Jerusalem, but it sends a signal to Netanyahu, that it will not be long before the US Administration decides to cut the 'loans' Israel uses to build them. Its a beginning, a glimmer of hope, that the US will at last join a multi-lateral approach to resolving the conflict based on the rule of international law. But expect AIPAC and CUFI to go into overdrive to pressure the US Administration to veto this resolution just like they have done with all the previous ones for the last 43 years.

The BBC says,
The possibility surfaced at talks in Paris last week between a senior US official and Qatar's foreign minister.
The official said the US would "seriously consider abstaining" if the issue of Israeli settlements was put to the vote, a diplomat told the BBC.

US officials in Washington have not confirmed the report.

There are no concrete plans at present to table such a resolution at the UN.

But it is likely that the US is considering how to maintain pressure, and a UN resolution would be one way, says BBC state department correspondent Kim Ghattas.

The US usually blocks Security Council resolutions criticising Israel.

But relations between the allies have been severely strained by the announcement of plans to build 1,600 homes in an East Jerusalem settlement during a recent visit to Israel by US Vice-President Joe Biden.

The move prompted the Palestinians to pull out of the US-brokered indirect "proximity talks" that had only just been agreed in a bid to revive the peace process, which has been stalled for more than a year.

Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are held to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Guarantee sought

The reported exchange between the US official and Qatar's foreign minister came to light during a meeting at an Arab League summit in the Libyan town of Sirte.

A diplomatic source told the BBC that Qatar's Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasim Al Thani - who is also the prime minister - had recently met an official high up in the Obama administration during a visit to France.

Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasim Al Thani in Paris (25 March 2010)
Sheikh Hamad Al Thani was in Paris last week for an economic forum

During their talks, Sheikh Hamad asked the US official whether Washington would guarantee not to veto a UN Security Council resolution that was critical of Israel's ongoing settlement construction in East Jerusalem.

The diplomat said the US official had replied that the current feeling in Washington was that they would "seriously consider abstention".

An Egyptian official is said to have confirmed his knowledge of the US position during a meeting at the Arab League summit, which was held behind closed doors.

The US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, was in Paris last week to hold talks with Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas.

The US is one of five permanent members of the Security Council with veto power and has a history of blocking any resolution condemning Israel.

The BBC's Rana Jawad, in Sirte, says that many people will see the comments as yet another sign of Washington's recent dispute with Israel.

In November, Israel announced a 10-month suspension of new building in the West Bank. But it considers areas within the Jerusalem municipality as its territory and thus not subject to the restrictions.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Steve Haas Endorses With God on our Side

"The first obvious challenge of “With God On Our Side” was articulating a perspective on the Middle East debate anchored in history and sound theology. Porter Speakman has not only met that test, but also delivered one of the clearest assessments of the struggle between Palestinians and Jews, and a US Church largely unaware of their complicity in the current conflict. Speakman’s second more ominous challenge will be obtaining an audience, often steeped with established notions, open to wrestling with the film’s content. The hope of an ongoing Christian presence in the Holy Land may depend on the success of his message... I dare anyone to see this film and remain unchanged."

Steven W. Haas
Vice President/Chief Catalyst
World Vision




"With God On Our Side takes a look at the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that because the Jews are God's chosen people, they have a divine right to the land of Israel. Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians, leading to great suffering among Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike and threatening Israel's security as a whole.


This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn't favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians."


Middle Eastern Perceptions of Western Christians from Porter Speakman Jr


Issue of "Balance" When Sharing the Palestinian Narrative from Porter Speakman Jr


Gary Burge on the Biblical View of Justice & the Middle East from Porter Speakman Jr


The title for our film, “With God on Our Side” was inspired by the verse:

…while Joshua was there near Jericho: He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword. Joshua stepped up to him and said, "Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies'?" He said, "Neither. I'm commander of God's army. Joshua 5:13-14a (The Message)

We believe this verse is still true today, that God does not take sides with certain people groups, nations or agendas. Rather He is for all people. Throughout history, those who have claimed God was on their side have used it to justify atrocities done in the name of Jesus. We believe once again certain Christians are approaching the people in the Middle East claiming God is on their side in a way that disregards human rights and gives unilateral support to a secular State, elevates one people group over another while using the Bible as justification. We believe there is a better way, a way of justice, peace and love for Jews and Palestinians. One that is inclusive, not exclusive. That is the heart of God.

See http://www.withgodonourside.com

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

When Divorce is Necessary

Helen Rowland once said, When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn't a sign that they "don't understand" one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to. That seems at long last to be happening to the US-Israeli marriage. The BBC have produced a helpful timeline of the divorce:

9 Mar: Israel announces the building of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem during visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden. Mr Biden condemns the move
 
11 Mar:
Mr Biden says there must be no delay in resuming Mid-East peace talks, despite the row

12 Mar:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Israeli move is "deeply negative" for relations

15 Mar:
The US says it is waiting for a "formal response" from Israel to its proposals to show it is committed to Mid-East peace

16 Mar:
The US envoy to the Mid-East postpones a visit to Israel

17 Mar:
President Obama denies there is a crisis with Israel

22 Mar:
Hillary Clinton tells pro-Israel lobby group Aipac Israel has to make "difficult but necessary choices" if it wants peace with Palestinians. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu tells Aipac Israel has a "right to build" in Jerusalem

23 Mar:
Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu meet behind closed doors with no media access

23 Mar:
Jerusalem municipal government approves building of 20 new homes in East Jerusalem

24 Mar:
The White House says differences remain.

The question is, will Mr Obama accept that the marriage is well and truly over and stop paying maintenance to an unfaithful partner.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Bibi's Soldiers Occupying Bethehem Today

I took some photos of the soldiers protecting the construction site of the Separation Wall which will split Beit Jala near Bethlehem. We visited families who will lose their land and saw some of the ancient olive trees uprooted that stand in the path of this illegal and evil monstrosity.

See them all here

There are also photos of the non-violent resistance against the Separation Wall in Beit Jala here

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Non-Violent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation of Ma'sara near Bethlehem



Yesterday I took part in a non-violent protest against the Israeli military in the small Palestinian village of Ma'sara on the road from Bethlehem to Hebron. The Palestinian village is surrounded by illegal colonies of extremist Israeli settlers who are terrorizing Palestinian families, stealing their land, demolishing their homes, uprooting their trees and denying them access to their fields. And the Israeli military - army and police - are used by the State to impose their apartheid occupation by intimidation and violence. Any protest by Palestinians is crushed ruthlessly. Villages told us of the tactics used - interrogations, arrests, beatings and worse.



So yesterday, a handful of Christians from the USA, Europe and England who were attending the Christ at the Checkpoint conference at Bethlehem Bible College went along with representatives of the Holy Land Trust to show solidarity with local villagers and challenge the occupation. We took our cameras to film the soldiers and dissuade them from committing violence against the Palestinian civilians.



When we arrived in the village, everyone was quiet and subdued. Many are so frightened they were not willing to be filmed for fear of retaliation. The soldiers were already waiting for us at the edge of the village just off the main road to Hebron. They had placed barbed wire across the road. Sometimes they arrest people for merely stepping on the barbed wire which they regard as a provocation. Yesterday we placed photographs of Rachel Corrie in the barbed wire. She was killed in Gaza seven years ago at a similar protest on the 16th March 2003, by a military bulldozer when she tried to defend the home of a doctor which was about to be demolished.


We walked through the village toward the road block carrying some Palestinian flags and a banner with Rachel's photograph. We were stopped by the barbed wire and told the soldiers that it is they who are the enemies of peace and stand in the way of a just resolution of the conflict. Their sound bombs, tear gas, rubber bullets (just ordinary bullets with a coating of plastic) and live ammunition will never destroy the spirit of Palestinians not lead to peace for Israel or Palestine.



It was both empowering and liberating, if a little frightening, to stand up to trained soldiers, with their weapons, and resist their immoral and illegal occupation non-violently and peacefully. What did we achieve? If we embarrassed a few soldiers and empowered the villagers to persevere, it was worth it.


See more photos taken in Ma'sara here

See the Stop the Wall website for more on this week's protest.

For more information about Ma'sara see here

This is a video of the soldiers attacking a peaceful demonstration in Ma'sara. This video was taken last week.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Final destination Iran?


Herald Scotland 
Exclusive: Rob Edwards
14 Mar 2010

Hundreds of powerful US “bunker-buster” bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that the US government signed a contract in January to transport 10 ammunition containers to the island. According to a cargo manifest from the US navy, this included 387 “Blu” bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures.

Experts say that they are being put in place for an assault on Iran’s controversial nuclear facilities. There has long been speculation that the US military is preparing for such an attack, should diplomacy fail to persuade Iran not to make nuclear weapons.

Although Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, it is used by the US as a military base under an agreement made in 1971. The agreement led to 2,000 native islanders being forcibly evicted to the Seychelles and Mauritius.

The Sunday Herald reported in 2007 that stealth bomber hangers on the island were being equipped to take bunker-buster bombs.

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran Dan Plesch, director, Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, University of London

Although the story was not confirmed at the time, the new evidence suggests that it was accurate.

Contract details for the shipment to Diego Garcia were posted on an international tenders’ website by the US navy.

A shipping company based in Florida, Superior Maritime Services, will be paid $699,500 to carry many thousands of military items from Concord, California, to Diego Garcia.

Crucially, the cargo includes 195 smart, guided, Blu-110 bombs and 192 massive 2000lb Blu-117 bombs.

“They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran,” said Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London, co-author of a recent study on US preparations for an attack on Iran. “US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours,” he added.

The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel, Plesch argued.

“The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely,” he added. “The US ... is using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Iran’s actions.”

According to Ian Davis, director of the new independent thinktank, Nato Watch, the shipment to Diego Garcia is a major concern. “We would urge the US to clarify its intentions for these weapons, and the Foreign Office to clarify its attitude to the use of Diego Garcia for an attack on Iran,” he said.

For Alan Mackinnon, chair of Scottish CND, the revelation was “extremely worrying”. He stated: “It is clear that the US government continues to beat the drums of war over Iran, most recently in the statements of Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

“It is depressingly similar to the rhetoric we heard prior to the war in Iraq in 2003.”

The British Ministry of Defence has said in the past that the US government would need permission to use Diego Garcia for offensive action. It has already been used for strikes against Iraq during the 1991 and 2003 Gulf wars.

About 50 British military staff are stationed on the island, with more than 3,200 US personnel. Part of the Chagos Archipelago, it lies about 1,000 miles from the southern coasts of India and Sri Lanka, well placed for missions to Iran.

The US Department of Defence did not respond to a request for a comment.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/world-news/final-destination-iran-1.1013151

HotAir.com has some useful discussion on the story here

They conclude, "Most likely, though, is that either the report is wrong or it’s just a routine movement of munitions between American bases.  I’m skeptical that this administration would conduct a military operation against Iran at any point, which would be an adventure fraught with potential catastrophe under the best of circumstances anyway.  Thus far, the White House hasn’t even rattled a saber yet."

Attorney Jonathan Kuttab on Christ at the Checkpoint



Jonathan Kuttab was the final speaker at the international Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem. This short video comprises his conclusions.

The full text, audio, photos and video will be available from christatthecheckpoint.com

The overwhelming response from the conference as a whole was to:

1. Endorse the Bethlehem Evangelical Affirmation

2. Promote the film With God on our Side

3. Participate in the second international Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem in March 2012.

You can also add your name to the Bethlehem Evangelical Affirmation

The Bethlehem Evangelical Affirmation arose from the international conference Christ at the Checkpoint sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College

Thursday, 18 March 2010

With Christ at the Checkpoint: Hopes for the Future




This week around 300 evangelicals from around the world and Bethlehem have encountered 'Christ at the Checkpoint'. In this short video Tony Campolo, Steve Hass, Paul Alexander, Porter Speakman, Salim Munayer, Bishare Awad, Mubarak Awad, Alex Awad and Jonathan Kuttab give their feedback and hopes for the future.

The overwhelming response from the conference as a whole was to:

1. Endorse the Bethlehem Evangelical Affirmation

2. Promote the film With God on our Side

3. Participate in the second international Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem in March 2012.

You can also add your name to the Bethlehem Evangelical Affirmation

The Bethlehem Evangelical Affirmation arose from the international conference Christ at the Checkpoint sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College

Tony Campolo on new film With God on our Side

At the international conference, Christ at the Checkpoint, following the showing of the film 'With God on our Side', Tony Campolo gave this endorsement:

“This film is informative, it’s inspiring, it’s challenging and it summarizes in brilliant fashion, what the problem is and what needs to change in order to solve the problem. I don’t know of anything quite like it - and I would have to say the church desperately needs it.”

The film may be purchased from Amazon here


Dr Tony Campolo, is professor emeritus at Eastern University, is the founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that develops schools and social programs in various Third World countries and in cities across North America. He is the author of 35 books, his latest three being, "Letters to a Young Evangelical," "The God of Intimacy and Action" and, most recently, "Red Letter Christians: A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics" 

 

Tony Campolo on US-Israeli Relations




At the Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem, I interviewed Tony Campolo about US-Israeli relations at the moment.

Dr Tony Campolo, is professor emeritus at Eastern University, is the founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that develops schools and social programs in various Third World countries and in cities across North America. He is the author of 35 books, his latest three being, "Letters to a Young Evangelical," "The God of Intimacy and Action" and, most recently, "Red Letter Christians: A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics"

The Bethlehem Evangelical Affirmation

The Bethlehem Evangelical Affirmation
March 17, 2010
Bethlehem


We affirm the foundational truth that God loves everyone (John 3:16).

We affirm that as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to do justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8), to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21), and to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).

We affirm that the Holy Spirit empowers followers of Jesus to speak and live humbly and prophetically (Acts 1:8).

We recognize that this is the time to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Therefore, we are convinced that the Holy Spirit is leading us at such a time as this to unite as Christians throughout the world in order to pray and work for a just peace in Israel and Palestine.

To this end, we commit to reconnect with the local Palestinian church and to listen and learn from all those who follow Jesus in the Holy Land and to share their stories with our own faith communities.

We further commit to work together to advocate changes in public policy and so achieve a just and lasting resolution of the conflict. Our vision and our hope is that Israelis and Palestinians will live in justice and peace in the land of the Holy One.

Drafting Committee

Paul Alexander
Christine M. Anderson
Brother Andrew
Alex Awad
Bishara Awad
Mubarak Awad
Sami Awad
Gary Burge
Tony Campolo
Steven Haas
Lynne Hybels
Manfred Kohl
Jonathan Kuttab
Paul Johnson
Salim Munayer
Stephen Sizer
Porter Speakman, Jr.

You can also add your name to the Bethlehem Evangelical Affirmation

The Bethlehem Evangelical Affirmation arose from the international conference Christ at the Checkpoint sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College

AIPAC Impunity About to End

As a foreign agent operating in the United States with almost total impunity, AIPAC has succeeded in undermining the security and true interests of the United States in the Middle East. That is about to change.

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs reports that the US Department of Justice has been formally asked to begin regulating the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as the foreign agent of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A 392 page legal filing presented by a four person IRmep delegation in a two hour meeting with top officials of the Internal Security Section substantiated the following case for AIPAC's immediate registration:
  1. AIPAC is a spinoff of an organization already ordered by the DOJ to register as an Israeli foreign agent. In November of 1962 the American Zionist Council was ordered by the Attorney General to begin filing disclosures as an Israeli foreign agent under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act. http://www.IRmep.org/1962Order.pdf. Six weeks later, former AZC employees incorporated the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, DC, taking over the AZC's lobbying activities. http://www.IRmep.org/AIPAC.pdf. AIPAC did not register as a foreign agent.
  2. AIPAC's founder Isaiah L. Kenen was the chief information officer for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in New York and for a time duly registered in that role. http://www.IRmep.org/Kenen.pdf The Justice Department ordered Kenen to personally re-register after he formally left the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to head up private lobbying and publicity for the Israeli government at the nonprofit American Zionist Council. Kenen never complied with the order. http://www.IRmep.org/order.pdf.
  3. Espionage related FBI investigations in 1984 and 2005 reveal AIPAC's ongoing stealth foreign agency activities. Declassified FBI files released on the Internet last week reveal that in 1984 AIPAC and the Israeli Ministry of Economics were investigated for jointly obtaining and circulating classified US economic data to obtain favorable trade benefits for Israel. http://www.irmep.org/ila/economy. In 2005 Pentagon Colonel Lawrence Franklin pled guilty and two AIPAC employees were indicted for obtaining and circulating classified US national defense information to Israeli government officials allegedly in the interest of fomenting US action against Iran.
  4. AIPAC's executive committee consists of the original member organizations of the AZC in addition to newer members. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the umbrella group of AIPAC's executive committee, is housed in the same New York office as the World Zionist Organization – American Section, a registered foreign agent that is heavily involved in illegal settlement expansion according to Israeli prosecutor Thalia Sasson.
According to Grant F. Smith, director of IRmep, the case for reregulating AIPAC as a foreign agent immediately is compelling. "AIPAC was designed to supplant the American Zionist Council as the arm of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the United States after the DOJ ordered the AZC to register as a foreign agent. As such, Americans should have full public access to biannual FARA registrations detailing AIPAC's publicity campaigns, lobbying expenditures, funding flows, activities of its offices in Israel and internal consultations with its foreign principals - particularly over such controversial issues as illegal settlements and US foreign aid."

Concerned organizations and individuals who wish to supplement the Department of Justice filing or participate in future negotiations with law enforcement officials should contact the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, Inc. at info@IRmep.org or 202-342-7325 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              202-342-7325      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. IRmep is a private nonprofit that studies how warranted law enforcement and civil action can improve U.S. Middle East policy.

Source: The Washington Report

Brother Andrew on Christian Jihad




Brother Andrew of Open Doors, spoke at the international conference Christ at the Checkpoint organised by Bethlehem Bible College this week.

In this short interview he speaks of  Jesus and Jihad.

Lynne Hybels with Christ at the Checkpoint




Lynne Hybels spoke at the international conference Christ at the Checkpoint organised by Bethlehem Bible College this week. Her paper, 'Its all about Jesus: a Personal Journey' can be downloaded here

Lynne Hybels and her husband, Bill, started Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois in 1975, with an interest in addressing the needs of "the whole person in the whole world". For years, she has been involved with Willow's ministry partnerships in under-resourced communities in Latin America and Africa. She is the author of 'Nice Girls Don't Change the World', and co-author of 'Rediscovering Church' and 'Fit to be Tied'. She has recently collaborated with the Willow Creek Association to produce 'Hope and Action', a DVD and participant guide that helps churches and small groups address the AIDS pandemic.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Ahmad Al-Azzeh, of the Holy Land Trust talks about the Status of Internal Palestinian Refugees



Ahmad Al Azzeh, Activities Coordinator of the Holy Land Trust, speaks about the challenges faced by internal Palestinian refugees living in Aida Camp, in Bethlehem.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Non-Violent Resistance met with Lethal Force in Beit Jala



Just back from the Beit Jala demonstration. Tasted first hand Israeli military brutality. It was a non violent peaceful demonstration. We were a group of about 70 international, Israeli and Palestinian peace activists protesting against the theft of land and the destruction of hundreds of olive trees to enable the Israeli government to build its illegal apartheid barrier right through the middle of Beit Jala, leaving West Bank Palestinians from the village on both sides of the barrier. By cutting Beit Jala in half, the Israeli government are creating a so called 'security threat' , thereby giving the lie to the idea that the barrier is designed to increase security for Israelis. It is not. It is designed to steal land for further colonisation in flagrant breach of the 4th Geneva Convention.



As we walked down the road toward the construction site, and at least 100 yards away from the Israeli soldiers, they fired stun grenades at us. One fell at my feet and blasted my ears repeatedly. They literally stun you. Thankfully my hearing aids were unable to cope with the extreme sound and shock waves created but it was still painful and disorientating.


The action was totally unnecessary and provocative in the extreme. We eventually confronted the soldiers and remonstrated with them politely concerning the illegality of their actions under international law. They produced a paper declaring our demonstration illegal under Israeli military law. Orwellian in the extreme. 1984 had nothing on this travesty.


When Israel acts in such a beligerant and provocative way, disregarding the norms of democratic society it loses what little credability it had.

What Lies Beneath US-Israeli Tensions


Its been a unusual week to be in Palestine. Like being in the eye of a storm.

Monday VP Joe Biden flies in to kick start the peace process but promising that there is "no space" between the USA and Israel.

Tuesday, the Israeli government announces 1,600 new homes for ultra-orthodox settlers in East Jerusalem and the Palestinians threaten to pull out.

Wednesday, Biden "strongly condemns" Israel's decision.

Thursday, there is a strategy meeting in the White House.

Friday, Hilary Clinton phones Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to say the move is "deeply negative" for US-Israeli relations and lets everyone know.

Saturday, everyone has the day off.

Sunday, Obama Advisor, Daniel Axelrod says the move is an "insult" to the United States.

Monday, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren says "Israel's ties with the US are in the most serious crisis since 1975."

So what lies beneath? Is it simply evidence of a power struggle in the Israeli Knesset with Shas trying to out manouver Netanyahu? Mark Perry thinks not. 

In an article for Foreign Policy  entitled, "The Petraeus Briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story" Perry reports the outcome of a Pentegon intelligence briefing that took place in Washington in January.

"On Jan. 16, two days after a killer earthquake hit Haiti, a team of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command (responsible for overseeing American security interests in the Middle East), arrived at the Pentagon to brief Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) "too old, too slow ... and too late."

The January Mullen briefing was unprecedented. No previous CENTCOM commander had ever expressed himself on what is essentially a political issue; which is why the briefers were careful to tell Mullen that their conclusions followed from a December 2009 tour of the region where, on Petraeus's instructions, they spoke to senior Arab leaders. "Everywhere they went, the message was pretty humbling," a Pentagon officer familiar with the briefing says. "America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding." But Petraeus wasn't finished: two days after the Mullen briefing, Petraeus sent a paper to the White House requesting that the West Bank and Gaza (which, with Israel, is a part of the European Command -- or EUCOM), be made a part of his area of operations. Petraeus's reason was straightforward: with U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military had to be perceived by Arab leaders as engaged  in the region's most troublesome conflict...

The Mullen briefing and Petraeus's request hit the White House like a bombshell. While Petraeus's request that CENTCOM be expanded to include the Palestinians was denied ("it was dead on arrival," a Pentagon officer confirms), the Obama administration decided it would redouble its efforts -- pressing Israel once again on the settlements issue, sending Mitchell on a visit to a number of Arab capitals and dispatching Mullen for a carefully arranged meeting with the chief of the Israeli General Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi. While the American press speculated that Mullen's trip focused on Iran, the JCS Chairman actually carried a blunt, and tough, message on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: that Israel had  to see its conflict with the Palestinians "in a larger, regional, context" -- as having a direct impact on America's status in the region. Certainly, it was thought, Israel would get the message.

Israel didn't. When Vice President Joe Biden was embarrassed by an Israeli announcement that the Netanyahu government was building 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, the administration reacted. But no one was more outraged than Biden who, according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, engaged in a private, and angry, exchange with the Israeli Prime Minister. Not surprisingly, what Biden told Netanyahu reflected the importance the administration attached to Petraeus's Mullen briefing:  "This is starting to get dangerous for us," Biden reportedly told Netanyahu. "What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace." Yedioth Ahronoth went on to report: "The vice president told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel's actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism." The message couldn't be plainer: Israel's intransigence could cost American  lives."

Read the whole of Perry's report here

Philip Weiss observes, Suddenly the special relationship is embarrasing,

My initial joy over the Biden insult was not misplaced. The Israeli blunder has catalyzed a new moment in the US-Israel special relationship and maybe, just maybe the beginning of the end. The lead thinktank of the Israel lobby today proclaims that US-Israel relations are "perilous." AIPAC panicked last night. Michael Oren is alarmed.

The Obama administration seemed to relish the opportunity to distance itself from Israel almost as if it had been rehearsing for a break and was only waiting for the provocation. Everyone piled on. Hillary was sharply critical, Joe Biden was critical to Netanyahu’s face,  on Saturday there is the General Petraeus leak, and on Sunday David Axelrod is critical on the Sunday talk shows.

Displaying the same arrogance shown by Netanyahu, AIPAC has basically told the US Administration to "back off". According to the BBC, "Aipac, the powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the US, said recent US statements were a matter of "serious concern" - and the US should "take immediate steps to defuse the tension" - in other words, it should back off."

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Peacemaking in Beit Jala

Just back from the Beit Jala demonstration. Tasted first hand Israeli military brutality. It was a non violent peaceful demonstration. We were a group of about 70 international, Israeli and Palestinian peace activists protesting against the theft of land and the destruction of hundreds of olive trees to enable the Israeli government to build its illegal apartheid barrier right through the middle of Beit Jala, leaving West Bank Palestinians from the village on both sides of the barrier. By cutting Beit Jala in half, the Israeli government are creating a so called 'security threat' , thereby giving the lie to the idea that the barrier is designed to increase security for Israelis. It is not. It is designed to steal land for further colonisation in flagrant breach of the 4th Geneva Convention.


As we walked down the road toward the construction site, and at least 100 yards away from the Israeli soldiers they fired stun grenades at us. One fell at my feet and blasted my ears repeatedly. They literally stun you. Thankfully my hearing aids were unable to cope with the extreme sound and shock waves created but it was still painful and disorientating.


The action was totally unnecessary and provocative in the extreme. We eventually confronted the soldiers and remonstrated with them politely concerning the illegality of their actions under international law. They produced a paper declaring our demonstration illegal under Israeli military law. Orwellian in the extreme. 1984 had nothing on this travesty.


When Israel acts in such a beligerant and provocative way, disregarding the norms of democratic society it loses what little credability it had.

Tony Campolo on Christian Zionism and the Israeli Occupation of Palestine

Tony Campolo on the Israeli Occupation of Palestine from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Tony Campolo is in Bethlehem for the international conference, Christ at the Checkpoints conference. He speaks frankly about the role of Christian Zionism in perpetuating the illegal and immoral colonisation of Palestine by Israel. Enjoy!

War Crimes on Sunday in Palestine

Today there is another total closure of the West Bank for Palestinians. The 'lock-down' is for three days. Its the second closure this week. And it constitutes a war crime as a 'collective punishment' under the 4th Geneva Convention. Israel says it is for security but it would because its illegal occupation naturally makes the army feel insecure.

At 6.00am we went to the checkpoint in Bethlehem to see the hundreds of Palestinians who normally queue from 2:00am or 3:00am in the morning to get through at 5.00am to look for work as day labourers or are fortunate to have jobs in Israel. They are the lucky ones to get day permits. They must be out by 7.00pm though otherwise they will lose their permit. Today there were only a handful of medical cases allowed through.

This behaviour would not be tolerated anywhere else in the Western world. Why here?

Read more at Al Jazeera and Ma'an News

 

Sami Awad on Non-Violent Resistance Against the Israeli Occupation

Sami Awad on Non-Violent Resistance Against the Israeli Occupation from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Dr Sami Awad is the founder of the Holy Land Trust.

Holy Land Trust is a not-for-profit organization established in Bethlehem in 1998. Holy Land Trust (HLT) seeks to empower the community through mobilizing its strengths and resources in order to address the challenges of the present and create real opportunities for the future.

Through a commitment to the principles of nonviolence, HLT seeks to develop spiritual, pragmatic, and strategic approaches that will empower the Palestinian community to resist all forms of oppression, and engage this same community in making the Holy Land be what it is supposed to be: a global model and pillar of understanding, respect, justice, equality and peaceful coexistence.

To strengthen international involvement and advocacy in order to achieve this purpose, Holy Land Trust has created unique travel and encounter programs as well as authentic and comprehensive media and news programs.

holylandtrust.org

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Protest Against Olive Trees Being Uprooted in Beit Jala, Bethlehem.

Tomorrow morning (Sunday) I am joining a demonstration along with other internationals and locals from Beit Jala whose land has been confiscated by the Israelis to build their apartheid Hafrada Separation Wall. In recent weeks the Israeli military has uprooted and destroyed many olive trees that lie in the path of the route of the wall.
The first week of March 2010 was the start of a nonviolence direct action initiative in Beit Jala.  These actions are in response to construction of a new section of the Separation Wall  in Beit Jala.   This new section of the illegal wall will be taking lands from thirty-five families  and taking 280.9 dunums in the western section of the city.   Many families have already had their olive trees uprooted, sewage systems damaged, and personal property, including several privacy walls and one playground, destroyed.
ImageThe direct action took place in the “Al Khaleh” area of Beit Jala, where the road that leads to the Cremisan Monastery.   Holy Land Trust, along with International Solidarity movement (ISM) and the Bethlehem Popular Committee Against The Wall and Settlements mobilized a group of Palestinians, internationals and Israeli activists.  The aim of this action was to stop the uprooting of the olive trees and be physically present at those lands under threat from the Israeli occupation forces. The first activity took place early in the morning of March 3rd, where dozens of Israeli soldiers and security officers started pushing and dragging the activists away from the demonstration, mistreating and arresting the demonstrators in the process.  On March 4th, a group of activists were again mobilized to arrive in the early morning hours to protect the remaining olive trees. Some activists chained themselves to ancient trees marked for removal, while others formed into small groups for their own safety. As soldiers and police officers gathered on the scene, activists chanted slogans against both the Separation Wall and the Israeli occupation, and also replanted uprooted trees. After a few hours, the activists received confirmation that a work-stop-order had in fact been obtained and that no trees would be uprooted that day.
On March 6th, 2010, several activists met Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Beit Jala, who expressed support for the popular struggle against further land theft, and planted more uprooted trees on the razed land.

On March 7th, 2010, a group of 200 protestors gathered at the Orthodox Club in Beit Jala and marched through the threatened lands towards near Road 60, a well-known Isareli bypass route that has torn through the Bethlehem District, chanting slogans, waving the Palestinian flag and holding banners inscribed with such statements as This is not security. This is Land Theft. The activists were prevented from planting olive tree seedlings as clashes erupted between protestors and soldiers, who fired tear gas and stun grenades at the crowd. Several activists and residents suffered tear gas inhalation and a member of the Popular Committee was temporarily detained. Later, soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets, leaving three journalists and a young Palestinian hurt. Nonetheless, the activists sat down in defiance and chanted songs against the Occupation.

On March 1th, 2010, after the appeal is being affected for stopping the work until this moment in Beit Jala , demonstrators and supporters helped epair the yard of the Ghanem Family, replanting the trees that were uprooted and returning the children’s swings that were took out of the yard, and putting them back in their place.

Attempt to Legalize Land Theft Thwarted

Between March 2nd and March 3rd, Israeli bulldozers uprooted 70 olive trees overall, rapidly creating “facts on the ground” before lawyers could challenge the most recent barrage of confusing orders designed to “legalize” the ongoing land theft under Israeli law: Israeli authorities base this newest act of land theft on a confiscation order from December 2006, which would have turned the lands in question into “state land”. However, the confiscation order had expired in December 2008, and a new order from February 2010 attempted to retroactively validate it. Challenging the legality of the current confiscation in front of the Israeli Civil Administration and then in front of the Supreme Court, the legal representative of the Beit Jala municipality, obtained a stop-work order on March 4th, granting the municipality seven days to appeal.

While there has been some success in halting the attempts of the Israeli occupational forces to steal further parcels of land, it is clear that this most recent struggle for the future of the Bethlehem district and the West Bank as part of a sustainable Palestinian state is only beginning.
To see videos :

For  more photos :
http://www.flickr.com/photos/activestills/sets/72157623571453356/
http://www.demotix.com/news/267265/anti-wall-protests-continue-beit-jala

Read more here International Middele East Media Centre 

and here Stop the Wall

Source: Holy Land Trust

Crossing an Israeli Checkpoint

Christ at the Checkpoint from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

A few days ago Colin Chapman and I crossed on foot through the Israeli military checkpoint in the illegal Separation Barrier surrounding Ghetto Bethlehem. As of today Israel has shut down the Occupied Territories so no Palestinians can leave. This is called 'Collective Punishment' and constitutes a war crime under international law.


Here are a few photos taken at the Bethlehem Israeli checkpoint. It is shocking to think that human beings have to endure this indignity on a daily basis assuming they are fortunate enough to have permission to work on the outside of Ghetto Bethlehem, or have permission to visit a hospital or school in Jerusalem. The checkpoint reminded me of a cattle abattoir. 


It took us a half hour waiting for someone to let us through - we were lucky. Palestinians will wait hours to cross one of these checkpoints. South African apartheid had nothing on this.   The Separation Wall (read apartheid) was not built primarily for security but to steal yet Palestinian land - because of course this is Palestine not Israel. Were it for security, the route chosen would not have placed over 100,000 West Bank Palestinians on the Israeli side of the defacto border... 

When I walked through the barrier last night, relatively easily because of my British passport, it reminded me of Germany in the 1930's when a democratic civil society accepted the inhumane treatment of some of its citizens classified by their ethnicity on the grounds of security. It makes me speculate about what will be tolerated next.

Canon Niam Ateek on Sabeel and the Future of Palestine


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Canon Dr Naim Ateek talks about the challenges faced by the Palestinian Christian community living under Israeli military occupation. See sabeel.org

Mubarak & Bishara Awad on Non-Violent Resistance to Occupation

In thse two short interviews Dr Mubarak Awad and Dr Bishara Awad talk about their ministry and hopes for the international conference Christ at the Checkpoint.



Dr Mubarak Awad is the Founder and national President of the Youth Advocate Program, which provides alternative foster care and counseling to "at risk" youth and their families. He is also the Founder of the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in Jerusalem, and was deported by the Israeli Supreme court in 1988 after being jailed for organizing activities involving nonviolent civil disobedience. Dr. Awad has since formed Nonviolence International, which works with various movements and organizations across the globe. aupeace.org/faculty/awad





Dr Bashara Awad is the Principal of Bethlehem Bible College. In this short interview he shares his hopes for the international conference Christ at the Checkpoint. See christatthecheckpoint.com

Live from Bethlehem: Israel and the Church

I give my presentation here at the international Christ at the Checkpoints conference in Bethlehem in two hours. 9:00am Palestine time. You can watch live transmission feed from the conference here:
 
Arabic Feed || English Feed

The text of my presentation is here:

Other resources based on my book Zion's Christian Soldiers can be found here

Friday, 12 March 2010

Payback for Monica? Clinton Rebukes Israel Twice in Two Weeks

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sharply rebuked Israel over its recent decision to build new settlements in East Jerusalem.

She told Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu by telephone that the move was "deeply negative" for US-Israeli relations. Correspondents say the sharp language underlines Washington's growing irritation with Israel. Israel's announcement overshadowed a visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden aimed at restarting peace talks. Since then the Palestinians have indicated they won't return to the negotiating table unless the Israeli decision is revoked.

Read more of the BBC Report here

Only a week ago, Clinton was rebuking Israel for plans to demolish 80 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. See Donald McIntyre in the Independent here.

Participate Live in Christ at the Checkpoint Conference


Bethlehem Bible College invites you to participate in a unique conference of Palestinian and international Evangelical Christians concerning the theology of the land. The aim is equip the global church to understand Scripture as it relates to the Palestinian context, and to discuss the theological importance of Peace and Justice in an Evangelical context. 

Our hope is to provide a forum for evangelicals who take the Bible seriously to prayerfully seek a well-informed awareness of issues of peace, justice and reconciliation which are contextually sensitive as well profound to scriptural scholarship.


Watch live transmission feed from the conference
Arabic Feed || English Feed

Christ at the Checkpoint

The international Bethlehem Bible Conference 'Christ at the Checkpoint' begins today. Speakers include Tony Campolo, Brother Andrew, Gary Burge, Lynn Hybels, Paul Alexander, Alex Awad and Salim Muniyer. Here are a few photos taken at the Bethlehem Israeli checkpoint.
It is shocking to think that human beings have to endure this indignity on a daily basis assuming they are fortunate enough to have permission to work on the outside of Ghetto Bethlehem, or have permission to visit a hospital or school in Jerusalem. The checkpoint reminded me of a cattle abattoir.

It took us a half hour waiting for someone to let us through - we were lucky. Palestinians will wait hours to cross one of these checkpoints. South African apartheid had nothing on this.


The Separation Wall (read apartheid) was not built primarily for security but to steal yet Palestinian land - because of course this is Palestine not Israel. Were it for security, the route chosen would not have placed over 100,000 West Bank Palestinians on the Israeli side of the defacto border...

When I walked through the barrier last night, relatively easily because of my British passport, it reminded me of Germany in the 1930's when a democratic civil society accepted the inhumane treatment of some of its citizens classified by their ethnicity on the grounds of security. It makes me speculate about what will be tolerated next.