Monday, 31 May 2010

Turkish Authorities Insist Gaza Flotilla Civilians Were Unarmed

International condemnation of Israel's attack on civilians in international waters is gathering momentum.

Philip Weiss writes, "In the eyes of much of the world, this was a massacre, the dead will be seen as martyrs, and the moral bankruptcy of the Jewish state revealed in sharper clarity than ever before." 

Accordng to the Turkish newspaper Todays Zaman,

Turkish officials have denied claims leveled by Israeli authorities that weapons were onboard one of the six aid ships attacked by Israel on Monday.

Officials from the Customs Undersecretariat said every passenger was searched before getting on the ship with the help of X-ray machines and metal detectors. Senior officials from the undersecretariat said Israel's allegations were tantamount to “complete nonsense.”

Officials from the Customs Undersecretariat said all passengers that boarded the Mavi Marmara ship were screened and that not a single passenger was in possession of any weapon. “Forty-two passengers boarded in İstanbul and 504 passengers got on the ship here. They were screened. We spotted no weapons and there is no such record in our logs. We did not notice anything suspicious about the Mavi Marmara. Had our officers had any suspicions, they would have reported it,” an official, speaking under the condition of anonymity, said.

The undersecretariat has cutting-edge technology at all ports and airports. In addition to advanced detectors and X-ray scanners, the undersecretariat uses highly trained sniffer dogs. In fact, there has been a great increase in the capture of criminals by teams of the Customs Undersecretariat, which uses the vessel monitoring system of the Marine Undersecretariat. Previously, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) was the only agency with access to this system.

Officials from the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), the organization that organized the aid flotilla, also shared their opinions yesterday at a press conference. İHH officials say they were extremely concerned about the fate of those injured in Israel's attack, particularly since all communications have been cut off by Israeli officials.

İHH Vice President Yavuz Dede said: “We have explained that these ships comprised a humanitarian aid flotilla and were not, in any way, politically motivated. All the supplies on the ships had gone through customs control. There is absolutely no weaponry or ammunition on the ship. The people on the ship were not soldiers. They are members of civil society groups, members of the press and deputies. The people who went there had set to provided at least a bit of breathing space for the people there.”

Dede said they had expected Israel to make the false accusation that there were weapons on the ship in an attempt to legitimize the atrocious act of storming a humanitarian aid ship and killing people onboard. He said what happened was a shame for the entire human race.

He also condemned Israel's campaign of disinformation. Dede said that two people were killed and 30 wounded during the military assault, but noted that they could not follow later developments because communication with the ship had been lost. He said they were extremely worried by this situation, adding that they had expected some sort of intervention, but nothing like this. “We thought they would be more humane, but we saw a monstrous intervention,” Dede said.
 See also Paul Woodward on Israeli Piracy Facing Armed Attack in International Waters

And Richard Silverstein on Demands for International Investigation 

Philip Weiss has some of the most incisive comments and sources:


See also Free Gaza, and Al Jazeera,

Israeli attacks and Kills 16 in Gaza Humanitarian Convoy

Aljazeera is reporting that 16 people were killed and 30 injured when the Israeli Navy attacked the humanitarian flotilla of vessels trying the break the seige of Gaza. Thwy claim this act of piracy occured in international waters. Philip Weiss is showing live streaming from Turkish TV who are on board one of the vessels.
Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country's siege on Gaza. Up to 16 people were killed and more than 30 people injured when troops stormed the Freedom Flotilla early on Monday, the Israeli Army Radio said. The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast.Footage from the flotilla's lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, showed armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and helicopters flying overhead. Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, on board the Mavi Marmara, said Israeli troops had used live ammunition during the operation.
The Israeli Army Radio said soldiers opened fire "after confronting those on board carrying sharp objects". Free Gaza Movement, the organisers of the flotilla, however, said the troops opened fire as soon as they stormed the ships. They also said the ships were now being towed to the Israeli town of Haifa, instead of Ashdod to avoid waiting journalists. Earlier, the Israeli navy had contacted the captain of the Mavi Marmara, asking him to identify himself and say where the ship was headed.
Israeli intervention

IN DEPTH
 
Focus: On board the Freedom Flotilla
Blog: Israel's navy will have its work cut out
Aid convoy sets off for Gaza
'Fighting to break Gaza siege'
Born in Gaza
'The future of Palestine'



Shortly after, two Israeli naval vessels had flanked the flotilla on either side, but at a distance. Organisers of the flotilla carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid then diverted their ships and slowed down to avoid a confrontation during the night.
They also issued all passengers life jackets and asked them to remain below deck.
Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Jerusalem, said the Israeli action was surprising. "All the images being shown from the activists on board those ships show clearly that they were civilians and peaceful in nature, with medical supplies on board. So it will surprise many in the international community to learn what could have possibly led to this type of confrontation," he said.
Read more here. According to the BBC 
The Israeli navy has stormed at least one of a convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip, amid reports of casualties on board. Israeli TV says that up to 14 people have been killed. Israel has declined to comment.

The exact location of the interception is unclear. Israel had warned the ships not to enter its territorial waters. The ships are carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid to the Gaza Strip in an effort to break an Israeli blockade.Turkish TV pictures taken on board the Turkish ship leading the flotilla show Israeli soldiers fighting to control passengers.

The footage showed a number of people, apparently injured, lying on the ground. The sound of gunshots could be heard. It is not clear whether the fighting is ongoing.
Read more here

Sunday, 30 May 2010

UN Calls Israeli Blockade of Gaza a "Medieval Siege"



Jon Donnison reports on the BBC, the latest news of the flotilla of boats attempting to break the 3 year old Isreaeli seige of Gaza.

"Hundreds of human rights activists aboard a flotilla of ships trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza say they hope to arrive later on Sunday. But Israel's navy remains adamant that this will not be allowed to happen."

Read more here

In this interview, Jeff Halper, Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, comments on the flotilla attempting to reach Gaza. He calls on us to side with the people of Gaza and the activists on the boats against the unjust and immoral policies of the Israeli government.

Two of the boats in the flotilla are flagged and registered in the United States, which means they are U.S. territory. Therefore the Free Gaza Movement expect the U.S. government to intervene if U.S. property is wrongly confiscated by Israeli authorities as they have threatened. Israel has yet to return the Spriit of Humanity, registered under a Greek flag. Please contact the American State Department and ask them what their plans are in case this happens. They can be contacted at (202) 647-4000 (24-hour number) or publicaffairs@panet.us.state.gov This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Power of Non-Violent Resistance

Heather Sharp writing for BBC News describes events this week in Beit Jala where the Holy land Trust are promoting non-violent resistance to the brutal and illegal Israeli military occupation.

It is strangely quiet. About 40 mainly Palestinian protesters face off with a line of armed Israeli soldiers over coils of razor wire.
They calmly explain they want access to land Israel has confiscated to build its West Bank barrier. Chanting begins, followed by impassioned speeches in Hebrew, English and Arabic.
"You soldiers standing here, blocking Palestinians from walking on their own land, you need to think about what you're doing," lectures one young woman. "What will you tell your children?" asks an older man. The troops stare impassively ahead.
'Excuse to shoot'
Beit Jala is one of a growing number of Palestinian villages holding regular protests against Israel's occupation of the West Bank. Many end with Palestinian youths throwing stones and Israeli troops firing tear gas and sometimes rubber-coated bullets.
Ahmad Lazza, non-violent protest trainer
Non-violence is stronger than militant action... Once people want something, nothing can stop them
Ahmad Lazza
Non violent protest trainer

But organisers in Beit Jala, such as Ahmad Lazza of the Holy Land Trust who trains protesters in non-violent tactics, are determined to keep things peaceful.

This is partly out of personal belief, and partly about avoiding escalation with Israeli soldiers. "You don't want him to feel threatened, because it is a very good excuse for him to shoot you," he says.
Read more here 

I participated in one of these non-violent protests in Beit Jala recently. We were fired upon by Israeli soldiers even though it was clear we were unarmed.

You can view photos of  Beit Jala and also Al Masara. You can meet the Israeli soldiers here.

Read more here:

Nikon D800 July Launch

The long awaited 24 MP successor to the 12 MP Nikon D700 and competitor for the 21 MP Canon 5D Mark II will (probably) be announced in July. How do we know? Because Nikon are giving away the MB-D10 battery pack as a sweetner to shift stocks of the D700. The battery pack retails on Amazon for £343. The offer runs from 1st May 2010 to 30th June 2010. So, something is going to happen in July... I am saving my pennies.

For the latest see Nikon rumours and our friend Ken Rockwell.

Palestine: In the Vital National Security Interest of the United States and Israel

The stranglehold Israel exerts over the US Congress and the Senate is showing signs of fatique. A letter signed by 61 members of Congress, led by Reps. Bill Delahunt (MA), Ron Kind (WI), David Price (NC), and Vic Snyder (AR), supports the President in his efforts to achieve a two-state solution because it is in the vital national security interest of both the United States and Israel.

Amy Spitalnick on J Street points out that the letter quotes General David Petraeus, Commander of the US Central Command, as well as former Israeli Prime Minster and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who both spoke strongly about the urgent need to achieve the two-state resolution that is crucial to American and Israeli national interests.

The question is, are we talking about a Bantustan Palestinian State or an independent, viable, contiguous, sovereign State?

Here's the letter:
 
The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As steadfast advocates of the unbreakable U.S. commitment to the security of Israel, we write in support of your strong commitment to a Middle East peace process that results in Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security.

Distinguished leaders with decades of military service in both the United States and Israel have concluded that the continued lack of resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict threatens the security interests of both countries. General David H. Petraeus, Commander of U.S. Central Command, presented compelling testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March on the impact that, in his words, “insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace” has had on American security interests in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Specifically, General Petraeus stated that “The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance [U.S.] interests in the [region].... The conflict foments anti-American sentiment…Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the [region] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas.”

Senior national security leaders in Israel have expressed similar views. Former Prime Minister and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel’s most decorated military leader, has stated that "The lack of a solution to the problem of border demarcation within the historic Land of Israel…is the most serious threat to Israel's future." In the words of Defense Minister Barak, “the reality is that there is a profound need, which stems from Israel's interests to ensure its future and its identity. We have an interest in drawing a border line which includes a solid Jewish majority for generations, and beside it an economically and politically viable Palestinian state. The agreement on this line will come hand in hand with protecting Israel's security interests.”

As legislators tasked with safeguarding America’s security – and as friends of Israel committed to our ally’s survival and prosperity – we share the views of these decorated military leaders and urge you to continue your strong efforts to bring U.S. leadership to bear in moving the parties toward a negotiated two-state solution. A just and sustainable end to this conflict will not only secure Israel’s future as a democratic, Jewish homeland – it will also enhance our ability to confront the threats posed by Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other actors in the Middle East, and advance critical U.S. security interests in the region more broadly.

Thank you for your time and attention, and we look forward to your response.


Kind, Ron (D-WI)
Delahunt, William (D-MA)
Price, David (D-NC)
Snyder, Vic (D-AR)
Baird, Brian (D-WA)
Baldwin, Tammy (D-WI)
Blumenauer, Earl (D-OR)
Braley, Bruce (D-IA)
Capps, Lois (D-CA)
Cohen, Steve (D-TN)
Conyers, John (D-MI)
Costello, Jerry (D-IL)
Dahlkemper, Kathy (D-PA)
Davis, Danny (D-IL)
DeFazio, Peter (D-OR)
Dingell, John (D-MI)
Doggett, Lloyd (D-TX)
Doyle, Mike (D-PA)
Edwards, Donna (D-MD)
Ellison, Keith (D-MN)
Eshoo, Anna (D-CA)
Farr, Sam (D-CA)
Filner, Bob (D-CA)
Foster, Bill (D-IL)
Gonzalez, Charlie (D-TX)
Grijalva, Raúl (D-AZ)
Hinchey, Maurice (D-NY)
Hirono, Mazie (D-HI)
Holmes-Norton, Eleanor (D-DC)
Johnson, Eddie Bernice (D-TX)
Kagen, Steve (D-WI)
Kaptur, Marcy (D-OH)
Kilpatrick, Carolyn Cheeks (D-MI)
Kilroy, Mary Jo (D-OH)
Lee, Barbara (D-CA)
Loebsack, David (D-IA)
Lynch, Stephen (D-MA)
McDermott, Jim (D-WA)
McGovern, Jim (D-MA)
Melancon, Charlie (D-LA)
Miller, George (D-CA)
Moran, Jim (D-VA)
Murphy, Scott (D-NY)
Oberstar, Jim (D-MN)
Olver, John (D-MA)
Owens, Bill (D-NY)
Payne, Donald (D-NJ)
Perriello, Tom (D-VA)
Pingree, Chellie (D-ME)
Polis, Jared (D-CO)
Rahall, Nick (D-WV)
Rangel, Charles (D-NY)
Shea-Porter, Carol (D-NH)
Speier, Jackie (D-CA)
Stark, Pete (D-CA)
Tierney, John (D-MA)
Velazquez, Nydia (D-NY)
Waters, Maxine (D-CA)
Watson, Diane (D-CA)
Woolsey, Lynn (D-CA)
Yarmuth, John (D-KY)

Crisis? What Crisis? : U.S.-Israel Relations and the Demise of the Peace Process by Ben White

Ben White has written an excellent article about US-Israeli relations and the demise of the peace process.
I've copied below his intro and conclusions:
In September 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ushered in a much-trumpeted “freeze” on West Bank settlement construction, as a supposed goodwill gesture to revive the defunct peace process. The freeze did not apply to Occupied East Jerusalem, territory which the government argues is part of the Israeli state and not subject to negotiation with the Palestinians. Even in the West Bank, however, the initiative was more a public relations ploy than a sign of changing Israeli policy. Explicitly intended to last a matter of months, the ‘freeze’ excluded both “2,500 housing units already under construction”, as well as “hundreds of new units” announced just prior to the start of the “freeze”. After the announcement, George Mitchell, the U.S. Special Envoy  to the Middle East, was dispatched on a trip described as “a final push to revive Middle East peace talks”. But the transparently disingenuous approach of the Netanyahu government meant that Mitchell’s mission to restart negotiations between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has overseen good relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) on “security issues”, would be doomed to failure.
...

There is a real crisis here – but it is that of the international “peace process”, for so long considered untouchable, heading increasingly swiftly towards its ultimate demise. This is the crisis behind the diplomatic brouhahas and merry-go-round of “freezes”, “proximity talks”, and visits by envoys and emissaries. We are in the final act, and the key players – Israel, the United States, as well as many in the PA – are unable to see beyond the end of the curtain call. In the absence of the will to support a just resolution that implements basic Palestinian rights, the actors are reduced to directionless bumbling as the more perceptive among them panic that the charade has become utterly unconvincing. Meanwhile, Israel’s manufacturing of “new facts” on the ground expands and solidifies with each passing day.  In such a circumstance, it is only a matter of time before U.S. officials are being dispatched afresh, under the shadow of a new intifada.
 Read more here

Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer specializing in Palestine/Israel. His articles have appeared in publications like the Guardian’s ‘Comment is free’, New Statesman, Electronic Intifada, Middle East International, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and others. His first book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, was published in 2009 by Pluto Press.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Christianity Explored in Poland

This weekend I am in Poland with Rico Tice at Orle Gniazdo near Krakow for the launch of the Polish edition of Christianity Explored. There are about 200 Polish church leaders here participating from different denominations. One couple have driven 1000 kilometres to be here.

The conference centre is located in the mountains near Bielsko Biala. I was here for two Summers, in the late 1970s with Campus Crusade for Christ serving with Father Franciszek Blachnicki who founded the Light-Life Oasis Movement to bring renewal to thousands of young people within the Roman Catholic Church.

A Christianity Today article tells the story of this unusual relationship and the individuals who made it possible. I remember Joe Losiak with affection because of the way he looked after us on those amazing Summer projects.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Little Town of Bethlehem



Little Town of Bethlehem, the Trailer, EGM Films

Sami, Ahmad, Yonatan come from radically different backgrounds in a land of unending war. Yet, against all odds, including some within their Israeli and Palestinian communities, they are able to find common ground. They walk a path of nonviolence struggle in lockstep with Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. For them courage is found not in taking up arms, but setting them down once and for all and extending a hand in peace.

From the award-winning team that brought you End of the Spear (2006) and Miss HIV (2007) comes director Jim Hanon’s latest documentary, Little Town of Bethlehem. Unscripted and unrehearsed, discover the humanity lurking behind an ancient cycle of violence.

Featuring: Sami Awad, Ahmad Al’Azzeh, Yonatan Shapira. Music Produced by: Kirk Whalum. Film Design by: Mike Galloway and Mark Arnold. Produced by: Mart Green. Written, Directed and Filmed by: Jim Hanon. Feature running time: Approximately 77 minutes. This film is rated PG-13, Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13, for some violent and disturbing images.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Seattle Pacific University Debates Zionism

Beth Douglass, News Editor of The Falcon, the Seattle Pacific University e-journal, reported on my recent visit there Pastor and author combats Chritian Zionism.

SPU is a very social justice-minded campus, yet there is little conversation about the situation in Palestine, said junior Kristin McCarthy, who helped plan the event.

"So much of our taxpayer money does go to the state of Israel," said Professor of English Doug Thorpe. This makes U.S. Christians deeply invested in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, he said, and people are suffering because of how American foreign policy supports Israel."


 
Michael Dudley also write"Christian Zionism must end"

Kimberly Segall, associate professor of English with specialties in postcolonial literature, international fiction and South African literature, said she went to Israel to find out what it would be like during Jesus' time, to follow in his footsteps.

But as a South African scholar, she was shocked when those footsteps led her to the Palestinian side and into conditions reminiscent of African apartheid. She saw tiny pockets of Palestinian land sliced into pieces by 30-foot walls surrounded by tanks, roadblocks and curfews, with no connections to jobs or trade.

"It's apartheid again," Segall said. "Desmond Tutu, when he went to Israel, said exactly this, this is apartheid and this must stop. Jimmy Carter went and said, 'This is wrong, this must stop.'"

But we are not stopping it. We are funding it. No one should be OK with this, especially Christians who claim to love. If Christians do not take a stand, they are hypocrites. Apartheid is morally indefensible. We saw that in South Africa and we must see that now.

Dudley wrote a follow up article on the new film "With God on our Side"

Monday, 24 May 2010

Christ Church: A Heavenly Perspective


Christ Church: A Heavenly Perspective from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Yesterday, Peter Goddard of OTT brought a cherry picker and we took some photos of the church family from the air. Scary? You bet - but check out the photos here and the video here.



Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Future of the Church of England? Bishop John Ellison


Bishop John Ellison on the Anglican Communion from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

The Right Reverend John Ellison speaks frankly about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. He was until he retired, Bishop of Asuncion, Paraguya. In June 2009, ahead of the Lambeth Conference, he gave this other popular interview

Monday, 17 May 2010

Evangelicals and Israel: A Review


Evangelicals and Israel: The Study of American Christian Zionism: Stephen Spector
Oxford University Press (2009)

After decades of reluctance to address this deeply controversial issue, in recent years there has been a veritable avalanche of books critical of the Christian Zionist movement. Authors include Grace Halsell, Don Wagner, Timothy Weber, Victoria Clark, Dan Cohen-Sherbok, Naim Ateek, Gary Burge, Porter Speakman Jr,as well as two books of my own. It is perhaps therefore not surprising to find a growing reaction among Jewish Zionists who have begun to come to the defence of their Christian allies.

Stephen Spector’s work is representative of this genre of Jewish apologists, which includes Paul Merkley, David Brog, Shalom Goldman and Gerhard Falk. Their agenda appears to be to justify a strand within Christian Zionism that is neither popular nor representative of evangelicalism as a whole, but which nevertheless plays a strategic role within the Israel Lobby.

The book purports to be the story of American evangelical Christian Zionism. It is a good read, as one should expect for a Professor of English. It would be more accurate, however, to describe it as the story of political Christian Zionism as represented by organisations such as Eagles Wings, Bridges for Peace, Christian Friends of Israel, Christians United for Israel and the International Christian Embassy. These self appointed para-church organisations have publically disavowed both proselytism among Jews as well as apocalypticism, based on a reductionist interpretation of the Bible. They are primarily lobby organisations, advocating on behalf of a Zionism among churches and in Washington among politicians.

While critical of both evangelistic Christian Zionism (such as Jews for Jesus) as well as apocalyptic or dispensational Christian Zionism (such as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye), Spector reserves his strongest criticisms for evangelicals who oppose Zionism on theological grounds.

So, although Spector interviewed over 70 Evangelical and Jewish Zionists in the course of his research, he relies on anecdotes and paraphrases to portray the views of those he deems ‘liberal’ or ‘modernist’ who regard biblical Zionism as an oxymoron. The chapter addressing criticisms of Christian Zionism is therefore one of the weakest and least convincing.

It is simply untrue to say that evangelicals who oppose Zionism “are closer to liberal mainline Protestants than to most conservative born-again Christians,” Academics at the bastions of evangelicalism in the USA, such as Fuller and Wheaton, repudiate Christian Zionism just as much as their counterparts in Europe. John Stott, the ‘father’ of evangelicalism, is not alone in describing ‘Christian Zionism’ as ‘biblical anathema’.

If evangelicalism is defined by the centrality of the gospel, the necessity of a personal faith in Jesus Christ, in the authority of the Scriptures and in the verbal proclamation of the gospel to all nations, it is actually Christian Zionists who, having reinterpreted the gospel and disavow proslytism, are closer in spirit to mainstream liberalism rather than conservative evangelicalism.

It is therefore not surprising that it is in assessment of the biblical and theological presuppositions of Christian Zionism that the book is probably at its weakest. While strong on dialogue with Jewish and Christian Zionists, there is little evidence that Spector understands the theological presuppositions and tenuous biblical basis for the various strands of Christian Zionism. He is reassured that none of those he interviewed tried to convert him and that evangelical Zionists can share the gospel in acts of kindness toward the Jews rather than through proselytism. This is not evidence of the orthodoxy of Christian Zionists, just the opposite.

While Old Testament Bible verses are occasionally quoted without context to demonstrate that Zionism is biblically rooted, it is the evangelical critics of Christian Zionism, according to Spector, who ‘unfairly’ quote ‘the biblical prophets to attack the modern state of Israel’.

The fundamental question Christian Zionists avoid is whether the coming of Jesus Christ was the fulfilment or the postponement of the promises God made to Abraham? Which is central to the New Testament – Jesus or Israel? Ironically, Christian Zionists are portrayed as the new Zealots. Like their 1st Century forebears, they are trying to impose a Jewish kingdom by force, something Jesus repudiated. Spector cites, for example and without comment, Jack Hayford as promising, “if the Israelis need soldiers, he and his Pentecostal congregants will fight side by side with them.” Portraying the modern state of Israel as God’s chosen people on earth, the role of the Church is therefore reduce to providing dubious justification for Israel’s colonization of Palestine.

While ostensibly a book about evangelicals, it soon becomes rather tiresome when, in any debate or disagreement posed, it is always Zionists who are given the last word. So, for example, in a dismissal of Walt and Mearsheimer’s definitive work on the Israel Lobby, Spector defers to Alan Dershowitz suggesting the author’s claims “are variations on old anti-Semitic themes of the kind found in the notorious czarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and in Nazi literature.”

Conversely, Spector gives ample space to some of the worst examples of Islamaphobia. There is a deep paranoia regarding the motives of Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular. He refuses to see that Israel could be, in any way responsible, partly or otherwise, for the perpetuation of the Middle East conflict. They are always, in his words, “the victims of injustice, not the perpetrators.”

Disappointingly, for a book with 82 pages of notes and indexes, there is no conclusion or summary chapter. It is as if the publisher has left it out by mistake or needed to reduce the word count. Whatever the reason, the book is weaker for it.

Instead, the last chapter is given to an assessment of the influences on George W Bush’s Middle East policy. Here Spector tries to downplay the impact of the Israel Lobby. Without really explaining why, he would have us believe there is “broad and deep support” for Israel in America because “that position is politically sound and morally just, not because of political pressure or influence” from evangelicals. Ironically, he gives the last sentence in the book to Hal Lindsey.

If first impressions count, the eulogy on the back cover from Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, must surely be the kiss of death to any work claiming to be balanced or objective. One surprised Cambridge academic did ask me rhetorically, who on earth could have possibly vetted the book for Oxford University Press? One wonders. But then it is worth remembering that it was the Oxford University Press who published (and still publishes) the first Christian defence of Zionism, namely the Scofield Reference Bible.

See Stephen Sizer and Challenging Christian Zionism websites and the film With God on our Side for the best refutation of Christian Zionism

The Separation Wall: With God on our Side


With God On Our Side: The Separation Barrier from Porter Speakman Jr on Vimeo.

This is a 3 minute preview from the film "With God On Our Side". To see the whole film order from Amazon in the US - or from me in the UK.

Check out Vimeo for more film snippets and background interviews.

Dave Robinson on Christian-Muslim Dialogue


Dave Robinson on World Vision from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Dave Robinson is Senior Advisor for Global Operations at World Vision. We met up at the Evangelical Christian-Muslim Dialogue consultation organised by Bridges of Peace in Toronto.

In this short interview I wanted to ask him what he felt are the most important issues for Christians to keep in mind when working with Muslims.

For more information see http://www.wvi.org/ and also http://meero.worldvision.org/

Air Canada Flies

I now have a seat on Air Canada flight 868 departing 8.50am and arriving about 9.30pm on Tuesday evening. Well done Air Canada for rescheduling me so soon. Hopefully the ash cloud that has shut Heathrow will dissapate by Tuesday evening.

Ash Sunday


Its Sunday evening and I am sitting in Toronto International airport. Heathrow and Gatwick are closed due to the ash cloud and our flight home to the UK tonight is postponed. Unlike European airlines Air Canada will accept no responsibility for passengers. It may be a long stay here in Canada. This is beginning to have a familiar ring about it. Creative ideas gratefully appreciated by email.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Statement from Anglican Mainstream following the consecration of Mary Glasspool as Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles, USA

In her letter to the Primates, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (TEC) Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, confirmed that the consecration of the openly gay Mary Glasspool is not a random event but comes from the settled mind of her church.  Sadly, this shows that TEC has now explicitly decided to walk apart from most of the rest of the Communion.

Since that decision by TEC has to be respected, it should result in three consequences. First, TEC withdrawing, or being excluded from the Anglican Communion's representative bodies.    Second, a way must be found to enable those orthodox Anglicans who remain within TEC to continue in fellowship with the Churches of the worldwide Communion. Third, the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) should now be recognized an authentic Anglican Church within the Communion.

Dr Philip Giddings, Convenor,
Canon Dr Chris Sugden Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream

Statement from Anglican Mainstream following the consecration of Mary Glasspool as Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles, USA

See also TEC’s self mutilation gathers pace Bishop John Harrower
 

Evangelical Christians and Muslims Engage in “Bridges of Faith” Conversation

Evangelical Christian and Muslim scholars and religious leaders met May 13-15 in Toronto for the fourth in a series of “extended conversations” between the two faith traditions. The dialogue, titled “Foundations of Our Faith: Religion in the Public Square,” is part of an ongoing effort to “reach out across the religious boundaries despite the recognized differences in some of our essential religious beliefs,” according to organizers.

The conference was organized around the framework of the “five pillars” of Islam. Muslim scholars presented papers on each of the pillars and other key concepts, paired with a complementary paper by Evangelical Christian scholars. One panel, for instance, focused on “Hajj in Islam” and “Pilgrimage and Religious Geography in Evangelical Christianity.” Another panel addressed “The True Meaning of Jihad in Islam” and “Taking up the Cross in Evangelical Christianity.”

The invitation-only dialogue group, called “Bridges of Faith” (www.bridgesoffaith.org), has been sponsored by the World Islamic Call Society. The group first met in Chicago in 2007, followed by gatherings in Tripoli, Libya, and at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

Participants in the Evangelical-Muslim dialogue came to Toronto from the Middle East, Europe, and from across North America, and from institutions including the Hartford Seminary MacDonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Arab Team for Muslim-Christian Dialogue, as well as from Fuller Seminary, Wheaton College, the Arab Baptist Theological seminary, North Park University, and other institutions.

Keynote speaker Dr. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, affirmed the importance of Muslim-Evangelical Christian dialogue and commended the focus of the conference on the five pillars of Islam as a basis for conversation at this conference.

Mahmoud Ayoub said of the gathering, “As Muslims, we do this in response to the Quran’s call to all humanity to submit to the One true God.” Dr. Ayoub is professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford (Conn.) Seminary.

“As Evangelical Christians, we do this in emulation of Jesus, who through his teaching and life invited all of humanity into a relationship with God that transcends any single religious institution,” said co-convener Dr. Don Wagner, Executive Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University in Chicago.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

US Aid Funding Israeli Apartheid Roads in Palestine


Jonathan Cook reports that USAid has been funding illegal settler roads in the Occupied Territories despite promsies from the US administration to the contrary.
The construction of sections of a controversial segregated road network in the West Bank planned by Israel for Palestinians -- leaving the main roads for exclusive use by settlers -- is being financed by a US government aid agency, a map prepared by Palestinian researchers has revealed.

USAid, which funds development projects in Palestinian areas, is reported to have helped to build 114km of Israeli-proposed roads, despite a pledge from Washington six years ago that it would not assist in implementing what has been widely described as Israel’s “apartheid road” plan.

To date the agency has paid for the construction of nearly a quarter of the segregated road network put forward by Israel in 2004, said the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ).

Read more here

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

Friday, 14 May 2010

The Christian Jihadist


Taking up the Cross in Evangelical Christianity:
The Perspective of a Christian Jihadist


I am in Toronto, Canada for a three day conference arranged by the Evangelical Christian-Muslim Dialogue Group. The aim is to create a common framework for extended conversation between Evangelical Christian and Muslim scholars and religious leaders. The ultimate goal is to commit ourselves to a dialogue that will build a deep and lasting trust that will remain despite any obstacles that may arise.

The video game taking Christian America by storm is entitled ‘Left Behind: Eternal Forces’. Controversially, it encourages players to kill anyone who resists conversion to Christianity. As Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft battle it out for domination of the electronic game world, the games’ creator anticipates a ready market among those who have already bought 63 million copies of the ‘Left Behind’ novels.

The game is set in New York City, a rather unusual venue for the Battle of Armageddon you might think since New York doesn’t actually get a mention in the Bible. It is, however, the location of the United Nations headquarters and that is the clue.  Never popular among conservative evangelicals, in Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the bad guys are the Global Community Peacekeepers, who are on a search and destroy mission in Manhattan. Their target is the remnant of newly converted Bible-believers, left behind when Christians were apparently raptured secretly to heaven. These new believers, left on earth, form a Christian army called the Tribulation Force.

Under the heading ‘Turn or Burn?’ a review by Focus on the Family suggests this might be: “the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior—and use to raise some interesting questions along the way.”

In an interview with Tim LaHaye, the author, Focus on the Family asked whether Christians will really be expected to militarize in the future? “He told Plugged In Online that this fictionalized depiction in the books, movies and now video games is a representation “of the self preservation instinct of the much-persecuted saints during the Tribulation.”[1]

What a relief. It’s all right to kill then if it is out of self preservation. Players pray for their adversaries “and try to do good spiritual things for them” but at a certain point, it becomes acceptable to kill them.  A rather more sceptical review from a Jewish perspective, by Jews on First, observes that,

“The goals of the game are simple: Spread the gospel, and stay alive. But staying alive may sometimes lead to the taking of life — “fighting hellfire with hellfire”.  And that raises a knotty moral conundrum for any game designer who worships Jesus, the Prince of Peace.”[2]

Sadly, we would not be here if we were merely debating the merits of a children’s video game. The theological presuppositions behind the Left Behind video and books are known as Christian Zionism. The Christian Zionist movement has somewhere between 30 and 100 million supporters in the USA alone. It is undoubtedly therefore a significant part of the Israel Lobby helping to shape American attitudes and policies in the Middle East.

Let me give you a couple of examples. Following the tragedy of 9/11 and the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York, multi-bestselling author and Christian journalist Anne Coulter, wrote,

“We don’t need long investigations of the forensic evidence to determine with scientific accuracy the person or persons who ordered this specific attack. We don’t need an “international coalition.” We don’t need a study on “terrorism.” … We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.  We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.”[3]

More recently, at the July 19th, 2006, inaugural event for Christians United for Israel, in Washington DC, after recorded greetings from the then President, George W. Bush, and in the presence of four US Senators as well as the Israeli ambassador to the US, Pastor John Hagee, stated :

“The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.”[4] John Hagee is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio (a church of 19,000 members). His views are carried in America on 160 TV stations, 50 radio stations and eight networks which combined are heard or seen weekly in 99 million homes.

Many Christians in the US as well as Europe repudiate Christian Zionism as a gross distortion of Christianity and grave insult to the teachings of Jesus the Christ. The Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism was formed monitor and challenge this destructive movement. Resources can be accessed at, www.Christianzionism.org.

I have written two books on the movement, Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? and Zion’s Christian Soldiers? The Bible, Israel and the Church.

Most recently Porter Speakman has produced a new film challenging Christian Zionism called With God on our Side which is available at this conference. How can we best challenge this misuse or abuse of Christianity in sacralising a belligerent foreign policy that is bringing Muslims, Jews and Christians into conflict?

What follows is not a critique of Islamic Jihad. We are grateful to Dr Afsaruddin for her very illuminating paper on “The True Meaning of Jihad in Islam”.  Nor will this be a defence of pacifism or of the Just War Theory. For that I recommend J. Daryl Charles, Between Pacifism and Jihad: Just War and Christian Tradition.

My title is “Taking up the Cross in Evangelical Christianity”.  I have subtitled it, “The Perspective of a Christian Jihadist”.  I want to give a simple, personal reading of the teaching of Jesus the Christ and his Apostles on the Christian jihad.  I want to show how the Scriptures refute the misuse of the Bible to justify an apocalyptic or colonialist agenda in the Middle East.  I have five headings.

1. The Nature of Christian Jihad
2. The Extent of Christian Jihad
3. The Strategy of Christian Jihad
4. The Weapons of Christian Jihad
5. The Purpose of Christian Jihad

Read the rest of this entry »

Bridges of Faith Conference, Toronto

I am in Toronto, Canada for a three day conference arranged by the Evangelical Christian-Muslim Dialogue Group. The aim is to create a common framework for extended conversation between Evangelical Christian and Muslim scholars and religious leaders. The ultimate goal is to commit ourselves to a dialogue that will build a deep and lasting trust that will remain despite any obstacles that may arise. 

Participants include faculty from:

North Park University, Chicago
Wheaton College,Illinois
Hartford Seminary
Temple University
Point Loma Nazarene University
Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena
Lake Forest College, Illinois
Nazareth College
Indiana University
Loyola University, Chicago 
Azusa Pacific University, California
Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston
University of Western Ontario, 
St Mary University, Halifax
Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Lebanon, 
Near East School of Theology, Beirut
together with representatives of Sojourners, World Vision, and the World Islamic Call Society.

The keynote address tonight will be given by Dr Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Seminary.  The previous three conferences in Chicago, Tripoli and Pasadena have helped deepen understanding and respect between our faiths and enable participants to address differences constructively. 

At this weekend’s conference I am giving a paper on “Christian Jihad” – to help Muslims see that the ‘struggle’ for the Christian is internal and spiritual and not physical and military. The ‘Holy War’ we fight is not against flesh and blood…. (Ephesians 6).  

Last year's conference was held at Fuller Seminary. My paper there addressed the condition of Christians living as a minority under Islamic rule

My paper is entitled: The Christian Jihadist 

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

With God on our Side: DVD and Study Guide now available



You can now purchase the DVD of the film With God on our Side in the UK for £10 plus £2 for postage and packing.

Please email me for details.

The film is also available in the US from Amazon here.

A Bible study guide for personal and group use is now available for download from here

Check out the latest venues here

Watch interview trailers with Gary Burge, Salim Munayer and Porter Speakman from the film here

For more information see With God on our Side 

Monday, 10 May 2010

Nightmare ZOA

I have just had my worst nightmare in a very long while. It came precisely between 3:00am and 4:00am this morning. I know because I was wide awake, at my desk, on the phone. Chris Gelken, of China Radio International was interviewing me, David Israel Rosen, CEO of the China Transition Institute and Steve Goldberg, Chairman of the Zionist Organisation of America.

David I warmed to. He is Jewish, an Israeli and a Zionist and I liked the guy. He accepted the necessity for Israel to disengage from the Palestinians and withdraw from the Occupied Territories. We agreed that Israel should be accountable to international law like every other sovereign nation. We agreed that AIPAC - the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is seriously bad news for both Israelis and Americans. We agreed the Settlements and Separation Wall must go. I understand why you think Israel needs to be tough and militarily strong. I respect your desire to see Israel safe at peace with her neighbours. I agree with you that time is running out for a negotiated settlement. 

True, we didn't agree on everything, but that is fine. That is what debate is all about - learning from other perspectives than your own, finding out what you have in common and exploring differences from a desire to find agreement where possible. If I ever make it to Beijing I'd like to buy you a beer David. (Although you are a very busy man, I am sure you use Google Alerts as I do).

Steve on the other hand - you scared me witless. I want to think the best of you and I don't want to put words in your mouth, so correct me if I am wrong (as I am sure you will for the same reason as David) but I have to say you made Bibi Netanyahu sound like a wimp and Hamas lover. You blamed the perpetuation of the Middle East conflict entirely on the Arabs. You oppose the withdrawal of Gaza. You seem to favour premptive military action against Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and everyone who refuses to acknowledge Israel's unilateral right to all the Occupied Territories and exclusive claim to Jerusalem. You equated those who favour the Two State solution with Neville Chamberlain and those who wanted to appease Hitler.

We never got round to what you are going to do with the 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank if you get your way but I think I know and its not nice. And what about Arab Israelis? Maybe we shouldn't go there. I suspect you don't trust them either. Steve you scare me. If you get your way, there won't be an Israel in ten years time.

I'm glad we had the conversation, although in future I'd prefer to keep my nightmares in my sleep.

Friday, 7 May 2010

With God on our Side in the UK

I'm sitting in the President Club of Continental Airlines in Newark preparing for my 13th flight in 33 days, that will hopefully get me home. While it was not my intention to fly round the world, its been an awesome opportunity to visit China and the US, and show the film With God on our Side on three different continents. It has been so encouraging to connect with people on both sides of the world who are working non-violently for justice and peace for Palestinians and Israelis.

On the US leg of the tour, the film was shown to young and responsive audiences in Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin, Colorado Springs, Washington and Newark. Besides three showings in Vineyard churches, universities visited included Harvard, Princeton, Seattle Pacific and Azusa Pacific. The feedback was 99% positive from students and faculty alike.

The film is currently #7 in Amazon's Bestsellers category of Religion and DVD sales are growing exponentially week by week.
 
Porter Speakman, the film's producer, will be touring the UK from Sunday 7th-Saturday 13th November. If you are interested in hosting Porter and screening the film during these dates, please let me know.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Son of Hamas

I have been putting off reading Mosab Yousef's book, Son of Hamas, in part because of the media hype but also because, at least in the USA, rightly or wrongly his name has become associated with people like Walid Shoebat who are militantly pro-Zionist and anti-Islamic with equal measure. The last thing the Middle East needs right now is people who inflame tensions, reinforce stereotypes and incite hatred. (Richard Bartholomew has done some additional research here)

But I gave in and read Yousef's book while travelling across the USA to promote our new film, With God on our Side. I am glad I did. I didn't enjoy reading some of the insights he provides into both Israeli and Palestinian prejudice and cruelty. He dispelled some of my romantic notions of the way the military on both sides conduct their operations.

First and foremost, the book is his autobiography, or rather this testimony. It decribes his conversion from  hate to love, from retaliation to forgiveness, from violence to peacemaking, from terrorist to collaborator, from Islam to Christianity, from being the son of Hamas to a follower of Jesus Christ.

There are plenty of excellent interviews and reviews on the web. His story was first told by Avi Issacharoff in an Haaretz exclusive. Hamas son worked for Shin Bet for years   
Yousef was considered the Shin Bet's most reliable source in the Hamas leadership, earning himself the nickname "the Green Prince" - using the color of the Islamist group's flag, and "prince" because of his pedigree as the son of one of the movement's founders.
In the article he appears eager, perhaps too eager for a follower of the Prince of Peace, to join the Israeli military in Gaza. Is there perhaps a hint of the 'Stockholm Syndrome'?
"I wish I were in Gaza now," Yousef said by phone from California, "I would put on an army uniform and join Israel's special forces in order to liberate Gilad Shalit. If I were there, I could help. We wasted so many years with investigations and arrests to capture the very terrorists that they now want to release in return for Shalit. That must not be done." The story of Yousef's spiritual transformation appeared in Haaretz Magazine in August 2008. Only now, however, is Yousef exposing the secret he kept since 1996, when he was first held by Shin Bet agents seeking to enlist him in infiltrating the upper echelon of Hamas.
David Gargill interviewed Yousef for GQ Magazine. Asked about the danger of being seen as a Christian trophy he replied,
Yes, I was worried. But the book is not an advertisement for Christians. When I first sat down with Tyndale, I explained that this is beyond religion, beyond politics. They understood, they sympathized with my story. Of course, they're a Christian publisher, but this isn't a typical Christian book, this is the reality I lived. They were very professional, and the final product is true to life. In two weeks, the Arabic version will be available for free download on dozens of Middle Eastern websites. It's a picture with a lot of honesty; now let people judge.
The book is the autobiography of 32-year-old Mosab Hassan Yousef, the eldest son of Hamas cofounder Sheikh Hassan Yousef. And what a tale Mosab has to tell. As a child, he was a stone-throwing participant in the first intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation that rocked Israel and the Palestinian territories in the early 1990s. Although Mosab had a tender relationship with his father – a man widely regarded as a voice of moderation within Hamas and portrayed by Mosab as a gentle human being – Mosab himself is nearly consumed with hatred fed by the bitter frustration of life under Israeli occupation.

Code-named the “Green Prince” for his position amid the upper echelons of Hamas (whose signature color is green), Mosab goes on to help Israeli intelligence imprison scads of Palestinian resistance leaders (including Marwan Barghouti, who many analysts now believe will play a leading role in the future of Palestinian politics) and head off suicide bombings. At the same time, he wrestles with the agonizing realization that his beloved father will stay alive only if Mosab uses his influence to keep him in the safest possible place: an Israeli prison, where he remains to this day.
Grant points out,
Readers should be forewarned that within the context of debate about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Mosab’s views coincide much more strongly with the Israeli right than with almost any Palestinian faction. His blathering about the nature of Islam reproduces much of the worst of American Islamophobic discourse, while his take on Palestinian-Israeli struggles often reflect hackneyed pablum about the corrupt, opportunistic nature of Palestinian politics.

Reading between the lines, it is easy to question the degree to which Mosab was actually central to the Hamas hierarchy. By 2004, he writes, “Somehow, I had become a key contact for the entire Palestinian network of parties, sects, organizations, and cells – including terrorist cells.” Two pages later, however, he laments that, “after a decade of arrests, imprisonments, and assassinations, the Shin Bet still had no clue who was actually in charge of Hamas. None of us did.”

..through its earnest, intimate style, the book offers an easily accessible entry point to Israeli-Palestinian emotional strife and political intrigue. Although sometimes given to simplistic renderings of a very complex reality, Mosab’s unique journey and poignant moral touchstones makes “Son of Hamas” worth a second look.
 I commend Mosab Yousef's for writing his book. Pray for him in his desire to become a peacemaker like his Master. Pray that he is not exploited or assassinated. Pray that all who presently resort to violence, hatred and fear to achieve their political or religious goals will turn from their evil ways and be brought to repentance. Pray for peace in Israel/Palestine. Pray that those who insist God is on their side will be brought to serve humbly and non-violently to bring justice and peace on God's side through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Little Town of Bethlehem

I'm in Colorado Springs tonight in the home of film producer, Porter Speakman. I'm in the USA to promote our new film With God on our Side. But tonight we are watching someone elses film. Little Town of Bethlehem is produced by Sami Awad and the Holy Land Trust.

It is utterly brilliant. It tells the story of the Arab-Israeli conflict and why non-violence is the only solution to the conflict. If you care about the security of Israel and/or justice for the Palestinians, you must see this film. If you want to be part of the solution instead of the problem, make this film a priority and spread the word.
The film follows the story of three separate men, each from a different religion, who grew up in the Holy Land amidst perpetual war and constant conflict and finding the courage to end violence through nonviolence. “Little Town of Bethlehem” shares the gripping story of three men, born into violence, willing to risk everything to bring an end to violence in their lifetime. All shaped by events of their Palestinian and Israeli upbringing—find inspiration in the words and actions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

Immersed in an environment of turbulent political and religious forces – and a perpetuating cycle of violence – each of the three men struggle independently to use non-violent conflict to change the paradigm. As their separate stories converge, they begin to find the commonality that bands everyone, regardless of beliefs, in their quest for peace. They believe that violence can indeed be stopped but recognize their own struggles will remain. Yet they will struggle together to discover a common humanity through non-violent action.

In the city of Bethlehem where it is said God became man, these men stand alongside others whose central desire is to be accepted and treated as fully human.
Watch the trailer here. Join the fans on facebook here. See photos the film making on Flickr

Last month, I interviewed Sami Awad, founder of the Holy land Trust.


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


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, 1 May 2010

China Overture


China Overture II: 7-16th April 2010

China is the world’s most populous country and also the most rapidly urbanizing nation on earth. That’s why I was eager to participate in the Spring 2010 Bakke Graduate University tour of China. The focus of the BGU China Overture was on urbanization and the challenges of Christian mission in China following the Cultural Revolution.  The religious policies of the Peoples Republic of China, along with exposure to registered churches and non-registered churches, seminaries and NGOs were analyzed through face to face contact and firsthand experience.

Hong Kong, Macau, and Shanghai were visited. Hong Kong was a former British colony. Under the British rule, Hong Kong developed into a world class city. Since the change of sovereignty back to China, the churches are reorientating themselves in the light of the new challenges and opportunities. Macau was a colony of Portugal, a Catholic enclave where Robert Morrison first landed and then began the modern missionary era in China. Shanghai is the largest commercial centre in China, adopting with great enthusiasm, the free market economy in a communist country. Shanghai is also the power centre of the Christian Church in China.

Read more of my China blog 

How to Stop Iran Nukes? Stop Buying Arab Oil

Richard Silverstein has a brilliantly satirical piece on his blog today about the Israel Lobby's solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions - stop buying foreign oil. 
I kid you not, the best that the brightest minds behind the Israel lobby could devise in preparation for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s upcoming appearance at the UN in New York is taking out this full-page ad in the N.Y. Times, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and saying the way to stop Iran’s ‘unquenchable thirst’ for nuclear weapons is to stop using oil.  Well, OK, not all oil, we can keep guzzling good ol’ U.S. crude, but “foreign” oil is bad.  And Iran is the worst oil of all.
Silverstein points out that sanctions already limit the amount of Iranian oil that finds its way on to the international markets anyway. The real target is 'Arab' oil and Saudi oil in particular.

He concludes,

I tell you, with ads like this Iran has nothing to worry about.  Its enemies will spend themselves into oblivion and have nothing to show for it except this histrionic, mind-numbingly dumb ad copy. While we’re at it, let’s give credit where it’s due to the bright lights who associated in this car wreck of an ad.  There are the usual right-wing suspects like Aipac, Conference of Presidents, ADL, AJC, Bnai Brith.  But there are a few liberal groups as well who got into the act including Reform Judaism, the Reconstructionist movement, and Hadassah.  Let’s give them all a big round of applause for a job well done in defending Israel’s honor from the Arab-Muslim hordes.
Read the whole article here

“With God On Our Side”: A Review


Adam Maarschalk has published a thoughtful and positive review of With God on our Side on his Blog, Pursuing Truth at 2909 (Minneapolis). Thanks Adam!

He writes, "I watched this documentary last weekend, and highly recommend it for anyone who has any interest at all in the present Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and especially for those who have theological convictions regarding modern day Israel and/or the Jewish people."

"One of the features of this film which I greatly appreciated was the space given to Palestinian Christians to share their stories and their perspectives. They are often a forgotten voice in the present conflict. The same is unfortunately true in the world of Christian Zionism, where even Jewish unbelievers are among the favored ones, but our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters are too often sidelined. One man shared what he saw firsthand in 1948 when Israel became a nation, when his own family members were made homeless along with nearly 700,000 other people. He doesn’t share these details with bitterness. Instead, he expresses how he loved the Jewish people prior to 1948, and by the grace of God continues to love them post-1948. Upon watching the film, one gets the sense that there are so many similar stories which could and should be told.
Another helpful feature of the film is an informative section devoted to the history of the land/region of Palestine during the last several centuries. The film’s very informative official site provides some of these same details, minus the attractive graphics presented in the film. One learns about the Ottoman Empire, its fall around the time of World War I, the famous Balfour Declaration of 1917, and British-controlled Palestine during the “British Mandate,” all prior to 1948."

It’s my conviction that it’s impossible to make a responsible case from within the pages of the New Testament that God maintains any promises for the Jewish people which are not available for all who trust in Christ, not even promises regarding the land of Israel. In fact, unbelieving Jews (and Gentiles) are entirely outside of God’s covenant and promises, for these promises are only accessible through faith. Nor do I believe that any promises await any future fulfillment exclusively or primarily for the Jewish people, for there really is no Jew or Gentile in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). I realize that the statements I’ve just made are a huge can of worms for a lot of people. Good! Let us all dig deep on these things for ourselves, and not just blindly follow popular teachers and teachings.

When time allows, I hope to write much more extensively on this very subject, for there are so many things to consider. In the meantime, for anyone who is interested, one excellent resource is  a series of presentations based on Stephen Sizer’s book, “Zion’s Christian Soldiers? The Bible, Israel, and the Church.” Sizer has kindly made this series available online for free (the book is available for purchase here). I have read portions of this series and what I’ve read so far is thorough, well-thought-out, and simply an excellent study. I plan to do a lot of interaction with Sizer’s writings once I do write  further on this subject here at this blog. The following are some of the questions I wish to tackle at that time (feel free, though, to discuss them even now):[1]
Thanks for saying nice things about my books Adam! Read the full review here.