Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Matrix of Control: How Israel has Colonized Palestine

A couple of days ago we spent a most enlightening afternoon with Jacov of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He gave us the 'alternative' tour of East Jerusalem and explained the 'Matrix of Control' used by the Israeli government to colonize East Jerusalem and the West Bank. We saw first hand the home demolitions, land confiscation, military checkpoints, Jews only settlements and roads as well as spent time at the Separation Wall. This is apartheid on steroids, entirely illegal in flagrant breach of the 4th Geneva Convention and international law.

The Israeli Apartheid Matrix of Control in Palestine

Introduction to the Israeli Colonization of East Jerusalem from ICAHD

The Israeli Strategy for Colonizing East Jerusalem from ICAHD

The Apartheid Israeli Wall - An ICAHD Briefing

The ICAHD Tour of East Jerusalem

Along with other Israeli or Jewish organisations like Gush Shalom, Jewish Voice for Peace, Breaking the Silence, +972, Rabbis for Human Rights, Jews for a Just Peace and B'Tselem, ICAHD bears witness to an alternative Israeli perspective working for justice, peace and reconciliation with Palestinians. For more information see

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Rape of Aboud

Life under Israeli Occupation The Story of Aboud in Palestine.

I was going to entitle this 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Aboud" but that is not strong enough language to describe what I witnessed in this village over the last 24 hours. Sadly, the Israeli government's 'strategy' in Aboud is not unique but typical of how Palestinian villages and towns are being cut off from their fertile land and olive groves, or imprisoned as ghettos behind the 8 metre high Hafrada (Hebrew equivalent of apartheid) Separation Wall, electric fences and tank traps.

Aboud is a small Palestinian village of 3,000 people nestling in the hills of Samaria, north of Ramallah. The village boasts stunning panoramic views of Jaffa and Tel Aviv. Half the village are Muslim, the other half Christian. There are three Christian communities in the village, the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Church of God. The Greek Orthodox church goes back to the 3rd Century. The village has schools and even a small hospital and visiting doctor.

Before 1967, the people of Aboud worked in the fields and the olive groves on the surrounding hillsides. It was a vibrant hub for around 15 smaller villages. Since 1967 the Israeli government has stolen the best land depriving villages access to most of their olive groves and income. They have built three large colonies exclusively for American and European Jews on the confiscated hills around Aboud. They have even stolen the village water pump, diverting the bulk of the water to the settlements.

All the roads our of the village have been blocked bar one which is monitored by Israeli control towers, infra-red cameras and checkpoints. They have even defaced ancient burial caves stealing some of the memorials which we saw have been crudely hacked off. Their hilltop church dedicated to Saint Barbara was bombed by the Israeli air force a few years back. Yasser Arafat paid to have it restored.

Lets be clear. As Norman Finkelstein puts it so eloquently in the film With God on our Side, the settlements are illegal. That's not complicated under international law, It is prohibited under the 4th Geneva Convention for an occupying power to transfer its population into the occupied territory. The West Bank is occupied territory.

As if to highlight the apartheid nature of this colonization, the residents of Aboud pay the same taxes as Israelis. However, there are no street lights or pavements, except those built by US Aid. And the main street leads no where except to the Israeli roadblock. This is a powerful if ironic symbol to the self imposed US roadblock to a peace process which funds the settlements in flagrant disregard to the rule of international law.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Israel's Latest Apartheid Law

Ilan Pappe over on Counter Punch has written a devastating article on the implications of the latest racist apartheid law to be passed by the Israeli Knesset which denies state funding to institutions that question the country's existence as a Jewish state rather than a state for Israeli citizens. He writes,
Those of us who have been veteran comrades in the struggle for peace and justice in Palestine have quite often been frustrated by the inability to galvanize enough support in the political and media establishments in the West against the brutal occupation of the West Bank and the strangulation of Gaza.  We believed that clear cut evidence of the oppression and the highly visible criminal policies that raged since 1967 should have at least triggered a world reaction similar to the one that now takes place against Libya, and even more so.
But we know all the reasons why it did not, and will not happen. And yet we may have overlooked one particular reason, indeed one successful ploy of the Israeli peace camp that seems to have aborted any such effort in its buds. The liberal Zionists believe strongly in the existence of two discrete entities one Israel and one that lies on the other side of the 1967 green line which have very little in common. The acceptance of this line as a hard fact is the main justification given in the West for the inaction against Israel (one which is also supported by some of Palestine's best friends and of course the Palestinian Authority). The line drawn is not just a political boundary it is mainly a moral border. Everything that is happening in the occupied world is diametrically opposed to life in democratic Israel and hence the argument is that if you treat Israel as a pariah state then you will also harm the 'good' part, the pre-1967 state. This is also the basis to the continued support for the two states solution that bases peace on the ability of moral Israel to re-invent itself in the pre-1967 borders. 
Here, Pappe delineates the crux of the issue. Referring to Israel as the Apartheid State of Israel (ASOI) he observes Israel's unique international record in human rights abuses:
ASOI is now one of worst apartheid regimes in the world. It controls almost all of Palestine (apart from Gaza which it imprisoned hermetically since 2005). It has, in absolute terms the highest number of political prisoners (China was reported to have less then 1000, Iran has few thousands); Israel holds nearly 10,000 of them. It has the largest number of apartheid laws and regulations than any country in the world and apart from the Arab regimes that are now collapsing and rogue states such as  Miramar and North Korea,  has the longest imposition of emergency laws and regulations that rob citizens of their most basic human and civil rights. Its policies against the discriminated native population, now composing nearly half of the overall population in ASOI,  include atrocities such as  barring people from using water sources, from cultivating their fields, building more houses, from getting to work, schools or universities and it bans them from commemorating their history and in particular the 1948 Nakbah.
ASOI is protected by left wing philosophers, mostly Jewish but not only, in the USA and the West as well as by the new members of the European Union whose deplorable record during the holocaust may explain their unconditional support for ASOI. It enjoys the unconditional backing of many Jewish communities in the World, Christian Zionists and cynical corporations who benefit from ASOI's military elite's  proclivity to use lethal weapons at will and from the state's progressive banking system and a high tech know how.
Read the rest of the article here

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Might is Right, Right?

While the protection of civilians from a deranged dictator is a good and noble cause, tomorrow's Daily Mirror Editorial succinctly exposes the hypocricy of the selective Allied intervention in the Middle East.

Gaddafi calls it Colonial, Crusader Aggression, the bombers call it Odyssey Dawn. So far 48 people had been killed and 150 wounded in the Western air strikes by early on Sunday in Libya. Three US B-2 stealth bombers dropped 40 bombs on a major Libyan airfield (Remember the precision/surgical bombing?) that was not further identified. Hours later, U.S. and British warships and submarines launched 110 Tomahawk missiles on Tripoli. 150 Weapons of Mass Destruction at Tripoli and for that count 48 deaths is really a conservative estimate-if one knew what Tomahawk and B2 bombs mean.
The military intervention in Libya has nothing to do with the humanitarian pretexts offered by the conniving Western powers. Innocent civilians are going to die in numbers in the coming days and UN Gen. Sec. Ban- ki moon and his cohorts should be pulled up in the War Tribunal to go by the common logic.
After Iraq, this could be the beginning of the war for the resources, may be the third World War by extension.
Military intervention in Libya, whose energy resources have made it the object of imperialist ogling for decades, is used both to secure access to oil and to bring a strong military presence in the region. A military presence in Libya would help the West to intimidate the Arab world -not the rulers of the Arab world whose faith and cultural conscience are more Western than Muslim.
The bombing would not protect human lives, but would transform the country into a battlefield with thousands of innocent victims just like in Iraq, where finally and shamelessly the perpetrators blamed it on the intelligence reports that there were no WMDs. None of the countries which killed the 200,000 still face any accountability charges! 300,000-330,000 civilians killed in Darfur but the so called humanitarians didn’t do anything about it. 800,000 were killed in Rwanda in 1994 and still nothing happened.
Why are the great powers not applying the same criteria in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the regimes they back employ brutal violence against any opposition? And what of Bahrain, headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet, where Sheikh al Khalifa has shot down unarmed protesters with Saudi support? What about Gaza, where these same powers stand by as the Israelis massacre Palestinians? What about Yemen, where the Western-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Friday shot dead some 50 protesters? asked a news editorial on the web.
Funnily French President Sarkozy, received Gaddafi just a few years ago with great pomp in Paris to negotiate trade deals worth billions, recognized the Transitional Council as the official representative of Libya. The truth is the ‘Council,’ has guaranteed international oil companies unhindered exploitation of the country’s mineral wealth.
China and Russia, which abstained in the U.N. Security Council vote last week endorsing intervention, expressed regret at the military action.  Funnily enough, neither vetoed the move.
Which endorses the unsavoury fact how much the emerging markets (BRIC) depend on the West for their economy and growth.
Meanwhile, more than 100 anti-war protesters were arrested outside the White House in demonstrations marking the eighth anniversary of the US-led war in Iraq.

Daily Mirror Editorial

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Tear down this Israeli wall: Roger Water of Pink Floyd

"I want the music industry to support Palestinians' rights and oppose this inhumane barrier" writes Roger Water in the Guardian.
In 1980, a song I wrote, Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, was banned by the government of South Africa because it was being used by black South African children to advocate their right to equal education. That apartheid government imposed a cultural blockade, so to speak, on certain songs, including mine.

Twenty-five years later, in 2005, Palestinian children participating in a West Bank festival used the song to protest against Israel's wall around the West Bank. They sang: "We don't need no occupation! We don't need no racist wall!" At the time, I hadn't seen firsthand what they were singing about.

A year later I was contracted to perform in Tel Aviv. Palestinians from a movement advocating an academic and cultural boycott of Israel urged me to reconsider. I had already spoken out against the wall, but I was unsure whether a cultural boycott was the right way to go.

The Palestinian advocates of a boycott asked that I visit the occupied Palestinian territory to see the wall for myself before I made up my mind. I agreed.

Under the protection of the United Nations I visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw that day. The wall is an appalling edifice to behold. It is policed by young Israeli soldiers who treated me, a casual observer from another world, with disdainful aggression.

If it could be like that for me, a foreigner, a visitor, imagine what it must be like for the Palestinians, for the underclass, for the passbook carriers. I knew then that my conscience would not allow me to walk away from that wall, from the fate of the Palestinians I met: people whose lives are crushed daily by Israel's occupation. In solidarity, and somewhat impotently, I wrote on their wall that day: "We don't need no thought control."

Realising at that point that my presence on a Tel Aviv stage would inadvertently legitimise the oppression I had seen, I cancelled my gig at the stadium in Tel Aviv and moved it to Neve Shalom, an agricultural community devoted to growing chick peas and also, admirably, to co-operation between different faiths, where Muslim, Christian and Jew work side by side in harmony.

Against all expectations it was to become the biggest music event in the short history of Israel. Some 60,000 fans battled traffic jams to attend. It was extraordinarily moving for us, and at the end of the gig I was moved to exhort the young people gathered there to demand of their government that they attempt to make peace with their neighbours and respect the civil rights of Palestinians living in Israel.

Sadly, in the intervening years the Israeli government has made no attempt to implement legislation that would grant rights to Israeli Arabs equal to those enjoyed by Israeli Jews, and the wall has grown, inexorably, illegally annexing more and more of the West Bank.

For the people of Gaza, locked in a virtual prison behind the wall of Israel's illegal blockade, it means another set of injustices. It means that children go to sleep hungry, many chronically malnourished. It means that fathers and mothers, unable to work in a decimated economy, have no means to support their families. It means that university students with scholarships to study abroad must watch the opportunity of a lifetime slip away because they are not allowed to travel.

In my view, the abhorrent and draconian control that Israel wields over the besieged Palestinians in Gaza and the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), coupled with its denial of the rights of refugees to return to their homes in Israel, demands that fair-minded people around the world support the Palestinians in their civil, nonviolent resistance.

Where governments refuse to act people must, with whatever peaceful means are at their disposal. For me this means declaring an intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their government's policies, by joining the campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel.

My conviction is born in the idea that all people deserve basic human rights. This is not an attack on the people of Israel. This is, however, a plea to my colleagues in the music industry, and also to artists in other disciplines, to join this cultural boycott.

Artists were right to refuse to play in South Africa's Sun City resort until apartheid fell and white people and black people enjoyed equal rights. And we are right to refuse to play in Israel until the day comes – and it surely will come – when the wall of occupation falls and Palestinians live alongside Israelis in the peace, freedom, justice and dignity that they all deserve.
Source:  Guardian

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Celebrate Palestine: Habib Shehadeh Hana in Concert

Women in Episcopacy: Runnymede Synod Calls for Legal Protection for Traditionalists

Supporters of Women Bishops failed to win a majority following last night's Runnymede Deanery Synod debate. 

The motion "Runnymede Deanery encourages Guildford Diocesan Synod to approve the proposals embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and in draft Amending Canon number 30" failed to win a majority (12 for, 12 against and 2 abstentions).

A Following Motion calling for legal protection for traditionalists won a majority (14 in favour, 11 against and 1 abstention). Advocated by the Church of England Evangelical Council the Following Motion stated:

This synod:
  1. Desires that all faithful Anglicans remain and thrive together in the Church of England; and therefore
  2. Calls upon the House of Bishops to bring forward amendments to the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure to ensure that those unable on theological grounds to accept the ministry of women bishops are able to receive episcopal oversight from a bishop with authority (ie ordinary jurisdiction) conferred by the Measure rather than by delegation from a Diocesan Bishop.

Guildford Diocese will decide its response in June.

You can view my Power Point presentation  here or in PowerPoint 2007 here) and listen to an audio recording here.

I also commend this article in the Guardian by Rob Thomas of REFORM.
The news from Synod is that the Church of England may begin to consecrate women bishops in the next few years, with little provision for those who feel less comfortable with the idea. While this can be portrayed as a victory for equality, the position of traditionalists is simply that the draft measure (pdf) as it stands doesn't provide for a secure future for us in the Church of England, a future that was promised in 1993 but now appears to have been rescinded.
Our problem with women bishops is not to do with equality, but theology. In the case of conservative evangelicals, we believe that the Bible recommends a particular order in the church which allows us to bear witness to the wider world about something that is true of God.
The Bible insists on the absolute equality of men and women, but gives them different functions in the church, so that men can show leadership through self-sacrifice and thus reveal the character of God, and women can demonstrate Christian discipleship to the wider church, thus helping us all follow Christ better.
These are theological issues, not ones to do with justice or fairness. If we are to continue to be able to demonstrate these different functions within the church, we need to be able to do that via legislation. A code of practice such as the one now proposed cannot be enough, because its provisions are not binding. They only have to be taken into account. This means that it would for the future women bishops themselves to decide how much security to provide for traditionalists. That cannot be a satisfactory solution to the problem.
Experience of what has happened in Canada and the US shows that over time, people become less and less tolerant of traditionalist positions. That is why a clear statutory provision needs to be made, not the half-baked, half-hearted approach that the draft measure currently contains.
 Read the whole article here

In the words of Dr Ann Young:
During the past 3 years, I - like many of you and many others in the church - have had to ask myself 'am I opposed to this because of habit or perversity or reluctance to change?'

If the leadership role of men rested only on one or two verses in the letters of St Paul, then I might be convinced that it was a practice for that time, but not binding us now. However, that is not the case. As I read it, the consistent teaching of Scripture is that men have the responsibility under God to take these roles. It was so in the Old Testament times, with a few rare exceptions. There is no doubt that Jesus gave new and unheard dignity to women, and they were key supporters of his ministry. Yet he did not appoint any women as disciples. Was this just because it would have gone against the demands of social norms. The Holy Spirit 'brought to mind all that Jesus had taught'. Yet the apostles led by Him chose no women, only men, to fill the leadership roles in those decades of the church.

I will vote against the principle canon. I cannot set aside my conviction
  • That Jesus Christ established His church on a pattern that is eternal,
  • That the Bible plainly places the responsibility for leadership of God's people on men,
  • And that the Holy Spirit's guidance has maintained and continues to maintain the church according to the will of God.
If the canon passes, it becomes less to do with theology and more to do with practicality and the weight we give to tradition. Whether the canon passes or not, we will need to show one another respect and care if we are to honour God rather than act as a group engaged in political debate.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Robert Fisk: Palestinians understand Gaddafi better than we do

Robert Fisk has written a timely defence of UNWRA and with it, delivered a scathing rebuke to those bent on destroying this humanitarian organisation.
A visit to the filth of the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut, or to Ein el-Helweh in Sidon, is enough to teach anyone that amid this swamp of misery and hopelessness, UNRWA represents the world's only collective sympathy, underfunded, short-staffed, poor though it is. Yet now, the whole organisation is being singled out by a right-wing Israel and its so-called (and self-proclaiming) supporters as purveyors of darkness, "de-legitimisers", a network of support for Palestinians which must be destroyed lest the poorest of the poor – including those in the misery of Gaza – become addicted to their social services. UNRWA – I find it hard to believe this is a real quotation from a research fellow at a major US university, but it is – has "created a breeding ground for international terrorism".
I suppose we might as well laugh as cry, but this comes from a cruel – indeed vicious – article that appeared in the American Commentary magazine a few weeks ago, written by one Michael Bernstam, a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. I single it out not because it is atypical, but because it represents a growing and quite ruthless trend in right-wing Israeli thinking, the kind of self-delusional brutality that is supposed to persuade us that the destiny of the poorest of the Palestinian poor is the destruction of their camps. In his article, Bernstam actually claims that "for 60 years, UNRWA has been paying four generations of Palestinians to remain refugees, reproduce refugees and live in refugee camps", where it is, "in effect, underwriting a self-destructive Palestinian cycle of violence, internecine bloodshed and a perpetual war against Israel". Get the point? The UN is now the fount of all terror.
He concludes:
Total contempt for the Palestinians. Total abuse for a people who have lost their future and their lives. Total abuse for anyone but their own tribe. Wasn't it Gaddafi who invented the word "Israeltine"?

Read more in the Independent

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land 21-30 October 2011

A comprehensive 10-day half-term pilgrimage based in Jerusalem and the Galilee in Half Term, 21-30 October 2011.

In the Middle East, the reality on the ground is often far removed from what we see and read in the news. Places of pilgrimage are open and welcoming visitors. We have planned our programme for late October during the half-term holidays, which is considered to be a lovely time to visit the Holy Land. We will have the opportunity to worship with the local Christian community in Jerusalem on the Sunday morning and on our journey through the Holy Land to seek them out and to offer our support and encouragement.

Visits will include Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and Qumran, as well as allowing free time for relaxation and private exploration. We will walk along the Via Dolorosa, sail on the Sea of Galilee, float on the Dead Sea and ascend the Mount of Masada by cable car. The Holy Land is unique in offering so many highlights and contrasts in such a compact area. Each day of our pilgrimage will be very different from the previous one.

The pilgrimage will include opportunities to meet with the Living Stones, the indigenous Christians of the Holy Land, as well as Jewish and Muslim peacemakers. We hope to meet with ICAHD (Israel Committee Against House Demolitions) or World Vision. We will also encounter the Separation Wall and possibly a Jewish settlement, a Palestinian refugee camp and staff of the Bethlehem Arab Rehabilitation Centre in Beit Jala.

We stay in two family owned and managed hotels. In Jerusalem, the three star Golden Walls Hotel overlooks the Old City walls and is walking distance of the Holy Sepulchre.

In Tiberias, we stay at the four star Ron Beach Hotel in a wonderful situation right on the lakeside. The tour is on a half-board basis with buffet breakfast and table d’hote evening meal included daily. Touring is in air-conditioned coaches and we will be accompanied by a local guide who will share leadership responsibilities and look after the formalities of hotel check-ins etc.

All entrance fees are included. Flights are with EL AL Israel Airlines between Luton Airport and Tel Aviv and returning from Tel Aviv into London Heathrow.

Tour arranged by McCabe Pilgrimages

For more information download the brochure from here 

The Jesus Film: The most widely seen film in history

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Since 1979 the "JESUS" film has been viewed by several billion people all across the globe, and has resulted in more than 225 million men, women and children indicating decisions to follow Jesus.

Based on the Gospel of Luke, the "JESUS" film has now been translated into more than 1,000 languages, with a new language being added nearly every week. This brings God's Word to people in more than 200 countries in languages they know and understand. By God's grace, it is yielding a spiritual harvest of unprecedented results.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

For more information see The JESUS Film

The Ties that Bind: Israel to Libya

It should come as no surprise that "Saif al-Islam, son of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi" made a surprise visit to Israel last week to buy more weapons for his dad. Is this why the US is so reluctant to impose a no fly zone and wants to the UN to decide? Shame they did not do the same in Iraq.

Yediot Aharonot revealed that Saif al-Islam asked senior leaders for military assistance with munitions and night observation devices, as well as satellite imagery, and in turn, pledged to develop ties between Tripoli and Tel Aviv ... in the fields of political and economic development.
Al Akhbar is also carrying the story...
Nizar Abboud, the serious and reliable correspondent with the UN of Lebanese daily Al Akhbar, reports that a son of Kadaffi has visited occupied Palestine two days ago to solicit for help. During his visit Saif el Islam has asked high placed Zionist officials for military assistance in terms of ammunition, night surveillance and satellite surveillance, trying to develop political and economic relations between the two countries. (?)
He also asked the Zionists to use their credit with the USA to protect the funds invested by his family, offering part of the profits. Saif el Islam maintains- for a long time already- narrow relations with the Zionist entity, and we have not forgotten how he used, since the beginning of the Libyan revolution, services from a famous Zionist 'security' firm. This firm has furnished mercenaries from Chad and elsewhere, making huge profits (Kadaffi has been willing to pay salaries of 1000 to 2000 dollars a day)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Britain Upgrades Palestinian Diplomatic Status with Free Parking

I am so pleased Britain has given the Palestinians diplomatic status in the UK - just wish we had been the first and not merely followed the European crowd. What's troubling though is the tired old language of the "Road Map".

William Hague said that Britain had upgraded the status of Palestinian diplomats in the UK, in a largely symbolic move aimed at encouraging progress in peace talks with Israel. The foreign secretary told parliament that the current Palestinian delegation in London would become a diplomatic mission. The announcement, effective immediately, brings Britain into line with several other European countries, and coincides with a visit to London by the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas who is due to meet both Hague and the prime minister....The "road map", promoted by the Quartet of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia, is intended as a framework for achieving a settlement, but it has long been stalled over the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Does this mean Britain is recognising Palestine as an independent sovereign state on the pre-1967 borders? Of course not.
But the Foreign Office sought to distinguish the UK's move from the decision of several Latin American countries to offer the Palestinians full recognition as a independent state. British officials said that such recognition should be the outcome of a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. One diplomatic source also suggested that the British decision was aimed at reassuring the Palestinian leadership of western support, after the diplomatic damage inflicted by a US veto last month on a UN Security Council resolution condemning the construction of Israeli settlements. 
So what will the enhanced 'status' involve?
British officials said the only real change in the work of Palestinian diplomats will be that they will be given parking spaces by Westminster council, and find it easier to get British visas for their staff.
I'm not sure if the response from the Israeli embassy was 'tongue in cheek' but here it is:
The Israeli embassy in London said: "We firmly believe that an upgrade in status will not encourage the Palestinians to return to the negotiation table. The real upgrade that's missing is in the Palestinian willingness to talk peace."
You know for once, (at least in the first sentence) I think the Israeli's are right.

Source: Julian Borger in the Guardian

Monday, 7 March 2011

Egypt no longer subservient to Israel over Gaza

Philip Weiss draws heartening evidence today of a change of policy in Egypt toward the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
The new Egyptian Foreign Minister has called the Gaza blockade a violation of int'l law, Angry Arab reports, and David Kenner translates (h/t Ali Gharib). The Foreign Minister is Nabil Elaraby, who was a judge in the historic Int'l Court of Justice Ruling against the separation wall, in 2005, and whose concurrent opinion went further than the other judges, and held that the occupation was illegal.
 See also Washington Post New Egypt foreign minister likely to be tougher on Israel

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's Most Prominent Christian, Predicted his own Assassination

Taliban and al-Qaeda factions in Pakistan are claiming responsibility for the assassination of the only Christian serving in the Islamic state's government. Shahbaz Bhatti, 42, was shot outside his mother's home in Islamabad Wednesday morning.

Bhatti, who was Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, was well known for campaigning against the nation's strict blasphemy law and lobbying for the rights of religious minorities. Last year Bhatti made a video to be released in the event of his death. Embedded below, the video shows Bhatti saying that "the forces of violence" were prepared to kill him because "they want to impose their radical philosophy in Pakistan."

"I'm ready to die for a cause," Bhatti said. "I'm living for my community and suffering people, and I will die to defend their rights. So these threats and these warnings cannot change my opinions and principles."

Read more: Christianity Today and also BBC

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Israel Revokes Visa of Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem

Arieh Cohen, writing for Asia News (and picked up by the Anglican Communion News Service so it must be true...) reports that Israel’s Interior Ministry has revoked the permit for the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, The Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, to live in Jerusalem, and has refused requests to reinstate it, in spite of protests by Anglican authorities in the West specifically the United States. 
The Bishop is a native of the Holy Land and has spent most of his life and ministry here, but cannot obtain either citizenship or legal residence in Israel, since he was born in Nablus, i.e. in the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967, but has not been annexed to Israel. East Jerusalem, on the other hand, where the Anglican Cathedral and Diocesan offices are situated, was also occupied at the same time, but Israel annexed it and considers it part of its national territory (although no other  country in the world recognizes this annexation). Therefore, Bishop Dawani is considered by Israel to be a foreigner who can only visit – let alone live in – East Jerusalem with a special permit, which the Israeli authorities can either grant or deny at their sole discretion. In fact, even the original Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem, and their descendants, are considered by Israel to be foreigners who are no more than  possessors of a residence permit, which Israel can revoke.
Since the Bishop has of course remained at his post, in Jerusalem, without the permit, he could be arrested at any moment, be put on trial for being in Israel illegally, be sentenced to a prison term – or simply be forcibly removed from Jerusalem.

This situation is causing deep worry to all the Churches in the Holy Land. Because of the representative function of the Churches in the Holy Land, on behalf of the world-wide Christian communities, and because of various personnel needs, a large portion of the bishops, clergy and religious serving in Jerusalem and elsewhere, come from other countries. Israel does not allow them to acquire citizenship or even legal residence, and they can only remain in Israeli territory in virtue of visas that need to be renewed every year or two years – at the Government’s sole discretion. Indeed, as has been made public by news reports over the years, the issue of entry visas and residence for Catholic clergy and religious is a priority item on the agenda of the negotiations between the Holy See and the State of Israel, right from their beginning in 1992 – with no agreement yet. So the predicament of the Anglican Bishop is being watched closely by all the Churches here.
The Bishop has now applied for an Israeli administrative court to intervene, but the prospects for his lawsuit are far from certain. As a matter of general principle, the Government is free to issue or to withhold the kind of permit he needs, without giving detailed reasons, except essentially raisons d’état. There is an opinion, too, that turning to the court is a mistake, since an unfavourable decision by the court (the likelier outcome perhaps) would give the Government the cover of law. It might have been better for him, some say, to rely instead on rousing Western public opinion, in the name of religious freedom and natural justice. Time will tell.

As a 'matter of principle' as the 'Occupying Power' under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has no such 'right' to deprive anyone, let alone the Anglican Bishop, of his right to live in East Jerusalem which was illegally annexed in 1967. This is not a matter of 'religious freedom and natural justice' but of international law.

See the Anglican News Source for an update on this story as Bishop Suheil considers legal action.