Saturday, 28 May 2011

Prime Minister David Cameron Spurns Racist Jewish National Fund

In a courageous and unprecedented move, Prime Minister David Cameron resigned this week as a patron of the Jewish National Fund, an honorary position every Prime Minister has held for more than 60 years. The Stop the JNF Campaign published this press release yesterday.

Prime Minister David Cameron has quietly terminated his status as an Honorary Patron of the controversial Jewish National Fund (JNF).  His office confirmed he had “stepped down”.  For many years leaders of all three main political parties became Honorary Patrons of the JNF by convention.  According to Dick Pitt, a spokesperson for the Stop the JNF Campaign, “Cameron was the only leader of the three major parties remaining as a JNF Patron.  This decline in political support for the JNF at the highest levels of the political tree may be a sign of the increasing awareness in official quarters that a robust defence of the activities of the JNF may not be sustainable.”  The news of Cameron’s move has reached Palestinians in refugee camps, people whose land is under the control of the JNF.  Salah Ajarma in Bethlehem’s Aida Refugee Camp was “delighted to hear the news that the British Prime Minister has decided to withdraw his support for this sinister organisation involved in ethnic cleansing. My village, Ajjur, was taken by force from my family and given to the JNF who used money from JNF UK to plant the British Park on its ruins. For the Palestinians who were evicted from their villages and have been prevented from returning, Cameron's withdrawal is another victory on the road to achieving justice and freedom for the Palestinians".
The JNF chairman Samuel Hayek defends the work of the organisation saying, “for over 100 years we have had one mission: to settle and develop the Land of Israel” as pioneers of the “historic Zionist dream”.  The registered charity claims their work, especially in the Negev region of Israel, deals with “the rising demographic challenges faced by Israel”.  In recent months the JNF’s activities in the Negev have received extensive international media coverage, linking them to the demolition of Palestinian Bedouin villages and confiscation of the land of the village.  Campaigners report that “even Israeli courts have criticised the JNF as an organisation that discriminates against non-Jews and there is mounting evidence of the JNF’s involvement in Israel’s programme to change the ethnic composition of areas inside 1948 Israel as well as in Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories.  It is not acceptable that such an organisation is allowed to operate in the UK, much less to enjoy charity status”. 
Michael Kalmanovitz, UK co-ordinator of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, said “Cameron’s patronage of the JNF lent parliamentary credibility to a criminal organisation backed by a highly-equipped occupying army and masquerading as a ‘humanitarian charity’.  Now parliamentarians who are ‘Friends of Israel’ must consider how much longer they can defend Israeli apartheid and worse.“
Pressure has been mounting on Cameron and the JNF.  An Early Day Motion in the Westminster Parliament highlighted the Prime Minister’s status as honorary patron and claimed that “there is just cause to consider revocation of the JNF's charitable status in the UK”.  UK and international JNF fund-raising events increasingly face protests due, campaigners argue, to “a shift in public opinion on Israel generally”.  In 2007, the American JNF application for consultative status on a key UN committee was rejected because delegates were unable to distinguish between the activities of the US Branch and those of the JNF in Israel whose activities the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concerns about.
Read more here

Tony Greenstein adds:
Founded in 1901 as the principal land settlement wing of the Zionist Organisation, the JNF role has been the equivalent of a money launderer, except that it dealt in stolen land rather than stolen money. The Israeli government, through a plethora of laws: the Absentee Property Law 1950 and the “Jewish National Fund (Keren Keyemeth Le Israel Law Law)” (1953) which granted it special status and set up a new JNF company, the JNF became in effect a quasi-governmental organisation administering policies the government couldn't be seen to openly administer.

These were coupled with the later Basic Law - Israel Lands; Israel Lands Law; Israel Lands Administration Law of 1960 The Covenant between the Government of Israel and the JNF, 1961 and the Agricultural Settlement (Restriction on Use of Agricultural Land and Water) Law, 1967 (which made it a criminal offence for a lessee of the JNF to lease land to non-Jews). The JNF and the Israeli Lands Administration had in effect joined forces and between them controlled 93% of Israeli land.
 Read more here

The Stop the JNF Campaign is an international campaign aimed at ending the role of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeIsrael) (JNF-KKL) in:
  1. the on-going displacement of indigenous Palestinians from their land
  2. the theft of their property
  3. the funding of historic and present day colonies, and
  4. the destruction of the natural environment.
The JNF continues to serve as a global fundraiser for Israeli ethnic cleansing, occupation and apartheid. Despite its role in a State institution of Israel (the Israel Land Authority) and in institutionalized racism and apartheid, the JNF and its affiliate organizations enjoy charitable status in over 50 countries.

For further information, contact, 07931200361

Friday, 27 May 2011

Congress To Palestinians: Drop Dead!

MJ Roseberg has written a superb piece on Netanyahu's speech to Congress:

If anyone had any doubts about whether the Palestinians would declare a state in September, they can't have them now.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to Congress that essentially was a series of insults to Palestinians and their national aspirations. Every insult was met by applause and standing ovations.

In fact, Netanyahu's appearance itself was an insult.

In the entire history of the United States, only four foreign leaders have addressed a joint meeting of Congress more than once.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, America's great ally, addressed Congress three times during and after World War II. South African President Nelson Mandela was honored for destroying apartheid and freeing South Africa. And Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was recognized for opening negotiations with the Palestinian people.

And now Netanyahu. But for what?

In his entire term in office he has done nothing but reject every request by the United States that he take some action (like freezing settlements) to promote Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In the history of Israel, there has been no prime minister as hardline on Palestinian rights and as indifferent to the interests of the United States as Netanyahu.

So why was he invited to address a rare joint meeting?

He was invited because the new Republican leadership of the House of Representatives wanted to demonstrate, loudly and clearly, that Congress will not support President Barack Obama in the event that he tries to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

And that is exactly what the Netanyahu appearance achieved. The prime minister unambiguously stated that he had no intention of making peace with the Palestinians.

He began by saying that, in point of fact, there is no occupation — that "in Judea and Samaria [the term Israeli right-wingers use for the West Bank], Israelis are not foreign occupiers" but the native inhabitants. (He cited Abraham and Isaiah from the Bible!)

He said he might consider giving up some of that land but not an inch of Jerusalem. Additionally, he said that Israel would retain most settlements and insist on a military presence in the Jordan Valley (thereby ensuring that any State of Palestine would be locked in on both sides by Israel).

He said that Israel would never negotiate with a Palestinian government that included Hamas, whether democratically elected or not. He declared that not a single Palestinian would be allowed to return to Israel; not even a symbolic return would be acceptable to him.

There is little reason to elaborate. Netanyahu essentially returned to the policies that Israel pursued before Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat agreed on mutual recognition and the joint pursuit of peace.

And the worst part is not the appalling things Netanyahu said, but how Congress received them. Even Netanyahu's declaration that there is no Israeli occupation was met with thunderous applause, with the Democrats joining the Republicans in ecstatic support. Every Netanyahu statement, no matter how extreme, received cheers.

Netanyahu was also applauded wildly when he invoked Palestinian terrorism over and over again, even seeming to lump his former "partner," President Mahmoud Abbas, in with people who "educate their children to hate, [who] continue to name public squares after terrorists, and worst of all, continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees."

His bottom line, which Congress fully bought, was that all Palestinians are terrorists who haven't earned a state and probably never will.

Congress cheered and cheered and, when Netanyahu was finished, they climbed over each other to touch the hem of his garment.

It was as if Congress thought that no Palestinians or other Arabs (or Muslims) would be watching. It was as if it believes that it can shout its lungs out for Netanyahu (and secure those campaign contributions from AIPAC supporters), without any consequences to U.S. policy and national interests in the Arab world or, for that matter, in the diplomatic community.

But Congress is wrong. The message it sent to the Middle East, to the whole world, in fact, was that Palestinians cannot count on the United States to ever play the role of "honest broker" between Israel and the Palestinians. Even if President Obama was inclined to, Congress would stop him. And AIPAC, using its leverage, would hold Obama's feet to the fire, too. As far as Congress is concerned, Palestinians do not exist. They have no rights — to a state least of all.

And that is why Palestinians have no choice but to unilaterally declare a state in the fall. They can no longer rely on the promise that, one day, America will do something about the occupation. As David Ben Gurion understood when he went to the General Assembly to achieve recognition of Israel, a small, powerless people must take its destiny into its own hands.

The good news is that, although Congress is in Netanyahu's pocket, the Obama administration isn't. Netanyahu insulted the president at the White House last Thursday and then again in the halls of Congress by eliciting support for policies Obama rejects. And the administration is furious.

That means that while Palestinians can and should ignore Congress, the White House and State Department are still in play. Yes, they will both go along with Netanyahu, but probably without much enthusiasm.

And they can send a signal to our allies that although the United States cannot openly oppose Bibi's policies because of Congress — and AIPAC's control of it — the allies can. The Palestinians should not give up on Obama or on Secretary of State Clinton, who cannot abide Netanyahu and made sure she was out of the country to escape being present for his speech.

And so we can look forward to a unilateral declaration of statehood in September. The Israelis who refuse to negotiate with stateless Palestinians will have no choice but to negotiate with the state whose land it is occupying. And those negotiations, state to state, may produce peace and the "two states for two peoples" that most Palestinians and Israelis aspire to. In any case, it's the only hope. (According to a new report by the editor of the Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz, there is no way the United States can use a veto to block UN recognition of the Palestinian state, a point the Israelis have missed but is not lost on the Palestinians.)

Palestinians should thank Prime Minister Netanyahu and, even more, the United States Congress for making their choice so much easier. Together they helped create the Palestinian state and did irreparable damage to America's image as a beacon of humans rights and self determination.

Americans should be deeply ashamed of their Congress.

Source: Huffington Post

Peace Process has Reached its End

More than a dozen Israeli intellectuals and public figures have signed a letter urging European leaders to officially recognize a Palestinian State, as "the peace process has reached its end." Those who signed include former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, and Nobel Laureate Professor Daniel Kahneman.

The letter, sent today, was initiated by the leftist Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, the group which also organizes the weekly demonstrations in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

"Peace has fallen hostage to the peace process," the letter said. "As Israeli citizens, we announce that if and when the Palestinian people declare independence of a sovereign state that will exist next to Israel in peace and security, we will support such the announcement of the Palestinian State with borders based on the 1967 lines, with needed land swaps on a 1:1 basis....We urge the countries of the world to declare their willingness to recognize a sovereign Palestinian State according to these principles,"

Source: Haaretz

Monday, 23 May 2011

Book Review: Christian Zionism

Christian Zionism
Road-map to Armageddon?
Stephen Sizer
ISBN 9781844740505 (1844740501)
IVP, 2004
Category: Israel & Palestine
Reviewed by: Phil Groom
Israel's crimes against humanity must always be seen against the backdrop of the equally terrible crimes of humanity against Israel. But does this make those crimes — its ongoing abuse of the Palestinians and, as I revisit this review at the beginning of 2009, its current assault on the Gaza Strip — any less offensive? Personally, I think not: I originally wrote this review for Evangelical Quarterly in August 2006, during Israel's war of vengeance against Hezbollah in Lebanon. More than two years later, have any lessons been learned? Has anything changed? It seems not. Apart from these introductory paragraphs, then, this review also remains unchanged, and Sizer's book remains as relevant and necessary today as it was when originally published.

James warns us (James 3:1) that those who teach will be judged all the more harshly; and similarly, those who represent God to the world will surely be held to even greater account than those who do not know him. This, if it applies to any nation, must surely apply to Israel if they are indeed God's chosen people.

Hamas' and Hezbollah's crimes not withstanding, the State of Israel's ongoing abuse of the Palestinian people and its neighbours in Lebanon is without a shadow of doubt both a crime against humanity and an offence against God. And the tendency of many Christians to give uncritical support — or even open endorsement — to Israel's apartheid and wholly disproportionate policies is an aberration that compounds that offence.

If you're a Christian Zionist you'll find those opening paragraphs extremely troubling. Are we not, as Christians, required to support the State of Israel? Are not the Jews God's chosen people? Surely those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed (Genesis 12:3) — and aren't statements like these anti-semitic anyway?

Yet as I read this book and observe the current situation it's difficult to draw any other conclusion. I was brought up in a Brethren assembly, taught to read the Bible from within a dispensationalist framework, and although (as far as I remember) the term "Christian Zionist" was never used, its essence informed my thinking. It took a trip to Israel and time spent with Palestinian Christians, seeing the oppression first-hand, to bring home to me how distorted my thinking was.

Sizer's experience, it seems, has been similar, describing himself in his introduction as a young Christian 'devouring Hal Lindsey's best-selling book, The Late Great Planet Earth, and hearing in person his lectures on eschatology', then, after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land — ironically, organised by some 'Christian Zionist friends' — experiencing a 'radical change in perspective.' (p.9-10).

Many Christians will never have an opportunity to visit Israel in person, but Sizer has done a magnificent job in this book, presenting us with a comprehensive overview of Christian Zionism's variant streams, historical developments and theologies which allows anyone willing to approach the subject with an open mind to make their own assessment. This is supported by a number of helpful charts comparing, for example, the historical development of Christian Zionism since 1800 (p.105) and the different types of Christian Zionism (p.256-257). His analysis is careful, detailed and meticulous, a distillation of his doctoral thesis, which takes his readers through the movement's history (chapter 1), examining its theological emphases (chapter 2) and exposing its political implications (chapter 3) to finally emerge (chapter 4) with "Biblical Zionism: a covenantal alternative", an approach that does justice to both the old covenant under Abraham and the new covenant under Christ and offers hope to Jew and Palestinian alike, eschewing violence and leaving no room for anti-semitism.

Each chapter is broken down into manageable subsections and ends with a concise summary of the arguments presented therein, allowing even an impatient reader to benefit and a more patient reader time to pause and take stock.

Sizer's final conclusions are — for this reader at least — inescapable:
...the choice is between two theologies: one based primarily on the shadows of the old covenant; the other on the reality of the new covenant. In identifying with the former, Christian Zionism is an exclusive theology that focuses on the Jews in the land rather than an inclusive theology that centres on Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. It consequently provides a theological endorsement for racial segregation, apartheid and war. This is diametrically opposed to the inclusive theology of justice, peace and reconciliation which lie at the heart of the new covenant.' (p.260).
A glossary of terms, appendix ('Challenging Christian Zionism', a statement from Sabeel, the Palestinian Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem), eleven pages of bibliography and three indices (people, subjects and biblical references) round the book off, whilst footnotes throughout, rather than endnotes, help to keep the entire volume as reader-friendly as possible. This is a book that deserves the widest possible readership. No one who has a concern for the Middle East should ignore the issues raised; to do so is — returning to Sizer's introduction — 'nothing less than to perpetuate the evil of the Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan who walked by on the other side.' (p.13).

The time for silence is over: those who are Israel's true friends must speak out against Israel's behaviour before this nation pushes itself over the brink and into Armageddon.

More Reviews
Sixty Academics Endorse Christian Zionism Book

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Robert Fisk on the Middle East Peace Process

Robert Fisk speaks on the prospect of a Palestinian state after Binyamin Netanyahu's comments during his US visit.

Christian Zionism and the Idolatry of the Land

Yesterday I spoke at the annual confererence of Sabeel UK in Oxford, along with Dr Ilan Pape.

My paper was entitled, Christian Zionism and the Idolatry of the Land. It was an adaptation of a chapter of my book Zion's Christian Soldiers. You can access the audio and text, together with a note taking outline here.

  3. The Promised Land: From the Nile to the Euphrates? : Outline 3 

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Two State Solution

Indefensible Baloney

So Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu 'rejects' US President Obama's insistence that a future Palestinian state must be based on the 1967 borders.

What was ‘indefensible’ in 1967 is completely irrelevant in 2011. You do not need the Golan Heights to protect Galilee or the Jordan Valley to protect Jerusalem or Gaza to protect Ashkelon.

The distance from Amman to Jerusalem is 45 miles. The flying time for a Lockheed SR-71 or a MiG-25 Foxbat is less than 80 seconds. That is the kind of ‘warning’ either side has of an attack. Does that mean the Jordan river is an indefensible border as well? Then perhaps Israel should annexe Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt too, as many Christian Zionists insist.

The best defense is a good neighbour. Israel badly needs some, not more F-35s. Either we uphold the rule of international law or we incite terrorism, and if the latter, we will always be insecure.

Netanyahu’s logic is vacuous. He wants to keep land stolen in 1967, which is inadmissible in international law.

I anticipate a major sea change in international opinion towards Israel by the Autumn when a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders is declared. Israel will become ever more isolated within the international community just as South Africa was under the Apartheid regime.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Largest student union in Europe joins boycott of Israel

The University of London Union (ULU) has voted 10-1 to institute and campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in support of Palestine. The motion called for “thorough research into ULU investments and contracts” with companies guilty of “violating Palestinian human rights” as set out by the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC). Ashok Kumar, Senate member for LSE, speaking in favour of the motion, argued, “We have precedents for boycotting campaigns at ULU, especially with South Africa and the boycott campaign over Barclays bank, that supported the Apartheid regime. We are now responding to the Palestinian call for civil action in support of their fight against racism.”

The motion also called on other students’ unions to join in the campaign for Palestinian human rights. ULU is the largest students’ union in Europe with over 120,000 members from colleges across London. ULU senate consists of the presidents of the 20 students unions reprsenting every University of London University. James Haywood, President-elect at Goldsmiths Students’ Union, stated, “We are delighted that this motion has passed, and with such a clear vote as well. We have seen throughout history that boycotts are a crucial nonviolent tactic in achieving freedom, and target institutions, not individuals.”

Sean Rillo Raczka, incoming ULU Vice President, “I’m delighted that ULU has passed this BDS policy on Israel. We stand in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people, and as Vice President next year I will ensure that the University of London Union does not give profit to those denying the human rights of the Palestinians”

Read the full motion here

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Israel is Demolishing its Future Shalom

Yesterday evening a demolition order was served on a home in the village of Al Walajah just outside Bethlehem on the West Bank. If this action goes ahead, this Sunday morning (15 May) the home will be bulldozed by the Israeli army. The home that is set to be destroyed has just been rebuilt by a group of volunteers from UK human rights charity the Amos Trust, together with local Palestinian people. The home belongs to the Aburizeq family and the land has been owned by the village for centuries.

House demolitions such as this are illegal under international law and have been condemned by human rights groups and the UK and other international governments. Al Walajah is a small village of 2,500 people, 5 miles south of Jerusalem. Half of the village has been annexed to Jerusalem and the whole village is to be completely encircled by the Israeli Separation Wall. The village will be completely cut off as there will be one entrance to the village through an Israeli checkpoint.

Israel has since 1967 demolished over 25 homes in the village. This home was originally demolished seven years ago and three generations of the Aburizeq family have had to live together in an old damp concrete portacabin in a nearby refugee camp.

As the home was rebuilt in April, the mother of the family wept as she saw her home rising again after seven years. She said, "I was dead and you have given me back my life."

These policies are not about security, they are about demolishing families and are deliberate reminders of the power of the occupying Israeli military. In the words of Dr Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian peace activist and former Yale professor ‘Nearly half the land of Al Walaja has been annexed to the Jerusalem municipality, but not the people of Al Walaja. They want the land but they don’t want the people that come with it’

The demolition is not inevitable; it requires urgent action to prevent it. Amos Trust urges people to contact their MP or the Foreign Secretary Rt Hon William Hague at the Foreign office today asking them to put pressure on the Israeli government to abide by international law. A draft letter is available at

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention occupying powers are prohibited from destroying Palestinian property or employing collective punishment. Article 53 reads: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons…is prohibited." The UK Government, as signatory to the Geneva Convention, is obliged to do all in its power to ensure its enforcement.

The Al Walaja house demolitions are closely related to the building of settlements and the Separation Wall which are both illegal under international law – a position we appreciate is supported by the UK Government.

Amos Trust raised the money for building materials through its 2010 Christmas appeal, Rebuilding Home. Rebuilding Hope which was supported by individuals and churches throughout the UK

See also The Battle for Al-Walaja

Monday, 9 May 2011

Middle East In Crisis: Where is Church Leadership?

Mariam Tadros : The Role of Women and Families in Church Leadership from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Mariam Tadros on the Role of Women and Families in the Church Leadership of the Middle East.

The Rt Revd Dr Vahan Hovhanessian : Some Realities of Church Leadership in the Middle East from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

The Rt Revd Dr Vahan Hovhanessian is the Primate of the Armenian Church in the UK and Ireland.

Mariam and Vahan were two of the speakers at the Living Stones of the Holy Land Trust annual conference held at the Catholic Chaplaincy in Oxford, 7th May 2011.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Vanunu: Please revoke my Israeli Citizenship

"I have no interest in Israeli citienship, I don’t want to go on living here".

While the Israeli government seems keen to revoke the citizenship of Palestinians and expel them, it may not be so enthusiastic to apply the same law to Mordechai Vanunu. Here is the open letter he has written to the Israeli Minister of the Interior.

To Mr. Eli Yishai, Minister of the Interior, 2 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Jerusalem

Re: Revocation of Citizenship

I am Mordechai Vanunu, who was kidnapped in Rome on September 30, 1986, by the security services of Israel.

I was tried by the Jerusalem District Court, convicted of espionage, treason and assistance to the enemy and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, following a newspaper interview to the London "Sunday Times" where I told of the production of materials for nuclear arms in Israel.

I have enacted the democratic principle of the public's right to know.

I have spent 18 years at the Ashkelon Prison, mostly under conditions of complete isolation. On April 21, 2004 I was released, under severe restrictions.

Seven years have passed and the restrictions are renewed again and again, every year, on the basis of the 1945 Defense (Emergency) Regulations. Now these restrictions are about to be renewed for yet another year.

Since my release I lived for six years in East Jerusalem. Since September 2010 I have lived in Tel Aviv.

On June 1986 I have converted to Anglican Christianity. 

Recently, the Knesset passed a law authorizing the revocation of Israeli citizenship for those convicted of espionage and treason.

For 25 years I am waiting and demanding the restoration of my complete freedom.

I am asking the State of Israel to revoke my citizenship.

This wish for revocation of citizenship is neither new nor recent.

Now, however, it is supported by the new Citizenship Revocation Law, passed on March 28, 2011.

I am asking and expecting that this law be enforced to the letter, and that my citizenship be revoked here and now, under the spirit of the law.

I have no other citizenship, but I can easily get one, even during my enforced sojourn in Israel, and certainly if I leave the country.

After the treatment and "care" which I got from this country and its citizens, I cannot feel myself a wanted citizen here.

In the Israeli media and on the Israeli streets I am called "The Atomic Spy" and "A traitor", harassed and persecuted as an Enemy of the State for 25 years.

I feel myself still imprisoned, still a prisoner of war and a hostage, held by the state and the government.

After 25 years of getting various harsh penalties from the state, I would like to see an end to punishments and the realization of my basic human right to freedom.

I wish to exercise my right to the Freedom of Conscience and the Freedom of Choice, by choosing not to be a citizen of Israel.

I have no interest in Israeli citizenship, I do not want to live here.

I ask that you revoke my citizenship here and now.

I request that you set me free of Israel, since Israel does not want me nor do I want Israel.

All that I knew I told, already in 1986, to the English newspaper. I have no further confidential information.

The time has come to let me leave Israel, after 25 years of imprisonment, a full quarter of a century!

Mordechai Vanunu

(c/o Att. Avigdor Feldman, 10 Huberman Street, Tel Aviv)

Copies: The President, Prime Minister, Defense Minister, Foreign Minister and Justice Minister.
Facebook Vanunu Mordechai.
Mobile +972 (0) 523744569.

Getting Away with Murder

The Archbishop of Canterbury drew criticism last week for questioning the morality of US forces killing Osama Bin Laden.

Now N.T. Wright has come to the Archbishop's defence.

Christianity Today writes, N.T. Wright Slams 'American Exceptionalism' in Osama bin Laden Mission with the provocative subtitle, "New Testament scholar calls President Obama out, alleging cowboy vigilantism."

Popular author and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has accused the world of giving America a free pass for violating Pakistan's sovereignty and killing an unarmed man during the recent attack that killed Osama bin Laden.
The former bishop of Durham sent a short statement to The Times' religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill in which he pointed out that Americans would be "furious" if Great Britain's military had staged an unannounced raid against hypothetical Irish Republican Army terrorists and killed them, unarmed, in a Boston suburb.
The only difference, Wright says, is "American exceptionalism."
"America is allowed to do it, but the rest of us are not," said Wright, who is now the research professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. "By what right? Who says?"
President Obama, Wright says, has "enacted one of America’s most powerful myths," the vigilante hero going outside the law to execute "redemptive violence" against an enemy who has rendered the legitimate authorities impotent. "This is the plot of a thousand movies, comic-book strips, and TV shows: Captain America, the Lone Ranger, and (upgraded to hi-tech) Superman. The masked hero saves the world."
While this myth may have been a necessary dimension of life in the Wild West, Wright says, it also "legitimizes a form of vigilantism, of taking the law into one’s own hands, which provides ‘justice’ only of the crudest sort."
"What will we do when new superpowers arise and try the same trick on us?" he asks. "And what has any of this to do with something most Americans also believe, that the God of ultimate justice and truth was fully and finally revealed in the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, who taught people to love their enemies, and warned that those who take the sword will perish by the sword?"
Wright, a prominent figure in the Church of England, has gained fame on both sides of the Atlantic for his academic and popular writings on the New Testament and the historical Jesus. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams also commented on bin Laden's death this week, admitting to "a very uncomfortable feeling" about reports that bin Laden wasn't armed when he was killed "because it doesn't look as if justice is seen to be done."
"When we are faced with someone who was manifestly a 'war criminal' as you might say in terms of the atrocities inflicted, it is important that justice is seen to be observed," Williams said.
Whatever our views as to the manner of the death of Osama Bin Laden, the Hebrew Scriptures are clear what God thinks.

"Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live" (Ezekiel 18:23)

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Riverdance Must Boycott Israel

Riverdance in Israel: Robert Ballagh’s Open Letter

26th April 2011

As the designer of Riverdance I am personally disappointed to learn of the decision to perform the show in Israel at this time.

Many years ago I was honoured to meet Nelson Mandela when he was in Ireland. I took the opportunity to ask his opinion on the cultural and sporting boycott of South Africa. He replied by saying that the boycott was an essential weapon in the struggle against apartheid. His forceful words came back to me last year when I, along with many other Irish creative and performing artists, signed a cultural boycott pledge not to visit Israel ( This was a positive response to the call by Palestinian film-makers, artists and cultural organisations for a cultural boycott of Israel. I believe that this non-violent cultural boycott will contribute to the struggle for justice for the Palestinian people.

Because I have signed up to support the cultural boycott I will not be travelling to Israel with Riverdance, and also I have decided to donate any royalties due to me for performances in Israel to the fund for the Irish boat which will be taking part in the international flotilla which is hoping to break the illegal and inhuman blockade of the citizens of Gaza.

Robert Ballagh
Artist and Riverdance Set Designer


Riverdance in Israel: Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign Open Letter

26th April 2011

We can all remember the thrill we experienced when watching the original Riverdance during the interval of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. It now appears that the full-length show that grew from it is bowing out with a disgraceful gesture that will poison this memory. Between 1-13 September, Riverdance's "farewell tour" will include three Israeli cities, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem. This violates the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel issued by 170 Palestinian civil society organisations in July 2005, and the subsequent call for a cultural boycott issued by Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural organisations.

Would Riverdance have toured South Africa during the dark years of Apartheid there? If not, then how can its creators and performers justify touring the rogue Israeli state that has devised its own form of Apartheid that in many respects is worse than that once practised in South Africa? Don't take our word for it - ask former ANC government minister Ronnie Kasrils (himself Jewish), who said that South Africans "never saw tanks and planes firing at a civilian population. It's a monstrousness I'd never seen before. The wall..., the checkpoints and the roads for Jews only - it turns the stomach, even for someone who grew up under apartheid. It's a hundred times worse." These sentiments have been echoed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and by Nelson Mandela himself, who said that “we South Africans cannot feel free until the Palestinians are free.”

Just as BDS - including the cultural boycott - played a part in isolating South Africa and helping to bring an end to Apartheid, similar tactics can help isolate the Apartheid Israeli state and compel it to end its illegal occupation and colonial settlement of Palestinian lands, and its refusal to negotiate a just peace without preconditions - such unconditional negotiations, as we all know, having been indispensable to drawing up the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. Considerations such as these have led some 210 (to date) Irish creative and performing artists to sign a pledge that they will accept no invitations to Israel "until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights." (see

Some say that, unlike Apartheid South Africa, Israel is a democracy and must be treated differently. Even if this were true, do the crimes of a democracy weigh less than those of a dictatorship? But it is not true: Israel calls itself "the state of the Jewish people", not that of its citizens, and discriminates against non-Jews; intent on continued expansion, it has never negotiated internationally recognised borders; it is in permanent violation of international law and international humanitarian law by virtue of its occupation and colonisation of Palestinian and Syrian territory and its cruel siege of the Gaza strip; and it holds thousands of Palestinian political prisoners (including over 200 children) subject, according to Amnesty International, “to torture and other ill- treatment.“ Does such a rogue state truly deserve the noble epithet "democracy"?

You may protest that culture is above politics and builds bridges between peoples, even opponents. But culture is not above being exploited for political ends by states that serially abuse human rights. Israel's Foreign Ministry has explicitly stated that it "sees no difference between culture and propaganda". Artists who visit Israel are not merely spurning with contempt the boycott call from the oppressed Palestinians, but they are normalising the abnormal regime that causes such suffering. The presence of such artists in Israel will be exploited brazenly by that state, and hence they will have let themselves become tools of oppression.
Riverdance includes a number called Freedom. Please do not allow the final Riverdance tour to be exploited by those who rob the suffering Palestinian people of freedom and hope. Please cancel your tour of Israel.

Raymond Deane
Cultural Boycott Officer
Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Posted on 29-04-2011