Thursday, 30 June 2011

Pro-Justice activists condemn the detention of Sheikh Raed Salah

The arrest of such a high-profile and well-respected Palestinian leader will, inevitably, damage relations between the Muslim community and other sections of British society.Human rights campaigners and community leaders have condemned the late-night arrest of Sheikh Raed Salah by the UK Border Agency on 28th June. Sh. Raed is the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel and he is in Britain for a speaking tour which was to include meetings with parliamentarians, academics and public meetings on the plight of Palestinians living in Israel and Jerusalem. He has been served with a deportation order under Section 3 of the Immigration Act. The arrest appears to be the result of an orchestrated libellous campaign in the right-wing, pro-Israel media and bears all the marks of a political rather than a legal measure to curb freedom of speech. The arrest of such a high-profile and well-respected Palestinian leader will, inevitably, damage relations between the Muslim community and other sections of British society.

Sheikh Salah is renowned for his non-violent approach to the protection of Palestinian rights in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Home Secretary Theresa May has clearly succumbed to pressure from the pro-Israel Lobby in Britain to prevent Sh. Salah from being able to give a first-hand account of the discrimination faced by the so-called "Israeli-Arab" community; Israel's Palestinian citizens who constitute 20% of the total population in the state.

Sh. Salah's visit was trailed three weeks in advance by MEMO and his talks have been advertised widely, prompting an aggressive media campaign to have him stopped from entering the country.

As a result of the accusations against him, legal steps are being taken by lawyers acting on behalf of Sh. Salah in respect of some of the allegations made against him in at least two national newspapers.

It is astonishing that neither the Home Office nor the Metropolitan Police sought clarification and further information from any of the organisations involved; nor, indeed, did either express their concerns that his presence in the UK might be a threat to public order.

Raed Salah is an Israeli citizen who is, presumably, free to travel as far as his own government is concerned, and has never been held by the Israeli authorities on any of the charges levelled at him by the Israel Lobby in Britain. It is astonishing, therefore, that the British government, which espouses democracy and freedom to the extent of going to war to uphold those values, is now denying freedom to someone on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations and media hype. The deportation order should be rescinded immediately. Without solid evidence this entire saga makes a fiasco of the British legal system.

Signatories:

Middle East Monitor [MEMO]
Friends of Al Aqsa [FoA]
British Muslim Initiative [BMI]
Interpal
Palestine Solidarity Campaign [PSC]
Palestine Return Centre [PRC]
Lindsey German, Stop the War
Ben White, Writer and Activist
Mohamed Ali, CEO, Islam Channel
Global Peace and Unity [GPU]
Mohammed Asif, Engage
Amos Trust
Victoria Brittain, Journalist and Writer
Reverend Dr. Stephen Sizer
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions [ICAHD]
Yvonne Ridley, European President of the International Muslim Women's Union
Dr Robert Lambert, Co-Director, European Muslim Research Centre, University of Exeter and Lecturer at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St Andrews
Federation of Muslim Organisations of Leicestershire
Islamic Forum of Europe

For an update see the Guardian 

In an earlier Guardian article published this morning, Tayab Ali, who is acting for Salah, said:
"The detention last night was pursuant to section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 which was that the secretary of state felt that deportation of my client was conducive to the public good. "It is our view that the basis for that deportation order is without merit and interferes with our client's article 10 right to freedom of expression. We will be strongly challenging the deportation order in the British courts."
 Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in London, said she was appalled by the decision to detain Salah. "This is a legitimate organisation which Israel has never moved to ban. Raed Salah regularly speaks at venues across Israel, where he has considerable support amongst the Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up a fifth of the population." He had been elected mayor of his home town, Um al-Fahm, three times and never been convicted of anti-semitism in Israel.
Colborne said Salah had asked his legal team to take action against those in Britain who had made allegations of anti-semitism against him before his arrival. "The attempt to remove Sheikh Raed Salah from this country while he is taking legal action against those who have been defaming him is an obstruction of the course of justice," she said. Colborne said the Home Office, when contacted by Salah's legal team, refused to confirm or deny the ban.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Hind Khoury on the Future of Palestine


Hind Khoury on the Future of Palestine from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Hind Khoury is the former Palestinian Ambassador to Paris and government minister for Jerusalem. Born in Bethlehem she is unable to live in her family home because of the illegal Israeli occupation and apartheid wall. Here she talks about her life and hopes for an independent sovereign Palestine.

She is in the UK as a guest speaker at the House of Commons launch of 'The Jerusalem Campaign' organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign

See also a Guardian interview a six per cent democracy

Friday, 24 June 2011

Naim Ateek Replies to Archbishop Williams


His Grace Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
Lambeth Palace
London


23 June 2011


Dear Archbishop Williams,


Greetings from Jerusalem!

Last week at Sabeel, we had the privilege of having the Anglican Consultative Council delegation headed by Archbishop Michael Jackson. We seized the opportunity to convey to them our response to your interview on the BBC regarding your concern about the dwindling presence of Arab Christians of the Middle East. The concern is genuine and sincere, unfortunately, your words were negatively received by our people; and we have been asked by our friends - locally and internationally - to make a public response.

1. As Palestinian Christians, we perceive ourselves as an integral part of the Palestinian people. We might be a very small religious community nowadays but due to our long rootedness in our land, we do not refer to ourselves as a minority. Moreover, as Palestinians, whether Christian or Muslim, we equally live under the oppression of the illegal Israeli occupation of our country. As Palestinians - Christians and Muslims - we share the same hopes and aspirations and we struggle for freedom and human dignity together.

2. Although as Palestinian Christians, we appreciate the fact that you raised the issue of the vulnerability of the Christian presence in the Middle East -- a subject that is dear to our hearts and of great concern to us – you singled out the extremist Islamists as a threat to Christian presence, but neglected to mention two other extremists groups, namely, Jewish extremists represented by the religious and racist settlers on the West Bank that are encouraged directly by the present extreme rightwing Israeli government, and Christian extremists represented by the Western Christian Zionists that support Israel blindly and unconditionally. With candor the last two groups of extremists, i.e. Jewish and Western Christian Zionists are a greater threat to us than the extremist Islamists. In fact, these extremists have more military power and clout to uproot all Palestinian presence both Christian and Muslim from our homeland.

3. In 2006, Sabeel conducted a survey of the Christians in Israel and Palestine with the help of Bethlehem University. The survey clearly indicated that the primary causes for the emigration of Christians from the West Bank are both political and economic conditions. “Those who are leaving…because of the bad economic and political situation represent 87.3% of the total respondents” (p.34). Only 8% of the respondents attributed emigration to religious extremism.

4. As you are well aware, if Muslims are leaving Hebron, it is largely due to the violence of the Jewish religious settlers that has made the life of Palestinian Hebronites miserable and intolerable.

5. The area of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour has sufficient space for Palestinians to live in; but most of their land (largely Christian) has been confiscated by Israeli settlement expansion including the settlements of Gilo and Har Homa.

6. The separation Wall has broken up families and closed businesses. It has devoured land and torn communities apart. And with the checkpoints and permit system it has greatly restricted people’s movement especially to Jerusalem their Holy City. The Wall is a big “push factor” for Palestinians out of Palestine.

We are saddened that a great opportunity was missed by not revealing the oppressive consequences of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian people, both Muslim, and Christian.

If the church - local and international - does not raise the prophetic voice, who will stand for justice and truth?

In the absence of the prophetic, and as the rightwing Israeli government continues to spurn all international efforts for a just peace, we implore you to champion the cause of the oppressed Palestinians. The desperate situation needs the courage and clarity of an Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Respectfully yours,

Naim Ateek
Director
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Jerusalem

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Americans are Coming: Freedom Flotilla 2

Medea Benjamin is one of 50 US citizens aboard the Audacity of Hope sailing with other boats toward Gaza. She writes, 
“I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him,” said Dr. Martin Luther King as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. These words will guide me and other passengers aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a fleet of nine boats scheduled to set sail for Gaza on June 25 from various Mediterranean ports. While the Israelis try to label us provocateurs, terrorists and Hamas supporters, we are simply nonviolent advocates following the teachings of Dr. King. We refuse to sit at the docks of history and watch the people of Gaza suffer.
The U.S. boat, which will carry 50 Americans, is called The Audacity of Hope. It is named after Obama’s best-selling political autobiography in which he lauds our collective audacity of striving to become a better nation. But I prefer to think of our boat as part of Dr. King’s legacy. He, too, talked about audacity, about his audacious faith in the future. “I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him,” Dr. King said.

Our intrepid group has its moral compass aimed at the way things ought to be. Our cargo is not humanitarian aid, as some of the other ships are carrying, but thousands of letters from the U.S. people, letters of compassion, solidarity and hope written to people living in the Gaza Strip. We travel with what Dr. King called “unarmed truth and unconditional love.”

We focus on Gaza because since 2007 the Israeli government has enforced a crippling blockade on its 1.5 million residents. Inflicting collective punishment on civilians is morally wrong and is a gross violation of international humanitarian law under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Yet the world’s democracies do nothing to stop Israel’s extraordinarily cruel behavior, and in fact did nothing for 22 days in 2009 while the Israel military unleashed a tidal wave of carnage that left 1,400 Palestinians dead. They continue to sit by while the people of Gaza remain isolated and unable to secure access to building materials and basic living supplies, and while Israeli soldiers shoot at Gaza’s farmers trying to till their land along the border and attack fisherman trying to make a living in waters off their shore. And in the case of the United States, our government is not simply sitting by, but supporting the Israeli military with $3 billion in military aid a year.  

Medea is particularly critical of the US government's response.
Equally astonishing is the U.S. government’s reaction. Instead of demanding safe passage for unarmed U.S. citizens participating in what passenger and writer Alice Walker calls “the Freedom Ride of our era,” the State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner has labeled our actions “irresponsible and provocative” and the U.S. government has joined Israel in strong-arming countries in the Mediterranean to prevent us from sailing.
She concludes,
All this bullying, however, only strengthens our resolve. We may be fewer boats, we may have fewer passengers, we may be threatened with violence, but we will sail. And if the Israelis intercept our boats, we call on people around the world to gather at Israeli embassies and consulates to express their outrage.

Like the inexorable rhythm of the ocean, the Palestinians will continue to lap at the shores of injustice. They will keep coming back, wave after wave, demanding the right to rebuild their tattered communities, the right to live in dignity. Shoring them up will be the international community, including activists like us who join their nonviolent resistance. The real question is: How long will the Israelis, with U.S. backing, continue to swim against the tide?
Read more here

MEPs to join next flotilla to Gaza

The Free Gaza Movement

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Mass protest at Ben Gurion Airport 8th July

Laura Durkay over on Mondoweiss tells of a day of mass protest scheduled for Friday 8th July:
From July 8-16, I will join hundreds of internationals for a week of solidarity actions in coordination with 15 Palestinian civil resistance organizations in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.  To my knowledge, this will be the first attempt to bring such a large number of internationals—already over 500, according to organizers—to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a coordinated manner.  While Freedom Flotilla 2, sailing in the coming days, rightly puts the spotlight on Israel’s cruel blockade of Gaza, we intend to show that Israeli repression in the rest of historic Palestine—the West Bank, Jerusalem, and what is now Israel—is no less important and is part of the same project of ethnic cleansing and colonization.

The opening act of our week of nonviolent resistance is, in my opinion, its most creative and daring component.  On a single day, July 8, hundreds of internationals and Palestinians living abroad will fly in to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and perform one simple but radical action: refuse to lie about the fact that we are there to travel to the Occupied Territories and visit Palestinians.

Anyone who has traveled to Palestine knows the potential risks associated with this action.  Israel controls all entry points into Palestine, except for the Rafah crossing into Gaza, which is controlled by Egypt and has its own Kafkaesque challenges.  The Israeli government routinely denies entry to people it knows or simply suspects of being Palestine solidarity activists; journalists, academics and cultural workers sympathetic to the Palestinians; even people coming to do volunteer or charity work in the Occupied Territories.

This means that for years, the most common strategy among solidarity activists entering Palestine has been to keep your head down and lie about why you are there. 

Read more here

Korean Edition of Zion's Christian Soldiers

InterVarsity Press have recently signed an agreement with a Korean based publisher to produce a Korean edition of Zion’s Christian Soldiers. The new edition will be published in 2013.

Reviews : Bible Studies : Cover : Outlines : Press Release : Premier Radio Interview : Order

“Thank God, here comes at last a book that challenges the pseudo-theology which, by giving precedence to the Old Covenant over the New, relegates the Church to the status of concubine in order to make Israel the Bride of Christ. In clear and measured terms, the author demonstrates from Scripture that God’s purposes for history are not driven by a narrowly selective racist obsession but rather by his eternal design to create the Church, the new community dearly secured through the cross for all Christ-followers, both Jews and Gentiles.” Professor Gilbert Bilezikian, Professor Emeritus, Wheaton College and a founding leader of Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Illinois. 

It is not an understatement to say that what is at stake is our understanding of the gospel, the centrality of the cross, the role of the church, and the nature of our missionary mandate, not least, to the beloved Jewish people. If we don’t see Jesus at the heart of the Hebrew scriptures, and the continuity between his Old Testament and New Testament saints in the one inclusive Church, we’re not reading them correctly.

The key question is this “Was the coming of Jesus and the birth of the Church the fulfilment or the postponement of the promises God made to Abraham?”

Christian Zionists see the promises of identity, land and destiny as part of an ongoing covenant God has with the Jewish people. In this book I unpack this question and show that Christian Zionism is a recent manifestation of a heresy refuted by the New Testament.

The Audio Book with Seminar Outlines
You can listen to or read six presentations based on the chapters of the book as well as print outlines useful for personal and group Bible study. A more comprehensive set of Bible studies useful for individual or groups based on this book has been produced for the film With God on our Side. These are available here.

1. For the Love of Zion: The Bible tells them so : Outline 1
2. Israel and the Church: Who are God’s chosen people? : Outline 2
3. The Promised Land: From the Nile to the Euphrates? : Outline 3
4. Battle for Jerusalem: The Eternal Capital of the Jews? : Outline 4
5. The Coming Last Day’s Temple: Ready to Rebuild? : Outline 5
6. Overture to Armageddon: Want to be left behind? : Outline 6

Israel and the Church: Sermon Series
You can read, hear and watch a sermon series based on the book preached at Christ Church in August 2009.

Where is the promised land?
The Battle for Jerusalem?
Will the Temple be Rebuilt?
I want to be Left Behind

Book Review by Victoria Clark in Living Stones Magazine. Also check out the Bible Study guide

Kairos Palestine: Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury


The Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
Lambeth Palace
Lambeth Palace Road
London


Your Grace,

Kairos Palestine is deeply troubled by your recent comments regarding the situation of Christians in the Middle East in general and more particularly those related to the Palestinian Christians, as it was aired on the June 14 broadcast of the BBC news programme “The World at One.”[1]

Your inaccurate and erroneous remarks cite Muslim extremism as the greatest threat facing Christians in Palestine, and the primary reason for our emigration. Your statements about Bethlehem are particularly faulty and offensive especially when you say that the movement of Muslims into the Bethlehem area, where space is limited, is forcing Christians to leave.

Equally shocking is how Your Grace managed, diplomatically –instead of being prophetic, as one would expect you to be, not to mention the Israeli occupation, the separation wall, Israel confiscation of Palestinian land, its policies that violate freedom of movement and worship (Palestinians in Bethlehem cannot, for instance, go to Jerusalem), or its brutal crackdowns on nonviolent protests as one of the major reasons that push not only Christians to emigrate, but also many other Palestinians.

We were hoping that Your Grace would have a different voice than the one in mass media and other right wing political parties, which exploit our sufferings to fuel some islamophobic tendencies and negative images about Islam. Indeed, this is what the Israeli occupation persistently tries to do. It demonizes Islam in a way that deflects blame from the repression levied by the state itself. We are concerned that your comments are serving the same purpose.

We were deeply saddened by your declarations because we know that Your Grace is well informed about the situation in the Holy Land, and you know very well that in the Bethlehem area alone there are 19 illegal Israeli settlements (such as nearby Har Homa built on Jabal Abu Ghneim) and the wall that have devoured Christian lands and put Bethlehem in a chokehold. You know well that only 13% of Bethlehem area is available for Palestinian use and the wall isolates 25% or the Bethlehem area’s agricultural land. Not to mention the situation of Christians in Jerusalem, which you know very well, since you should have received reports from the Anglican Bishop in the City whose residency permit was denied by the occupying power. We can go on and on, but it is no longer important...

We are no longer expecting support from Church leaders around the world. Our Hope, Faith and Love come from elsewhere. However, at the same time, we request you and every leader, especially church leaders, not to use us and our cause for your own purposes. We are so thankful to Your Grace for the “International Conference on Christians in the Holy Land” that you are holding in your Palace in July, but we feel it will be useless, not to say harmful to us, indigenous Christians in the land of the Holy One, if the outcome will be in the same spirit as your interview.

Since Your Grace did not meet or consult with any Palestinian Christians during your recent visit here, we are wondering why would you be suddenly interested to speak on our behalf? This troubles us. Palestinian Christians are fully capable of expressing their situation without needing anyone to interpret what they mean; we are happy to meet directly with church leaders and, in solidarity, discuss our reality and what can be done to transform it.

Finally, we would like to remind Your Grace that Christian Palestinians need advocates for the truth. It is the truth, and only the truth, that will lead to peace and justice in our home.


Monday, 20 June 2011

John Hagee and Incitement to Racial and Religious Hatred

John Hagee is scheduled to appear at a Rally and Prophecy Conference at the Birmingham Symphony Hall, 18-20 August.

Given his provocative and inflammatory statements about Islam, Iran and Israel, I believe the Home Secretary should be asked to ban his visit as an incitement to racial and religious hatred.

 Hagee has for example, advocated a pre-emptive military attack against Iran.

“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.” Sarah Posner, “Pastor Strangelove” The American Prospect Online,


I believe the Home Secretary should be asked to ban his visit and the management of the Birmingham Symphony Hall urged to cancel his booking.

See also Weird and Wacky Theology 3: Armageddon out of here and also

Pastor John Hagee, Sheikh Raed Salah and the Home Secretary

One in Three Refugees in the World is a Palestinian


'On World Refugee Day, let us reaffirm the importance of solidarity and burden-sharing by the international community. Refugees have been deprived of their homes, but they must not be deprived of their futures' UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Palestinian refugee is a person whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period between 1 June 1946 and 15 May 1948 and those who both lost their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict (as defined by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA).

One in every three refugees in the world is Palestinian! There are approximately 7 million Palestinian refugees in the world and they can be categorised as:

The original 'Nakhba refugees' and their descendants (4.5 million)
The 1967 Six Day War refugees and descendants (1 million)

'Low intensity population transfer' refugees and other refugees All refugees have the right to return to their homes and/ or receive compensation for the loss or damage of their properties. Israel has been deliberately denying the right to return of the Palestinian refugees which is a clear violation of international law.

'We should do whatever it takes to prevent the Palestinians from coming back to their homes. The old will die and the young will eventually forget' are the words of Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency Website http://unrwa.org/

www.unrwa.org

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Astro Awani (Malaysia) interview on the Middle East Conflict





Here are the two parts of a 30 minute Astro Awani (Malaysia) programme hosted by Kamarul Bin Haron with Professor Achin Vanaik discussing solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Pro-peace. Pro-justice. Pro-equality

Lynn Hybels has written a personal reflection on her recent visit to Palestine for Sojourners. In it she observes,

Following Jesus in the West Bank
As a Christian committed to justice, I am glad the Jewish people have a homeland. I long for the day when they can live in Israel — or anywhere — in security. I don’t hold to a theology asserting that the modern State of Israel represents a divinely mandated return of ancient Israel to the Promised Land, but I do wholeheartedly support its existence as a national homeland for the Jews.
At the same time, I wholeheartedly support justice for the Palestinians. Two years ago at a conference in Amman, Jordan, Arab Christians challenged me to broaden my understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict and to see for myself the current plight of Palestinian Christians and Muslims living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank....

"I am still pro-Israel, but I’ve also become pro-Palestine. Pro-peace. Pro-justice. Pro-equality for Jews and Arabs living as neighbors in the Holy Land. And bottom line, pro-Jesus." Lynn Hybels.

Read more here in Sojourners "My Search for the truth about the Middle East"

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

East Jerusalem: Six Voices

I'm pleased to share B'Tselem's latest project with you, launched last week.

"East Jerusalem: Six Voices" is the result of an innovative collaboration between B'Tselem and The Guardian newspaper, in which five Palestinians and two Israelis created personal video diaries about the human rights' reality in East Jerusalem. Click here to watch "East Jerusalem: Six Voices."

What today we call East Jerusalem is an area of 27 square miles, most of which was part of the West Bank before 1967. Israel illegally annexed this whole area to Jerusalem's municipal borders and built twelve large settlements (or neighborhoods as they are called in the Israeli parlance). In addition, over the years, Israelis have taken over houses in dozens of spots in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods (you can read much more about the complex human rights reality in East Jerusalem here).

While East Jerusalem is recognized as crucial to any resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, too often the diplomatic conversation ignores the daily reality of the people living here. News that settlers have taken over a building in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City may be broadcast throughout the world – but who knows about the absurd reality that this has created for the Qirresh family? Activists in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood have focused international attention on the eviction of families there – but how does these evictions look through the eyes of 12-year-old Muna and Muhammad al-Qurd? And what motivated Sara Benninga to take a lead role among Israeli activists advocating for their cause?

As part of B'Tselem's work to promote human rights in the Occupied Territories, we aim to give faces and voices to what otherwise may remain abstract violations. People living in East Jerusalem, in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip should be heard, not only as victims of human rights abuses but also as human beings navigating a complex reality. The partnership with the leading British daily The Guardian ensures that these personal stories engage as wide an audience as possible.
I invite you to share these video diaries with your friends and colleagues, helping to draw attention to the concrete reality in East Jerusalem, too often obscured by lofty symbolism.

Sincerely,


Jessica Montell
Executive Director

The Guardian & B'Tselem

The Gospel and the Land of Promise

The Gospel and the Land of Promise
Christian Approaches to the Land of the Bible
Edited by Philip Church, Tim Bulkeley, Tim Meadowcroft, Peter Walker

"This volume is as important as its topic is serious. We must think clearly and Christianly about what the scriptures tell us concerning land, holy land, the modern Middle East, and biblical promise in a world that entertains enormous theological confusion. These able and provocative essays will offer us skilled guidance in territory few scholars are willing to enter."
-Gary M. Burge, Wheaton College

"I salute the brilliant scholarship, biblical integrity, and keen commitment to justice that emanates from every chapter of The Gospel and the Land of Promise. This book will be a valuable tool in the hands of laypersons, teachers, pastors, and scholars who seek to understand the political and theological realities in Israel/Palestine in the light of God's word. From New Zealand, the farthest country from the land of promise, comes this dynamic voice of reason and compassion."
-Alex Awad, Bethlehem Bible College

"In these excellent essays, Christian scholars in New Zealand—where indigenous land rights have long been at the center of public discourse—reflect on 'land' in the Bible, and particularly the notion of a 'holy land' or 'promised land' in the Middle East. In the main, the book is a rejoinder to Christian Zionism. At the same time, it invites further reflection on the irreducible significance of place or landedness to human existence and Christian identity."
-Chris Marshall, Victoria University of Wellington

"The Christian world remains split down the middle on the issue of how to relate biblical teaching on the land to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here is a serious attempt by scholars of several different disciplines to wrestle with the question of how to read the Old Testament through the eyes of the New and in the light of the painful realities on the ground today. They have effectively thrown down to gauntlet to Dispensationalists and Christian Zionists of every kind: can they come up with equally detailed, heavy-weight scholarship to support their case?"
-Colin Chapman, author of Whose Promised Land?

"This is an immensely important work of biblical scholarship on the theology of the holy land . . . While Christian Zionists invariably see the coming of Jesus as the postponement of the land promises God made to Abraham, the authors demonstrate conclusively from the Scriptures that these promises were fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ." -Stephen Sizer


Wipf & Stock Publishers

Thursday, 9 June 2011

US group blocking bid for peace

The New Straits Times, an English newspaper in Malaysia carried this article today:
KUALA LUMPUR: A senior English pastor and prolific author has alleged that the growing influence of the Christian Zionism movement in the United States is blocking the superpower's efforts to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Reverend Dr Stephen Sizer of Christ Church in Surrey, England, said the Christian Zionism movement rose to prominence in 1967 with misguided Christians viewing the formation of Israel as the fulfillment of a biblical prophesy.

Speaking at an international forum themed "The Israel-Palestinian Conflict: The Religious Dimension" here yesterday, Sizer said Christian Zionists, comprising 25 per cent of American Christians and five per cent of Christians worldwide, were constantly lobbying the White House to safeguard Israel's lot.

Sizer, author of the book Christian Zionism -- Roadmap to Armageddon?, said the Christian Zionists had opposed the peace initiatives of the US government, United Nations, European Community and Russia.

He said Christian leaders in Jerusalem, meanwhile, had declared their rejection of Christian Zionists and believed they were capable of living together with Jews and Muslims in peace, justice and security.

Sizer added: "This is in accordance with Christian teachings that God's land should be shared by all.

"Christians, as ambassadors of reconciliation, are seeking an inclusive peace plan for Palestine.

"But it is clear that Israel will not give up although it has to ultimately choose between democracy, establishing a Jewish State and holding on to occupied territories."

He added that Israel could only have one or two of these options.

Former Palestinian Ambassador to Malaysia, Tan Sri Ahmad Al-Farra, another speaker at the forum held at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia, said it was a fact that fanatical organisations like the Christian Zionists were supported by Israel.

He said he believed the Arab-Israeli conflict was not a religious one.

"It is a political conflict over land, existence and sovereignty.

"There has been no progress at all on the two-state solution. So why not think about having a one-state solution as we (Muslims, Christians and Jews) can live together in Palestine."

Ahmad said US leaders wanted to help bring about peace to the region but their efforts had been blocked by Zionist's lobbying.

The other speaker at the forum, Professor Achin Vanaik from the Department of Political Science, Delhi University in India said: "Those who believe Israel is a democracy are mistaken.

"Israel cannot be a democratic state as long as it still wants to be a Jewish state."

Vanaik said in a democratic state the citizens must have equal rights which protect the people especially minorities from all kinds of oppression and not just limited to religious discrimination.

He said more and more Palestinians were now coming around to the one-state solution with a breakdown in talks over the two-state peace solution.

"In this respect they could also try out other solutions such as the setting up of a confederation, something like the European Union.

"The one-state solution can work if it involves the principle of equal citizenship rights with everyone contributing equally for the national cause."

Read more: 'US group blocking bid for peace'

Monday, 6 June 2011

Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon?

Waking People up to Reality

I'm in Kuala Lumpur participating in a lecture tour organised by Viva Palestina Malaysia. Shahanaaz Habib of the Star Newspaper interviewed me earlier this week. Below is her rather provocative article published on Sunday. 

"Absolute rubbish, replies Reverend Dr Stephen Sizer when asked about the popular Christian view that Jews are the chosen people and that Israel is the Holy Land which gives them the right to return.

The senior pastor of Christ Church in Surrey, England, who has a master's in theology from Oxford University, stresses that the New Testament never once mentions that the Jews are the “chosen people” nor does it say that the land belongs to the Jews.

In fact, he adds, the Hebrew scripture doesn't say that either.

“God's chosen people are not based on race but based on faith,” he insists.

Quoting from the Bible, Deuteronomy Verse 23: “Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite (Jordanian) for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian because thou wast a stranger in his land. The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the congregation of the LORD in their third generation” and from Psalm 87, Dr Sizer points out what God is saying in these verses is that the Egyptian, Jordanians, Palestinians, Iranians, Lebanese, and the Africans are all part of His people on the basis of faith, not race.

“When you divide people in racial terms, you are denying what the Bible says. The land is to be shared. If one race gets the land and everyone else doesn't, this is contrary to what the scripture says. The word chosen' is a word used to describe people who recognise Jesus, not exclusively a racial group, Jewish or anyone else.”

He adds that Jesus' apostles were told to go out of the land and take the message to the world but they were never told to come back.

Controversial views no doubt, especially in the West, when it comes to dealing with Israel and Palestine.

Dr Sizer says he was raised in the 1960s and 1970s in the United Kingdom with an affinity towards the Jews and Israel and a dislike of the Palestinians and Muslims due to horrific cases like the 1972 Munich massacre, where the Israeli Olympic team was held hostage and killed by Palestinian terrorists.

Then as an adult, he spent a few weeks in the Israeli occupied territories and met Christians, Muslims and Jews who were suffering, and experienced what life was like with curfews, checkpoints, no running water or electricity, demolition of Palestinian homes, seizure of lands and assets, being fired on by Israeli soldiers, Jews-only roads and his perspective changed.

The victims of the holocaust have now become the abuser.

“I was bullied as a kid in school. When I see someone being bullied, I can't walk by even if it's risky. I intervene,” says Dr Sizer who specialises on the Israel-Palestine issue and has written a number of books on it.

He has also made a film titled With God On Our Side to provide an insight on US support of Israel.

His PhD thesis examined the origins of the Middle East conflict and the political agenda of Christian Zionism in Britain and the US.

“Betrand Russell says most people would rather die than think'! Most Christians believe what they are told. As a pastor, one of my jobs is to get people to think things through for themselves so what I write is designed to get Christians to start the internal process of questioning things they have come to believe.

“It isn't to destroy. It is to get them to think,” maintains Dr Sizer who is in Malaysia to speak on the Middle East Conflict: A Christian Perspective as a guest of Viva Palestina Malaysia.

He says that churches in the Far East are heavily influenced by American Christianity, which is a fusion of American imperial values and Christian traditions. The fact that the American churches are wealthy also helps to buy influence.

And Dr Sizer wants to prick the balloon and wake people up to the reality.

He says Europe is still living with the legacy of the holocaust and dealing with its guilt, which makes it reluctant to criticise Israel.

It is worse in the US, he says, because “there is not even a single congressman or senator” who dares speak critically of Israel; it would amount to political suicide and turn off the taps of their campaign funding.

“If there is one subject which no politician of any political party in any particular country won't speak up on that is dangerous,” he says, adding that US politicians are only able to speak their minds once they have retired, like President Jimmy Carter.

And even then, Carter was virtually thrown out of the Democrat Party because “he is seen as a liability even when he speaks the truth”.

So Dr Sizer was not at all surprised by the more than 20 standing ovations Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received when he addressed the US Congress recently “because the Israel lobby buys every single politician”.

Drawing parallels from the Bible story of Jacob and his favourite son Joseph to whom he gave a coat of many colours, Dr Sizer says the US is like Jacob and it is treating Israel like Joseph.

“Jacob was not a good father. He spoilt one of his sons and what did that lead to? Hatred, jealousy, envy and attempted murder. As American foreign policy is unilateral (lop-sided towards Israel) rather than multilateral, it is generating hatred among the Arab nations because the US says it is for freedom and democracy but only if you buy our weapons', only if you sell us cheap oil', only if you let our companies come in and reconstruct Iraq', etc.”

He points out that Israel also keeps postponing the peace process while it steals more Palestinian land. And more than 80% of Palestine's West Bank is now under Israeli control.

“Of course, Israel's borders are not secure because of what they have done with the West Bank! Israel is the only country in the world that has never defined what its borders are.

“If I want you to respect my right to exist but I won't tell you what those rights are and I won't define where my land is, how can I expect you to accept them especially when I have taken your property?

“If I steal your land, then give 80% of it back, is that a concession?” Dr Sizer says, pointing out that being a good neighbour is the best defence.

It takes only 80 seconds for an Israeli jet fighter to fly from Tel Aviv to Amman, which is more than ample for defence, he adds.

Stressing the difference between the Jews, Judaism, Israel and Zionism, Dr Sizer says: “Jew is the race, Judaism is the faith, Israel is the country and Zionism is the political system.

“You can be a Jew and an Israeli and not a Zionist. I will defend your right to be a Jew, your faith and your right to live as an Israeli citizen within secure borders but I will also defend the rights of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish to the same rights.”

But Dr Sizer rejects Zionism.

“Zionism is a political system that says the land belongs to the Jewish people and other races must get off or be treated as second class citizens. What about Arabs born in Israel? They are not Jewish. Does that mean that because they are not Jews they can't be Israeli citizens? That's like saying only Malays can be Malaysian citizens.”

That would be like apartheid, he says.

So, Israel is conflicted as to whether there should be a one-state or two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine problem.

“If it's a one-state solution, it has to give equal rights to everyone including Palestinians. But if it's two-state solution, Israel has to give up land and its settlements for the Palestinian state.

“But Israel is like a child that went to visit its grandmother. The grandmother has given it a sweet and the child has put its hand in the jar and grabbed three sweets. But it has to let go of one sweet to get its hand out but it doesn't want to,” he says.

Dr Sizer feels US President Obama has been disappointing in his first year in office because he (Obama) said Israeli settlements must stop, yet Israel went ahead to build more and the US didn't do anything to stop it.

Nevertheless, he remains hopeful about Obama getting a second term in office and wanting to go down in history as the president who achieved peace in the Middle East.

Dr Sizer points out there is more awareness these days about what is going on.

Every British Prime Minister since 1948 is the patron of the Jewish National Fund, which holds in trust 70% of the land in Israel exclusively for Jews, and deprives Palestinians of their rights, he says.

“This week, British Prime Minister David Cameron stepped down as patron. He didn't want the bad publicity that goes with being associated with apartheid.”

For Dr Sizer, the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign against Israel is slowly working.

Taking the Ahava Dead Sea beauty product, which is popular in the US, as an example, he says Sarah Jessica Parker stepped down as the face of Ahava recently and an Ahava shop in Covent Garden, London, had to close when women demonstrated outside it, protesting against “stolen beauty”.

The product is deemed to be stolen from Palestine as it is made in illegal settlements in the West Bank.

“Getting to people's conscience is the way forward,” says Dr Sizer, an optimist who believes peace will come to Israel and Palestine “sooner or later”.

“Did you think apartheid in South Africa would end without a war? Did you think that communism would end without a war? The Berlin wall came down when ordinary people said we've had enough.”

 Dr Sizer will be speaking at KGPA Bukit Kiara on Monday night.