Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Defend Academic Freedom: Dr Marc Ellis and Baylor University

Kenn Starr former Clinton White House nemesis and President of Baylor University, to dismiss dissident Jewish voice Dr. Marc Ellis.

For more than three decades the prophetic voice of Marc Ellis has influenced generations of academics and activists. His dissident voice in the realm of contemporary Jewish identity and his theology of solidarity with Palestinians has been encouraged by numerous scholar-activists including Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Desmond Tutu and the two of us, Rosemary Ruether and Cornel West.

Unfortunately this voice is now being silenced at Baylor University where Marc has served with distinction for almost fifteen years as University Professor and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies. With the approval of Kenneth Starr, President of Baylor University, Marc Ellis is under internal investigation in what looks more and more like a persecution to silence a Jewish voice of dissent. In short, Baylor is re-writing its rules to dismiss Marc Ellis from the faculty.

We, the undersigned, request President Starr to honor Dr. Ellis' academic freedom and stop all hostility toward him, including any attempt at dismissal. Join us signing this petition.

Cornel West and Rosemary Radford Ruether (co-chairs of the committee)

This is what Baylor 'currently' has to say about the distinguished career of Dr Marc Ellis...

Marc H. Ellis was born in North Miami Beach, Florida in 1952. He earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in Religion and American Studies at Florida State University, where he studied under the Holocaust theologian Richard Rubenstein and the American historian William Miller. He received his doctorate in contemporary American social and religious thought from Marquette University in 1980. In that same year he accepted a faculty position at the Maryknoll School of Theology in Maryknoll, New York, becoming founding director of their M.A. program and the Maryknoll Institute for Justice and Peace. He was made full professor in 1988, and remained at Maryknoll until 1995, when he assumed a position first as a Senior Fellow at Harvard's Center for the Study of World Religions, and then a Visiting Scholar at Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, as well as a visiting professorship at Florida State University. In 1998 he was appointed Professor of American and Jewish Studies at Baylor University, where the next year he was named University Professor of American and Jewish Studies. That same year he founded Baylor University's Center for American and Jewish Studies.

Professor Ellis has authored fifteen books and edited five others, among them: Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation; Unholy Alliance: Religion and Atrocity in Our Time; O Jerusalem: The Contested Future of the Jewish Covenant, and Practicing Exile: The Religious Odyssey of an American Jew. His many articles have been published in diverse American and international publications, including the International Herald Tribune, European Judaism, Ha'aretz, Jordan Times, Ord & Bild, Christian Century, and Journal of Palestine Studies. His essays have been published in a number of anthologies, most recently in Contemporary Jewish Theology: A Reader, published by Oxford University Press, and have been translated and published in ten languages. He has traveled and lectured extensively in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Influenced by the Jewish ethical tradition and the dissonance of Jewish life after the Holocaust, Professor Ellis has sought to rescue the Jewish ethical tradition in the face of the demands of an increasingly aggressive state of Israel. In his early career he became deeply interested in Christian Liberation Theology as an expression of the mores of the Christian tradition when faced with the socio-political-economic crises under the oppressive operation of nation-states and the international economic order. Over the years Professor Ellis has translated that expression of ethical values into an understanding of the Jewish ethical tradition, now facing its own moral crisis as Jewish identity becomes increasingly identified with the political entity of the state of Israel.

Within that analysis, Professor Ellis developed further insight into Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations, and their complexity in the modern world. Since then, he has used his position, influence and writings to elucidate further on these difficulties, and been welcomed by a wide variety of audiences, from university forums to institutes and faith-based groups seeking justice and peace while working within complex religious and political identities. In this regard, he has been invited to join an Oxford University-sponsored scholar's project on the future of the Auschwitz site, as well as given addresses at Oxford, the United Nations, Leo Baeck Seminary in London; the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; the Carter Center at Emory University; and the James A. Baker Institute at Rice University.

The major projects undertaken by Dr. Ellis most recently focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including numerous commentary solicited by national and international media, including the International Herald Tribune, Houston Chronicle, and the Austin-American Statesman. He has been the focus of a BBC television documentary on the issue of cultural diversity and nationalism, and a congressional hearing on the Camp David peace initiative carried on C-SPAN. He regularly provides commentary and analysis on the BBC radio and National Public Radio.

Professor Ellis has also delivered a number of endowed lectures, including the First Annual Clif Elson Memorial Lecture at St. Stephen's College, University of Edmonton, and the Van der Zyl Memorial Lecture, Leo Baeck Seminary. In 2003 Professor Ellis will deliver the Niebuhr Lecture at Elmhurst College.

Professor Ellis's work extends beyond the clinical political analysis usually offered by the media to encompass the essence of spiritual evolution. In a recent work, Practicing Exile (Fortress Press, 2002), Professor Ellis looks at his own evolution as an American Jew coming of age in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, and the import of his own journey as a paradigm for the future of Jewish life. His forthcoming book, Israel and Palestine: Out of the Ashes (Pluto Press, 2002), addresses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Professor Ellis has been inducted into the Martin Luther King Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College, and was honored at the 2000 national convention of the American Academy of Religion with an entire session devoted to the discussion of his work. He is on the editorial board of the progressive Jewish journal Tikkun and has served as a consultant to the Programme to Combat Racism of the World Council of Churches and as a member of the steering committee of the Religion, Holocaust and Genocide Consultation of the American Academy of Religion. In 2002 he was nominated for the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book, Unholy Alliance: Religion and Atrocity in Our Time. 

Favorable commentary on his work includes: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Laureate: "Ellis provides a vital contribution to solving one of the few remaining intractable problems of our time"; Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "Marc Ellis has demonstrated great courage, integrity, and insight in the very important work he has been doing for years. It has been an inspiration for all of us"; Edward Said, the internationally renowned literary and cultural critic and University Professor at Columbia University: "Marc Ellis is a brilliant writer, a deeply thoughtful and courageous mind, an intellectual who has broken the death-hold of mindless tradition and unreflective cliché to produce a superb account of post-Holocaust understanding, with particular reference to the Palestinian people and the moral obligation of Israelis and diaspora Jews. He is a man to be listened to with respect and admiration."

p.s. I count Marc as a friend and I feel very sad that he is being targeted in this way, and that the only centre for Jewish-American studies in the USA is now under threat. Baylor is a great university - I've lectured there -  Kenn Starr must not be allowed to get away with this vindictive and spiteful act.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Christian Jihadist


The Christian Jihadist from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Frustrated with the so called 'peace process' in the Middle East? Concerned that the 'Arab Spring' is leading to anarchy and instability? Tempted to justify the use of violence to overthrow unjust regimes? Then you may find this paper of interest.

It is a paper I delivered last year in Toronto, Canada for the Evangelical Christian-Muslim Dialogue Group. What follows is not a critique of Islamic Jihad. Nor will this be a defence of pacifism or of the Just War Theory. For that I recommend J. Daryl Charles, Between Pacifism and Jihad: Just War and Christian Tradition.

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

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

Read more here

Palestine in Parliament: National Lobby







See more photographs here

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions

After extensive field testing in the UK, USA and in the debate with Dr Calvin Smith on Revelation TV, “Has the Church Replaced Israel“, I have revised and enhanced my paper ‘Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions’ You can access a text version here. The pdf version contains additional illustrations.

The fundamental question to ask is this: Does the New Testament teach that the coming of Jesus Christ was the fulfilment or postponement of God’s promises to Abraham and purposes for the Jewish people?

This study is based on Zion’s Christian Soldiers: The Bible Israel and the Church (IVP) and may be downloaded.  A more comprehensive Bible study guide can be accessed from www.withgodonourside.com

Monday, 21 November 2011

Has the Church Replaced Israel?



"Has the Church Replaced Israel?" A live debate between Calvin Smith and Stephen Sizer broadcast on Revelation TV 9th November 2011.

Recently, Dr Calvin Smith, Principal of Kings Evangelical Divinity School,and I debated the question "Has the Church Replaced Israel?" live on Revelation TV. It was a good natured discussion and on many issues we were in agreement. The programme is available for purchase on DVD from Revelation TV.

I am delighted to learn subsequently that Revelation TV's Statement of Faith accords with my own regarding the relationship between Israel and the Church.

Jesus Christ is the vine and Israel is the true branch(es). The church is the wild branch that is grafted into the true vine. God has not rejected His people Israel, but there is a remnant, chosen by grace; for it is written that "all Israel will be saved" - (Romans 11:26)

Calvin and I introduced our positions at the beginning of the programme. Here is my opening statement.

Revelation TV Debate

The question I want us to consider tonight is this: Was the coming of Jesus the fulfilment or the postponement of the promises God made to Abraham? Is the Church central to God’s purposes today or a parenthesis to God’s continuing purposes for the Jewish people? Briefly let me ask three additional questions that may help us find an answer.

1. Who are God’s Chosen People?

The assumption that the Jewish people are God’s “chosen people” is so deeply ingrained, to question it sounds heretical or anti-Semitic. Yet both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures insist membership of God’s people is open to all races on the basis of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

“I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me— Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush— and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’” Indeed, of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.” The LORD will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion.” (Psalm 87:4-6)
In Isaiah 56, we see the Lord anticipate and repudiate the rise of an exclusive Israeli nationalism.
“Let no foreigners who have bound themselves to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” … And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants … who hold fast to my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain… for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”” (Isaiah 56:3, 6-7)
In the New Testament the term “chosen” is used exclusively of the followers of Jesus, irrespective of race.
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:11-12)
2. What is the Significance of the Promised Land?

Contrary to popular assumption, the Scriptures repeatedly insist that the land belongs to God and that residence is always conditional. For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23).

The scriptures insist, residence was open to all God’s people on the basis of faith not race. Indeed, the writer to Hebrews explains that the land was never their ultimate desire or inheritance any way.
“By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God… These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:9-10; 39-40)
The land was only ever intended as a temporary residence until the coming of Jesus Christ. Our shared eternal inheritance is heavenly not earthly.

3. Does God have a separate plan for Israel apart from the Church?

Many believe that God has a continuing covenant with Israel, separate from the Church. This is usually base this on passages like Romans 9-11, although the context is often ignored. In Romans 2:28-29, for example, the Apostle Paul defines ‘Jew’.
“A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.” (Romans 2:28-29)
That is why in Romans 9, the term ‘Israel’ is limited to those who acknowledge the Lord Jesus.

“It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (Romans 9:6-8)
In the letter to the Philippians, Paul explicitly identifies the church as the true ‘circumcision’ (Phil. 3:3). This is entirely consistent with the Old Testament, where, as we have already seen, citizenship of Israel was open to all ‘those who acknowledge me’ (Psalm 87:4). And here is the clue to understanding Romans 9-11. Of course God has not rejected the Jewish people. His covenant purpose for them, as with every other race, has always been ‘that they may be saved’ (Romans 10:1), to create one people for himself, made of both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 11:26). God’s covenant purposes are fulfilled only in and through Jesus Christ. This is most fully explained in Ephesians 2.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” … remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one … His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2: 11-16)
To summarise, in the New Testament we are told explicitly that the promises were fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in those who acknowledge Him as their Lord and Saviour. God’s blessings come by grace through faith, not by works or race (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:16, 28-29).
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, the nature of our missionary mandate, not least, to the beloved Jewish people.

For more resources see:

Zion's Christian Soldiers
Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions
Bible Study Series

Why Israel/Palestine needs a new definition of self-determination


Ben White has written an excellent article in the New Statesman today, subtitled, 'The separation and "ethnic purity" currently seen in Israel disturbs even the honest among its advocates.' This is certainly true of us who regard ourselves as the real 'friends of Israel'.

Ben White observes,

"An analysis that makes the links between what is happening in the hills of the West Bank and the Negev desert is a necessary part of imagining a future solution "that protects the rights of both the Palestinian people and Jewish Israelis", a redefining of self-determination whereby both groups share a common homeland based on equality White highlights a long-standing example, now receiving more coverage, is the treatment of Bedouin Palestinians.
 A striking case study is the village of Atir-Umm al-Hieran in the Naqab (Negev), whose story has been told by the Israeli NGO Adalah in their report 'Nomads Against Their Will'.
Pointing out that the new attempts to expel and dispossess the Bedouin population "perpetuate a policy that was conceived of and initiated more than sixty years ago", Adalah's report details how after 1948 the village residents were repeatedly relocated until "the Israeli military governor in the area finally ordered them to move" to their current location -- a village still "yet to be granted official recognition by the state":
Israel now wants to demolish their homes and expel them yet again, for a fourth time, to a small number of specially-designated reservation-like towns created to "contain" the Bedouin whom it has expelled from their homes. In parallel, the state plans to settle Jewish citizens of Israel on the land, on top of the ruins of their village.
The Israel Land Administration (which manages 93 percent of the land in Israel) described these Bedouin citizens as "a special obstacle" in its plan to 'develop' the area with new Jewish towns. Described in court proceedings as "intruders", the residents of Atir-Umm al-Hieran are being targeted for eviction because of "[the state's] desire to set up a new Jewish community on their lands, by the name of Hiran".
This is one example of routine policies in a state still defended by some as a bastion of progressive democracy, and these stories of discrimination and state-sanctioned ethno-religious privilege are appearing in the western media with greater frequency. Yo Zushi has blogged on the subject for the NS. The Economist recently reported on the Israeli government's plan to remove around an estimated 30-40,000 Bedouin from their villages and "pen...them into cities", while the BBC made the link between this mass-eviction and another one planned in the West Bank.
Read it all here.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Biblelands: US Aid Freeze Punishing Disabled Children in the West Bank

Under pressure from the US Congress following the Palestinian statehood bid, USAID has unilaterally and without warning cut funding for several independent Palestinian Christian NGOs, UK Christian development charity BibleLands can today reveal.

This action by the US government’s aid arm has affected vital programmes which assist some of the neediest people in the West Bank, including disabled and other vulnerable children.

The chief executive of BibleLands has called this decision a scandal and unconstitutional.

USAID has denied that its budget has been frozen, but a number of Palestinian Christian NGOs, partners of BibleLands, have already been negatively affected:

• The Princess Basma Centre for Disabled Children on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem learnt two weeks ago that USAID funding totalling $100,000 for an excellent community-based rehabilitation programme for disabled children in the West Bank would not be disbursed as promised. The Centre comes under the auspices of the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem. BibleLands had previously agreed to part-fund this outreach project, which provides for Princess Basma medics and therapists to train staff in community centres for disabled children in Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarm and Jenin, but diverted funds to other projects in the West Bank when the USAID grant was agreed.

• The Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation (BASR), a local Christian NGO, had attracted USAID funding for a psycho-social intervention programme with vulnerable and disadvantaged children, including training and capacity-building for child professionals and awareness-raising on child rights and child protection. USAID had also agreed to support BASR’s strategic planning process. This funding has been withdrawn in the last week without any notice or reason. Again, BASR passed on other opportunities to fund these important projects because it assumed USAID funding was secure.

A Washington analyst has attributed the USAID decision to strong pro-Israeli lobbying. Lara Freedman, Director of Policy and Government Relations for Americans for Peace Now (APN), has said:

“The narrative that says that ‘the-Palestinians’-decision-to-go-to-the-UN-is-a-form-of-diplomatic-terrorism-that-cannot-go-unpunished,’ cultivated for months by the AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), Israeli diplomats, and most of the American Jewish and right-wing Christian community, has firmly taken root.”

Commenting on these reports, Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive of BibleLands said:

“This is a scandal. There cannot be any sense or justice in the US Congress 'punishing' disabled children in the West Bank just because their President had the temerity to ask for UN recognition of the Palestinian state. These are vital projects helping some of the most vulnerable children, and other NGOs including BibleLands were willing to provide funding, but stepped back when USAID grants were secured. US law-makers should perhaps take a look at their own Eighth Amendment, which guarantees proportionality between punishment and crime. This appears to have been ignored when it comes to disabled children in Ramallah and Nablus."

Read more here

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Revelation TV Debate

Last night, Dr Calvin Smith, Principal of Kings Evangelical Divinity School,and I debated the question "Has the Church Replaced Israel?" live on Revelation TV. It was a good natured discussion and on many issues we were in agreement. The programme is being shown again this evening and is available for purchase from Revelation TV. I will be uploading the programme in the next few days. Calvin and I introduced our positions at the beginning of the programme. Here is my opening statement.

Revelation TV Debate

The question I want us to consider tonight is this: Was the coming of Jesus the fulfilment or the postponement of the promises God made to Abraham? Is the Church central to God’s purposes today or a parenthesis to God’s continuing purposes for the Jewish people? Briefly let me ask three additional questions that may help us find an answer.

1. Who are God’s Chosen People?

The assumption that the Jewish people are God’s “chosen people” is so deeply ingrained, to question it sounds heretical or anti-Semitic. Yet both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures insist membership of God’s people is open to all races on the basis of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
“I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me— Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush— and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’” Indeed, of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.” The LORD will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion.” (Psalm 87:4-6)
In Isaiah 56, we see the Lord anticipate and repudiate the rise of an exclusive Israeli nationalism.
“Let no foreigners who have bound themselves to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” … And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants … who hold fast to my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain… for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”” (Isaiah 56:3, 6-7)
In the New Testament the term “chosen” is used exclusively of the followers of Jesus, irrespective of race.
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:11-12)
2. What is the Significance of the Promised Land?

Contrary to popular assumption, the Scriptures repeatedly insist that the land belongs to God and that residence is always conditional. For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23).

The scriptures insist, residence was open to all God’s people on the basis of faith not race. Indeed, the writer to Hebrews explains that the land was never their ultimate desire or inheritance any way.
“By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God… These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:9-10; 39-40)
The land was only ever intended as a temporary residence until the coming of Jesus Christ. Our shared eternal inheritance is heavenly not earthly.

3. Does God have a separate plan for Israel apart from the Church?

Many believe that God has a continuing covenant with Israel, separate from the Church. This is usually base this on passages like Romans 9-11, although the context is often ignored. In Romans 2:28-29, for example, the Apostle Paul defines ‘Jew’.
“A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.” (Romans 2:28-29)
That is why in Romans 9, the term ‘Israel’ is limited to those who acknowledge the Lord Jesus.

“It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (Romans 9:6-8)
In the letter to the Philippians, Paul explicitly identifies the church as the true ‘circumcision’ (Phil. 3:3). This is entirely consistent with the Old Testament, where, as we have already seen, citizenship of Israel was open to all ‘those who acknowledge me’ (Psalm 87:4). And here is the clue to understanding Romans 9-11. Of course God has not rejected the Jewish people. His covenant purpose for them, as with every other race, has always been ‘that they may be saved’ (Romans 10:1), to create one people for himself, made of both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 11:26). God’s covenant purposes are fulfilled only in and through Jesus Christ. This is most fully explained in Ephesians 2.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” … remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one … His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2: 11-16)

To summarise, in the New Testament we are told explicitly that the promises were fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in those who acknowledge Him as their Lord and Saviour. God’s blessings come by grace through faith, not by works or race (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:16, 28-29).
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, the nature of our missionary mandate, not least, to the beloved Jewish people.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Why Netanyahu Opposes a Palestinian State

Porter Speakman highlights why the Israeli government opposes a Palestinian State in Palestine - because it goes against their own Charter. Netanyahu’s “Peace” According to the Likud Party Charter

The recent Palestinian UN bid and this weeks Palestinian acceptance to UNESCO has once again put the “Peace Process” front and center. Listening to Netanyahu and the U.S. Administration, getting the Israelis and Palestinians “back to the negotiating table” is the utmost priority for a lasting peace deal.

Although Netanyahu plays the part, the details of his party platform need to be taken into account as a “peace partner” to show the reality behind the circus.

Likud Party Charter states:


a. “The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.”

b. “Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem”
c. “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”
d. “The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”

So while Netanyahu wants no pre-conditions from the Palestinians going into “negotiations” his party charter and ideology says otherwise.

Likud Party Charter

War with Iran by Christmas?

M.J. Rosenberg has written an important piece on HuffPost AIPAC's "War With Iran" Bill Passes House Committee. Here's a taster:

The clearest evidence that war is the intention of the bill's supporters comes in Section 601 which should be quoted in full. (It is so incredible that paraphrasing would invite the charge of distorting through selective quotation.)
It reads:
(c) RESTRICTION ON CONTACT. -- No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that -- (1) is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran; and (2) presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations. (d) WAIVER. -- The President may waive the requirements of subsection (c) if the President determines and so reports to the appropriate congressional committees 15 days prior to the exercise of waiver authority that failure to exercise such waiver authority would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States.
What does this mean?
It means that neither the president, the Secretary of State nor any U.S. diplomat or emissary may engage in negotiations or diplomacy with Iran of any kind unless the president convinces the "appropriate Congressional committees" (most significantly, the House Foreign Affairs Committee which is an AIPAC fiefdom) that not engaging with Iranian contacts would present an "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States."

To call this unprecedented is an understatement. At no time in our history has the White House or State Department been restricted from dealing with representatives of a foreign state, even in war time.
Read the whole article here 

See also Richard Silverstein:

And Philip Weiss:

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Has the Church replaced Israel?


Live Debate on Wednesday 9 November 9:00 – 10:30 pm

Subject: Has the Church Replaced Israel?

Participants: Stephen Sizer and Calvin Smith

Dr Stephen Sizer has spent many years studying the theology, politics and history of the Middle East, and has travelled extensively throughout the region. He adapted his PhD thesis into a book, Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon? He believes that Christian Zionism plays an important and dangerous role in the politics of the Middle East, shaping U.S. foreign policy. He argues that Christian Zionism has no biblical foundation or historical precedent.

Dr Calvin Smith is Principal of King's Evangelical Divinity School, Editor of the Evangelical Review of Society and Politics, author, academic researcher, and conference and church speaker. He lectures in theology and hermeneutics, as well as researching and writing in the fields of Evangelicalism and politics, Pentecostalism in Latin America and Christian responses to the modern State of Israel.

Palestinian Christians call for an open air mass to pray for the end of the Israeli occupation

Palestinian Christians call for an open air mass to pray for the end of the Israeli occupation days after Israel announces a major confiscation of lands in the town of Beit Jala

Israeli occupation forces have once again attack our town. They have announced the confiscation of the last green area left for Beit Jala, and the Bethlehem district. And we refuse to accept the dictation of the illegal Israeli occupation.

We denounce this new Israeli action as a step towards the consolidation of injustice and their Apartheid regime; we denounce the annexation of the most beautiful lands of the Bethlehem district as a direct attack against the Palestinian people, and particularly against Palestinian Christians.

We call upon the Quartet members and the rest of the international community to act in order to stop the Israeli colonial enterprise, and particularly in the most affected areas such as in and around occupied East Jerusalem and the Bethlehem district; the fact that confiscation orders were given a day after Palestine’s admission to UNESCO unveils the heavily political nature of the Israeli colonial enterprise.

We trust that all our relevant authorities, including our government leaded by President Mahmoud Abbas, the Latin Patriarchate and civil society will do everything possible to keep the land in the hands of its rightful owners, the Palestinian people.

According to the Holy Synod conducted last year in support of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, it is a must for the church to support our presence. Accordingly, we call upon the upon the Holy See and Pope Benedict XVI to act immediately, using all possible ways, to help protecting our people.

As members of the heroic Palestinian people as well as the oldest Christian community in the world, we remain attached to the hope for peace and justice. Jesus Christ was born in Palestine, lived in Palestine, was crucified in Palestine and resurrected in Palestine. We, the descendents of his earliest followers, are still waiting for our own resurrection as a free nation.

We invite all of you to join us in an open air Holy Mass to take place at the entrance of the Cremisan valley tomorrow Friday 4th of November at 15:50. The service will be conducted by Father Ibrahim Shomali and Father Mario Cornoli.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Sheikh Jarrah: The Homefront

Just Vision, the people who produced the film BUDRUS and ENCOUNTER POINT now have a new web based project called “HOMEFRONT: Portraits From Sheik Jarrah“, a series of four video portraits chronicling the resolve of a neighborhood, and the support it receives from the most unexpected of places. HT to Porter Speakman. Here is part one of the four part series:



Mohammed's Story



Terry's Story



Amal's Story



Gil's Story

I visited Sheikh Jarrah last week - these videos tell the tragic story of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland.

For more information see JustVision

WIlliam Hague Condemns Israeli Settlements and Withholding Palestinian Tax Revenue

Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on Israel to reverse the decision, and called for both sides to return to negotiations. Speaking today the Foreign Secretary said:

“Israel’s announcement to accelerate the construction of 2,000 settlements housing units, in response to the successful Palestinian application for membership of UNESCO, is a serious blow to the Quartet’s efforts to restart peace negotiations. This settlement building programme is illegal under international law and is the latest in a series of provocative and unhelpful settlement announcements. I condemn the decision to accelerate such construction.

“I am also very concerned about Israel’s decision to withhold Palestinian tax revenues. This is in no-one’s interests, least of all Israel’s, since it has direct implications for the Palestinian Authority’s ability to maintain effective security in the West Bank.

“We need to see steps towards peace, not actions that divide and isolate the parties further and undermine the prospects for negotiations. We call on Israel to reverse both these decisions, and on both sides to show the courage and leadership necessary to achieve a return to negotiations”.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Hope in the Midst of Conflict



Dr Salim Munayer shares about the Christ at the Checkpoint conference, the main theme "Hope in the Midst of Conflict" and desire that Jesus is center to bring peace and reconciliation to the Holy Land.

A Living Stones Pilgrimage



For more information see Christ at the Checkpoint

Israeli Assassination Policy Leaked


Writing in the Independent yesterday, Catrina Stewart reports:

Israel has sentenced a former soldier to four and a half years in prison for leaking classified documents to a journalist who used them to expose an alleged army policy to assassinate wanted Palestinian militants in violation of court rulings.

Anat Kam, 24, was convicted in February for copying 2,085 military documents on to a disc as she completed her mandatory army service and passing some of them to Uri Blau, an investigative reporter with the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.

She escaped the much more serious charges of harming state security after reaching a plea bargain. Her case provoked a domestic uproar – in part because she was held for four months under secret house arrest with the Israeli media banned from reporting on it, but also because it was viewed as an assault on the freedom of the press. The Independent was the first newspaper to report on Ms Kam's arrest.

Read more here