Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Judaization of Palestine: ICAHD

At last week's Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) UK AGM, Jeff Halper gave a moving presentation on the inexorable Judaization of Palestine. ICAHD also announced the publication of a series of new and informative booklets highlighting recent displacement trends. See below for more information.

The Judaization of Palestine: 2011 Displacement Trends

This article provides a political analysis of the root causes and consequences of Israel’s house demolition policy, focusing on the demolition of Palestinian homes and other structures in the Occupied West Bank. All recorded incidents have been verified and documented by partners in the Displacement Working Group (an inter-agency group under the auspices of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Protection Cluster, and chaired by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. the DWG includes over one hundred members, such as UN agencies, international and local Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, and donors. ICAHD has been an active member of the group ever since it was established in 2008).


“Palestinians are utterly frustrated by the impact of Israeli policies on their lives. They can’t move freely around their territory. They can’t plan their communities. They are evicted from their homes. Their homes are regularly demolished. I don’t believe that most people in Israel have any idea of the way planning policies are used to divide and harass communities and families. They would not themselves like to be subjected to such behavior.” United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Baroness Valerie Amos, May 2011.

Download the document here...


Here is one recent example of this displacement.

East Jerusalem Family Forcibly Evicted, Settlers Move In
April 18th, 2012

A Palestinian refugee family (An Natsha) residing in Beit Hanina (East Jerusalem) was forcibly evicted by Israeli authorities this morning, 18 April 2012. The home was taken over by an Israeli settler association, which plans to build around 60 housing units for settlers in the area. Since 2001, the An Natsha family has suffered repeated settler violence and harassment at the hands of settler groups insisting that they leave their homes. These attacks have intensified in recent months and ultimately brought about today's displacement of 14 family members.

The eviction of the An Natsha family follows the eviction of several other Palestinian families in East Jerusalem. In 2009, nine Palestinian families were evicted from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to make way for further settlement expansion, which remains unlawful under international law. This eviction indicates that Beit Hanina may similarly become a target for the take-over of land and the establishment of new settlements.

To read more on the planned Judaization of Beit Hanina, here…

For a legal analysis of Israeli practices of demolition and forced eviction in East Jerusalem, here… 



UN Expert Concludes: Israel Implements a Strategy of Judaization in the OPT


Prof. Raquel Rolnik, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, has concluded this morning (Sunday, February 12th 2012) of a two week visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Speaking in Jerusalem this afternoon Prof. Rolink said: "From the Galilee and the Negev to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities promote a territorial development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities, particularly affecting Palestinian communities." The Rapporteur also added that "Throughout my visit I received repeated complaints regarding lack of housing, threats of demolitions and evictions, overcrowding, the disproportional number of demolitions affecting Palestinian communities side by side with the accelerated development of predominantly Jewish settlements. Read more here...
 

Demolishing Homes, Demolishing Peace: Political and Normative Analysis of Israel’s Displacement Policy in the OPT

The new ICAHD publication 'Demolishing Homes, Demolishing Peace: Political and Normative Analysis of Israel's Displacement Policy in the OPT' provides a political and normative analysis of the root causes and consequences of Israel's displacement and demolition policy, focusing on the demolition of Palestinian homes and other structures in the occupied West Bank.

Read more here… 


UN Special Rapporteur Condemns Israel of De-Facto Annexation of the West Bank

Concluding a ten day visit to the region yesterday (Monday, February 20th), United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Prof. Richard Falk stated that "the information I received paints a picture of increasing efforts by Israel to deny Palestinians their right of self-determination. Ever-increasing and expanding Israeli settlements; ever-increasing confiscation of Palestinian land; ever-increasing settler violence; and ever-increasing demolition of Palestinian homes and other measures to displace Palestinians, have the manifest effect of making self-determination a decreasingly realizable prospect for Palestinians."


The Special Rapporteur met during his visit ICAHD staff members Jeff Halper, Salim Shawamreh and Itay Epshtain. In a briefing held in Amman Jordan, Halper and Epshtain highlighted to the recent trends of demolition and displacement in East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank, as well as the political program of Judaization of those areas, forestalling a just solution to the conflict (ICAHD's analysis of last year's displacement trends can be found here…http://www.icahd.org/?p=8177). ICAHD Field-Coordinator Shawamreh informed Prof. Falk of recent occurrences in Anata, bringing about the demolition of his home "Beit Arabiya", and the homes of others ICAHD has supported throughout the years. Read more here...

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Ugly Truth Exposed

In response to the CCJ Statement, I welcome the news from Surrey police and CPS that, having "carried out a thorough and extensive review of the material in question" they have concluded that "no criminal offences have been committed. The matter has now been closed and no further action is being taken," a conclusion which will come as no surprise to those who know and work with me.

My support for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, based on international law and recognised borders, achieved by peaceful and democratic means, has unfortunately left me open to what can only be described as an unbalanced and targeted campaign from certain quarters, a situation which is deeply regrettable.

I care passionately about the safety of the Jewish people. I repudiate racism, anti-Semitism as well as Islamophobia. I would not have posted a link to a website I knew to be anti-Semitic. Having consulted a number of Jewish friends, I now keep a small list of websites to avoid in future. I will be more careful about the origin of material I post on my blog and Facebook, and welcome opportunities for discussion with members of the Jewish community to move forwards in a spirit of mutual respect.

TearFund NZ in the Holy Land

Is TEAR Fund pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel?
We are pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli. Over all, we are for the poor and anyone whose life is inhibited due to injustice. Our concern is for justice, peace and reconciliation. We believe that all people (without bias or prejudice in terms of race, religion, caste/class, gender or sexual orientation) should be able to live life as God intended. No matter what our beliefs we, as Christians have a mandate to speak against injustice. Our hope is that all sides in this conflict would be able to move towards peace and reconciliation for the common good and thus we support initiatives that enable this.

What has this issue got to do with Aid and Development?
TEAR Fund’s chief concern in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is related to the humanitarian and justice issues. We believe that these cannot be divorced from the political realities and the various theological thoughts that feed those realities. In order to truly address the humanitarian issues at hand, we need to be educated and willing to feed into the political and theological discussions. This will enable us to better understand and treat the symptoms, whilst being informed of the causes.

For my forthcoming Tearfund New Zealand Itinerary see here
 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Christians of the Holy Land

Ben White has written a thoughtful article about discrimination faced by Palestinian Christians for Al Jazeera, Christians of the Holy Land.
A recent report by CBS show 60 Minutes on "Christians of the Holy Land" has received a lot of attention, not least for the embarrassing contribution by Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren.

It is interesting that Israel (and its advocates) have been so concerned about the impact of a short segment regarding the challenges faced by Christian Palestinians under Israeli military occupation. In fact, Ambassador Oren himself only recently tried to exploit Christians for propaganda purposes - only to find that they objected to his cynicism.

The Israeli government has long tried to suggest that the emigration of Christian Palestinians is the result of a "jihad" being waged by "terrorists" or "fundamentalists". There are obvious advantages to this strategy, particularly its dependence on pre-existing prejudices and stereotypes in the West. But it also seeks to neutralise a potentially damaging threat: that people around the world will see Christian Palestinians leaving their historic homeland due to Israeli colonisation and occupation. 
Read more here

Was the Jewish Chronicle Hacked on 15th November?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Anne Clayton Update on Sabeel UK

Anne Clayton, Coordinator of Friends of Sabeel UK, discusses their recent conference and future priorities.

Sabeel works for a just peace for the people of Palestine and Israel. Started by Palestinian Christians, Sabeel promotes non-violence and reconciliation. Friends of Sabeel UK is working in Britain to support that vision.

Justice and peace in the Middle East will only happen with the cooperation of all the faith communities in the region. Sabeel, a grassroots ecumenical liberation theology organisation based in Jerusalem, encourages this cooperation. Its work involves:

- Exploring the meaning of the Gospel in the Palestinian situation.
- Supporting the Palestinian Christian community.
- Working for a more accurate international awareness of the suffering of the Palestinian people.

The word Sabeel is Arabic. It means ‘the way.’ It can also mean a spring or channel of living water.

For more information see: friendsofsabeel.org.uk/

The Exodus of Christians from the Holy Land


The exodus from the Holy Land of Palestinian Christians could eventually leave holy cities like Jerusalem and Bethlehem without a local Christian population. Bob Simon reports.
This week, veteran 60 Minutes producer Harry Radliffe threw Overtime a real plum: the story of Taybeh.

He and correspondent Bob Simon stumbled on the tiny village of Taybeh while they were in the West Bank, reporting on the Holy Land's vanishing population of Christians. What makes Taybeh the last all-Christian village in the Holy Land?

The village has no mosque and is home to three distinct Christian communities: Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Melkite Greek Catholics. Taybeh's roots are deep, and for Christians, important: the biblical name of the village is Ephraim.

According to the Bible, Jesus Christ came to Taybeh from Jerusalem before his crucifixion. John 11:54 states: "Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples." The name of the village was changed from Ephraim to Taybeh around 1187, by the Islamic leader Saladin.

 Today, Taybeh's population is dwindling, down to around 1500. The majority of Christians there are Greek Orthodox. But have faith. The town's resident Roman Catholic priest, Father Raed Abu Sahlia, isn't going anywhere.

As he told Bob Simon with a smile: "I will assure you that even if all the Christians of the Holy Land will leave, and I will remain alone, I will get married, we will start another new generation."
Source: CBS News

See also Mondoweiss 60 Minutes’ profiles Palestinian Christians, Michael Oren falls on his face

There are also supplemental videos available on the 60 Minutes website including this on Palestinian Christian support for BDS:


The last Christian village in the Holy Land

Christianity may have been born in the Middle East, but Arab Christians have never had it easy there, especially not today. In Iraq and Egypt, scores of churches have been attacked, hundreds murdered. In Syria, revolution seriously threatens Christian communities. The one place where Christians are not suffering from violence is the Holy Land: but Palestinian Christians have been leaving in large numbers for years.

So many, the Christian population there is down to less than two percent, and the prospect of holy sites, like Jerusalem and Bethlehem, without local Christians is looming as a real possibility. This is what the Holy Land looks like today. Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Nazareth, where he grew up. Jerusalem, where he died and where Christians believe he was resurrected. Nazareth is inside the state of Israel. Bethlehem is on the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The Christian section of Jerusalem is also under Israeli control. We know the area well -- know that it is arguably the most fought over piece of real estate in the world, sacred to half of humanity.

Still, when we decided to do the story last year, we did not realize our story would become so controversial. Our story begins in Bethlehem, where it all began. We went to Saint Catherine's in the Church of the Nativity. For local Catholics, this is their parish church. The day we went, a confirmation was underway.

Father Marwan Dides, a Franciscan, led one child after another up to the altar, watched by proud parents. The church was so crowded it was difficult to believe that Christians now makeup only 18 percent of what was for centuries an overwhelmingly Christian town.

 Father Dides: We are the living stones of the Holy Land. From here, it all started. And it had to continue. It's a must. It must continue. If there is no people, no Christians here, it will never continue. Here in Jerusalem, the numbers are even bleaker than in Bethlehem. Theophilos the third, the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox, has lived through the decline. His church, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, is the most sacred site in Christendom. He took us up to the roof. You've got to know a patriarch to get here.

Theophilos: Come in. You are inside the Holy Sepulcher. Just inside here is the tomb. That is the tomb which covers the site of the resurrection.

Bob Simon: When you first came here in 1964, what was the percentage of Christians in the old city?

Theophilos: There were around 30,000 of-- Christians living in the Old City.

Bob Simon: And now how many are there?

Theophilos: Very few. So few, some 11,000 Christians out of a population of almost 800,000 -- just one and a half percent. Religious leaders are afraid Jerusalem could become a museum, a spiritual theme park, a great place for tourists and pilgrims, but not for the Arab Christians whose roots date back to the church's very beginnings.

Mitri Raheb: Christianity started here. The only thing that Palestine was able to export so successfully was Christianity. Mitri Raheb is a Palestinian, a Christian and a Lutheran minister from Bethlehem. He runs schools, cultural centers and health clinics.

Mitri Raheb: Christianity has actually on the back a stamp saying, "Made in Palestine." Palestinian Christians, once a powerful minority, are becoming the invisible people, squeezed between a growing Muslim majority and burgeoning Israeli settlements. Israel has occupied the West Bank for 45 years.

Mitri Raheb: If you see what's happening in the West Bank, you will find that the West Bank is becoming more and more like a piece of Swiss cheese where Israel gets the cheese that is the land, the water resources, the archaeological sites. And the Palestinian are pushed in the holes behind the walls. Israel built the wall over the last 10 years, which completely separates Israel from the occupied West Bank. The wall was built to stop Palestinian terrorists from getting into Israel. And it's worked. Terrorism has gone down 90 percent. At the same time, the wall completely surrounds Bethlehem, turning the "little town" where Christ was born into what its residents call "an open air prison."

Bob Simon: Do you remember the day they put up the wall?

Christie Anastas: Yeah. Actually, it was in 2003 and I was about 14 years old. I went to school one day and came back and found the wall surrounding the house. Christie Anastas lives with her mother Claire, her father, brother and sister, in this house which is surrounded on three sides by the wall. Bob Simon: How do you live with this?

Christie Anastas: Well, it's not easy, actually, but you get used to it. Because you have to. The Anastas family lives on the third floor. This is the view from the kitchen, from the master bedroom and bathroom. The children's room has a good view of this Israeli guard tower. The family runs a souvenir shop on the ground floor, sells Christian artifacts on what used to be the busiest commercial street in town. Now, it's a dead end.

Bob Simon: Members of your family have already left?

Claire Anastas: Yes.

Bob Simon: And they have asked you to leave too? Claire Anastas: Yes. Bob Simon: What do you say to them?


Claire Anastas: I tell them, we have to stay. We need to stay and struggle and fight. This is our cross. For all Palestinians, just leaving Bethlehem is a struggle. Getting to Jerusalem, only seven miles away, whether it's to pray, go to a doctor, visit family members, or work, means going through this Israeli checkpoint. That can take hours but before Palestinians can get even this far, they need a permit from the Israelis which can take weeks or months to obtain and is frequently denied.

Michael Oren: We regret any inconvenience caused by the security precautions. But it's their inconvenience, it's our survival. Michael Oren, who used to be Israel's director of Interreligious Affairs, is Israel's ambassador to the United States.

Michael Oren: We have to protect our country. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do in order to survive. For Palestinian Christians, the survival of their culture is in danger. In towns like Bethlehem, which used to be distinctively Christian, Muslims now are a clear and growing majority. The veil is replacing the cross. But inside Israel, in Christian towns like Nazareth, Arabs are Israeli citizens and, according to Ambassador Oren, they're thriving. The reason Christians are leaving the West Bank, he says, is Islamic extremism.


Michael Oren: I think that the major problem in the West Bank as in elsewhere in the Middle East is that the Christian communities are living under duress.

Bob Simon: And this duress is coming from Muslims, not from the Israel occupation?

Michael Oren: I believe that the major duress is coming from that. 

[Zahi Khouri: Great selling point. Easy to sell to the American public.] Zahi Khouri is a Palestinian businessman. He owns the West Bank Coca-Cola franchise.

Zahi Khouri: I'll tell you I don't know of anybody and I probably have 12,000 customers here. I've never heard that someone is leaving because of Islamic persecution.

Ari Shavit, one of Israel's most respected columnists, believes Christians have become collateral damage.

Ari Shavit: I think this is a land that has seen in the last century a terrible struggle between political Judaism and political Islam in different variations.

Bob Simon: And the Christians are being squeezed in the middle between the Jews and the Muslims?

Ari Shavit: Absolutely.

Bob Simon: Should Israel be concerned about that?

Ari Shavit: I think we should all be concerned about it. Political Judaism and political Islam are rocky. They are harsh. And the friction, the clash between them is very violent. In 2009, this group of Christian activists did something unprecedented. They published a document called Kairos, criticizing Islamic extremism and advocating non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation which they called a sin against God. It was endorsed by the leaders of 13 Christian denominations including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican.

Michael Oren: These are denominations who have been exceedingly critical of the State of Israel. And sometimes to the point of going beyond legitimate criticism. And so--

Bob Simon: What does that mean to go beyond...

Michael Oren: Well, I think--

Bob Simon: --legitimate criticism?

Michael Oren: Accusing of us-- of crimes that would be very, I think, historically associated with anti-Semitism. And it was actually so inflammatory, Bob, that we didn't-- many of us didn't even bother responding to it.

Mitri Raheb: They are fearful of this document because they are afraid this might influence the Christian world. Reverend Raheb, who helped write the document, says it's anything but anti-Semitic.

Mitri Raheb: This document is-- doesn't ask for violent. It doesn't ask for revenge. The most powerful thing in this document actually is that asking for hope and love and faith.

Bob Simon: Do you think the Israeli government ever thinks of the fact that if Christians aren't being treated well here, and America is an overwhelmingly Christian country, that this could have consequences?

Ari Shavit: Israel is not persecuting Christians as Christians. The Christians in the Holy Land suffer from Israeli policies that are a result of the overall tragic situation. And this, of course, has consequences for everybody. For Israel, there could be serious economic consequences. According to Israeli government figures, tourism is a multi billion dollar business there. Most tourists are Christian. Many of them are American. That's one reason why Israelis are very sensitive about their image in the United States. And that could be why Ambassador Oren phoned Jeff Fager, the head of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, while we were still reporting the story, long before tonight's broadcast. He said he had information our story was quote: "a hatchet job."


Michael Oren: It seemed to me outrageous. Completely incomprehensible that at a time when these communities, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are being oppressed and massacred, when churches are being burnt, when one of the great stories in history is unfolding? I think it's-- I think it's-- I think you got me a little bit mystified.

Bob Simon: And it was a reason to call the president of-- chairman of CBS News?

Michael Oren: Bob, I'm the ambassador of the State of Israel. I do that very, very infrequently as ambassador. It's just-- that's an extraordinary move for me to complain about something. When I heard that you were going to do a story about Christians in the Holy Land and my assum-- and-- and had, I believe, information about the nature of it, and it's been confirmed by this interview today.

Bob Simon: Nothing's been confirmed by the interview, Mr. Ambassador, because you don't know what's going to be put on air.

Michael Oren: Okay. I don't. True.

Bob Simon: Mr. Ambassador, I've been doing this a long time. And I've received lots of reactions from just about everyone I've done stories about. But I've never gotten a reaction before from a story that hasn't been broadcast yet.


Michael Oren: Well, there's a first time for everything, Bob. This land has seen just about everything over the centuries. The ritual in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher the day before Easter hasn't changed in more than a millennium. We went into the church with Patriarch Theophilus and watched thousands jostling to get as close as they could to the tomb from which they believe Christ was risen. Pilgrims have been coming here since 1106 AD to wash themselves in the holy fire, to celebrate the founding miracle of Christianity. They will certainly continue to do so. But how many will be coming from the neighborhood? That's not a religious question anymore. It's political.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Formula One Race to Suppress Human Rights in Bahrain


The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has been spearheading the campaign to halt the Formula One race in Bahrain today because of continuing human rights abuses in the country.
The green-light for the 2012 Grand Prix to be held in Bahrain today illustrates this disregard for democratic reform amidst the injustice. 
The al-Khalifa regime in Bahrain has attempted desperately to ensure that the 2012 Grand Prix is held in the country. It has been backed by politicians, as well as business and sporting interests that have aimed to convince the world that Bahrain is a functioning democracy. 
Since February 2011, at least seventy people – including women, children and the elderly – have been killed by Bahraini security forces and Saudi-led troops. There are at present at least six-hundred political prisoners in Bahrain, including many opposition leaders. Activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has been on hunger strike for over seventy days. 
It is clear that democratic reform is not underway in Bahrain. The Grand Prix is being used as a political tool by the Bahraini regime to legitimise its disregard for human rights, and as a smokescreen to cloak its brutality. The situation is increasingly dire. 
To hold the Grand Prix in Bahrain will be a gross insult to the Bahraini people – whose calls for freedom have been callously ignored by a regime that continues to murder, torture, arrest and intimidate ordinary people. There is still time for Formula One’s management to stop the race to legitimize torture and oppression.
Read more of the IHRC campaign here

See also Guardian article, Bahrain Grand Prix to go ahead despite protester's death

And the BBC Bahrain Grand Prix: Crown prince backs race despite protests

Friday, 20 April 2012

Street Kids United

Street Kids United is a documentary feature about a team of homeless children, chosen to represent South Africa in the first ever Street Child World Cup. These children from the host Umthombo project see football as a way to a better and brighter future.


Andile, from the Umthombo organisation said:
“When people see us by the streets, they say that we are the street boys. But when they see us playing soccer, they say that we are people like them. They are people like us”.
The film reflects the power of football to give those most marginalised and vulnerable children a voice to tell their stories and to share their hopes and dreams for a better life.
According to John Wroe, a founder of Street Child World Cup: “So many films are about celebrities; this was about people without power. There is no Hollywood twist in Street Kids United. All the kids at Umthombo are full of life and have stories which should be heard”.
“No game lays claim to being a ‘world game’ more than football.” says F&ME ‘s Mike Downey, “It is truly a globalised phenomenon from the glitter and riches of the European leagues to the dreams of children growing up in third world poverty. Football’s appeal extends across nations, cultures, religion and class. We hope this film will do the same. And in doing so, give a voice to street children all over the world. ”

Street Child World Cup

The UN estimates that there are 100 million children worldwide living and working on the streets. Each child has a story, each child has a goal and each child deserves a home away from abuse. Across five continents, through the power of football the Street Child World Cup unites their voices, shares their stories and demands their rights. No longer will these children be seen and not heard.
In 2014 the beautiful game returns to its spiritual home: Brazil. This time street children from up to 20 countries will be united. The teams will be drawn from a network of outstanding street child projects from around the world.
The participating children will be aged 14 to 16 and will all have lived on the streets. Boys and girls will take part in separate football tournaments. The event will involve teams from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America.
Street Child World Cup is a joint venture of the following not for profit organisations: The ABC TrustThe Amos Trust & Momentum Arts
Umthombo
Umthombo empowers street children and aims to change the realities that they  face and make an impact on policy. It began as an outreach and aftercare organisation and has since grown to accommodate many of the children, giving them counselling and support. Umthombo’s Durban model is pioneering the idea of providing alternatives to street life through engagement and therapeutic interventions and focuses on addressing the traumas associated with the children’s experiences. Umthombo’s team is a fusion of social working professionals and trained former street children who have a unique understanding of the realities of the street child experience

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Jewish Chronicle and the BNP

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:3-5)



In January the Jewish Chronicle published an article about me, Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar 'no antisemite' concerning criticisms made for a link to an article Israel's Window to Bomb Iran by Ray McGovern. His article, written exclusively for Consortium News, had been reposted within days on hundreds of websites, including a racist website, the UglyTruth. I made the mistake of linking to that copy on my Facebook in October rather than the original. When the unfortunate link was pointed out to me in January, I removed it straight away.

Now it transpires that the Jewish Chronicle itself has allowed Carlos Contiglia, the BNP candidate for the London Mayoral elections, to blog under their name from 12th September 2011, just three days after the BNP announced that their Press Officer, a member since 2001, would be standing for Mayor.


Yesterday they pulled his four articles after MPACUK exposed the link and Richard Silverstein blogged about it UK Jewish Chronicle Hosts BNP White Supremacist Blogger. Were the JC really unaware or just complacent to allow the BNP Press Officer to blog on their website for seven months? Maybe they should conduct a poll to see if the editor should be sacked.

See also The Jewish Chronicle and the English Defence League




Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Faith Groups Easter Appeal for Justice in Palestine


A petition supported by a range of faith organisations and campaign groups was handed into Mr David Cameron in  Downing Street on Friday, 30 March. It asked the UK Government to take action to prevent the destruction of Palestinian life in Jerusalem.  Pax Christi the Catholic peace movement, the Amos Trust, Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine, Friends of Al Aqsa, Friends of Sabeel, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights  all supported the petition which had gathered more than 5,000 signatures.

Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi  said:  "As we approach Holy Week and Easter let us remember  those Palestinians who will be denied access to their places of worship. When the Israeli Government arbitrarily issues  permits during the Easter and Christmas seasons it is suggested that Palestinian Christians should feel happy to receive access to Jerusalem for a couple of weeks, and forget about the fact that full access for Christians and Muslims  is a right and not a favour. "

Diana Neslen, Jews for Justice for Palestinians said: "Jerusalem means 'City of Peace'. It is our belief that peace will not come to a city that privileges one community, the Jewish community, over all the other communities who hold Jerusalem dear.  We believe that the policies pursued by the Israeli government in Jerusalem today are against all the tenets of Jewish ethics and values and we challenge Israel to recognise that its behaviour in Jerusalem undermines its professed claim to democratic credentials."

Those supporting the Petition  call on our Government to work with the UN to ensure that the state of Israel recognises its responsibilities under international law to Jerusalem as a shared city, sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians and ends its occupation of East Jerusalem."

The full text of the petition is: 'We, as British citizens, call for action now to prevent the destruction of Palestinian life and culture in Jerusalem. We call on our Government to take steps to ensure that the Israeli authorities end: - systematic demolition of Palestinian homes - building of illegal settlements and associated infrastructure - granting of insecure residency status to Palestinians - expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem - by arbitrarily removing their residency rights and building the Wall to shut Palestinian communities out of the main city - preventing freedom of worship through barring Palestinian Christians and Muslims from visiting Jerusalem We call on our Government to work with the UN to ensure that the state of Israel recognises its responsibilities under international law to Jerusalem as a shared city, sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians and ends its occupation of East Jerusalem.'

Source: Independent Catholic News

Counter-Jihad Report from Hope not Hate


Mark Townsend, in a Guardian article last Saturday  "Far-right anti-Muslim network on rise globally as Breivik trial opens" mentions a timely new report on Counter-Jihad published by Hope not Hate.

Formed in 2005 as a positive antidote to political extremism with the support of the Daily Mirror, trade unions, celebrities and community groups across the country, Hope not Hate, in particular, mobilises opposition to the British National Party’s (BNP) and English Defence League’s (EDL) politics of hate.

Townsend writes,
The report, by anti-racism group Hope Not Hate, states that since [mass murderer Anders Breivik's] ... killing spree, the counter-jihad movement – a network of foundations, bloggers, political activists and street gangs – has continued to proliferate...
Researchers at Hope Not Hate name the UK as one of Europe's most active countries in terms of counter-jihad extremism, with 22 anti-Islamic groups currently operating.
In Europe as a whole, 133 organisations were named in the report, including seven in Norway, and another 47 in the US, where a network of neo-conservative, evangelical and conservative organisations attempts to spread "negative perceptions of Islam, Muslim minorities and Islamic culture".

Nick Lowles, director of Hope Not Hate said: "Breivik acted alone but it was the 'counter-Jihadist' ideology that inspired him and gave him the reasoning to carry out these atrocious attacks. All eyes this week will be on what Breivik did last July, but we ignore those people who inspired him at our peril."

Andreas Mammone, a historian at Kingston University in London and an expert on European fascism, said broader factors had helped the counter-jihad movement to consolidate support. "The economic crisis continues to promote nationalism alongside the need for a common enemy. A fear of radical Islam is being developed, the idea that it presents a threat to our freedom," he said.
See the Counter-Jihad Report.
On this website, and in an accompanying printed publication, you will find the largest and most comprehensive survey of anti-Muslim and Islamophobic organisations to date.

In total we feature over 300 organisations and key individuals that make up the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement. It covers the right wing political parties, who are increasingly using anti-Muslim rhetoric to garner votes. It also explores the websites and bloggers who propagate scare stories about Islam. It covers the street gangs, like the English Defence League, and the likeminded groups they inspire around Europe. It also discusses the funders and the foundations which bankroll the network...
The ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement is the new face of the far right in Europe. The old racial nationalism of fascist and racists are receding but in its place are right wing populist parties and movements which make Islam the issue and Muslims the target. It manifests itself in different ways in different countries but its underlying message is the same. Sometimes it is focused around the single issue of Islam, but in other situations it becomes interwoven with wider politics of immigration, culture, loss and identity.

They are neo-Conservatives. They are Christian evangelicals. They are hardline racists. They are football hooligans. They are nationalists. They are populists. They are hardline Zionists. They are former leftists. The ‘counter-Jihad’ movement comes in all shapes and sizes but they are united in a common loathing of Islam.
The report concludes:
The ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement is one that we cannot afford to ignore. For this reason we have produced the ‘Counter-Jihad’ report and are establishing the ‘Counter-Jihad’ Monitoring Unit.


Breaking Down The Barriers



"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility." (Ephesians 2:14)

Breaking Down The Barriers:

Working for peace in the Holy land. Christian Aid has produced a resource especially for churches on the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. It includes putting the situation in context and an overview, a time-line of events, stories of people living in the region and the work of Christian Aid partners, settlements and how your church can get involved.

You can download a copy here.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Iran didn’t threaten to ‘wipe’ Israel out — Israel’s deputy prime minister



Meridor: [Iran's leaders] all come basically ideologically, religiously with the statement that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive. They didn't say 'we'll wipe it out', you are right, but [that] it will not survive, it is a cancerous tumor, it should be removed;

Nabili: Well, I am glad you acknowledged they didn't say they will wipe it out, because certainly Israeli politicians…

Meridor: … they say it will be removed, needs to be removed …

Source: Richard Silverstein

See also Mondoweiss Iran didn’t threaten to ‘wipe’ Israel out — Israel’s deputy prime minister

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Jeremy Corbyn MP Challenges Accusations of Anti-Semitism

5 April 2012

By email: bishop.christopher@cofeguildford.org.uk

Right Reverend Christopher Hill



Dear Right Reverend Christopher Hill


I am sorry to hear that problems have arisen, for Reverend Stephen Sizer, at least in part due to a technical oversight in terms of computer links, though I understand that the problem has now been rectified. I hope it was no more complicated than that.


Reverend Stephen Sizer seems to have come under attack by certain individuals intent on discrediting the excellent work that Stephen does in highlighting the injustices of the Palestinian Israeli situation, in particular by his very thorough analysis of “Christian Zionism”. Might I suggest that such criticism is part of a wider pattern of demonising those who dare to stand up and speak out against Zionism, a philosophy that precludes the existence of the state of Palestine?


Your own expertise, wisdom and experience will, I am sure, allow you to appreciate just how much distance exists between anti Semitism, anti Zionism, and anti Israeli government actions for that matter. Overzealous critics find it convenient to conflate them all. Active and well informed individuals such as Reverend Stephen Sizer, withstand a considerable amount of inappropriate criticism. Indeed many MPs and Peers are also attacked.


The internet is a complicated piece of technology and with the best will in the world, imperfect links are made and one would have to spend 8 hours a day “surfing” the net just to be 100% certain one’s views to not become contaminated in any way at all. Even then, connections can inadvertently be made.


I do hope you’ll take the above into consideration when meeting with Reverend Stephen Sizer today, for I do admire the excellent work that he does and personally, I would give no credence at all to any claims that he is anti-Semitic.


With kind regards

Jeremy Corbyn MP


Islington North



Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient.

See also letters from:

Dr Mark Braverman, Author of the Fatal Embrace
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Lampeter University
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Patron, Friends of Sabeel UK
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder of the Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Exeter University
Venerable Michael Lawson, Rector of St Saviour’s, Guildford
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Biblelands
Professor Ilan Pappe, Exeter University
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain

Church Times: Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times: Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite’

Professor Scott Elias Challenges Allegations of Anti-Semitism


09 April 2012

Dear Bishop Christopher,

I am a Professor of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London, and have been a member of Christ Church, Virginia Water since 2000. During the last decade I have been both a member of the PCC and PC secretary at Christ Church. I have come to know the Reverend Stephen Sizer quite well during my time there. I am writing to you to express my support for Stephen, in the face of attacks on his character by Pro-Israel groups. Their accusation that Stephen is anti-Semitic is both spurious and unfounded.

Stephen has worked tirelessly to bring peace and reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians in Israel and Palestine. He believes that the way forward is for Israel to dismantle the walls they have erected to separate themselves from the Palestinians, and for them to give back property they have taken from the Palestinians in recent decades. There are a great many Jews, both in Israel and elsewhere, who believe the same way, and espouse the same cause as Stephen Sizer, yet no one labels them as anti-Semitic.

Over the past twelve years I have held a great many conversations with Stephen concerning the situation in Israel/Palestine. Not once have I heard him voice any anti-Semitic opinions. In fact, quite the opposite is true. He has a real heart for the Jews. He just happens to believe that the only way the Jews can achieve a lasting peace with their neighbours is to dismantle the partitioning of the country, and to give the Palestinians a homeland they can truly call their own. He seeks peace and justice for all peoples of the Holy Land. Could there be a more Christian attitude to take?

Sincerely yours,

Scott Elias, PhD
Royal Holloway University of London


Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient. 


See also letters from:

Dr Mark Braverman, Author of the Fatal Embrace
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Lampeter University
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Patron, Friends of Sabeel UK
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder of the Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Exeter University
Venerable Michael Lawson, Rector of St Saviour’s, Guildford
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Biblelands
Professor Ilan Pappe, Exeter University
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain

Church Times: Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times: Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite

Jeremy Moodey Challenges Allegations of Anti-Semitism

6th April 2012


Dear Bishop Christopher

I write as Chief Executive of the Christian development charity BibleLands, established in 1854, which supports Christian social ministry in the Middle East. I have known Stephen Sizer since I took up my post in 2009, and indeed was with him in Bethlehem recently at the 'Christ at the Checkpoint' (CATC) conference which he co-organised.

I have been saddened to see the campaign which has been waged against Stephen by various parties. I want to state unequivocally that I do not believe for one second that Stephen is anti-Semitic. I attended a seminar which he gave at CATC on the topic of Christian Zionism. I see from my notes of his talk that he was at pains to say that there should be no place for anti-Semitism in the church, and that God loves the Jewish people just like any other nation. His handout for the talk, which I still have, states clearly: "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)" Stephen also chaired a panel session which included a prominent Messianic Jewish leader, Wayne Hilsden. I would be utterly astonished if Wayne or any of the other Messianic believers who joined us at CATC would agree with the claim that Stephen is anti-Semitic.

A key part of the alleged case against Stephen relates to his delay in removing a link to an article which, while not anti-Semitic itself, was however posted on an anti-Semitic website, The Ugly Truth. I am a regular blogger and tweeter on the Middle East and Zionism and know how easy it is to link to websites which are not as innocent as they at first appear from their home page (which I always check). When alerted to any inappropriate content, I remove the link. Had the nature of The Ugly Truth been brought to Stephen's attention sooner. I am sure he would have removed the link straightaway. As it was, given his regular travels and his heavy parish duties, and the fact that he (understandably) rarely reads much of the abusive and threatening correspondence which comes his way, I understand that there was a time delay between the highlighting of the issue and the removal of the link. This is regrettable, with the benefit of hindsight, but certainly not an offence that is so grave that it warrants a national campaign of intimidation and a reference to the Surrey police.

I have no hesitation in expressing my support for Stephen, and hope you will continue to support him as a much-loved parish priest in Virginia Water and as a prophetic voice on the issues of Christian Zionism and justice in the land of the Holy One.

Yours in Christ

Jeremy Moodey
Chief Executive
BibleLands


Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient. 


See also letters from:

Dr Mark Braverman, Author of the Fatal Embrace
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Lampeter University
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Patron, Friends of Sabeel UK
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder of the Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Exeter University
Venerable Michael Lawson, Rector of St Saviour’s, Guildford
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Biblelands
Professor Ilan Pappe, Exeter University
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain

Church Times: Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times: Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite’

Dr Ghada Karmi Challenges Allegations of Anti-Semitism

4 April 2012


Dear Bishop Christopher

I am writing in connection with the allegations made against the Rev Stephen Sizer. I have known Rev Sizer for many years and admired his courage in standing up for the truth. That has meant a great deal to me as a Palestinian and the victim of much suffering at the hands of Israel and its supporters.

It is simply untrue that Rev Sizer has ever been anti-Semitic in his speeches or his writing. I fear that he is being falsely accused for telling the truth by the same people who have shown me and my fellow Palestinians such hostility. I feel sure that you know the true picture, and very much hope that you will spare Stephen Sizer any more distress than has already been caused him by these baseless allegations.

Yours sincerely

Dr Ghada Karmi
University of Exeter


Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient. 



See also letters from:

Dr Mark Braverman, Author of the Fatal Embrace
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Lampeter University
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Patron, Friends of Sabeel UK
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder of the Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Exeter University
Venerable Michael Lawson, Rector of St Saviour’s, Guildford
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Biblelands
Professor Ilan Pappe, Exeter University
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain

Church Times: Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times: Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite’

Canon Garth Hewitt Responds to Accusations of Anti-Semitism


The Rt Rev Christopher Hill
Bishop of Guildford
Willow Grange
Woking Road
Guildford


Dear Bishop Christopher,

Warmest greetings.

I wanted to write to you about Rev Stephen Sizer as I gather complaints have been made about him accusing him of anti-Semitism. I am afraid these sort of charges are being levelled at people in order to silence them, and we have seen similar things happen to President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and particularly Judge Richard Goldstone who chaired the report on Gaza - he suffered particularly unpleasant attacks.

I have known Stephen since he was at University, and took him on his first visit to the Holy Land when we were both on the staff of St Saviour's in Guildford. Since then as you know he has become recognised as an expert on Christian pilgrimage in the Holy Land and also Christian Zionism. Stephen's motivation is working for peace and strangely those who are truly dedicated to a peace for both communities, ie Israeli and Palestinian, get heavily criticised by those who only want one viewpoint to be represented. But I believe, as do so many others who are working in this area, that peace cannot come if we ignore what is happening on the ground. So the latest UN report on Israel from the UN Human Rights Panel has caused Israel to sever ties with it and yet it is a call to address human rights, international law, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, particularly as it relates to the impact of settlements on the West Bank. In other words it is an attempt to call for a way forward that would bring equality and dignity to both communities.

In the end Stephen is a gentle but firm peacemaker, who lives out the Biblical mandate that all are made in the image of God, and I have never in anything he has done seen a hint of anti-Semitism. He has worked with Jewish peace activists and Rabbis, and has won their respect and also the respect of the Muslim community. I believe he has been a witness to the Christian values of peacemaking.

I appreciate that you have been a supporter of his and I am very grateful. I simply ask that with this current pressure you would maintain your generous and pastoral support of someone who has had a prophetic role in witnessing for peace in one of the most painful wounds of our world.

With very best wishes,

Garth

Canon Garth Hewitt
Founder, Amos Trust
Guild Vicar
All Hallows on the Wall
83 London Wall
London
EC2M 5ND


garth@amostrust.org
www.amostrust.org


Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient. 


See also letters from:

Dr Mark Braverman, Author of the Fatal Embrace
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Lampeter University
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Patron, Friends of Sabeel UK
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder of the Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Exeter University
Venerable Michael Lawson, Rector of St Saviour’s, Guildford
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Biblelands
Professor Ilan Pappe, Exeter University
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain

Church Times: Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times: Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite’

Friday, 13 April 2012

Rabbi clears vicar of anti-Semitism


Ed Thornton, writes in the Church Times today

A RABBI who is a student of anti-Semitism has defended a vicar who has been accused of posting anti-Semitic material online (News, 16 March). The Revd Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, was said to have included on his Facebook page a link to a website that was considered to be anti-Semitic.

Last month, the Guildford dio­cesan secretary, Stephen Marriott, said that the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) had made known its “grave concern” that Mr Sizer “had been publicising websites with anti-Semitic content”. He said that Surrey Police were investigating.

In a letter to the Bishop of Guild­ford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Professor Emeritus of Judaism at the Univer­sity of Wales, who has written three books on anti-Semitism, said that accusations that Mr Sizer was an anti-Semite were “completely with­out foundation”.

Rabbi Cohn-Sherbok said that he had asked Mr Sizer “how it hap­pened that this offensive website (which relates to Israel’s action) on his Facebook was not removed straight­away”. Mr Sizer had “not in fact read” the initial complaint about the website, which had been sent by Nick Howard, a Christian evangelist who is the son of Lord Howard, a former leader of the Conservative Party.

Rabbi Cohn-Sherbok defended Mr Sizer: “Once he realised the seriousness of the error of linking his Facebook entry with the offending website, he did remove it.”

Professor Ilan Pappé, an Israeli Jewish historian, also wrote to Bishop Hill. He said that there was “not a hint of anti-Semitism in anything Stephen wrote or spoke about”. Rather, Mr Sizer voiced “con­cern that some of Israel’s policies and ideologies can create a mis­guided association of Judaism with dispossession, colonisation and dis­crimination”.

Mr Sizer has also published on his website supportive comments from other rabbis and Jewish writers and activists.

The CCJ issued a statement on Wednesday, which said: “All CCJ has done, in its founding role to combat anti-Semitism, is, on receipt of com­plaints about Mr Sizer’s actions, to have expressed grave concern to his bishop and drawn the attention of the police to the matter.”

Source: The Church Times

See also:

Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Professor Ilan Pappe
Dr Jeff Halper
Dr Mark Braverman
Tony Greenstein
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz