Justice in the Holy Land

20 February 2008

Prince Phillip and fantasy Britain

Ruth "Bonkers" Gledhill unintentionally manages to link two amusing fantasies about life and attitudes in Britain in her most recent post at Articles of Faith

The InquestsThe post quite rightly challenges Mohamed Al Fayed's Nazi allegation about the Prince, with details of Prince Phillip' family history  which includes his mother being honoured by Jews as among the righteous who fought anti-semitism and the Nazis during the Second World War.


In the comments that follow Irene "my one book is now out in paperback" Lancaster makes her customary appearance with a link to her blog which contains posts which seem to match Mr Al Fayed in their eccentricity.

Richard Bartholemew has written about her wider contributions here and she herself has written about her "central role" in the Rowan Williams recent "Sharia speech" and summed up with the well-considered Hitler rally quote which will have hopefully have quashed any remaining credibility she had with Guy Wilkinson and the team at Lambeth.

Her wonderful summary of last Sunday's worship at Glasgow Episcopal Cathedral manages to combine almost as big a cast of "anti-semitic agencies and personalities" as Mr Al Fayeds account of Diana's murder includes in his cast of "MI5 and other establishment agencies" - and both share a penchant for "conspiracy" which seem to appeal to the Daily Mail.

I guess that the only surprise is that the Vicar of Oakworth was not among the cast of either - cos just about everyone else is!

08 February 2008

Rowan and Sharia law!

Just fascinating to see how this whole story has developed (out of control it has to be said).

The story starts with an apparently innocent lecture on "Civil and Religious Law in England: A religious perspective" - as part of The Temple Festival at which one would expect a typically informed and erudite lecture from RW with few other than those present taking much notice - see here for the entirely appropriate context for what was planned.

What makes this story different is that the real agenda is Islam in Britain a hot topic beloved of the British press and media - and of course to their delight "The World at One" managed to land one of those magic moments when RW was heard to suggest that sharia law might be an inevitable part of British law in the future - read here the script.

As I heard those words travelling in the car I could just imagine the flurry of activity around the world of press and media.

When what you have said produces this response from the Religions Correspondent of The Times, ( not noted it has to be said for her particularly informed coverage of Muslim affairs) and then read the comments which follow the post, then you should realise that you have lost your closest allies in the Press a bit, with the consequential misunderstandings which follow among the wider public who are "ill-informed" about the nature of an academic lecture to put it with generosity

So once again RW falls victim to the "academic thesis"  needing a "popular explanation" becoming the "popular headline" - I am relieved I am not one of his press team!!

Favourite "uninformed" coverage comes from the Sun's blogs with the headline:

Fruit cake in a frock Rowan Williams has declared that the adoption of Islamic Sharia law in the UK is "unavoidable".

Some Distinctly Welcome insight comes here - but I fear Richard may be to optimistic about the outcomes from this episode, and that Rowan Williams may actually have re-inforced the fear and prejudice by his contribution - clearly the political classes have seen it necessary to quickly disown him.

27 January 2008

Faith becomes chance?

03 November 2007

Rowan Williams in Israel = Jerusalem post

Interesting coverage of ABC visit to Israel here in The Jerusalem Post which seeks to suggest that Rowan Williams is making the same mistake as Balfour in criticizing the Wall?

12 July 2007

How to respond to radical Islamist terrorism

Muktar Ibrahim, Yassin Omar, Ramzi Mohammed and Hussain Osman  (clockwise from top left)

Yesterday's London 21/7 court sentences make it even more relevant that Christians and people of other faiths have some grasp on what is happening within the broad canvas of the Muslim faith and Muslim world which leads to people subscribing to terrorists views and activity in the name of the Divine.

Let us pray that by the time the four offenders are released in thirty/forty years time we will have worked through a new relationship between the great faiths and a greater sense of community cohesion in the UK which will make these offences genuinely seem things from a dark past.

I have been quite shocked recently about some of the comments emanating from Christian leaders about our Muslim brothers and sisters and the supposed threat that they may present to our country and way of life. It has to be said that the vast majority of Muslims seem to recognise that terrorism presents a far greater threat to their own place within our society by feeding Daily Mail type views of Muslims and their intentions.

Ironically some of the worst examples appear from the USA which one would have thought might have been tempted to reflect upon other events which have been conditioned or even supported by Christian perspectives on the world.

So how to make sense of what is happening from a Christian perspective?

Could I encourage you to read this summary that Colin Chapman a colleague from my days at CMS and one of the most informed commentators on Islam from his time in the Middle East - he introduces it as follows:

Why is it that some Muslims become Islamists and some Islamists turn to violence? A summary of some basic convictions held in varying degrees by all Muslims is followed by an explanation of how Islamists have developed these ideas in response to various challenges (especially political) of the modern world. This analysis brings us face to face with what has been called ‘the struggle for the soul of Islam’. It is only against this background that we are in a position to suggest how Christians can respond at many different levels to Muslims in general and to Islamists in particular.

The main PDF file is Download islamic_fundamentalism.pdf


04 July 2007

Alan Johnston released

image I found myself close to tears this morning as I travelled along the M62 at 7.30am this morning and heard Alan Johnston speaking of his release.

Each day since his capture, prayer for his freedom has been a feature of my Morning Office - and it is interesting to reflect how this brings concern for him deeply into one's emotional and spiritual bloodstream.

Reflecting later today I realise that part of my response was conditioned not just with delight for Alan and his family, colleagues and friends, but also for the wider significance for the Palestinian people and justice in the Holy Land.

While Hamas is understandably making some half-baked political capital over their successful intervention, but this is minor compared with the consequences for the Palestinian people if the situation had dragged on, or heaven forbid in a moment of madness Alan's captors had killed him.

He has done more than any other Britain to bring to world's attention the continuing plight of ordinary Palestinians suffering under Israel's oppressive policies and the political failures of their own leadership.

What is so utterly remarkable about the man himself is his ability to reflect so coherently and gently on what has happened to him over the past weeks.

My prayers will be that he is now granted the space and freedom to work through the long term consequences which must surely follow from this experience.

I shall be praying that this may also set a precedent which might lead to the release of Gilad Shilat, the Israeli corporal being held by Hamas.

28 June 2007

Jim Wallis on Gordon Brown

Jim Wallis, of American Sojourners fame, introduces his American constituency to Britain's new Prime Minister. Behind the genuine affection and regard do I detect a little envy that we have Gordon Brown as an alternative to George Bush? Jim writes:

"Someone You Should Know

I want to introduce you to someone. His name is Gordon Brown, and he just became Britain's new Prime Minister. You have probably been hearing and reading the news about the transition from Tony Blair to Brown.

Get a free issue of Sojourners

Among other things, Brown is a voracious reader, and reads many American books about politics, including those that focus on moral values and politics. That’s how I first met Gordon Brown: I was speaking in Britain and got a call from the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (his former position) saying that Brown wanted to get together that evening, if I was available. So I went over to his office at the Treasury, and he told me that he had read my books and had many questions for me. So we put our feet up and began talking, and have been doing so now for a number of years.

I’ve done several interviews recently with British newspapers and television networks about what kind of man Gordon Brown is. One asked me the word I would use to best describe him, and I said "passion." That’s in sharp contrast to some of the British press, who refer to the new Prime Minister as "dour," as one Guardian columnist did this morning on National Public Radio. But that is simply not the man that I have come to know, and whose friendship I deeply value. I have taken American heads of churches and development agencies to visit with Brown, and they have been universally and amazingly impressed with his deep understanding of the issues of globalization and his personal commitment to tackling the moral challenge of inequality. I believe that Gordon Brown has more passion (and knowledge) about the issues of global poverty and social justice than any other Western leader today. And I believe his leadership could make a great difference. He is somebody you should know and follow closely.

Gordon Brown is the son of a Church of Scotland pastor and grew up in a manse where the biblical vision of justice seems to have found its place in his heart. Quotes from Isaiah and Jeremiah pepper his speeches about the kind of global economy we must be working for, and as I said in God’s Politics, Brown’s words often remind me of the prophet Micah, who knew that true security requires that "all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid."

Let me share a few of his words from his speech this week on his transition to the new post of Labor Party Leader and Prime Minister.
First on his values and moral compass:

All I believe and all I try to do comes from the values that I grew up with: duty, honesty, hard work, family, and respect for others.

And this is what my parents taught me and will never leave me: that each and every one of us has a talent, each and every one of us should have the chance to develop their talent, and that each of us should use whatever talents we have to enable people least able to help themselves.

And so I say honestly: I am a conviction politician. My conviction that everyone deserves a fair chance in life. My conviction that each of us has a responsibility to each other. And my conviction that when the strong help the weak, it makes us all stronger. Call it ‘the driving power of social conscience,’ call it 'the better angels of our nature,’ call it ‘our moral sense,’ call it a belief in ‘civic duty.’
I joined this party as a teenager because I believed in these values. They guide my work, they are my moral compass. This is who I am. And because these are the values of our party, too, the party I lead must have more than a set of policies – we must have a soul.

On children in poverty:

... let me say also that in the fourth richest country in the world it is simply wrong – wrong that any child should grow up in poverty. To address this poverty of income and to address also the poverty of aspirations by better parenting, better schools, and more one-to-one support, I want to bring together all the forces of compassion – charities, voluntary sector, local councils, so that at the heart of building a better Britain is the cause of ending child poverty.

On foreign policy:

Our foreign policy in years ahead will reflect the truth that to isolate and defeat terrorist extremism now involves more than military force – it is also a struggle of ideas and ideals that in the coming years will be waged and won for hearts and minds here at home and round the world. And an essential contribution to this will be what becomes daily more urgent – a Middle East settlement upholding a two state solution, that protects the security of Israel and the legitimate enduring desire for a Palestinian state.

Because we all want to address the roots of injustice, I can tell you today that we will strengthen and enhance the work of the department of international development and align aid, debt relief and trade policies to wage an unremitting battle against the poverty, illiteracy, disease and environmental degradation that it has fallen to our generation to eradicate.

Gordon Brown is a new kind of political leader, one who seeks to practice moral politics. He has already worked very closely with the community of faith and seeks a vital partnership. He knows that even politicians like him need to be challenged and held accountable by social movements with spiritual foundations. He once told me that without Jubilee 2000, the church-based movement to cancel Third World debt, the Labor government would have never done so. He encouraged me to keep building such movements because the world of politics needs them.

So pay attention to what Gordon Brown does now and please pray for him. I believe he could become the kind of international leader who really helps to change things. I watched his remarks on the BBC, just before he and his wife walked through the door of 10 Downing Street to spend his first night as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. I’m glad he is there."

29 January 2007

Holocaust Day follow-up

Some thoughts flowing out of Holocaust Day.

1. Can anyone direct me to some written material on the Pharisess written from a Jewish perspective - what was their theology (and how did it differ from the mainstream) what was their social understanding etc - why did they seem to be in conflict with Jesus. ( This is partly to explore the "bogeymen" image of so many Christian sermons and books - I tend to think that if Jesus came today good bounded "Anglicans" would perhaps be the equivalent today!!)

2. I have read/heard somewhere the idea that as a generalisation Jews and Christians have a different primary perspective about The Holocaust which runs along the lines of:

that Jews primarily ask "what" happened seeking to keep alive the living (and dying) personal experience
that Christians primary ask "why" The Holocaust happened - a sense of guilt and distance from the consequences

I am fairly certain it was a Jewish commentator - but now know it was not Lionel Blue who I thought it was Can any one help with a proper quote or source

3. Was interested in this article about defining "anti-semitism" to be found on the Haaretz website

22 December 2006

Jimmy Carter Israel-Palestine

Having given up on Jimmy Carter's book Peace not Apartheid during my reading retreat, I was interested to hear that he is having some difficulty speaking on the subject on American campuses, where Zionist lobby groups are putting pressure for refusals. Given the the general tone of the book that is not altogether surprising and indeed perhaps understandable. With the latest fuss arising in Boston well known for its liberal tendencies I was interested to read in the Boston Globe the following explanation from Jimmy Carter which seems to be a more intelligent way forward than the contents of his book.

He writes in the newspaper article:

My "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid" was published last month, expressing my assessment of circumstances in the occupied territories and prescribing a course of action that offers a path to permanent peace for Israel and its neighbors. My knowledge of the subject is based on visits to the area during the past 33 years, my detailed study and personal involvement in peace talks as president, and my leadership role in monitoring the Palestinian elections of 1996, 2005, and 2006.

Multiple deaths of innocent civilians have occurred on both sides, and this violence and all terrorism must cease.

For 39 years, Israel has occupied Palestinian land, and has confiscated and colonized hundreds of choice sites.

Often excluded from their former homes, land, and places of worship, protesting Palestinians have been severely dominated and oppressed. There is forced segregation between Israeli settlers and Palestine's citizens, with a complex pass system required for Arabs to traverse Israel's multiple checkpoints.

An enormous wall snakes through populated areas of what is left of the West Bank, constructed on wide swaths of bulldozed trees and property of Arab families, obviously designed to acquire more territory and to protect the Israeli colonies already built. (Hamas declared a unilateral cease-fire in August 2004 as its candidates sought local and then national offices, which they claim is the reason for reductions in casualties to Israeli citizens.)

Combined with this wall, Israeli control of the Jordan River Valley will completely enclose Palestinians in their shrunken and divided territory. Gaza is surrounded by a similar barrier with only two openings, still controlled by Israel. The crowded citizens have no free access to the outside world by air, sea, or land.

The Palestinian people are now being deprived of the necessities of life by economic restrictions imposed on them by Israel and the United States because 42 percent voted for Hamas candidates in this year's election. Teachers, nurses, policemen, firemen, and other employees cannot be paid, and the UN has reported food supplies in Gaza equivalent to those among the poorest families in sub-Sahara Africa, with half the families surviving on one meal a day.

Mahmoud Abbas, first as prime minister and now as president of the Palestinian National Authority and leader of the PLO, has sought to negotiate with Israel for almost six years, without success. Hamas leaders support such negotiations, promising to accept the results if approved by a Palestinian referendum.

UN Resolutions, the Camp David Accords of 1978, the Oslo Agreement of 1993, official US Policy, and the International Roadmap for Peace are all based on the premise that Israel withdraw from occupied territories. Also, Palestinians must accept the same commitment made by the 23 Arab nations in 2002: to recognize Israel's right to live in peace within its legal borders. These are the two keys to peace.

Not surprisingly, an examination of the book reviews and published comments reveals that these points have rarely if ever been mentioned by detractors of the book, much less denied or refuted. Instead, there has been a pattern of ad hominem statements, alleging that I am a liar, plagiarist, anti-Semite, racist, bigot, ignorant, etc. There are frequent denunciations of fabricated "straw man" accusations: that I have claimed that apartheid exists within Israel; that the system of apartheid in Palestine is based on racism; and that Jews control and manipulate the news media of America.

As recommended by the Hamilton-Baker report, renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are a prime factor in promoting peace in the region. Although my book concentrates on the Palestinian territories, I noted that the report also recommended peace talks with Syria concerning the Golan Heights. Both recommendations have been rejected by Israel's prime minister.

It is practically impossible for bitter antagonists to arrange a time, place, agenda, and procedures that are mutually acceptable, so an outside instigator/promoter is necessary. Successful peace talks were orchestrated by the United States in 1978-79 and by Norway in 1993. If the American government is reluctant to assume such a unilateral responsibility, then an alternative is the International Quartet (United States, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union) -- still with American leadership.

An overwhelming majority of citizens of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine want peace, with justice for all who live in the Holy Land. It will be a shame if the world community fails to help them reach this goal.

What I fail to understand is that Carter allowed his publishers to use the title including the word apartheid which is such a profoundly unhelpful metaphor, It is hard to think of a more guaranteed way of causing offence (with the exception of calling Israel a "Nazi" state or referring to Israeli/Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs as a Holocaust), of offering your opponents an easy response, of triggering charges of anti-Semitism from right-wing Zionists in the States, or of ensuring that even potentially sympathetic readers begin the book in the wrong frame of mind (I think I did).

What a missed opportunity!

20 December 2006

If Hamas is broken . . .

Johann Hari of The Independent offers some insight into the beliefs of the islamic fundamentalist jihadists which he suggests are gaining influence within Gaza as the democratically elected authority of Hamas is challenged and threatened - it makes frightening reading for all people of good will who seek a just solution in Israel/Palestine.

Meanwhile for those who would claim that the Palestinian people never seem to acknowledge that their problems are not just caused by Israel's occupation MIFTAH is ruthlessly honest about the contribution which internal disputes are making to the failure to find a peaceful solution with Israel's governments:

It is safe to say that both Fateh and Hamas have lost their way and as a result, ordinary citizens still fiercely loyal to their leaders, have seemingly forgotten that we still have a Separation Wall to tear down, Jewish settlements to dismantle and refugees to bring home. Instead they are turning their guns on one another while the President, Prime Minister and various other leaders speak to them with forked tongues and hidden agendas.

Read the full article

Please pray for peace in what must rank as the grimmest Christmas for many years in Israel/Palestine.

19 December 2006

Iraq and Palestine + UK/US politicians

Margaret Beckett MPHere in the UK there was much surprise when Tony Blair chose to replace Jack Straw ( widely regarded as one of the most intelligent and informed Foreign Secretarys in recent history) with Margaret Beckett who had questionable pedigree in the field of foreign affairs.

Her performance on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, where she appeared to rewrite or not understand the origins of the decisions to take Britain to war in Iraq have led to further press questioning of her competence and who might replace her. Simon Tisdall in the Guardian is typical

In the States things have recently got more interesting in the US with new appointments to key roles. One of these appointments has been Sylvestre Reyes the Texas Representative who has been appointed the Head of the House Intelligence Committee. A key aspect of this role is concerned with foreign affairs and Iraq and the current crisis in the Middle East and specifically of Israel/Palestine.

Confidence in the appointment has been slightly shattered with the first round of press interviews. The good Senator was asked some basic questions by journalists who have years of experience in their specialism.

So what would be you reply to the question " is al-Qaeda was associated with the Sunni or Shiite strand of Islam". The chair of the Intelligence Committee (given the benefit of a 50% chance of getting it right) guessed wrong - "Predominately - [pause and look up] - probably - [long pause] - Shiite".

Having stumbled at the first hurdle on his knowledge of the situation in Iraq, things got inanely worse when it came to the Palestinian conflict in Gaza and the West Bank. 

A reporter from Haaratz (the Israeli liberal paper) in an interview with the Senator suddenly realised that the Senator thought that Fatah was in conflict with Hezbollah in Gaza Just in case she had misheard she asked the Senator where Hamas fitted into the picture - to which the reply came that he saw some signs that things in Lebanon were " settling down".

07 December 2006

Retreat and Holy Land

Returned to the blog from a three day reading retreat where I have been reading:
"Struggling to the Holy"  by Judy Hirst which has been a very helpful look at living out the faith in everday circumstances
The Complex Christ by Kester Brewin which for all its ever generalistions about the existing church is inspiring in terms of what might be next.
Carter Palestine: Peace not apartheid by Jimmy Carter - I gave up 1/2 way through becuase it never really gets further than its ineptly provocative title - quite depressing that some-one with such knowledge should be prepared to trade in such generalistions just to ensure that the title sells the book
Leaving Church by Barbara Brwon Taylor which I am part way through - but is a hugely moving account of her journey of faith - which I will encourage others within ministry in the Church to read as a way of understanding where many people are.

While I have been away my recent posts on Israel /Palestine have been picked up with a chain of comments and stacks of emails linked to this post here and its comments. Perhaps its time to call a grateful halt on those wishing to defend my reputation and knowledge about the offensive post which only goes to illustrate my point in this post. Those who have read my blogs in the past will know that it is not the first time that I have been "flamed" in this way on this topic. The suggestion that I "share company" with President Ahmedinajad of Iran in my hatred of Israel is a first -  and would actually be quite offensive if it were not so hysterical and ill-informed.

I will respond as best I can in due  course!

05 December 2006

Israel / Palestine + Newsnight

BBC Newnight's programme on "What chance peace in the Middle East?" devoted most of the programme last Thursday to the future of Israel Palestine - see here for the link and the comments which follow make interesting reading in terms of the breadth of response from within the UK.

I guess a key question that remained was why 3 Israelis and only 1 Palestinian representative - not really up to BBC standards of balance - but it was at least that way round because the Israel lobby would have been out with their "bias BBC" banners if it had been the reverse which would have detracted from the quality of the programme.

I personally was hugely encouraged by the contribution of the two women involved. The Israeli Education Minister Yuli Tamir's (see left) contribution in particular seemed to acknowledge that Israel had to drop its long standing tendency to want to dictate who would represent the Palestinian people in peace negotiations. Perhaps it was their presence that at least made the participants listen to each others contributions and for the debate not to descend into a slanging match as happened the last time Newsnight tried such a programme with a panel of men.

Yuli Tamir's has her own internal political problems, having recently dictated that all Israeli school atlas (would that we still had such things these days in English schools where geography is taught without any reference to landmasses!)) should show Israel at the 1967 boundaries and including the Green line.  Her logic is that it is not credible to say to your peace partners that you will accept those boundaries as the basis for disucssion if you are educating the next generation in some other view. The Zionist reaction is predictable here and here.

In essence the programme was a good example of how it is possible to have a intelligent discussion without assuming that those who do not share your views either have some hidden agenda about your eventual future or that they do not understand the situation or the history of the area. What is hopeful is that they were able to be reasonably clear about the sticking points in any negotiations.

03 December 2006

Israel Palestine and dialogue

David Aaronovitch of the Times offer interesting perspective on the issues of how one can be pro-Palestinian without being anti-Jewish or anti-Israel and vice-versa.

Creating a framework of thinking which enables such discussions to take place seems to me to be one of the key tasks which will contribute to a just peace in the Holy Land. Read what he has to say here.

Only when a mutually agreed framework has be formulated will our political parties have a non-partisan way of discussing the issues involved with clear boundaries about what is meant as well as what is said.

Reminds me of what I think was Pascal when he said " its not what is said that matters, but what is meant by what is said".

01 December 2006

Israel Palestine + history

Picking up on several emails and Jane's comment here about a "balanced" book about Israel Palestine, I don't think it is whistling in the wind, although some of the most perceptive and interesting books arise from a definite bias - such as Chomsky and Eban.

One book which I most frequently recommend is this one by Greg Philo and Mike Berry who are journalist/academics with Glasgow University's Media Group. In a very readable almost journalistic style it offers a short history of the area, and details the competing interpretations of key events with extensive references to other documents.

Amazon have it in stock here. If you have other suggestions you might to add them to the comments - perhaps saying where you think the bias is if any.

Israel and Palestine: Competing Histories (Middle East Studies)


Banksy - security wall

Wall and Piece is the updated coffee table collection of the art and graffiti of Banksy.

I don't think anything that has bought such amusement to the Allen household for a long time - it is the mix of inspiring thumbing-your-nose art and humour which makes it such a gift.

This is perhaps summed best by the quote on the back cover which says:

" There's no way you're going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover" Metropolitan Police Spokesman

Amazon have it on special offer here

Follow this link to see more of Banksy art on The Wall 

[ Please note I am aware of the issues about graffiti and its social and financial impact - so please don't post a comment!)

29 November 2006

Palestine perceptions

Perception 1

Another chain of comments on Ruth Gledhill's blog sees me attempting to emphasise how important a solution in the Holy Land is to the future of the Palestinian people and their hope for a homeland as it is equally for Israel's need for secure internationally supported borders.

Irene Lancaster the Manchester academic and Jewish Inter-faith Adviser to Anglicans for Israel who has recently moved to Israel offers an account of a meeting with the German Ambassador to Israel and the Occupied Territories during which she attributes the following remarks to him among others:

Perception 2

Botschafter Kindermann"I was invited to attend a talk by the German Ambassador to Israel at Haifa University this evening. In the course of questions he was asked about the plight of the Christians in Israel and what he was going to do about that. He replied that he was extremely close to all the Christian communities in Israel and based on that, he made the following points. Christians are free to worship in Israel and have no complaints. There are problems for the Palestinian Christians, who are Arabs. This is the subject of discussion in Israel, but not of concern as far as Germany is concerned. Sometimes it is difficult for the Palestinian Christians to do well, because they are based in Gaza and the West Bank, where there are restrictions. Quite a few Palestinian Christians are leaving the area. In the opinion of the Ambassador, this is for the same reason that many people left former East Germany at the time of the reunification. The question is demography. The minister killed in Lebanon was a Christian. Lebanon is definitely not a good place for Christians to be living in. He was Ambassador in Saudi Arabia before coming to Israel. There are quite a few Palestinians there: doctors, teachers etc. There are also Palestinians in Germany. They have moved to these places, because there are better opportunities for them elsewhere than in Gaza and the West Bank areas. They are not leaving because they are Christians, but because they want a better life.Israel is a free country. That is why Germany supports it. It is completely different from the rest of the Middle East. In Israel, all Christians are completely free to follow their religion."

Now self-evidently this is both self-contradictory and potentially serious - has the Ambassador of Israel's biggest European trading partner really come to the conclusion after six months in the post "that the problems of Palestinian Christians who are Arabs . . . are not of concern as far as Germany is concerned - and that " quite a few Palestinian Christians are leaving for the same reason many people left former East Germany at the time of re-unification" If the latter weren't so crass it would be funny particularly because of the presence in both situations of The Wall.

Perception 3

Out of interest I phoned the German Embassy in London who gave me short shrift saying that it was unlikely that their man in Israel would say such things . . .

Now those who follow Irene's blog know that it is an interesting mix of the personal and anecdotal, with contributions of considerable insight which only years of academic work enable one to achieve  With regard the account of what the German Ambassador said I am attempting to work out which mode and look forward to getting back to the Embassy in London when I receive confirmation.

Perception 4

What this particular post and its comments illustrate is the difficulty of saying that Israel has a predominate  responsibility for the situation without being accused of saying that she has sole responsibility.

This difficulty is emphasized by the overwhelming power and appeal of the Zionist PR machine ( especially in the US and on the Net) which means that if you Google any particular topic you get a page or two of Zionist sites before getting to anything approaching balance or from a Palestinian perspective. Even when you get to the latter the state of the nation means that it is hard to get anything Palestinian which attempts to incorporate values of accuracy and dialogue.

One exception to this is MIFTAH which I refer to daily and would highly recommend since a cross section of Israeli and Palestinians contacts have recommended it to me. Its chief executive is Hanan Ashrawi who many will know as the Christian Palestinian member of Parliament - go read for a perceptive view of what is happening within the Palestinian Authority. Its ability to comment on the internal Palestinian strife is particularly helpful.

There is an especially helpful and locally researched article on why Palestinians are leaving the PA here - which takes us well beyond the Ambassadors reported remarks - but which is not less worrying for the scale of what is happening.

09 November 2006

Israel's re-action

The body of three-year-old Maysa Athamna is covered with a Palestinian flag in preparation for her burial in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun One of the truly worrying aspects of the tragic events of Ben Hanun is the almost complete failure of the British Press to report the diversity of views within Israel itself. Press reports here tend to concentrate on official govenment responses which are mealy-mouthed at best.

None of the complexity of Israeli public opinion comes across. The so-called liberal and progressive papers The Guardian and Independent are particular offenders on this ocassion.

What makes this particularly odd (and furthers the widespread opinion that these two papers have an agenda with regard to Israel) is that there equivalent paper in the Israeli spectrum of new journalism Haaretz has been been completely unequivocal in its editorial about what is now required of the Israeli government here.

The key part of the editorial says:

If Israel does not want to find itself embroiled soon in a new bloodbath, including suicide bombings in its cities, it must launch a dramatic, unequivocal move, as only such a move might prevent the outbreak of a new intifada. Such a move must begin with a total cease-fire, even a unilateral one, in the context of which Israel will commit itself to total restraint for a predetermined period, even if Qassams continue to fall here and there.

Instead of more and more pointless military operations, which will not lead to anything except to kindling more hatred, we must try a completely different path. Instead of military operations with attractive names, we must immediately embark on a diplomatic operation.

The cannons must be replaced with calls for dialogue, the economic boycott must be replaced with an opening of the taps, and the cruel siege of Gaza must be replaced with a supervised opening of the border crossings.
Only in this way can we perhaps change the dangerous atmosphere that now prevails, and even more so following the bloodbath in Beit Hanun. The responsibility for this rests entirely on the prime minister's shoulders.

Why can't this kind of Israeli perspective be accurately represented in the British press?

01 October 2006

Yom Kippur

From sunset today until nightfall tomorrow is The Jewish Day of Atonement 'Yom KIppur', celebrated across the world according to the different time scales. One of my regular Israeli reading blogs is Haaretz the website for the more generally liberal and politically critical of Israel's national papers (perhaps an Independent equivalent?).

I was struck by this:

The journalist on Yom Kippur

For the sin we journalists have sinned before thee,
Under duress and willingly
For the truth we have warped before thee
Through hardness of the heart
Through venality of the spirit
For the sin we have sinned before thee in passing judgment
And for the sin we have sinned before thee in the exercise of power
For the prejudices we have nurtured
For the hatreds we have milked
For the reputations we have sullied
For the names we have desecrated
For the guilt we have presumed
For the sides we have taken,
For the sides we have shunned
For the truth we have warped before thee
Hyped before thee, tailored before thee
Pimped before thee
Doctored before thee
For the sake of nothing more than a deadline or a headline
Or simply for our name's sake
For all these
Forgive us, pardon us, atone for us
For the sin we have sinned before thee
In throwing off the yoke of ethics
For the sin we have sinned before thee
Knowingly and through carelessness
For the sin we have sinned before thee
through cunning speech
through scorning with cleverness
through the bias of the narrowed eye, the haughty eye,
through entrapment, through gossip mongering
For the sin of currying favor, by keeping secrets that protect the powerful,
And for the sin of causing death, by revealing secrets that can identify targets
For the sin we have sinned before thee
In choosing the single picture over the 1,000 words
And for the sin we have sinned before thee
In feasting on the failings of those we choose to vilify
And in denial of the evils of those with whom we identify
For the sin we have sinned before thee
In the mining and selling of grief
For the privacy we trample
For the mourners we exploit
For the good names we ruin
And the good works we ignore
For all these,
Forgive us, pardon us, atone for us

21 September 2006

Lord Carey's support for the Pope

Lord CareyI was interested to read of Lord Carey's response to the Pope's speech which has drawn such wrath among some Muslims.

Or more accurately to read reports which said that Lord Carey  "supported" the Pope, and such reports were subsequently intrepreted by various interested parties see:

This Times article which is widely quoted elsewhere

Irene Lancaster's spin on what Lord Carey said includes the generalisation that " dialogue with Muslims is very difficult" read here ( I would have to say that I am not surprised she finds dialogue with Muslims difficult with that underlying attitude about "them").

and lastly in similar vein from Anglicans for Israel here

I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear Lord Carey himself on Radio 4 this morning give a less than ringing endorsement of what the Pope had said - or at least whether he was wise to say it

I wonder what you think?

Anglicans for Israel and Sabeel UK

This is the kind of dialogue which I long for the in the UK - say between representatives of Sabeel UK and Anglicans for Israel.

Not only does it increase peoples understanding of the real issues but it also contributes to revealing who are the real threats to Israel's guarentee of a stable future and who, while asserting the importance of Palestinian rights, is advocating a peaceful solution which will ensure Israel's future within internationally supported and maintained borders.

The reference to the political orientation of the contributers in the post is especially interesting - in the UK sadly groups which have been formed to be advocates of Israels interests ( Anglicans for Israel being the latest) tend to have a marked right wing bias in their leadership, and the reverse can be said to some extent for advocates of the Palestinian cause.

I would love to see a genuinely politically broad based groups develop for both concerns.

09 September 2006

Palimentary Report on Anti-semitism

Richard also offers one of the best analyses here of the Report on Parlimentary Anti-semitism Report     that I have read

One of dilemnas of the reaction to the Report (and the vexed question about the extent to which the current unacceptable upsurge is due to the Israel/Lebanon situation) is that some mainly Zionist commentators (Christian and Jewish) are complaining that those who attack them do so out of ignorance of the difference between Israel and being Jewish while at the same time objecting when the Church of England makes that distinction on issues of disinvestment from Caterpiller Bulldozers. The only intellectually consistent position is that there is no connection on either case.

I think Richard makes a particularly strong point when he suggests that

The report goes on to quote Shalom Lappin:


Professor Shalom Lappin submitted to us that the conflict itself is not reported with the detachment applied to other areas of conflict such as Darfur or Chechnya:

“The Israel-Palestinian encounter has been largely denaturalised and removed from its political and regional context. It is no longer seen as a political and military struggle between two nations with a long and complex history...Instead, it has been endowed with the peculiar status of an iconic clash between good and evil. Israel has increasingly come to be construed as the purest embodiment of imperialism, racism and oppression whose sole national purpose is to dispossess the Palestinians.”


Such interpretations of the conflict no doubt do exist, and are regrettable – but shallow and “denaturalised” approaches do not, of course, invalidate analyses critical of Israel that do not share this flaw. And if we transpose the words “Israel” and “the Palestinians” in the last sentence, we have a reasonably useful description of the same vice as it appears a fair bit of pro-Israel discourse.

Whatever the quibles about the content, there is no doubting the practical daily experience of anti-semitism which people of all faiths and none in the UK must address.

Pray for the peace

If you thought that the problems of The Holy Land were largely interfaith/political then read Richard Bartholomews report on Christian dialogue - his blog is worth reading if you want an informed view of inter-faith matters.

06 September 2006

Israel - hearing from Haifa

Israel_haifaThe BBC has an excellent feature on Haifa's citizens and their experience and understanding of life under siege from rockets from Hezbullah.

As Israeli's come to terms with their military failure in Lebanon it is good to hear beyond the political voice of a country - and for those who tend to hear only certain Israeli voices to hear of the diversity within Israel's third and most diverse city which a long-standing reputation for its tolerance. See here

21 August 2006

Israel Palestine Geographical History

_olmert203bg_2 It never ceases to surprise me how people have a fairly sketchy or distinctly biased view of the geographical history of Israel/Palestine - something which contributes greatly to a lack of understanding of contemporary events and sensitivities.

At a time when Israel's recent "defeat" in Lebanon makes further unilateral withdrawels from "occupied" territory politically unlikely it is even more important to understand how we got to where we are.

BUT trying to find a defendably unbiased account is not easy, but this is reasonably convincing

23 July 2006

The Middle East

Events in Lebanon and northern Israel are enough to produce a sense of despair - and Christian reactions to Rowan Williams measured response even more so. Jim Rice the Editor of Soujourners magazine in the States suggests ways forward for Christians committed to a just peace, and interested in moving beyond support for one side or the other . .  see below

Continue reading "The Middle East" »

29 June 2006

Israel Palestine Debate

The tragic developments in Gaza in recent days have provided a sombre context for the continuing debate within Christian-Jewish relationships here in the UK.

One the central issues that people of all faiths face is whether it is possible and legitimate to criticise Israel's actions and policies without being cast as anti-semitic by people holding Zionist perspectives on Israel's future.

More pertinently for Christian leaders is the issue of whether Churches should be used as venues for meetings which are clearly taking one side or the other. Some weeks ago there was a stormy meeting at Liverpool Cathedral where the perspectives of Palestinian Christians were challenged by Jewish spokespersons - and the Dean has come in for some criticism for the way the matter was handled.

Attention has drawn by Ruth Gledhill Religious Correspondent of The Times to the particular perspectives of Dr Irene Lancaster a leading Jewish academic at Manchester University - and some have enjoyed her particularly lively posting on her blog about the meeting see the second half of this post .

The focus of her wrath (Stephen Sizer) was in the Middle East at the time but has now had an opportunity to respond to her claims - see below:

Continue reading "Israel Palestine Debate" »

20 June 2006

Israeli Academic Boycott

The Guardian has an interesting article on the Israeli Academic boycott - or more precisely how so-called pro-Israel lobby groups have over-egged their response to it - and in particular how they totally misjudge key players within the debate alienating potential supporters in the process.

The Guardian sums up the experience of Paul Mackney the General Secretary as follows:

Mackney was sent over 15,000 messages from boycott opponents. At least 50,000 more were sent to other leaders of Natfhe and the Association of University Teachers, which passed a similar motion last year. Petitions with more than 17,000 signatories were sent to the union. While much of the criticism was well formulated and respectful, there was something troubling about the massive international campaign.

Mackney's family gave shelter to Jewish refugees during the second world war. He has campaigned on behalf of Jewish members for policies for those who do not want to work on the Jewish Sabbath. He opposed the boycott, speaking out passionately against it just before the votes were counted at the conference late last month.

But, he said, a reasoned debate was made extraordinarily difficult by an aggressive campaign involving tens of thousands of activists. "The ironic thing," Mackney said despondently after the motion was passed, "is if we had put this to delegates a couple of weeks ago, before the international pro-Israeli lobby started this massive campaign emailing delegates and trying to deny us our democratic right to discuss whatever we like, it probably wouldn't have passed. People feel bullied, and what we have seen is a hardening of attitudes. All they achieved was making the delegates determined to debate and pass the motion."

It is sadly yet another example of how it is virtually impossible to offer a critical defence of Israel's political actions without being accused by a right-wing pro Israel lobby of being "anti-semitic" - often to the despair of mainstream Jewish leaders and to the devaluing of the phrase.

One of the journalists who contributed the article works for Ha'aritz the more liberal of Israeli daily papers which can be read here

07 June 2006

Suspension of comments

As a result of a series of contributions which I have made at Ruth Gledhills excellent blog I have become subject to some fairly persistent and vitriolic abuse comments acusing me of anti-semitism and calling into question the validity of my parontage etc which is somewhat overwhelming the blog and rather unpleaseant.

I am for the time being suspending comments.

If you want to see the original contributions ( you'll have to trace through some other comments which sprang somewhat oddly from John Gladwins adventures in Kenya) see hear .

Can I make absolutely clear that the comments are NOT coming directly from any of the other contributers.

When calm is restored I shall re-instate comments

25 May 2006

Israel/Palestine -Facts and facts?

One of the complexities of understanding the situation in Israel/Palestine is to discriminate between biased and revionsionist views of the history of the area. One site that I have found helpful, and credible to both Jewish and Palestinian people I know is here - it is possible to subscribe to their regular email mailings.

I was very struck by the tone of the address offered by the Israeli Prime Ministers speech in his address to the US senate - I can only hope that those with right-wing Zionist tendecies which refuse to acknoledge the Palestinian people will have token note of Elud Olmerts confident willingness to negotiate BCC report and MP3 here

Please pray for those who are working for peace, rather than taking defensive positions or demonising others of opposite views.

13 March 2006

Palestine and Sabeel

_ansad It has intrigued me how over the past few months Sabeel the Palestinian Christian Liberation Group, and Naim Ateek their Anglican priest General Secretary has come under such vicious attack from the pre-dominately American Zionist Christian Groups - and escpecially in the wake of the Caterpillar disinvestment decision at General Synod.In the latest Zionist approach to discredit Palestinian Christians there are now some attempts to heighten Islamic - Christian tensions by suggesting that Hamas has a deliberate policy of encouraging Christian Palestinians to leave the West Bank.

But this must be a sign that Sabeel is raising it profile and offering a powerful perspective on events in the Holy Land - otherwise why bother attacking.

The latest Sabeel mailing focuses on Jerusalem and the developments there in Israeli policy - as Naim Ateek says Jerusalem is the key to any long-term peace settlement in the area. You can download Cornerstone - Sabeel's magazine - here  and read Sabeel's aims below

Continue reading "Palestine and Sabeel" »