Tuesday, 27 August 2013

responding to 'A Moment of Truth'

To report on all the enormous diversity of the 40th Greenbelt Festival would be impossible. Participants will look back on the glorious sunshine in contrast to the floods of 2012 which enabled everything, music, activities, talks, worship, to be enjoyed to the full. But the most significant event may turn out to be the launch of the British response to A Moment of Truth, the Kairos Palestinian document. It is time for action by British Churches in response to the suffering of Palestinian people. The document is available here.

It is timely, for it exposes the sham of the current ‘peace negotiations’ about the future of Israel-Palestine. Even as the Israeli government is claiming to talk, its actions in annexing more Palestinian land and building settler homes give the lie to the words. The homes of Palestinians in the occupied territories continue to be bulldozed. The descendants of refugees still inhabit the camps to which their grandparents fled 65 years ago.

The Kairos event attracted the attention of Zionists who protested outside Greenbelt — they could have bought tickets and participated in debates about Palestine, but chose not to. Had they joined the Festival they would have heard a huge variety of speakers, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, all acknowledging that it is time to act, with Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. These brought an end to apartheid in South Africa, and these same means are needed to end the Israel’s apartheid both in Israel and in the occupied territories. The flawed theology of those who made religious claims in support of apartheid in South Africa was as misguided as the Zionist claims of Christians and Jews about Israel-Palestine. The genocide reported in the Book of Joshua cannot be used as a justification for the actions of the Israeli government today.

It is acknowledged that this struggle will have to begin at the grass roots, and that it will provoke hostility. Christian leaders have been intimidated into failing to support Palestinians. Last year the Church Times reported that the C of E Bishop of Newcastle and the RC Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle withdrew from a conference on Palestine organised by Christian Aid, after local Jewish organisations threatened to withdraw from inter-faith organisations.

The present situation is a shameful result of Britain’s colonial past, when countries in the Middle East were divided up after the First World War. This is why Christians in Britain today have a particular responsibility to seek the end of the continuing injustice suffered by Christian and Muslim Palestinians.

Posted by Tom Ambrose on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 at 3:47pm BST | TrackBack
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Comments

'Christian leaders have been intimidated into failing to support Palestinians'.

Are not these strong and intemperate words?

With regard to the Newcastle/Gateshead conference - the putative example of intimidation - it is worth noting that it was organized on a Saturday: hardly the best day to encourage dialogue and understanding between Christians and Jews.

As we need to chose our days carefully, do we not need to chose our words carefully too?

Posted by: Alun Ford on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 at 5:27pm BST

I couldn't agree more - it never fails to dismay me how the least criticism of Israel's blatant flaunting of International law is silenced immediately by accusations of anti-semitism. A concerted boycott of Israeli goods, led by Christians, could be the single most important factor in promoting global peace & justice. I have long thought of bringing a Deanery Synod motion with a view to Diocesan and General Synod follow-ons and will now do so

Posted by: Paul Collier on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 at 6:12pm BST

"Are not these strong and intemperate words?" - Alun Ford.

Are not the actions of successive Israeli governments strong and intemperate actions?

Apartheid in South Africa was wrong. Apartheid in the Land of the Holy One is equally wrong. It must be opposed by all who would do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God.

Posted by: RPNewark on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 at 6:26pm BST

There are two sides to this pita bread.
Is it shameful that the Israeli government continues to turn a future Palestine into Swiss cheese? Yes.
But it's also shameful that Palestinian rockets continue to fire into Israeli territory, trying to maim and kill Israeli citizens.
Is it shameful that successive Israeli governments continue to destroy homes of families with ties to suspected terrorists, in an act of collective guilt? Yes.
But it's also shameful that Palestinian suicide bombers still try to operate, and that they are considered heroes.
Yes, the Israeli occupation is harsh and should be condemned.
But the continued Palestinian efforts to kill, maim, destroy are also harsh.
Both sides have hotheads who really aren't interested in achieving real peace, but only interested in proving who’s on top.
There ARE plenty of Jews who would love to see an independent, democratic, and peaceful Israel alongside an independent democratic and peaceful Palestine. I am one of them.
To act like all the wrong, all the harm, comes from one side is to be blind to reality.
And I find the line about the Joshua genocide loathsome.
And,
How can such a meeting or conference ignore the Christians’ own dirty laundry, the Christian fundamentalists and conservatives who are encouraging Netanyahu – not that he needs any – to stand fast, to not give up one square millimeter of occupied Israeli territory? Because it will make God angry, and God will sulk and pout, and delay the Coming of the Kingdom if any land is returned.
I have heard from Christian fundamentalists that it doesn’t matter how bad the Middle East gets, it doesn’t matter if war breaks out, if terrorism increases -- because that speeds up the Rapture, and the fundamentalists, of course, will be lifted into the clouds above the turmoil. So, why should they worry?
But, nope, it’s so much easier to simply blame those evil, diabolical Zionists.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 at 8:16pm BST

But surely, Peter, both this piece and the document explicitly condemn Christian Zionism.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 at 11:15pm BST

"There ARE plenty of Jews who would love to see an independent, democratic, and peaceful Israel alongside an independent democratic and peaceful Palestine. I am one of them.
To act like all the wrong, all the harm, comes from one side is to be blind to reality.
And I find the line about the Joshua genocide loathsome." - peterpi -

I must throw in my pennorth here with peterpi. In this constantly-waged war of attrition, there are simply no innocents - except for those whose lives are adversely impacted by the depradation of both sides of the arguments.

However, until both sides are persuaded that the 'other' is well-disposed towards a permanent settlement of outstanding grievances, there will be no peace. Peace cannot exist in a vacuum. It needs to be encouraged - from outside the warring parties as well as within, and entrenched bias towards one or the other does not help.

This could well provide a fitting paradigm for the warring parties in the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 at 11:24pm BST

I’m sorry, but the Kairos Palestine Britain document is totally biased against Israel. Here are some examples based on a quick reading:

Why does it not mention that the creation of Israel was agreed by the international community?

Why does it not mention that Palestine originally included what is now Jordan?

Why does it not mention the forcible expulsion of 750,000+ Jews from Arab states across the middle-east shortly after 1948?

Why does it not mention that there has never in history been a country called Palestine?

Why does in not mention that the only independent government in Israel throughout history has been a Jewish one?

Why does it not mention that the PLO was founded in 1964, when the West Bank and Gaza were not under Israeli control?

Why does it not mention that Palestinian national identity didn’t exist before Yasser Arafat invented it as a weapon to use against Israel?

Why does it not mention that Palestinian leaders have said that not a single Jew would be allowed to live in a future Palestinian state? (That’s apartheid)

Why does it not mention that Palestinian leaders have said that their aim is the complete elimination of Israel?

Why does it not mention that the Palestine was never described as being occupied prior to Israel being created?

Why does it not mention that billions of dollars of aid have been given to the Palestinians yet they have failed to build proper infrastructure?

Why does it not mention that the Hamas government in Gaza is committed to the murder of all Jews everywhere?

Why does it not mention that Egypt also has closed its border to Gaza?

Why does it not mention that the West Bank barrier was built after numerous terror attacks in which hundreds were murdered?

I could go on...

I can only conclude that this document is a deliberate piece of propaganda designed to give people a warped view of the middle-east where Israel is blamed for everything. There is one term for this approach, and it’s anti-semitism. I am NOT trying to deflect criticism of Israel (which makes mistakes like every other country), but this level of imbalance is shocking.

This website is called Thinking Anglicans. I would hope that anyone who thinks about Kairos Britain will refrain from having anything to do with this highly prejudiced organisation.

Posted by: Ian on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 at 10:23am BST

Tom's post includes the words 'to end Israel's apartheid in both Israel and the occupied territories'.

Let's leave the territories on one side for a moment. What evidence is there for a situation comparable to that for South African blacks pre-1995 for Israeli Arabs today? I'm pretty sure this is gross exxageration... and that is the polite description for it. But I'm happy to be proved wrong if the evidence is there...

Posted by: Peter Waddell on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 at 1:51pm BST

"There are two sides to this pita bread."

Peter: People used the exact same parallels in South Africa to justify the Apartheid government's draconian actions against the African National Congress.

Posted by: Fr Paul on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 at 5:59pm BST

Peter,

With reference to the 'apartheid' terminology, I only note that it is interesting that South Africans have commented that Israel is an 'Apartheid state' and SA was the first to respond to the 2009 Kairos Palestine document. I might suggest that they know whereof they speak.

Posted by: Hannah on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 at 7:04pm BST

The idea that there is apartheid in Israel is, quite frankly, a disgraceful slur.

Apartheid was an institutionalised system of discrimination based on race. There is nothing like it in Israel.

All citizens of Israel have same rights, be they Jew, Arab, or anything else. Arabs serve in the army (including as senior officers) and get elected to the Knesset (parliament). It was an Arab Christian judge who jailed former Israeli president Moshe Katsav for rape. Can you imagine anything comparable happening in any other middle-east country? Israel is the only modern, liberal democracy in that part of the world. If you are an Arab, you will have far more rights and freedoms as a citizen of Israel than in any other middle-east country.

As I said in my previous comment, Palestinian leaders have said, should a Palestinian state be founded, no Jew will be allowed to live there. I don’t see a people rushing to call that apartheid.

The use of the word apartheid in connection with Israel is an example of how the world focuses on Israel and ignores far worse situations in other countries. This comes under the definition of antisemitism.

I’d draw people’s attention to this article by Malcolm Hedding, a pastor who’s lived in both South Africa and Israel. In South Africa he was persecuted for opposing apartheid, so he should know a fair bit about it.

http://www.malcolmhedding.com/blog/israel/israel-and-apartheid/

Posted by: Ian on Thursday, 29 August 2013 at 8:09am BST

I hope it's OK to post a couple more links - I am grateful that the moderators are willing to allow dissenting views.

From a black South African christian MP:

http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/pro-palestinian-ads-misrepresent-apartheid/Content?oid=2339168

And his daughter:

http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/24083/Default.aspx

The thing that really upsets me is that Greenbelt and their partners (Embrace the Middle East and Kairos Britain) are Christian organisations and claim to support Christian principles, including justice. To me, this demands a scrupulously fair and balanced approach, which I don't see any of them adopting.

Posted by: Ian on Thursday, 29 August 2013 at 9:35am BST

Was Stephen Sizer involved in this travesty?

I do hope there was a similar "moment of truth" wrt the increasing peril faced by Christians across the middle east.

Meanwhile - "Across Forbidden Border, Doctors in Israel Quietly Tend to Syria’s Wounded"

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/world/middleeast/across-forbidden-border-doctors-in-israel-quietly-tend-to-syrias-wounded.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

Posted by: cjcjc on Thursday, 29 August 2013 at 11:37am BST

@ cjcjc - yes, Stephen Sizer's name is on the document and it's likely he was a major driver behind it. You may have seen his recent piece "Christian Zionism: The New Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace" published on a website run by a terrorist supporter. It was similarly full of distortions.

Posted by: Ian on Thursday, 29 August 2013 at 7:25pm BST

People in the major English speaking countries tread on very fine ice when the topic of "occupied territories" comes up. It applies to all the major Senior Commonwealth countries, as well as the States. It applies even to England, which is currently occupied by people who drove out the original Celt-Briton inhabitants (which not even the Romans did.) So we're not the ones to enter any "occupied" debate lightly, particularly when it's a tough question like who is the occupier, the original inhabitants of the land, or the ones who (like us Anglo Saxon countries around the world) came in later. The answer is obviously accommodation and in that perhaps we as Anglicans can provide some support.

I know my Jewish friends look to us Anglicans to be a voice of balanced reason, not of euphoric opinion against Israel as the original post was.

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Friday, 30 August 2013 at 5:43am BST

Just on a point of order, I thought the latest thinking thanks to genetic analysis was that there's practically no difference between the English, Scots or Welsh - leading to the postulation that the "driving out of the original Celt Briton inhabitants" didn't actually happen.

The numbers of Saxons, Romans, etc, coming over was probably smaller than traditionally thought and those "Celt Britons" living in England adopted their language (and religion). So you could say maybe cultural imperialism (if such a concept is even appropriate for the times), but probably not population movement.

Rather inconvenient for the Celt nationalists who want to paint themselves as a romantic remnant hard pressed by English incomers, but genetics would suggest that the majority of people in England are as celtic as anyone else in these islands...

Posted by: primroseleague on Friday, 30 August 2013 at 9:09am BST

@ Randal Oulton - you are exactly right. Using the word "occupation" is taking sides against Israel. Rather than calling the West Bank and Gaza "occupied territories", we should say "disputed territories" which is a neutral term. The situation in Israel is a territorial dispute, one of many which exist in the world today.

The Jewish people developed the land of Israel thousands of years ago - the other ancient tribes that were living there have disappeared, as numerous other ancient tribes have. They were later expelled by the Romans, left landless, but retained their national identity for almost 2000 years. I can't see how you can deny their claim to their land. Throughout history, the only independent government in Israel has been a Jewish one - so how can you say they are the "occupiers"?

Christians sadly have a 2000 year history of antisemitism. The current lack of balance and reason about Israel, of which Greenbelt and Kairos is only a part, is seen by the Jewish people as a continuation of this shameful tradition.

Posted by: Ian on Friday, 30 August 2013 at 9:09am BST

60% of the West Bank, the so called Area C, is in fact under military occupation by the Israeli Army, and the Palestinian inhabitants are governed by military law, unlike the Jewish settlers in the West Bank (the settlements are illegal under international law) who are governed by Israeli civil law, and unlike the Palestinians in Area C, enjoy full civil rights. Anyone interested in the implications of this situation for ordinary Palestinians should check out the website for the United Nations office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) http://www.unocha.org/ocha2012-13/opt that gives full details of the illegal settlements; demolition of buildings; destruction of water sources; closure of roads; uprooting of olive trees etc. etc. Or you could always visit: you might be shocked by what you see.
Anyone interested in the apartheid analogy might like to read the Jewish ex Zionist Susan Nathan's account "The Other Side of Israel" which details the kind of routine discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Ancient tribes don't disappear Ian. There has been quite a lot of genetic study of the present inhabitants of Israel and Palestine, and many of them share a common genetic heritage, leading to the inevitable conclusion that many Palestinians are descendants of the inhabitants of present day Israel at the opening of the Common Era who converted to Christianity (established in Palestine from the earliest Christian times) and later to Islam.

Posted by: Helen on Friday, 30 August 2013 at 9:43pm BST

The BDS movement would have slightly more credibility if at their events (in Canada at least) and at the egregious "Israeli Apartheid Week" celebrations on our university campuses there wasn't always a good size contingent with "Death to Jews" or similar banners and a good turnout of Hezbollah flags. Maybe there is some distance between these people and Kairos, or between them and this poster but it's nowhere near as big a distance as it needs to be. By their friends shall ye know them.

Posted by: Clive on Sunday, 1 September 2013 at 11:50pm BST

Helen, There are problems in Israel, of course. All countries have them, and I've never suggested Israel is perfect.We often forget that ethnic minorities in our own country have plenty of complaints. But in a part of the world dominated by oppressive dictatorships, Israel is a beacon of light and freedom.

The situation in the West Bank is difficult, primarily because of terrorist violence. The view that the settlements are "illegal" is a highly contentious one - many would dispute it.

Alan Dershowitz once made a famous challenge, which I will repeat - name one country in history that, when faced with comparable threats to those faced by Israel, has shown more regard for human rights and the rule of law. There isn't one.

Posted by: Ian on Monday, 2 September 2013 at 11:02am BST

Well no Clive: that enables you to know neither the individuals nor the issues. Since you live in Canada, you might find KairosCanada more informative.
. The Kairos document, A Moment of Truth, was composed by the leaders of the Christian Churches in Palestine , a fact that seems to have been overlooked so far. The indigenous Christian population of Palestine may well virtually disappear within the next 30 years or so, unless their living conditions improve. Anyone who has visited the Christian communities in the West Bank will know how much the Kairos document is born of desperation. These are.peaceful, non violent communities whose desire is to have a decent life. They need our help and support.

Posted by: Helen on Monday, 2 September 2013 at 11:44am BST

Helen, you completely miss my point, which is while Kairos - wherever they are - continue to be closely associated with Hezbollah supporters at public events and on canpus, and while they march alongside those carrying anti-semetic banners they inevitably lack credibility and do their cause no good at all, whatever its merits. I personally find their position to be completely one sided, whitewashing Palestinian terrorism as it does, and their choice of friends does bear that out.

It's worth noting that Kairos Canada lost their government funding precisely because they wouldn't distance themselves from anti-semetic groups.

Posted by: Clive on Monday, 2 September 2013 at 4:57pm BST

Have you ever visited the West Bank Ian? Or taken the trouble to find out what is going on? Wilful blindness or what? So "terrorist violence " is responsible for land confiscations, uprooting of olive trees,destruction of wells, animal shelters, homes and schools?
Sure, Israel is better than some other countries, but many Jews within and without are seriously worried that it is llosing its moral character as a Jewish state. Read Marc Ellis or Mark Braverman for instance. And many secular Jews, like Ben Gurion himself, think that Israel should have withdrawn from the West Bank decades ago.
As for the "disputed" territories , the only country that denies that they are in fact occupied is Israel itself. For every other country in the UN they are under military occupation and the recognised international border is the 1949 Green Line. But I've noticed before that many supporters of Israel's policies vis a vis the OPT sit very light to international law.

Posted by: Helen on Monday, 2 September 2013 at 8:32pm BST

Clive: your last communication shows that you do not know what Kairos is. It is not some kind of international federation. The Kairos document, which you may or may not have read (?), was produced by the leaders of the Palestinian churches , who are certainly not in alliance with Hizbollah! Neither are the British authors of the response to A Moment of Truth. I am not on a position to comment on what goes on in Canada, but your posts make me suspicious of you as a reliable guide.

Posted by: Helen on Tuesday, 3 September 2013 at 8:25am BST

Further to my point above Clive, your assertion that Kairos Canada lost its government funding because "they wouldn't distance themselves from anti Semitic groups" illustrates the perils of lack of research. It is of course untrue, and if applied to an individual might well be libellous. Your assertion seems to be based on a speech made by Jason Kenney, the Immigration Minister, in 2009, in which he accused KairosCanada of taking a leading role in the BDS movement. Since KC had already rejected BDS in 2007, this showed that Kenney was just another guy who couldn't get his facts straight, and he subsequently had to make it clear that KC was not involved with anti Semitic groups in any way.

Posted by: Helen on Tuesday, 3 September 2013 at 8:52am BST

Helen, I refer you to this article which I think you'll find is well researched. Is there a direct relationship between Hamas, Hezbollah and Kairos? No. Is Kairos Canada sympathetic to them? Yes.

"KAIROS slammed Canada for putting radically Islamist Hamas and Hezbollah on this country's terrorist group list, lamenting that Canada was the first country to cut off aid when Hamas won the Palestinian elections."

Posted by: Clive on Tuesday, 3 September 2013 at 4:02pm BST

Since you don't give your references Clive, I can't check this one out. I always doubt any source which uses language like "slammed": it tends to come from the tabloid press and to bear a tenuous relation with reality.
However, since Hamas was elected in a democratic vote, it would not have been entirely irresponsible to suggest that countries should at least try to work with it, and cut off funds if that proved impossible.


Posted by: Helen on Tuesday, 3 September 2013 at 9:22pm BST

A comment from the Toronto Star on your "well researched article", Clive:
The only thing obvious to me was DiManno's capacity for intellectual dishonesty and self-delusion. The agency in question, KAIROS, which describes itself as an "ecumenical partnership working to promote human rights, justice and peace, viable human development, and ecological justice," has received funding from the Canadian government for 35 years.

The Harper government's reasons for de-funding KAIROS range from Minister for International Co-operation Bev Oda's statement that the agency's program does not fit the Canadian International Development Agency's priorities to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's assertion in a speech given in Jerusalem that KAIROS had played a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions against (Israel).

In her column DiManno uses her bully pulpit to prop up the government's case by resorting to two false premises: only a Jew can define what constitutes anti-Semitism and any criticism of the State of Israel – actions or policies, presumably – de facto constitutes anti-Semitism. Enough of this intellectual dishonesty already.

Hundreds, maybe thousands, of Israeli citizens, including members of the Israeli Defense Forces, have stepped forward to critique Israeli actions and policies in recent years. In March of this year, more that 170 prominent Jewish Canadians signed a statement protesting the campaign to suppress criticism of Israel within Canada. It's time to call a canard a canard.

The distorted portrayal of KAIROS's work around the world – work that has created goodwill toward Canadians for decades – has been manipulated to serve the petty political purposes of the current regime, with DiManno's sock puppeting column simply one more assault on the truth.

Posted by: Helen on Wednesday, 4 September 2013 at 9:34pm BST

Ian asks...Why does it not mention that the creation of Israel was agreed by the international community?

Why doesn't Ian mention that the state agreed to by the International Community, was not within the current borders claimed by Israel.

Why is is that there are many Israelis and Jews in the diaspora who are ashamed of the actions of their government...and that does not include the 500,000 Haredi community of Jews who believe Zionism is a modernist heresy.

Yes, there must be the unequiviocal right of existence for a Jewish homeland and nation, but the time has come for a Balfour type declaration for the Palestinian people as well.

If the Palestinians had been black, this conflict would have been resolved 20 years ago.I can't help but feel that the appalling and evil policies of Hamas are are the sad reaction of a deperate and embittered people, who since 1948 have been in the wilderness.

Posted by: robert Ian Wiulliams on Wednesday, 11 September 2013 at 8:41am BST
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