May 2013 Archives

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The Israeli government is loathe for this sort of news to get out, as it threatens one of the key demographics amongst the state’s supporters – ie. American Evangelicals!

In my conversations with Christians in the US I find that most are not even aware of the existence of Palestinian Christians! All Palestinians are assumed to be Muslims (and are accordingly suspected of terrorism).

Father Dave

source: www.middleeastmonitor.com…

Palestinian Christian presence in Palestine endangered as a result of the occupation

There is an on-going conspiracy against the Christian presence in the Palestinian territories, said Hanna Issa Hadithah, an activist who supports the Christian presence in Palestine.

“The [Israeli] authorities bear primary responsibility for emptying the land of the Christ of Christians,” Hanna Issa said in an interview held in Ramallah.

Issa, who also heads the Muslim-Christian committee for supporting Al Quds and sanctity, added that there are currently 4300 Christians in Jerusalem only. However, the number of Christians in Jerusalem has almost halved in the past decade.

“The number of the Christians that remained in the Gaza Strip is now 1230 and 40,000 in the Occupied West Bank,” he added.

According to official statistics, Christians constitute less than 1 per cent of the Palestinian population in the Palestinian territories (the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza).

Issa said that in the year 630, Christians made up 90 per cent of the population, “and now they constitute less than 1 per cent of the Palestinians residing in Palestine due to forced displacement by the Occupation, the economic situation and inducements by some missionary Zionist Christians.

The head of the committee also highlighted that Israel controls the areas where sacred Christian sites are located as well as the routes to these sites; therefore, Christians prefer to emigrate from the area.

Noting that the immigration of Christian Palestinians begun to take on a political nature since the middle of last century, “Israel’s objectives behind the rise of Christian immigration from Palestine is to empty its lands from Christians.” “It aimed at emptying Palestine from its civilizational components and diversity in line with the Israeli policy toward damaging the Palestinian people’s culture and scattering Palestinians around the world.

Issa noted that all Palestinians – Muslim and Christian – have a common culture and live in the same circumstances. “But the immigration of Christians from Palestine requires a serious and responsible pause by relevant political actors.

He noted that the Palestinian Authority has no strategy to confront this decline, and that there is no purely Christian Church in Palestine to follow up on the catastrophe. Churches in Palestine are affiliated with other Christian denominations in other countries, and there is no Christian Church for Palestinian Christians; one which would confront the danger.

He concluded that the Palestinian Authority’s institutions and civil society organisations in Palestine must prevent this emigration and reinforce the presence of this group, “as there is a dire need to find a comprehensive vision for the nation’s issues, and serious work need to be undertaken by Muslims and Christians together in order to confront the various challenges that the Palestine Issue faces.”

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It is horrible to see the ‘anti-Semetism card’ being played again in an attempt to silence theological discussion within the church.  This is not to say that theological debate doesn’t sometimes mask blatant racism. Indeed Martin Luther was notorious for it. Even so, the debate going on in the Church of Scotland (as in so many churches around the world) is one that has to take place, as it strikes at the heart of the church’s commitment to both the Bible and to social justice!

It seems that the Zionist lobby has long been able to rely on church councils to add their blessing to the Palestinian occupation, but church bodies are systematically withdrawing their support, one by one, and it is evidently making some of the political power-players nervous.

The great danger is that if bodies claiming to represent the Jewish people continue to equate criticism of the state of Israel with an attack upon their race, this could lead to a resurgence of genuine anti-Semitism! That church needs to guard against this.  In the meantime, these Jewish advocacy groups need to reconnect with the struggle for human rights for all people and not just territorial rights for the state of Israel!

Father Dave

source: mondoweiss.net…

Church of Scotland accepts controversial report on Israel/Palestine

by Ira Glunts and Adam Horowitz

Today the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland accepted the controversial Church and Society Council report on Israel/Palestine titled “The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘Promised Land,'”which has been widely and angrily condemned by Jewish groups and the Israeli government as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

There was a lively debate about the theology and politics in the document, as well as about the friction the report caused between the Church of Scotland and the Jewish community.   It became apparent that an overwhelming majority of the delegates favored the report when a counter-motion, which recommended rewriting the document for next year’s assembly, was almost unanimously defeated in a stand-up vote.  A Church press release says:

The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly today, May 23, debated a revised version of its report, ‘The Inheritance of Abraham?’

Presenting the report Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church and Society Council said: “This is primarily a report highlighting the continued occupation by the state of Israel and the injustices faced by the Palestinian people as a consequence. It is not a report criticising the Jewish people. Opposing the unjust policies of the state of Israel cannot be equated to anti-Semitism. “

The revised report was overwhelmingly accepted by the General Assembly., Mrs Foster-Fulton said: “The on-going conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been an issue close to the heart of the Church of Scotland – we have a long relationship with the region and have many friends there.

“The Church has kept on thinking about ways we can contribute to a just and peaceful solution. The report we bring to this year’s Assembly has already caused no small amount of controversy. The Church and Society Council has learned a great deal from dialogue with Jewish community which followed the initial release of the report.

“We would like to thank members of the Jewish community who sat down with us and were gracious in their concern. We present a revised version today with a preface that sets the report more in context. While acknowledging that some of the original language, on reflection, was misguided, I want to affirm that the report remains robust. It offers new insights – ones that have come through the experience of those suffering the continuing injustices of occupation. I look forward to the debate and, I hope, to continuing discussion after today exploring the issues and ideas brought forward in the report.”

The recommendations for action are mild compared to the resolutions passed by the Presbyterian and Methodist conventions in the U.S. this year.  There is no mention of even limited boycotts of settlement products.  Neither is church divestment from companies like Caterpillar and Motorola an issue here, as it was at the church meetings in the U.S.

The controversy is mostly about the theological views expressed in the “Inheritance of Abraham” which justify the conclusion that God did not promise any land to the Jewish people.  Specifically, what offended some Jews was the argument that the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament somehow supersede or invalidate the apparent bequest of the land of Israel to the Jewish people found in the Hebrew bible or Old Testament.  The report concludes:

… that Christians should not be supporting any claims by [Editor’s note: “Jewish or” was here in the original version] any people to an exclusive or even privileged divine right to possess particular territory. We believe that is a misuse of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) and the New Testament to use it as a topographic guide to settle contemporary conflicts over land.

After a hastily convened meeting with representatives of British Jewish organizations, the church said it had recognized that “some language in the report caused controversy in some parts of the Jewish community,” but the views expressed were “consistent with views held by the Church of Scotland over many years.”

Still the church agreed to revise the document which it had suddenly removed from its website.  The new version, which was accepted today, was less critical of  the government of Israel and of certain aspects of the Jewish religion, but maintained the conclusion and most of the theological argumentation which was so vociferously objected to by Jewish critics.

The new report is unlikely to mollify those who railed against the original, but most critics have been suddenly silent, choosing not to respond publicly to the revisions. However, Ben Cohen, a Jewish-American, writing in the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, (paywall, 10 free articles with registration) made it clear that he is still offended:

Influenced by Sabeel’s theology, the Church of Scotland elevates the situation of the Palestinians, reinvented as Jesus’s own people, far above the grotesque plight of Christians elsewhere in the region. It’s a stance that is bound to ensure that the Church’s Jewish interlocutors remain fearful of its true intentions. The bluntly anti-Semitic phrasing of the original report may have been removed, but the delegitimization of Judaism – not simply political Zionism – remains very much intact.

Cohen also slams Mondoweiss:

Just as the original version relied heavily on the work of marginal Jewish anti-Zionist figures in staking its moral and theological orientation, so does the new one. Within the Jewish community, the anti-Zionist website Mondoweiss is regarded with a mixture of derision and contempt; nonetheless, the Church of Scotland want [sic] to persuade us that it’s an authoritative source on both the political and religious aspects of Judaism. Readers will search in vain for a quote from a mainstream Jewish thinker, whether that’s the Rambam, Rashi, or U.K. Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks

The reference to this site relates to the fact that the current version of the “Inheritance of Abraham” includes a long quote from a 2012 post written by Marc Ellis, which is part of his ongoing “Exile and the Prophetic” series. (see p.8 of revised report and original post.)

The Ellis addition appears to substitute for the ideas of the Jewish writer and activist Mark Braverman, whose thoughts have been largely excised from the current version of the church document. The deleted excerpts of Braverman’s ideas include a critique of Jewish “exclusivism” and “exceptionalism,” in addition to an admonition to Jews to “repent for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians between 1947 and 1949.”   Also, the necessity of Christians to acknowledge “wrongs done to the Jewish people” does not appear in the present document.  (See pps. 6,7 in original)

Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY.

 

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This is an excellent essay from my friend, Paul Larudee.

What does the Palestinian struggle have to do with Anti-Semitism? What indeed?! Cries of ‘anti-Semitism’, like references to the Holocaust, only function to distract us from the real issues. 

Father Dave

Paul Larudee

Paul Larudee

source: dissidentvoice.org…

The Palestine Liberation Movement is not about Anti-Semitism

by Paul Larudee / May 23rd, 2013

Without regard to the validity of Joseph Massad’s exposition of the historical and dialectic relationship between Zionism and anti-Semitism, why is Massad trying to justify the Palestine liberation movement on the basis that it is a battle against anti-Semitism? Of course, Massad is by no means the only Palestinian to make Jewish issues and anti-Semitism central to the Palestinian struggle.  Ali Abunimah has made something of a campaign of assuring the Jewish community that the Palestine liberation movement is free of anti-Semitism.  In addition, several large Palestinian solidarity organizations and coalitions have anti-anti-Semitism as one of their core statements.

Since when are Palestinian rights and liberation about Jews, Jewish issues and anti-Semitism?  Why are Palestinians allowing Jews and Jewish issues – including Zionism and anti-Semitism – to set the Palestinian agenda?

The term “Semite” was born of the assumption that all the languages of the world are the result of the sons of Noah – Shem, Ham and Japheth – going to different parts of the globe after the flood and creating different language groups: Semitic, Hamitic and Japhetic.  The sons of Noah?  Are we seriously entertaining such nonsense?

To make matters worse, this absurdity was extended to fictitious “races,” not just languages.  “Anti-Semitic” therefore is descriptive of the Hamitic and Japhetic races turning on the descendents of Shem, the third brother.  No one seriously speaks of Hamitic and Japhetic races.  Is it not time to recognize the absurdity of the Semitic “race” as well?

Even more absurd is the attempt to use such mythological concepts to measure the virtue of the Palestinian cause.  The Palestinian cause has nothing to do with Jews, Semites, anti-Semitism, God, Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Noah, Jacob, Ishmael, Shem, Ham and Japheth, whether you believe in them or not.  It has nothing to do with the Holocaust, colonialism, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Turks or the British.

It has everything to do with the expulsion of Palestinians from their land and with denial of their right to sovereignty, to self-determination and above all their Right to Return.  It does not matter who expelled them.  It is their land and they have the right to return.  It does not matter who denies their existence.  They have a right to return.

It does not even matter if they are nice people or despicable, whether they are racists or humanists, whether they are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhist or Shinto, whether they are clean or dirty, educated or ignorant, rich or poor, democrats or monarchists.  They have the right to return to their homes and to reclaim their country.

Their rights cannot be held hostage to the rights of others.  If justice for Palestinians cannot be bought at the price of injustice for others, neither can justice for others be bought at the price of injustice to Palestinians.  Justice may be indivisible, but we need not wait for justice to happen everywhere in order for it to happen in Palestine.

Palestinians cannot wait for CO2 levels to drop below 350 parts per million, nor for the population of blue whales to rise, nor for the persecution of Rohingyas to end in Myanmar, nor even for ethnic cleansing to end in Congo, nor for the European victims of World War II and their descendants to be made whole, nor for indigenous peoples everywhere to regain their rights and heritage.

Justice may be indivisible, but the restoration of justice anywhere raises the level of justice everywhere.  The restoration of justice in Palestine benefits the entire world and gives hope to justice that is still struggling to restore itself in other places and to other peoples.

Anti-Semitism is no more relevant to Palestinian liberation than anti-Hamitism or Anti-Japhetism or any other attempt to gauge the worthiness of the Palestinian cause by its endorsement or rejection of someone else’s values.  Please remove such irrelevance from the discussion of Palestinian rights.

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.

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“If Syria falls, so will Palestine” – this was the claim made by Hassan Nasrallah in his May 25 address to a rally in Beirut. It sounds like an extraordinary claim. The far less contentious claim, I would think, is that if Syria falls, so will Lebanon.

Lebanon is a country that is already crowded with its population of 4.3 million. It is also already home to 600,000 Palestinian refugees. If the conflict in Syria continues, there will soon be more than a million Syrian refugees added to that mix! There is no way that the infrastructure of the country will handle a refugee population that could number more than 50% of its citizenry!

Perhaps Nasrallah was only throwing Palestine into the mix to broaden the appeal of his message. After all, support for Palestine against Israel is the common denominator between all states in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Even so, the fate of Syria certainly has broad implications for the region.

Apart from the threat to Lebanon, the  isolation of Iran would be the most immediate ramification of the fall of Syria, and this is surely  what Syria’s enemies are striving for. It is Iran that is resisting US/Israeli control of the region. As far as the super-powers are concerned, the Syrian people are just the canon-fodder in the broader battle for regional hegemony.

Father Dave

Hassan Nasrallah

Hassan Nasrallah

source: www.haaretz.com…

If Syria falls, so will Palestine, Hezbollah’s Nasrallah warns in speech

By Jack Khoury

In a televised speech, Nasrallah says Israel ‘fears rockets’ and cautions that militant factions taking over Syria ‘pose a threat to Lebanon.’

Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah opened a front against al-Qaida and its affiliated groups, especially in Syria, stressing on Saturday that his organization was prepared to send tens of thousands of combatants to defend Syria.

In a televised speech marking the 13th anniversary of the Israeli pullout from southern Lebanon, Nasrallah also said that “if Syria falls, so will Palestine, the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem. We will enter a very dark phase.”

He also spoke about Israeli preparations for a possible conflict with Hezbollah and said that Israel formed a new government portfolio dedicated to protecting the home front. “In Israel everything is geared up for a conflict year round and all year they hold maneuvers. Israel fears rockets, because we have no air force. The Israelis built towns along its borders. They are bringing in Jews from Ethiopia, Romania, and Argentina, and placing them by our borders and providing them with money and arms. On our side of the border, our towns are nearly empty.”

Nasrallah did not present the fighting as a conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, but rather as one waged between heathens serving a Western Zionist agenda and the Syrian resistance that refuses to accept the dictates of the West.
Nasrallah unequivocally stressed that the fall of the Syrian regime would be a blow to the “resistance.” “Syria is the backbone of the ‘resistance,’ that cannot sit still and wait while its backbone is being broken,” he said. “If Syria falls in the hands of the Americans and the Israelis and the American representatives in the region, the ‘resistance’ will be isolated and Israel will enter Lebanon and force its laws upon it. Lebanon will return to the Israeli era.”

In his speech, Nasrallah tied the U.S. and Israel to Jihadist organizations working under the aegis of al-Qaida in Syria: “These combatants coming from many countries received many allowances to leave their countries and arrive at Syria, this is the American method of destabilizing Syria from the inside, using these organizations that brand everyone is heathens, those organizations that had killed more Sunni Muslims than anyone else. An example of this is what is happening in Iraq, Pakistan, and Somalia. We think that the armed forces taking over Syria are a great danger to Lebanon and all the Lebanese, not only Hezbollah or the Lebanese Shiites.”

A great deal of Nasrallah’s speech was devoted to the situation in Syria, with Nasrallah reiterating his support for Assad’s regime. He added that “What is taking place in Syria is very important to Lebanon and is crucial to our future. We are on the border. We have the courage to talk and act and thus we will speak honestly – our position was clear from the get go. The demand for reforms is acceptable and this government has a place. Reforms should begin along with political dialog.”

Regarding Hezbollah’s involvement in the fighting in Syria, Nasrallah said: “We started getting involved only a few months ago. We tried to initiate contact through all our channels but they didn’t listen, stubbornly they decided to reject the dialogue – they want to overthrow the government at any costs.”

Nasrallah went on to say “We are in a delicate point in history. There is no time to burry our heads in the sand, it is time to raise our heads and stand tall in the face of the hurricane. So, in all honesty, what has this country [Lebanon] done? The Lebanese nation isn’t prepared to face the Israeli threat.”

According to him “The Lebanese resistance changed the Israeli equation. Currently, we are protecting Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.”