December 2013 Archives


This is a press release from ‘Progressive Christian Voice’ (Australia). Yes, there is an alternative Australian Christian perspective to that offered by the ‘Australian Christian Lobby’ (ACL).

I find it frankly refreshing to see the church speaking out on the situation in Palestine and not being restricted to issues of family and sexuality.

Father Dave

Bishop Peter Catt - founder of 'Progressive Christian Voice' (Australia)

Bishop Peter Catt – founder of ‘Progressive Christian Voice’ (Australia)

A Progressive Christian Voice Urges the Australian Government to Abandon its Support for the Illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Australian media reported on Monday, 25 November, 2013, that Australia’s newly elected government, without any public discussion of its policy, was “giving tacit approval to controversial activities including the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories”. [1]

According to The Jerusalem Post [2] the Australian ambassador to Israel, David Sharma said that Canberra does not want to single out Israel for condemnation in international forums. As regards the aspect of singling out of Israel, international forums have been prepared to condemn other countries such as Syria, North Korea.

As regards any singling out of Israel, what is singular about Israel is that no country in the current international community has continued the military occupation of foreign territory for 46 years.

Australian media reports noted, “many within the international community regard the expansion of Israeli settlements as an act of hostility towards Palestinians, hampering the likelihood of peace”. [3]

As a letter writer in The Sydney Morning Herald [2] noted, there is a contradiction in the Australian government’s position. That government asserts that it supports a two state solution. Yet it tacitly condones settlement construction which threatens to destroy any hope of the establishment of a Palestinian state.

During a speech at the United Nations Security Council’s Open Debate on the Middle East on the 16 October, 2012, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Susan Rice emphasized that the U.S. “does not accept the legitimacy of Israeli settlement activity, and will continue to oppose any efforts to legalize outposts.” [4]

A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) Inc  believes that Australia’s action, therefore, raises a number of valid questions:

1.Which of the two contradictory policies noted above does the Australian government actually endorse – a two state solution or support for illegal Jewish settlements? The Australian Foreign Minister, Julia Bishop, has stated hat “the (Australian) government’s concern (was that) Middle East resolutions should be balanced”. How does the government, then, balance these two contradictory positions?

2.What values influences the Australian government to give tacit approval for the building of more illegal settlements on Palestinian territory?

3. Does the Australian government oppose the American government’s view when the latter contends that continued settlement activity is illegal?


1.  Jonathan Swan, “Abbott shifts UN position to back Israeli setllements” The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday, November 25, 2013, p.9.

2.   Herb Keinon, “Australia says it won’t mechanically vote against settlements in UN” The Jerusalem Post 11/25/2013.

3.  SMH, Tuesday, November 26, 2013, p.16.

4. The Jewish Week –  New York 10/16/12 _____________________________________________________________________________________

For more information contact either:

Rev’d Dr Peter Catt – President of  A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) Inc (Email:   pcatt AT….au) or

Rev’d Dr Ray Barraclough – Secretary of A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) Inc at  (Email:  dorray AT….au)


God bless Marius Benson.

In the middle of all the frantic dialogue about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, he is the only one who had the courage to ask the obvious question: “what about Israel’s nuclear stockpile?” It’s a question that is simply never raised in polite society!

I assume that everybody does see the elephant in the room but that they simply choose to ignore it. No one has ever raised serious questions about the validity of the photographic evidence shared by Mordechai Vanunu back in 1986, showing that Israel has one of the largest nuclear stockpiles in the world, yet everyone in the West has to play this charade, acting as if none of these weapons exist!

The transcript below is from Marius Benon’s ABC interview with the Israeli government’s chief spin-doctor in Australia, Mark Regev. You can hear the full interview here.

Benson asks Regev bluntly and repeatedly whether Israel has nuclear weapons and each time Regev tries to deflect the question with the standard line “we will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region”.

This is simply a lie, of course, unless Regev is including Pakistan in his ‘region’ or is engaging in some similar act of wordplay. Either way, it is a cynical way of avoiding the obvious paradox of the Israeli government’s war-mongering. Why on earth would Israel be concerned about an attack from Iran when we all know that Israel has such an enormous nuclear defense arsenal that no country in the world would consider attacking it!

I don’t really understand why we put up with these sorts of shenanigans. Regev lies. We know he lies. He knows we know he is lying, and yet he continues to lie, and so eventually we stop asking the question, smile and shake hands and continue on as if the lie were the truth. There’s something deeply disturbing about this pattern.

Father Dave

Mordechai Vanunu and me in 2004

with Morde Vanunu – the man who proved that Israel had the bomb – after his release in 2004


Marius Benson: Mark Regev, can I ask you a question that some put in this context, which is, how can Israel demand that other countries, like Iran, in the Middle East, not have the prospect of any nuclear weapon when Israel itself has such a large nuclear arsenal?

Mark Regev: Well first of all there’s been no change in the long-standing Israeli position not to be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the region.

Marius Benson: But you have nuclear weapons.

Mark Regev: No, we say specifically we will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the region. But more specifically I would say in answer to your question it is Iran which says Israel must be destroyed, not the other way around. It’s Iran that calls Israel a cancer that must be removed. It’s Iran which says Israel must be obliterated off the map.

Marius Benson: But back on the question of nuclear weapons, can I just clarify? When you say Israel’s position is you won’t be the first to introduce them, you have, what, 200-plus nuclear weapons now?

Mark Regev: No, no and I would say the following if you would allow me. The problem in the Middle East is not those countries that up till now have not joined the NPT, the Non Proliferation Treaty. The problem is exactly the opposite. It’s those countries that have joined the NPT and have cheated and lied. And there’s a whole group of them…

Marius Benson: Yeah, but…on the nuclear weapons issue, are you saying Israel doesn’t have nuclear weapons?

Mark Regev: I’m answering your question, you’re just not letting me finish the sentences.

Marius Benson: No, no, I like to directly get an answer to that – are you saying Israel does not have nuclear weapons?

Mark Regev: I’m saying Israel believes the 4 to1 talks about extending the NPT in the Middle East; one has to have an NPT that works. And you have in the Middle East four countries that signed the NPTand have cheated and the NPT has not been worth the paper it has been printed on.

Marius Benson: Sure but there’s only one country in the Middle East which is generally known to have nuclear weapons. That’s Israel.

MR: Israel has said – and I’ll say it again – we will not be the first country in the Middle East to introduce nuclear weapons into the region. But if you’ll allow me to complete the point. It’s not just Gadaffi’s Libya that cheated on the NPT, it’s Assad’s Syria, it’s Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and now the Iranians. How can anyone come to Israel and say Israel should join the NPT when you have in the region the failure of this treaty. When you have consistent behaviour by Israel’s enemies who’ve signed the NPT and then it’s clear to everyone have broken it, have violated the agreement.

Marius Benson: Mark Regev thank you very much

Mark Regev: My pleasure sir.


Israel’s relationship with South Africa must be an enormous embarrassment.

The Israeli government had aligned itself strongly with the old Apartheid regime, supplied the white supremacists with arms and identified strongly with them in their struggle, as can be seen from Shimon Peres’ letter (below) to the South African Minister of Information back in 1974 (click to see it full size).

1974 letter between Shimon Peres and the South African Minister of Information

1974 letter between Shimon Peres and the South African Minister of Information

Israel never welcomed the transition to South African democracy, most obviously because their new President was openly critical of the Palestinian occupation. Even so, as Uri Avnery points out below, Israel’s failure to make serious representation at Mandela’s funeral has taken the Jewish state to a new low in terms of its international isolation!

Father Dave


by Uri Avnery

CAN A country boycott itself? That may sound like a silly question. It is not.

At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the “Giant of History” as Barack Obama called him, Israel was not represented by any of its leaders.

The only dignitary who agreed to go was the speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, a nice person, an immigrant from the Soviet Union and a settler, who is so anonymous that most Israelis would not recognize him. (“His own father would have trouble recognizing him in the street,” somebody joked.)

Why? The President of the State, Shimon Peres, caught a malady that prevented him from going, but which did not prevent him from making a speech and receiving visitors on the same day. Well, there are all kinds of mysterious microbes.

The Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had an even stranger reason. The journey, he claimed, was too expensive, what with all the accompanying security people and so on.

Not so long ago, Netanyahu caused a scandal when it transpired that for his journey to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, a five hour flight, he had a special double bed installed in the El Al plane at great expense. He and his much maligned wife, Sara’le, did not want to provoke another scandal so soon. Who’s Mandela, after all?

ALTOGETHER IT was an undignified show of personal cowardice by both Peres and Netanyahu.

What were they afraid of?

Well, they could have been booed. Recently, many details of the Israeli-South African relationship have come to light. Apartheid South Africa, which was boycotted by the entire world, was the main customer of the Israeli military industry. It was a perfect match: Israel had a lot of weapon systems but no money to produce them, South Africa had lots of money but no one who would supply it with weapons.

So Israel sold Mandela’s jailers everything it could, from combat aircraft to military electronics, and shared with it its nuclear knowledge. Peres himself was deeply involved.

The relationship was not merely commercial. Israeli officers and officials met with their South African counterparts, visits were exchanged, personal friendship fostered. While Israel never endorsed apartheid, our government certainly did not reject it.

Still, our leaders should have been there, together with the leaders of the whole world. Mandela was the Great Forgiver, and he forgave Israel, too. When the master of ceremonies in the stadium mistakenly announced that Peres and Netanyahu had arrived, just a few boos were heard. Far less than the boos for the current South African president.

In Israel, only one voice was openly raised against Mandela. Shlomo Avineri, a respected professor and former Director General of the Foreign Office, criticized him for having a “blind spot” – for taking the Palestinian side against Israel. He also mentioned that another moral authority, Mahatma Gandhi, had the same “blind spot”.

Strange. Two moral giants and the same blind spot? How could that be, one wonders.

THE BOYCOTT movement against Israel is slowly gaining ground. It takes three main forms (and several in between).

The most focused form is the boycott of the products of the settlements, which was started by Gush Shalom 15 years ago. It is active now in many countries.

A more stringent form is the boycott of all institutes and corporations that are dealing with the settlements. This is now the official policy of the European Union. Just this week, Holland broke off relations with the monopolistic Israeli Water Corporation, Mekorot, which plays a part in the policy that deprives Palestinians of essential water supplies and transfers them to the settlements.

The third form is total: the boycott of everything and everyone Israeli (Including myself). This is also slowly advancing in many countries.

The Israeli government has now joined this form. By its voluntary no-representation or under-representation at the Mandela ceremony, it has declared that Israel is a pariah state. Strange.

LAST WEEK I wrote that if the Americans find a solution to Israel’s security concerns in the West Bank, other concerns would take their place. I did not expect that it would happen so quickly.

Binyamin Netanyahu declared this week that stationing Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley, as proposed by John Kerry, is not enough. Not by far.

Israel cannot give up the West Bank as long as Iran has nuclear capabilities, he declared. What’s the connection, one might well ask. Well, it’s obvious. A strong Iran will foster terrorism and threaten Israel in many other ways. So Israel must remain strong, and that includes holding on to the West Bank. Stands to reason.

So if Iran gives up all its nuclear capabilities, will that be enough? Not by a long shot. Iran must completely change its “genocidal” policies vis-à-vis Israel, it must stop all threats and utterances against us, it must adopt a friendly attitude towards us. However, Netanyahu did stop short of demanding that the Iranian leaders join the World Zionist Organization.

Before this happens, Israel cannot possibly make peace with the Palestinians. Sorry, Mister Kerry.

IN THE last article I also ridiculed the Allon Plan and other pretexts advanced by our rightists for holding on to the rich agricultural land of the Jordan Valley.

A friend of mine countered that indeed all the old reasons have become obsolete. The terrible danger of the combined might of Iraq, Syria and Jordan attacking us from the east does not exist anymore. But –

But the valley guardians are now advancing a new danger. If Israel gives back the West Bank without holding on to the Jordan Valley and the border crossings on the river, other terrible things will happen.

The day after the Palestinians take possession of the river crossing, missiles will be smuggled in. Missiles will rain down on Ben-Gurion international airport, the gateway to Israel, located just a few kilometers from the border. Tel Aviv, 25 km from the border, will be threatened, as will the Dimona nuclear installation.

Haven’t we seen this all before? When Israel voluntarily evacuated the whole Gaza Strip, didn’t the rockets start to rain down on the South of Israel?

We cannot possibly rely on the Palestinians. They hate us and will continue to fight us. If Mahmoud Abbas tries to stop it, he will be toppled. Hamas or worse, al-Qaeda, will come to power and unleash a terrorist campaign. Life in Israel will turn into hell.

Therefore it is evident that Israel must control the border between the Palestinian state and the Arab world, and especially the border crossings. As Netanyahu says over and over again, Israel cannot and will not entrust its security to others. Especially not to the Palestinians.

WELL, FIRST of all the Gaza Strip analogy does not hold. Ariel Sharon evacuated the Gaza settlements without any agreement or even consultation with the Palestinian Authority, which was still ruling the Strip at that time. Instead of an orderly transfer to the Palestinian security forces, he left behind a power vacuum which was later filled by Hamas.

Sharon also upheld the land and sea blockade that turned the Strip practically into a huge open-air prison.

In the West Bank there exists now a strong Palestinian government and robust security forces, trained by the Americans. A peace agreement will strengthen them immensely.

Abbas does not object to a foreign military presence throughout the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. On the contrary, he asks for it. He has proposed an international force, under American command. He just objects to the presence of the Israeli army – a situation that would amount to another kind of occupation.

BUT THE main point is something else, something that goes right to the root of the conflict.

Netanyahu’s arguments presuppose that there will be no peace, not now, not ever. The putative peace agreement – which Israelis call the “permanent status agreement” – will just open another phase of the generations-old war.

This is the main obstacle. Israelis – almost all Israelis – cannot imagine a situation of peace. Neither they, nor their parents and grandparents, have ever experienced a day of peace in this country. Peace is something like the coming of the Messiah, something that has to be wished for, prayed for, but is never really expected to happen.

But peace does not mean, to paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz, the continuation of war by other means. It does not mean a truce or even an armistice.

Peace means living side by side. Peace means reconciliation, a genuine willingness to understand the other side, the readiness to get over old grievances, the slow growth of a new relationship, economic, social, personal.

To endure, peace must satisfy all parties. It requires a situation which all sides can live with, because it fulfills their basic aspirations.

Is this possible? Knowing the other side as well as most, I answer with utmost assurance: Yes, indeed. But it is not an automatic process. One has to work for it, invest in it, wage peace as one wages war.

Nelson Mandela did. That’s why the entire world attended his funeral. That’s, perhaps, why our leaders chose to be absent.

Soldiers and Border police

photo courtesy of The Palestine Solidarity Project

If I were a cartoonist I’d depict Santa trying to get his sleigh over the wall that cuts off the West Bank from Israel, or perhaps I’d do one of Santa trying to break the siege on Gaza by attempting to deliver a sleigh-full of inadmissible toys to Gaza’s children. Either way, one can only imagine a bloody end to big elf’s Yuletide venture to the Holy Land.

It can’t be pure coincidence that the Israeli government unleashes some of its worst violence on the captive populations of Gaza and the West Bank during the Christmas season. Operation Cast Lead began on December 27. This Christmas there have been a series of bloody incidents:

  • Scores of Bedouin refugees, including 32 children, were made homeless after a series of housing demolitions in the West Bank that the UNRWA says is a “violation of international law” (see here).
  • IDF warplanes and tanks unleashed hell on Gaza, killing a number of civilians including a 3 year-old girl. They claim that they were targeting “terror sites” after an Israeli workman had been shot by a sniper while repairing the fence that keeps the Gazan people captive (see here).
  • On Christmas Eve IDF soldiers raided the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem – intimidating and harassing the beleaguered camp population (see here).

I guess it makes sense that the IDF increases its activity at times when it knows that its US allies are on holidays and otherwise busy with family and partying. Even so, there’s an additional incentive in 2013 for stirring up more trouble at this point in time – the so-called ‘peace talks’.

Reports are coming in that, contrary to all expectations, there may be real signs of hope emerging from John Kerry’s latest rounds of talks. Netanyahu has no intention, of course, of allowing a sovereign Palestinian state to come into existence, but maintaining the illusion that he does support Palestinian independence is a vital element in the great charade.

If a peace deal should start to look inevitable, as it has on more than one occasion already, a spanner will need to be thrown into the works from somewhere – a lead negotiator will have to be disposed of (eg. Arafat) or an incident will take place that will ‘force’ the Israelis to abandon all friendly discussion.

Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, the Latin Patriarch, Fouad Twal, prays for peace: 

“Oh Holy Child, who experienced the flight into Egypt after the threat from Herod, who two thousand years ago killed the children of Bethlehem, have mercy on our children, and all the world’s children.  Have mercy on prisoners, on the poor, the marginalized, and the most vulnerable among us.” 

(read Twal’s complete Christmas homily here)