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It’s disappointing that Pope Francis has had to put on record that his visit to Palestine and Israel next week (in that order) is for religious purposes only – disappointing but totally understandable.

In point of fact religion and politics can never be easily separated. Politics is about people, and so you can no more separate religion and politics than you can religion and people, and there is no doubt that Francis’ visit has the potential to have an enormous impact on the political situation across the Levant.

Even so, Francis is not being dishonest. As he spells out, his primary goal is meet with his ‘brother’, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. What could be more religious than healing a one thousand year old schism in the church. Of course, renewed fellowship between the Catholic and Orthodox wings of the church will have ramifications that touch every level of society but that doesn’t make the meeting any less religious!

The same can be said of the priority Francis has given to Palestine over Israel in his itinerary (see here). Is the fact that he is going straight to Bethlehem from Jordan and not going via Jerusalem (let alone Tel Aviv) a de facto recognition of the State of Palestine on the part of the Vatican?

Certainly many will see it that way, and many Palestinians will gain new strength and hope from such recognition, but it is hard to accept that Francis is doing anything more than his religious duty in dispensing comfort and hope. 🙂

Father Dave


TEXT IN ENGLISH:

“This upcoming Saturday, I will travel to the Holy Land, the land of Jesus. It will be a strictly religious visit. 
 
“First, I will meet with my brother Bartholomew I, to mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Paul VI and Athenagoras I. Peter and Andrew will meet once again, and that is very beautiful.
 
“The second reason is to pray for peace in this land that has suffered greatly. I ask you for your prayers for this trip.”
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Abouna Labib (‘Abouna’ being the Arabic word for ‘Father’) is my favourite parish priest. Not only is he is a man of wonderful personal qualities – combining energy, compassion, and humility to an amazing degree – but he is a model pastor. I have never seen any Christian community that better models the Kingdom of God than does his church of St Thomas More in San Francisco.

Abouna Labib has more nationalities represented in his thriving congregation than were there at Pentecost! He has Anglos and Arabs, Filipinos and Brazilians, people of every colour and culture! Somehow between this humble Lebanese-American priest and the ever-present Spirit of God they manage to keep this mutli-coloured conglomeration a unified whole! St Thomas More church in San Francisco are a wonderful example to the rest of the world of what unity in community is all about!

Labib’s other great passion is for the plight of the Palestinian people. He did his seminary studies in Palestine and this opened his eyes to the suffering and injustice of the Occupation. Labib was the very first, I believe, to go online to promote the Palestinian human rights. His site, al-bushra.org…, is a vast repository of information on the Israel/Palestine conflict.

I can only hope that many people read Abouna Labib’s open letter. It is evidently written with prayer and passion. I pray that God will use it to forward the cause of justice and peace in Israel/Palestine and around the world.

Father Dave

Father Labib with Ange and myself in 2011

Father Labib with Ange and myself in 2011

An open Letter to the Israelis and to the Friends of Israel

by Fr. Labib Kobti, San Francisco

Dear Friends,

Please, see on the following words of respect, a call for Justice, Peace and Truth.

1- Arabs and Jews are blood brothers: they are both Semitic, they are both sons and daughter of the Same Father Abraham.

The Arab people are not the enemies of the Jews (www.al-bushra.org…).

If we look at both ancient and recent history we will find that the Arab People are not the ones who persecuted the Jews. Millions were killed in Europe, but millions have been living in the Arab Lands. With their Arab blood brothers and sisters Jews will live in the Middle East.

History tells that the Jews found in the Arab World and with them Friends, Brothers and sisters.

In fact, before the promises to create the State of Israel the Arabs did not do anything against the Jews. Please, ask the good Jews who used to live in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, many of them still live in these Arabic countries. ( Please, read also” Blood Brothers”, by Elias Chacour)

When the Jews were suffering, unfortunately because of the Inhumane Holocaust,Palestine and not USA, Europe or any country have received thousands and thousands of Jewish immigrants from Germany, Poland, USA, Russia, Ethiopia … The USA, Europe, Russia, South America, Australia …refused to receive them. This is a fact.

Remember that before the existence of the State of Israel, Jews were living with the Palestinians: Muslims and Christians and Jews in peace. Jews were living in Haifa, Jafa, Lod, Ramleh, Jerusalem, Nazareth….This is also a fact that the Jewish historians mention with great honor.

Arab Christians have nothing to do with the Western Christianity who persecuted the Jews. Western Christianity does not represent the Arab Christians.

Arab Muslims and Arab Christians welcomed the Jews always; they did not fight with them for at least the last 1000 years. They have never fought against the Israelis until the promise of a creation of an Israeli State. The Palestinian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Iraqi, Syrian or Jordanian peoples decided fight with you because you created Israel, refusing to live with the Arabs as brothers and sister.

Arab Christians and Arab Muslims are Arabs and it is their right to fight occupation so as to defend their Arab Countries and entities. They fought against the French, the British, the Italians… in the past for the same reason.

In Europe, your Jewish people were those who pioneered in different fields, scientific, inventions, music, art, economic, etc., BUT you were persecuted in different periods there and not in the Arab World. Those who are defending you today in Europe or in USA, they do it because they are feeling the guilt and not because they do love you.

2- Are Arabs enemies of Jews?

Enemies they became when Jews took the Palestinian land, and when they made from Palestinians dispersed refugees all over. When Jews claimed that Palestinian lands, culture, history, food belong to them. They used even the Bible to justify their claims.

Jews said that they have the right to build settlements everywhere anywhere in Palestine. Although Palestinians belong to that land for thousands and thousands of years as descendants of the Cananites, Jebusites and Philistins, Jews claimed the right to take of others’ land and rights isin contravention of international law.

Jews placed the majority of Palestine under Israeli control by annexation, often coercive or of questionable legality.

Palestinians have the right to resist occupation. Israel is an occupation; it is said by the UN resolutions and International Law. And International Law gives any nation under Occupation to resist Occupation by all means.

I call for a nonviolent resistance. All people under occupation resisted occupation and their resistance was lauded by the whole world. Resistance is a right. It is not terrorism.

3- Facts of history on resistance:

a) Do you remember the Story of Samson in the Bible?His enemies tried by all means to kill in him everything. But they could not kill hisSoul, his Spirit, his Will to resist his enemies. He return back to win, he even killed himself, but it was disastrous for others.

b) Do you remember the history of the brave place called Masada in Israel? The Jews chose to resist and preferred the death to surrender to the Romans. By their brave death they inspired you, their people, for the future. They won the war against the Roman occupation. And by that brave death, you multiplied as people. You use this same place. Masada, today, as a symbol of your wonderful heroes and ask the tourists to visit it. In what way Masada was a victory? How Masada won? Because Jews resisted and the Roman Empire with all its big army could not kill the Soul of the Jews, their Spirit and their Will to resist.

c) Do you remember the Concentration Camps the Nazis? By the UNJUST and unjustified suffering and death of innocent people, the Jews eventually resisted and became stronger and unified. No Nazi could kill the Spirit, the SOUL and the WILL of the Jews. The Jews won the battle and history. Today history speaks about the Holocaust and will speak and sympathize with them. The world will say with you:never again. Do you know in what way the People in Auschwitz and other camps won at the end? Because the suffering and the death did not and could not and will never be able to kill the Soul, the Spirit of people who is determined to live and survive.

Do you understand the great lesson of all these facts of your history for the present time?

Your history is an example for all nations WORLDWIDE now.

Isn’t it also the history of the wonderful American Black people in USA, with Martin Luther King? Isn’t it the history of the Apartheid in South Africa with Mandella and many other people who fought for their rights, dignity and identity and build their national countries or entities? Nobody could destroy the Will, the Soul and the Spirit of people to survive and win one day.

4- History repeats itself:

This history will be repeated for the Arabs: Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians and especially for Palestinians, they shall overcome one day in spite of what those who do not read the history are doing to kill their soul, spirit and will.

Since the beginning of the Jewish immigration, the Jewish authorities were saying that Palestinians do not exist, Palestine has never existed, and there were no Palestinian identity.Then in Oslo, Madrid and Washington, after more than fifty years, Palestinians were recognizedpartners of peace, people with full rights, a proud nation. They do exist then. They do have a Soul, a Spirit and a Will to exist, and you will be unable to kill it.

Do you think that having the USA at your side now that you will have it forever with you and it is sufficient for you to prevail?

Do you think really that by weapon and armies you can always control the weak people?
Do you think that in killing and jailing for years without a proper trial, and exiling Palestinians you can kill their soul and their will and destroy for ever their spirit and future as a people?

With great respect and love, listen to me, Friends:

This people will multiply, as happened to you throughout the history; the history will speak about Palestinians and Arabs and will sympathize with (Palocaust) the Palestinian Holocaust; the war criminals will pay by the will of the International law one day or another.

Samson will return, and please, be friend to him before it is too late, he may do the same as he did thousands of years ago in our history…Already some people say that they are Samsons in offering themselves as suicide bombers. I do not agree with them, as I have never agreed with Samson. Samson killed innocent children, women and families and you regard him as a great Biblical hero.

So, please, remember your history, it could repeat itself, but this time with another people…in another time…and we do not want any more killing…

The Palestinian people will live, will survive and will come back as you did.

The history is with those who have a will, a determinate spirit.

Time is not working for you and with you.

You cannot kill the will and spirit of a people, the will of a nation!

Nobody could kill yours, Dear Jewish People and you came back, and you multiplied.

Just remember, please this, my friends.

Be friends to the Palestinians.Give them their Lands and work for justice.

Treat them as human beings; and will then have peace and prosperity.

Samson will not stop growing his hair and come back to destroy himself and others with him. It will be sad for everybody.

We do not need any Samson any more. We need Abraham who was the Father of the Jews, Christians and Muslims to unite his children for a better life.

5- An open letter:

There is a saying in Arabic: “When the soul of a whole nation yearns for survival, nature cannot but respond” (and it Will respond)

Dear Israelis and friends of Israel:

Help Israel to live and survive? Only peace and justice can help Israel to live and survive. Only if Israel and USA work for real justice and real peace in the Middle East region could help Israel to live and survive. In giving a blind eye on the injustices you are not helping Israel, the history tells you that, already I am sure your conscience is telling you this truth.

No chance with violence. The USA and Israel are nourishing violence and war, they are not helping Israel. USA cannot be then a good friend to Israel.The veto will not help. On the contrary it is feeding with more violence the soul, the spirit and the will of those people who want to survive. In working against justice in the Middle East you are nourishing the souls and spirits of people with anger and violence. You are creating thousands and thousands of Samson, you are creating a new Masada.

The best way is to help Israel to make Justice. The US money for weapons will not help the future of a people who have already suffer of violence paid with money.

Do you believe really that the Jews have the right over Palestine by the promise of God?

How could God, HaShem, Allah, the Creator of all prefer one people on another?
How God would give right to one people over one other people?
In God’s eyes we are all his creatures, we are all equal, there is no difference in His Holy Eyes of love between Jew, Arab, American, European or any foreigner, we are all brothers and sister of the one God “who art in Heaven”.

Please, read Genesis:1:27“So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God created them; male and female created he them”. It did not say God created those people and the others not. We are all his image of love

We should live all then in front of God under the same law.

There are no differences, no preferences. God is not a real Estate agent.

You the friends of Israel (Americans, Europeans …) will find yourselves strangers in front of the choices of the God of the Jews.Are we creatures of second hand, or second class? Do not please use God for human interests and injustice!

Remember, please you cannot kill the soul and spirit of a people. Try to make from them your friends not your enemies.

The Arabs will be the neighbors of the Israelis forever,Americans are not the neighbors of Israel, and Europe is not their neighbor. Americans and Europeans will not stay forever friends of one only people. Time will tell you that this is what will happen one day or another. Work for justice do not make war, please, listen to the voice of your conscience and to the appeals of the history of nations.

Any kind of violence is a kind of war. And violence is not only killing one person but also depriving him of his fundamental rights. Stop all kinds of violence. Cultivate a culture of love, cooperation and sharing. Confiscating Palestinian lands, building settlements, demolishing their houses, jailing their youth…closing the roads to Jerusalem is violence. Please, just stop this and go back, if you use a Biblical claim to the real word of God and read in the Bible, Leviticus chapter 25 and ss.

Our Arab children and the Jews children are cousins, sons of the same Father, Abraham; they deserve to live together in Peace.

6– Some Evangelicals and some Christian-Zionists pretend in the name of the Bible that Jews have right on the Palestinian lands. Do not listen to them, they want you to go to Israel only for one reason to become one day Christians, they pretend that if you go to Israel the prophesy will be accomplished, and the Messiah will come and you will become all Christians.What kind of hypocrisy is the “Rapture” claim. It is not even a respect to your religion, it is not even a respect to your future, it is not even a respect to your past as Jews.

Listen to the real Christians and real Muslims who try to respect you and tell you:

That Jews, Christians and Muslims should have the same and equal rights and responsibilities. Build a society of love and not of hatred and violence. You can never empty Palestine-Israel from Arab Muslims and Arab Christians, make from them your friends, as you will be living for ever with them.

They do not deserve that you build hatred and violence. They did not persecute you in the past or made war with you before the existence of the State of Israel, and your claims that you do not want them to have their own State and Capital is very wrong.

Arab Muslims and Arab Christians are not your real enemies…do not listen to the lies of some people who are profiting economically and politically by creating a cold war against Islam and Arab Christians.

Just use your judgments. You cannot empty Palestine from Arab Muslims and Arab Christians who want to live a decent life and real future of peace and justice.You cannot kill the soul, the spirit and the will of Samson. He will return one day…make from him your friend before him returns, if not it will be too late for him and for you then…

I will pray for you.

May God, Allah, HaShem, the one Most Holy give you the wisdom to see clear the needed comprehensive justice so as to find the way for peace and cooperation, and love.

With love and respect,

Fr. Labib Kobti,

An Arab-American Roman Catholic Priest in San Francisco

The Original Article was written on 1996. Re-edited by the author on May 2, 2014: www.al-bushra.org…

For more articles, please go to: Al-Bushra.org…

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Rev. Stephen Sizer is a great guy.

Certainly he is a great thinker – a reflective evangelical theologian with a special expertise when it comes to refuting the errors of Christian Zionism – but he is also just a genuinely nice human being! 🙂

Our little group of peace pilgrims left Damascus early on April 15. We drove to Beirut and then flew to London via Frankfurt, arriving at around midnight with no idea of exactly where we were staying! Who took it upon himself to borrow the church mini-bus and scoot out to Heathrow in the middle of the night and then go scouring London for the location of the Catholic Worker’s house of hospitality? Stephen Sizer!

enjoying dinner with Rev. Stepen Sizer in London

enjoying dinner with Stephen Sizer in London

Sometimes actions speak far louder than words. In this case though we’ll let Stephen’s words do the talking. He was interviewed by George Galloway on ‘Sputnik’ on the same day John Shipton and I were (see our interview on Syria here). It was a great day. It was our first morning in London, which meant Stephen had had even less sleep than we had (having spent an hour in the car getting home after dropping us)! Even so, it was a memorable day and this was a great interview, particularly for any who might still think that unquestioning support for the State of Israel is somehow obligatory for all Christians.

Father Dave

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Read more of Stephen’s insights on Christian Zionism on his website – www.stephensizer.com…

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Ashkelon-prison-panorama

Morde’s friends and foes gather outside Ashkelon prison – April 21, 2004

Ten years ago, on April 21, 2004, several hundred of us from around the world waited with great anticipation outside the gates of Israel’s Ashkelon Prison, holding up signs saying, “Thank you, Mordechai Vanunu: Peace Hero, Nuclear Whistle-blower”. After many years of campaigning for his freedom, the day had finally arrived:  Mordechai Vanunu would walk out of the prison where he had spent each day of his 18 year sentence (12 of those years in solitary confinement) for blowing the whistle on Israel’s then secret nuclear arsenal.  We were there to welcome him to freedom.

Our excitement had been somewhat dimmed a couple of days earlier, when Israel announced a list of oppressive and unjust restrictions on the soon-to-be-released whistle-blower. These restrictions continue to this day, having been renewed each April:  Mordechai Vanunu remains under restrictions which require him to report and gain approval for any change in residence, to avoid diplomatic missions, to not speak to foreign nationals and which which prevent him from leaving Israel, a thing Mordechai has wished to do ever since his release from prison.

Since his release he has been repeatedly harassed and taken in by police for questioning.  He has served a further three months in prison for talking to foreigners, which he continues to do in spite of the restrictions.

In December 2013, an appeal to Israel’s High Court of Justice against this indefinite punishment for “crimes” for which he has served his full sentence proceeded much as previous appeals had. The government, in secret testimony, persuaded the court that “the evidentiary material suggests that there is still additional privileged information that [could be jeopardized] by the petitioner.”

However Vanunu has repeatedly insisted that he has no more secrets to tell, including in his first public statement to the throng of international reporters gathered to cover the moment that he emerged from prison on April 21, 2004.  He shared all that he knew with UK Sunday Times journalists back in 1986 (information that is now more than 28 years old) – giving the world its first photographic proof of Israel’s clandestine production of nuclear weapons at the remote Dimona factory where he had worked as a technician until 1985.

He strongly believed that in a democratic country, people have the right to know what their government is doing, and, after examining his conscience, felt it was his responsibility to share the information he had.  On the eve of publication, Vanunu was lured from London to Rome by a Mossad agent, where he was kidnapped, drugged and bound and put on a freighter to Israel. A secret court convicted him of espionage and treason.

We believe that Mordechai Vanunu is a hero for his courageous act of whistleblowing, not a traitor or a spy.  And we think it’s likely that Israel would view a potential Iranian nuclear whistle-blower in the same light.  In any case, it is time for Israel to stop this endless persecution of Vanunu.   He is currently living in East Jerusalem, but very much wishes to leave Israel and start a new life.

As we continue to work for a nuclear-free future, we invite people around the world to join us as we call on Israel to do the right thing, morally and legally, and finally lift Vanunu’s restrictions without further delay, ten years after the original court-imposed sentence for his “crime” has expired.  Mordechai Vanunu must at last be given his freedom.

Signed:

(Israel) Yehuda Atai, Ronnie Barkan, Rayna Moss, Gideon Spiro, Meir Vanunu

(UK) Yasmin Alam, Pat Arrowsmith, Geoffrey Austin, Ben Birnberg, Margaret and Jacob Ecclestone,  Paul Eisen, Jay Ginn, June Hautot,  Ben Inman, Bruce Kent, Bruce Mackenzie, Carmel Martin, Jenny Morgan,  Adeline O’Keeffe, David Polden, Ernest Rodker, Sabby Sagall, David Smethurst, Ben Soffa, James Thackera, Barry White

(US) Barbara Beesley, Felice Cohen-Joppa, Nick and Mary Eoloff, Ken Hannaford-Ricardi,  Art Laffin, Daniel McGowen, Mary H. Miller, Ronald H. Miller, Kim Redigan, Grace Ritter,  Scott Schaeffer-Duffy, Jeanie Shaterian

(Ireland) Kevin Cassidy, Barbara Fabish, Mairead Maguire

(Norway) Fredrik Heffermehl

(Japan) Shinji and Ryoko Noma

(Australia) Phillip Mudge, Rev. David Smith

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00000006 Trump PhillDave eb-browning me-&-Jane meeting-morde morde-&-me amongst-friends morde-&-meir peter&hillarie
Peace activists line up outside Ashkelon prison
blowing the trumpet of peace
The Aussie Vanunu support base - Phil & Dave
Vanunu supporters Father Dave & Bishop Ed Browning
Dave with ABC's Foreign Correspondent, Jane Hutcheon
Reunited with Morde after 18 years!
with friends in St George's Cathedral
Morde and brother Meir
with journalists Peter and Hillarie Hounam

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The former Archbishop of Capetown is now 82 years old and he’s been doing his best for some time now to slip into a quiet retirement. The problem is that the man has the heart of a prophet and he simply can’t contain himself and remain silent in the face of injustice and oppression!

The testimony of the prophet Jeremiah comes to mind:

“But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)

Tutu and Jeremiah, it seems to me, were cut from the same prophetic cloth. While the Palestinian Occupation continues in all its brutality, and indeed becomes even more brutal as more and more land is gobbled up by ‘settlers’, how can a man who has given his life to fighting oppression not speak out!

As articulate as ever, Tutu makes a point that I hadn’t considered before – that the comparison that is sometimes made between supporters of the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” campaign and the Nazi’s of World War II is not only horribly insulting to the upholders of BDS but also trivialises the horrors of the Holocaust!

Father Dave

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Statement by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on 2 April 2014

I am writing today to express grave concern about a wave of legislative measures in the United States aimed at punishing and intimidating those who speak their conscience and challenge the human rights violations endured by the Palestinian people. In legislatures in Maryland, New York, Illinois, Florida, and even the United States Congress, bills have been proposed that would either bar funding to academic associations or seek to malign those who have taken a stand against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.

These legislative efforts are in response to a growing international initiative, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, of which I have long been a supporter. The BDS movement emanates from a call for justice put out by the Palestinian people themselves. It is a Palestinian-led, international non-violent movement that seeks to force theIsraeli government to comply with international law in respect to its treatment of the Palestinian people.

I have supported this movement because it exerts pressure without violence on the State of Israel to create lasting peace for the citizens of Israel and Palestine, peace which most citizens crave. I have witnessed the systematic violence against and humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation and pain is all too familiar to us South Africans.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. My conscience compels me to stand with the Palestinians as they seek to use the same tactics of non-violence to further their efforts to end the oppression associated with the Israeli Occupation.

The legislations being proposed in the United States would have made participation in a movement like the one that ended Apartheid in South Africa extremely difficult.

I am also deeply troubled by the rhetoric associated with the promulgation of these bills which I understand, in the instance of Maryland, included testimony comparing the boycott to the actions of the Nazis in Germany. The Nazi Holocaust which resulted in the extermination of millions of Jews is a crime of monstrous proportions. To imply that it is in any way comparable to a nonviolent initiative diminishes the horrific nature of that genocidal and tragic era in our world history.

Whether used in South Africa, the US South, or India, boycotts have resulted in a transformative change that not only brought freedom and justice to the victims but also peace and reconciliation for the oppressors. I strongly oppose any piece of legislation meant to punish or deter individuals from pursuing this transformative aspiration. And I remain forever hopeful that, like the nonviolent efforts that have preceded it, the BDS movement will ultimately become a catalyst for honest peace and reconciliation for all our brothers and sisters, both Palestinian and Israeli, in the Holy Land.