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Post-apartheid South Africa has played a special role in the Palestinian struggle. Nelson Mandela was a personal friend of Yasser Arafat – a man who he saw as being on a parallel struggle for justice and freedom for his people. And as the church helped lead the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, so it comes as no surprise that South African church leaders have come in firmly behind the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign against the Israeli government.

Defenders of Zionism  are quick to ridicule any comparison between South African apartheid and the State of Israel’s policies that favour Jews over Arabs. As South African pastor, Rev. Dr. Moss Nthla, points out though, he is in a better position than most white people to judge whether the apartheid label is valid. He and other South African church leaders suggest, in fact, that the Israeli system of racial discrimination is actually worse than what they experienced under apartheid!

Father Dave

If you can’t view this video, click here.

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This latest move by the Knesset, initiated by coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin, appears to be an attempt to divide the Palestinian population!

The actual changes enacted by the new law are only minor but their ramifications could be huge. The law increases Christian representation on the advisory committee appointed under the ‘Equal Employment Opportunities Law’ from five to ten persons.  The new law thus seems inoffensive in itself, but critics see it as part of a larger strategy to integrate Christians more into Israeli society and so divide them from their Arab sisters and brothers.

Levin more or less confirmed that this was his aim in an interview with Israeli newspaper Maariv. “This is an important historic move that can balance Israel and bring us closer to the Christians”, he said, “and I am careful not to call them Arabs, because they’re not Arabs.” He added that Christians “are our natural allies, a counter-balance against the Muslims who want to destroy the state from within.”

The truth is, of course, that Christian Arabs are Arabs, and Christian Palestinians have suffered alongside their Islamic Palestinian sisters and brothers since ‘Al Nakba’ of 1948.

From my perspective, Levin’s new law might be trying to accomplish more than simply ‘divide and conquer’. It may also be an attempt to win back diminishing support from Christians in the West, particularly from the USA where right-wing Evangelicals have always been amongst the Jewish state’s most unquestioning supporters.

Whatever the grand plan, it is quite possible that it could all backfire. What if Palestinian Christians unite in their opposition to the new law – refusing to accept any special privileges above Muslim Palestinians? This could be a powerful witness for the church in Israel/Palestine as well as a serious setback for the Zionist agenda!

Father Dave

Rev. Naim Ateek - founder of Sabeel

Rev. Naim Ateek – founder of Sabeel

source: al-bushra-updates.blogspot.com…

Divide and Conquer: New Israel Legislation

by Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek

On Monday, February 23, 2014, the Israeli Knesset enacted a new law that recognizes Muslim and Christian Arab communities as separate identities, giving them their own representation in an employment commission. The law passed by a margin of 31 to 6.

The new law passed by the Knesset favoring Christians is, to say the least, a deceitful political stunt by Likud-Beiteinu members aimed at sowing seeds of division among Christians and between Christians and Muslims.

For the last sixty-five years, the government of Israel has not shown favoritism or bias towards the Christian community of the land, so why now?

During the Nakba of 1948, the Christians, like the Muslims, were dispossessed by the Zionists and were forced out of their homeland. Furthermore, during the military rule imposed by Israel on all Palestinians who stayed inside the Israeli state (1948-1966), Israel did not show favoritism to Christians over Muslims. Both were discriminated against and both were treated as unwanted aliens in their own land. There is a plethora of documentation to substantiate the history of that period. The problem for Israel in those days was not the Palestinians’ religious affiliation but their Palestinian national identity.

I believe that the new law reflects the moral bankruptcy of the government of Israel. Indeed, it must be in trouble to allow itself to stoop so low as to blatantly use this tactic to attempt to win the support of some Christians abroad, and, at the same time, sow dissent among Christians and Muslims. It is the old adage of “divide and rule.” This law is sinister in that it exploits the sensitive tensions among the religious communities of the Middle East, especially in light of what has been happening in Egypt and now is happening in Syria.

I am certain that the Palestinian community is mature enough not to fall into such a despicable religious trap.

There is another dishonest and hidden angle to this law. Jewish religious tradition has always considered Christianity, not Islam, as the mortal enemy of Jews and Judaism. This is due to the fact that the Christian faith came out of the same foundation as the Jewish faith, namely, the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e. the Christian Old Testament. I still remember the Israeli religious establishment discouraging Jewish students from visiting Christian churches while encouraging them to visit Muslim mosques. The advisory pointed out that there was greater affinity between Judaism and Islam, while the gap was quite wide between Judaism and Christianity.

What has caused this sudden infatuation with Palestinian Christians to merit new legislation? Or is it just an ugly political stunt? What favors can the right-wing Israeli government give the Palestinian Arab Christians who are Israeli citizens? Will it restore their confiscated land to them? Will it grant them equality with their fellow Jewish citizens? Or are we witnessing another divisive Israeli ploy similar to when Israel set the Druze community apart from its Arab base?

It is worth mentioning that over sixty years ago, Israel managed to make the Druze religion a separate ethnic entity, thus separating them from their Arab roots. Through this new legislation, Israel wants to make the Christian religion a separate ethnic identity in order to separate them from their Arab Palestinian roots. But in spite of what Israel has done to the Druze community, an increasing number of young Druze men have been resisting imposed Israeli military service.

Israel has been very shrewd in concocting devious ways and means to impose its will on the Palestinians and keep them weak and divided. It continues to connive ways to limit and even deprive them of their rights to the land so they will give up and leave.

I am certain that the Christian community in Israel will see through this new Israeli legislation, will expose its sinister nature, and reject it. It is my hope also that our people’s resilience and maturity will foil the Israeli government’s insidious objectives. This we can do through our unity and solidarity, as well as through our determination to continue to work for a just peace, inclusive democracy, and human dignity for all the people of our land.

Naim Ateek

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Jerusalem

The Rev. Dr. Naim Stifan Ateek (Arabic: نعيم عتيق‎, Na’īm Ateeq) (born in the Palestinian village of Beisan in 1937) is a Palestinian priest in the Anglican Church and founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.[1][2] He has been an active leader in the shaping of the Palestinian liberation theology. He was the first to articulate a Palestinian theology of liberation in his book, Justice, and only Justice, a Palestinian Theology of Liberation, published by Orbis in 1989, and based on his dissertation for his degree in theology.[3] The book laid the foundation of a theology that addresses the conflict over Palestine and explores the political as well as the religious, biblical, and theological dimensions. A former Canon of St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, he lectures widely both at home and abroad. His latest book, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, was published by Orbis in 2008.

 

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Maired Maguire in Beirut

with Maired in Beirut

My friend Mairead Maguire is currently on route to Gaza, joining an international delegation of 100 women who will be delivering solar lamps to the women of Gaza. The people of Gaza have been suffering severe electricity shortages due to the Israeli blockade.

Mairead has joined countless others around the world in putting her support squarely behind the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ campaign (BDS) against the government of Israel. 

she writes:

‘The Palestinian narrative is a story of a prolonged occupation by Israel based on policies of Apartheid and racism, ongoing building on Palestinian land of Israeli settlements, house demolitions, and the continued denial by Israel of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.  Gaza, the largest open air prison in the world, of which Israel is its jailer as it holds the keys and totally controls all aspects of life of the people of Gaza.  One and a half million people in Gaza, mostly under 2l years of age, continue in the words of Israeli Professor and Academic, Jeff Halper, to be ‘warehoused’ by Israel with all rights being violated by Israel. The Gaza port has been closed for over 40 years, their airport destroyed and crossing into West Bank blocked.  The people of Gaza do not have the basic right to travel into the West Bank to visit relatives without passes from Israel, and students in Gaza are forbidden to travel to study outside Gaza.  These conditions mean that Gaza is still under occupation. The Israel policies of divide and rule, keeping Gaza and West Bank cut off from each other, ensures that neither human contact or real peace negotiations can take place, (as is evidenced by the fact that at the current Peace Talks presided over by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Gaza palestinians (in which 40% of Palestinians live) are not represented at the negotiating table.)

South African visitors to Palestine have described the situation of blockade, occupation, as far worse than anything they experienced under the South African Apartheid era.

Why has this desperate injustice perpetrated upon the Palestinians by Israeli Government Policies been allowed to go on for over 60 years, in spite of United Nations over 60 resolutions, calling on Israel to uphold International law, but continuing to be ignored by Israel?

When anyone in International community is brave enough to articulate the facts of Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people they are bullied, threatened and accused of anti-Semitism.  This insidious practice by Israeli Government and its policy supporters has been very effective in silencing critique or debate on Israeli/US military and financial supported foreign policy, but also causes self-censorship by many concerned for their political and professional careers, or trading profits.  However, the Palestinian people take hope from those who are brave enough to take a stand, such as the Irish Trade Union Movement, Stephen Hawkins, Russell Tribunal on Palestine, and a growing international movement of support.

We all know the Jewish Narrative, particularly the story of the holocaust, but our sadness for this one of humanities greatest acts of inhumanity, should not stop us from speaking out on Israel’s current policy of a ‘silent genocide’ of the Palestinian people, and currently today of the people in Gaza.

The denial by Israel of Palestinian basic freedoms is not a natural humanitarian tragedy, it is an Israeli Government policy, in which many Governments, Media, Corporations, and Companies (such as Hewlett Packard and G4S who profit from the illegal occupation) are all complicit if not by supporting Israeli Government through funding, trading,etc., then by their  silence.

But, there is much we can all do.  The greatest hope we can give Palestinian people is to tell the Palestinian narrative, even at the risk of being called anti-Semitic.  This will give legitimacy to the Palestinian people and in time will force Israel to choose peace not land, as it has done for so long.   The Palestinian people have asked the International community to support their nonviolent BDS campaign (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and I applaud the recent actions of the Irish Academics in responding to this Appeal, and calling for a Boycott of Israel Universities, as indeed they are part of the system which upholds Apartheid and occupation by Israel.

Professor Falk, the UN special rapporteur for Palestine, who in his 6 years has often been refused entry into Palestinian territory, by Israel authorities, has recommended that UN member states should impose a ban on imports of products from Israeli settlements.  I hope many will follow his advice.

As a well supported International BDS campaign helped end Apartheid in South Africa, the Palestinian people believe, as do growing sections of the International Civil Community, that a similar International campaign will help end Israel’s denial of Palestinians human rights, freedom and peace.

Get more wisdom from Mairead on the ‘Peace People’ website: www.peacepeople.com…

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I still remember when Morde Vanunu disappeared in 1986. He had been a part of our church community. He had gone to London to share his story about the secret Israeli nukes with the world. He was a man on a mission, convinced that God had called him to blow the whistle on his country. I spent many sleepless nights over the following 18 years thinking about how we could have done things differently so that he would have been better protected.

In 2004, after serving his complete 18-year sentence, Morde was ‘released’ but with ‘release conditions’:

  1. He wasn’t allowed to leave the country
  2. He wasn’t allowed to go near a foreign embassy
  3. He wasn’t allowed to speak to foreign members of the press.

Evidently the Israeli government wasn’t ready to let go of him, and the third condition suggests that there was information that Morde had that the government didn’t want to circulate worldwide. But what could Morde have known that could still embarrass Israel? The purported reason – that he still had sensitive information about Israel’s nukes – was ridiculous. 

Dyer addresses these issues though he himself doesn’t seem to be convinced by the answer he gives. Is Vanunu’s ongoing punishment really only to preserve the USA from embarrassment? And how embarrassed is the US likely to be, even if it can be shown that the President knew about Israel’s nukes but didn’t say anything?

My guess is that the US may have been a lot more involved in the development of Israel’s nuclear arsenal than Dyer believes. At the same time though I don’t think Morde Vanunu really knows as much about Israeli-US nuclear complicity as they think he does.

Father Dave

Morde Vanunu and me after his 'release' in 2004

with Morde Vanunu after his 2004 ‘release’

source: www.thespec.com…

Dyer: Israel’s nuclear hypocrisy

Time to own up to the truth about not-so-secret arms cache

By  Gwynne Dyer

When Mordechai Vanunu, a humble Israeli technician who worked for years at Israel’s secret nuclear site at Dimona, spilled the beans about Israel’s nuclear weapons in 1986, very bad things happened to him. He was lured from safety in England for an Italian holiday by a woman who was an Israeli secret agent, drugged and kidnapped from Italy by other Israeli agents, and imprisoned for 18 years (11 of them in solitary confinement).

When Avraham Burg, the former speaker of the Israeli parliament, said last month that Israel has both nuclear and chemical weapons (you know, like the nuclear weapons that Iran must not have and the chemical weapons that Syria must give up), nothing bad happened to him at all. He is protected by the Important Persons Act, the unwritten law that gets powerful and well-connected people off the hook in every country.

They didn’t even go after Burg when he said that Israel’s long-standing policy of “nondisclosure (never confirm or deny that it has nukes) was “outdated and childish.” But even 10 years after Vanunu finished serving his long jail sentence, he is not allowed to leave Israel, go near any foreign embassy, airport or border crossing, or speak to any journalist or foreigner.

Vanunu defies the Israeli authorities and speaks to whomever he pleases, of course. But he really can’t get out of the country, though he desperately wants to leave, and his decision to live like a free man gives his watchers the pretext to yank his chain by arresting him whenever they feel like it.

The Israeli government’s excuse for all this is that he may still know secrets he might reveal, but that is nonsense. Vanunu hasn’t seen Dimona or talked to anybody in the Israeli nuclear weapons business for 30 years. What drives his tormentors is sheer vindictiveness, and he may well go on being punished for his defiance until he dies — while Avraham Burg lives out his life undisturbed and offers occasional pearls of wisdom to the public.

So here are the “secrets” that Vanunu and Burg revealed, in rather more detail than Burg chose to give and in a more up-to-date form than Vanunu could give from personal knowledge.

Israel has a minimum of 80 and a maximum of 400 nuclear weapons, those limits being based on calculations of the amount of fissile material that it has enriched to weapons grade. The best guess is that the total is around 200 warheads, most of them two-stage thermonuclear devices (hydrogen bombs).

At least some dozens are “tactical” weapons designed to be fired by 175 mm and 203 mm artillery pieces at ranges of 40 to 70 kilometres. The remainder are meant to be delivered by missiles or aircraft, and Israel maintains a full “triad” of delivery systems: land-based missiles, sea-launched missiles and aircraft.

The missiles are mostly Jericho II medium-range ballistic missiles, which can reach all of Europe and most of western Asia. Since 2008 Jericho III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) have also been entering service, with a range that would allow Israel to strike any inhabited point on the planet except some Pacific islands. Both can carry a one-megaton warhead.

Why such remarkably long ranges, when Israel’s avowed enemies are all relatively close to hand? One speculation is that this is meant to encourage caution in other nuclear states (Pakistan? North Korea?) that might at some future time be tempted to supply nuclear weapons to Israel’s near enemies.

The maritime leg of the triad is highly accurate cruise missiles that are launched from underwater by Israel’s German-built Dolphin-class submarines. These missiles constitute Israel’s “secure second-strike” capability, since it is extremely unlikely that even the most successful enemy surprise attack could locate and destroy the submarines. And finally, there are American-made F-15 and F-16 strike aircraft that can also carry nuclear bombs.

Israel probably tested its bomb in the southern Indian Ocean in 1979 in co-operation with apartheid South Africa, which was also developing nuclear weapons (subsequently dismantled) at that time. The test was carried out under cover of a storm to escape satellite surveillance, but a rift in the cloud cover revealed the characteristic double flash of a nuclear explosion to an American satellite, Vela 6911.

This was a violation of the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty, which forbids open-air nuclear tests, but the United States did not pursue the matter, presumably in order not to embarrass Israel.

The United States did not help Israel to develop nuclear weapons in the first place (France did that), and even now Washington does not really approve of Israel’s nukes, although it tolerates them in the interest of the broader alliance. But why, after all these years, does Israel still refuse to acknowledge that it has them?

The only plausible answer is: to avoid embarrassing the United States in ways that would make it restrict its arms exports to Israel. But realistically, how likely is that to happen? The U.S. Congress will ensure that Israel goes on getting all the money and arms it wants no matter what it says about its nukes, and it is high time to end this ridiculous dance around the truth.

Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

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Sir Gerald Kaufman is the world’s greatest weapon against Anti-Semitism!

As people worldwide are driven to despair over the unrelenting cruelty of the Palestinian Occupation it is easy to start blaming all Jews for the suffering of the Palestinian people. After all, the Israeli government claims that it speaks and acts of behalf of all Jews. It would be understandable (though regrettable) if any number of otherwise compassionate and intelligent people bought into this rhetoric, except that people like Sir Gerald expose the lie for what it is!

Sir Gerald Kaufman is unmistakably Jewish and proud of it! At the same time he is a passionate advocate for the Palestinian cause and a card-carrying member of the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign’ (BDS) against the Israeli government. 

It was Kaufman who famously attacked Israeli apologists who drew on memories of the Holocaust to justify the 2008/2009 assault on Gaza by saying “My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”

Below is Kaufman’s latest offering, delivered to the British Parliament on February 5th in the context of a debate over human situation in Gaza. May God strengthen Sir Gerald to make many more such stirring speeches, and may God grant Sir Gerald’s colleagues ears to hear them!

Father Dave

Sir Gerald Kaufman

Sir Gerald Kaufman

source: english.alarabiya.net…

“I once led a delegation of 60 parliamentarians from 13 European Parliaments to Gaza. I could no longer do that today because Gaza is practically inaccessible. The Israelis try to lay the responsibility on the Egyptians, but although the Egyptians’ closing of the tunnels has caused great hardship, it is the Israelis who have imposed the blockade and are the occupying power. The culpability of the Israelis was demonstrated in the report to the U.N. by Richard Goldstone following Operation Cast Lead. After his report, he was harassed by Jewish organizations. At the end of a meeting I had with him in New York, his wife said to me, “It is good to meet another self-hating Jew.”

Again and again, Israel seeks to justify the vile injustices that it imposes on the people of Gaza and the west bank on the grounds of the holocaust. Last week, we commemorated the holocaust; 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are being penalized with that as the justification. That is unacceptable.

The statistics are appalling. There is fresh water for a few hours every five days. Fishing boats are not allowed to go out—in any case, what is the point, because the waters are so filthy that no fish they catch can be eaten? The Israelis are victimizing children above all. Half the population of this country is under the voting age. What is being done to those children—the lack of nutrition—is damaging not only their bodies and brains; it will go on for generation after generation.

It is totally unacceptable that the Israelis should behave in such a way, but they do not care. Go to Tel Aviv, as I did not long ago, and watch them sitting complacently outside their pavement cafés. They do not give a damn about their fellow human beings perhaps half an hour away. The right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) quoted the prime minister as saying that Gaza is a prison camp. It is all very well for him to say that, as he did, in Turkey—he was visiting a Muslim country—but what is he doing about it? Nothing, nothing, nothing!

The time when we could condemn and think that that was enough has long passed. The Israelis do not care about condemnation. They are self-righteous and complacent. We must now take action against them. We must impose sanctions. If the spineless Obama will not do it, we must do it—even unilaterally. We must press the European community for it to be done. These people cannot be persuaded. We cannot appeal to their better nature when they do not have one. It is all very well saying, “Wicked, wicked Hamas.” Hamas is dreadful. I have met people from Hamas, but nothing it has done justifies punishing children, women and the sick as the Israelis are doing now. They must be stopped.

As has been pointed out, there is a time limit for what we are talking about. The idea that things can go on, while we wait for a two-state solution, is gone. Sooner or later, the Palestinians will say, “We are dying anyhow, so let us die for something.” Let us stop that: I do not want a war. I do not want violent action, but the action that the international community takes must be imposed, otherwise hell will break loose. ”