father dave


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


“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.”

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


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


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.


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

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.



Ariel Sharon is not dead – not quite anyway. He has been effectively dead since January of 2006 when he went into a coma but the machines still keep his heart beating. Perhaps they will soon be turned off and, as Miko Peled predicts, accolades from around the world will come pouring in.

Miko is a friend of mine. I know him to be a tender and gracious man. I can understand why he would feel reticent to celebrate someone’s death – even the death of someone who did much damage to our world. The Biblical authors did not share his reticence. During our Bible readings over Christmas I was struck by how angels came with tidings of good news and great joy to various characters, including the angel who brings the good news of Herod’s death to Joseph while he is hiding out in Egypt (Matthew 2:19).

It is a tragic when we find ourselves rejoicing over someone’s death and yet in some cases you can almost sense the whole created order breathing a sigh of relief when they pass. Ariel Sharon is surely one such case.

Father Dave

with Miko Peled in 2011

with Miko Peled in 2011

source: mikopeled.com…

Final Words on Sharon

by Miko Peled

I never understood how people could rejoice at the news of a person’s death. I happened to be in the UK when Margaret Thatcher died so I witnessed the celebrations. The expressions of joy as the news of the Iron Lady’s death spread around the country shocked me at first, as people were actually throwing parties to celebrate her death. As I visited different parts of the country, particularly Wales and Ireland, it occurred to me that when Ariel Sharon dies we may see similar outbursts of joy taking place.

Sharon has been in a coma since January 2006 when he suffered several brain hemorrhages that left him in a vegetative state. But now there is news that his kidneys are failing and concerns are expressed in Israel that there is a chance he will die soon.

One can imagine the long eulogies we will have to endure once he is laid to rest: “A hero,” “a great leader,” “a military genius,” all of this will be said and more. The press will recount every military achievement, ever battle he won, every enemy, both military and political that he defeated. His resolve as Israel’s leader will be heralded, and, we will be told, he will be remembered for giving his all to his country.

In my book, “The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine“, I mention Sharon several times, in his capacity as a military man who was cruel, brilliant, and reckless, then as defense minister, and finally as prime minister. But it is important to set the record straight about this man before the nauseating outpouring of condolences, replete with hypocrisy and lies, that are sure to follow his death.

Ariel Sharon was an ambitious man. He was brutal, greedy, uncompromising, and dishonest. He possessed an insatiable appetite for power, glory, and fortune. His tendencies as a cold-blooded, merciless killer were evident from early on in his career when he commanded the Israeli army’s Unit 101 in the 1950’s. Unit 101 was an infamous commando brigade with special license to kill and terrorize Palestinians. It operated mostly in Gaza, but also in other parts of the country and beyond. Unit 101 was so brutal in its practices, and claimed so many innocent lives, that even by Israeli standards it was thought to have gone too far and the unit was eventually disbanded.

Sharon went on to be promoted to other commands in the Israeli army earning a name for himself as a promising commander, and all were expecting that he would one day be the Israeli army’s top commander, or Chief of Staff. But this was one job he never got, he did better. Sharon entered politics and was nominated to be Defense Minister under Prime Minister Menachem Begin. In that capacity he led Israel’s catastrophic invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

This invasion left countless Lebanese and Palestinians dead, wounded, and displaced. Sharon was also behind the massacres that took place in September of that year in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut, and here once again, even by Israeli standards Sharon had gone too far and was removed from office.

Though Sharon was reprimanded for his role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre, and was prevented from serving as defense minister, his political career continued nevertheless, and his sphere of influence grew. As minster of Housing and Development he contributed more than any other to the racist, anti Palestinian policies and the corruption within the ministry. It is claimed that during his tenure the ministry’s budget was without limits, exceeding Israel’s entire defense budget. He used his full weight to achieve the colonization and displacement of Palestinians from what used to be the West Bank.

Surely the most absurd thing ever said about Sharon, is that he was a man of peace. That he “left” Gaza and that he “gave” Gaza back to the Palestinians. That he did it for peace and in return all Israel received were rockets fired from Gaza. The Israeli disengagement from Gaza was a cynical, unilateral move. It allowed Sharon to get the Israeli settlers in Gaza out of his way, close Gaza like a prison and score a few political points with the US administration. It was a cruel move that allowed him to further suffocate the people of Gaza, people that he was determined to destroy from early on in his violent career. But the proud Palestinians would not surrender and served as a constant reminder of the blood with which his hands are stained.

One could go on and on about Sharon and his crimes. As he lies dying, perhaps within days or minutes of his final breath, we must all remember his victims, the countless dead, wounded, and displaced, and remind the world that this man was not a hero but a criminal.

As I write these words Ariel Sharon is still alive, if one can call it that, and in many ways the state in which he lives now could be the hell he so richly deserves.

For more insights from Miko see his blog: mikopeled.com…