israel and palestine religious conflict

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Father Roy writes: A challenge like this one deserves the widest possible circulation, throughout the entire Anglican Communion and beyond.  How shall we Episcopalians respond?  Honestly?  Courageously?  Ever so politely?  Impotently?  I highlighted a few of Littlewood’s points which I found especially worthy of note.   Peace, Roy

(nb. highlights are courtesy of Father Roy)

Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams – the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury

source: www.redressonline.com…

January 24, 2013

Zionists call the shots in the Anglican Church

By Stuart Littlewood

Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, has stepped down from his post (sigh of relief).

Williams’s role as a figure of unity in the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is represented in over 130 countries, meant that he was in a position to “bring the needs and voices of those fighting poverty, disease and the effects of conflict to the attention of national and international policy makers and donor agencies”. Or so we were told.

Bearing witness meekly, silently

In 2010, when the archbishop announced he was planning a visit to Gaza just a year after the slaughter and devastation of Operation Cast Lead, I asked his Lambeth Palace office for more information. Whom would he meet? Would he see the health minister? Would he sit down and talk with the elected prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, man of God to man of God (for Mr Haniyeh is an imam)? Would he do Gaza (and all of us) proud by spending a generous amount of his time with senior members of the Islamic faith?

His office didn’t reply.

According to the Archbishop’s website he did none of those things. At least, he didn’t mention them if he did. Unless I’m mistaken, he said nothing about Gaza in the House of Lords, where he had the ear of Parliament and the support of 25 other Church of England bishops.

Yet he began his Ecumenical letter that Easter by declaring: “Christians need to witness boldly and clearly.”

A lady wrote to me saying she had emailed Lambeth Palace 18 times asking if the archbishop’s party could please bring back some deaf children’s art, which should have been picked up by members of a recent Gaza blockade-busting convoy. The palace eventually declined saying the Israelis wouldn’t allow it.

If he’d been “witnessing boldly” as he exhorted other Christians to do, the archbishop would surely have instructed his staff to pick up the children’s art and dare the Israelis to confiscate it.

The archbishop’s website joyfully reported how he hobnobbed with the Chief Rabbinate, paid his respects to Yad Vashem and the holocaust, and talked with the president of Israel…

She complained that by not using his position in the House of Lords and elsewhere the archbishop was failing to improve the situation for Palestinians, quoting the words of Desmond Tutu: “Where there is oppression, those who do nothing side with the oppressor.”

It was later revealed that the Israelis severely restricted the archbishop’s time inside Gaza. I asked why such interference with the church’s pastoral business in the Holy Land, of all places, wasn’t broadcast on the website, in mainstream media and in Parliament.

His office confirmed that the archbishop had initially been refused access to Gaza but was eventually permitted one-and-a-half hours. This was just enough for a hurried visit to the Ahli hospital and no more. When my questions were forwarded to the archbishop’s public affairs spokesman, the reply was headed “NOT FOR PUBLICATION”. Suffice to say the Israelis from the start blocked the archbishop’s visit to Gaza and only at the last minute granted him a piddling 90 minutes.

Was this his idea of “witnessing boldly”?

The archbishop’s website joyfully reported how he hobnobbed with the Chief Rabbinate, paid his respects to Yad Vashem and the holocaust, and talked with the president of Israel – the latter no doubt sniggering up his sleeve at his guest’s frustration at being prevented by Israel’s thugs from seeing what horrors they had inflicted on the Gazans.

Why did he agree to fraternize with Jewish political and religious leaders when his wish to carry out his Christian duty in Gaza was so rudely obstructed? Did Lambeth Palace not realize that meekly accepting such insults only served to legitimize the Israelis’ illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and gave a stamp of approval to the vicious siege of Gaza, the ongoing air strikes against civilians, the persecution of Muslim and Christian communities, and the regime’s utter contempt for international law and human rights?

There was no mention of a get-together with senior Islamic figures, leaving a question-mark over Williams’s real commitment to interfaith engagement.

Earlier, while the Jewish state was putting its finishing touches to Operation Cast Lead (the infamous blitzkrieg launched over Christmas-New Year 2008/09 against Gaza’s civilians, including the Christian community there), the archbishop joined Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in a visit to the former Nazi camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland to demonstrate their joint solidarity against the extremes of hostility and genocide.

The Holy Land is the well-spring of the Christian faith, but you wouldn’t think so from the don’t-give-a-damn attitude among senior churchmen.

“This is a pilgrimage not to a holy place but to a place of utter profanity – a place where the name of God was profaned because the image of God in human beings was abused and disfigured,” said the archbishop. “How shall we be able to read the signs of the times, the indications that evil is gathering force once again and societies are slipping towards the same collective corruption and moral sickness that made the shoah [holocaust] possible?”

Read the signs? Surely they were plain to see. The forces of evil had already pushed some societies into the moral cesspit. He needed to look no further than the hell-hole that the Holy Land had been turned into by the Israeli occupation, with good old England’s blessing. If ever there was a place where “the name of God was profaned” this is it.

Who will step forward and save it? The Holy Land is the well-spring of the Christian faith, but you wouldn’t think so from the don’t-give-a-damn attitude among senior churchmen.

Open door for the bully-boys The multitude of interfaith committees and Christian-Jewish councils has opened the door to the Zionist lobby and made it easy for them to meddle in Church business and bully Christians into submission. There’s even a propaganda outlet calling itself Anglican Friends of Israel. A few weeks ago Zionists, no doubt emboldened by the church’s appeasement policy, put the squeeze on the Bishop of Newcastle, Martin Wharton. The Representative Council of North-East Jewry wrote to him complaining that he voted for a motion at the General Synod which supported the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) despite their “grave concerns … that it would encourage anti-Semitism”. His action, said the letter, “makes any further contact with the Jewish community in the North-East impossible”.

So be it, would seem an appropriate response. But oh no. What brought this on, according to the Church Times , was Bishop Wharton’s agreement to speak at a conference, “Peace and Justice in the Holy Land”, organized by a group of people who had taken part in the EAPPI programme. Its sponsors included Christian Aid, CAFOD and Friends of Sabeel UK.

The chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), the Reverend David Gifford, said that the conference had “the potential of becoming yet another anti-Jewish meeting, creating more anxiety and distrust between the north-east Jewish community and the Church”. Then the Board of Deputies of British Jews chimed in saying that the EAPPI was “partisan” and “anti-Israel”.

Let’s be clear what the EAPPI is actually about:

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. When they return home, EAs campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.

The EAPPI programme was set up by the World Council of Churches in response to a call by the churches of Jerusalem. Its mission includes engaging in public policy advocacy and standing in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the illegal occupation. Few people except those who support the brutal Israeli regime would disagree with the programme’s principles and objectives. And few, surely, would condemn the humanitarian work the EAPPI carries out with great courage in the face of criminal hostility. Nevertheless its success has whipped the usual suspects into an orchestrated frenzy.

As reported in the Jewish Chronicle, John Dinnen, whose motion sparked the Synod debate, pointed out that well-known Jewish groups such as Jews for Justice for Palestine and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition [ICAHD] are entirely supportive of EAPPI, and that five per cent of EAPPI volunteers are Jewish “which is a higher ratio than the number of Jews in England”.

But despite having the moral high ground Wharton caved in and decided not to attend the conference “for the sake of good relations between all the faith communities in Newcastle”. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, Seamus Cunningham, also decided not to attend. He told the Jewish Chronicle that he had become aware “that many Jewish people in the north-east were angry and upset”. Perhaps the angry and upset should go themselves to the West Bank and experience the behaviour of their brethren towards Palestinian women and children and the EAPPI volunteers.

Throughout his time on the archbishop’s throne Williams was mad-keen on interfaith dialogue, for what good it has done, and spent an inordinate amount of time with Chief Rabbi Sacks. At one point the Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post suggested that the chief rabbi had “in some respects eclipsed the archbishop as the religious voice of the country”.

This is the UK, remember, where Jews comprise just 0.5 per cent of the population and Muslims are eight times greater in number.

Nor was the Archbishop the best-known Christian, according to a survey three years ago. Harry Webb (aka Cliff Richard) beat him into second place . The survey made Cliff even “bigger than the Pope”, who trailed in seventh place.

Now we hear that the squeaky-clean, born-again-Christian megastar is to perform in Israel in July, and the Israeli media are making a meal of it. Does none of these pious dudes understand the appalling, inhuman situation out there?

I’m not sorry to see the back of Rowan Williams – a good guy but not the right man at this time. And what are we to make of his replacement, archbishop number 105, who will be enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral in March? Justin Welby is touted as an expert in conflict resolution, but he comes from nowhere and is not known for his concern about the Holy Land. His grandfather was a Jewish immigrant and Welby was Bishop of Durham for barely five minutes before landing this top job.

The Jewish Chronicle reported that Welby last year helped mount a Holocaust Memorial Day exhibition in Liverpool Cathedral and – wait for it – abstained in last summer’s vote at the Anglican Synod which endorsed the EAPPI.

In my view, anyone who cannot bring himself to give wholehearted backing to a worthy humanitarian project like EAPPI shouldn’t be leading a great Christian church.

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Father Roy writes:

The Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders listed below have declared their commitment to mobilizing broad public support for U.S. leadership for peace in the Holy Land.  They declared:  “We will mobilize the strong support that exists in churches, synagogues and mosques across the country.”   Key word: “mobilize“.   Peace, Roy

Twilight of Hope for Israeli-Palestinian Peace
January 2013

Twilight has fallen on the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  As Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders committed to peace, we urge immediate, sustained U.S. leadership before darkness falls on the hopes for a peaceful resolution.

We recently witnessed shadows of dusk.  We mourn for the lives lost and shattered during the violence that gripped southern Israel and Gaza. What we have seen, recently and before, will keep happening if movement towards a viable two state-solution continues to stagnate.  The status quo is unsustainable and dangerous to both Israelis and Palestinians.  Now is not the time for another cycle of recriminations.  It is time to break the cycle of violence with bold initiatives for peace.

The current dangerous stalemate, including the legacy of past failed peacemaking efforts, undermines our security and that of others, destabilizes the region, fuels terrorism and extremism, allows continuing Israeli settlement expansion, and prolongs Palestinian disunity.    These realities and the absence of negotiations threaten to kill the prospect of a viable two-state peace agreement, the only realistic solution to the conflict.

As people of faith, we proclaim that we should never underestimate what is possible.  Egypt and the United States helped achieve a ceasefire in Gaza. With the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians can achieve a lasting peace.  A new dawn is possible.

As members of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI), we affirm President Obama’s support for a negotiated two-state peace agreement that provides for a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.

We know the challenges are daunting, but we believe a bold new initiative for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement should be an immediate priority of the new Administration in 2013.  We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides. Our nation has unique leverage and credibility in the region.  Indeed, no past progress towards peace has occurred in this conflict without U.S. leadership, facilitation or staunch support.   Once again, we need active, fair and firm U.S. leadership to help break the current deadlock and to achieve a two-state peace agreement now before it is too late.

The Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders of NILI are committed to mobilizing broad public support for U.S. leadership for peace. We will mobilize the strong support that exists in churches, synagogues and mosques across the country.

Twilight is upon us; but the hope for a new dawn remains.  Let us together bring the new light of hope and work for negotiations leading to a final status agreement.

List of Endorsers (Organizations for identification only)

Christian Leaders:

Bishop Richard E. Pates, D.D., Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington
Bishop Denis J. Madden, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore
Archbishop Vicken Aykasian, Director, Ecumenical Affairs, Armenian Orthodox Church in America
Fr. Mark Arey, Director, Office of Ecumenical Affairs, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Kathryn Mary Lohre, President, National Council of Churches of Christ USA
Bishop Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church
Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Reverend Geoffrey Black, General Minister & President, United Church of Christ
Reverend Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister, President, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)
Bishop Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church
Richard Stearns, President, World Vision US
Reverend Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries, Board Member, World Vision US
David Neff, Editorial Vice-President, Christianity Today
John Buchanan, Editor/Publisher, The Christian Century

Jewish Leaders:

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Peter Knobel, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Elliot Dorff,  Ph.D. Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, American Jewish University
Rabbi Burt Visotzky
Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Muslim Leaders:

Imam Mohammed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America
Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America
Naeem Baig, Executive Director, Islamic Circle of North America
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder of the ASMA Society and the Cordoba Initiative
Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain, Georgetown University
Dawud Assad, President Emeritus, Council of Mosques, USA
Eide Alawan, Interfaith Office for Outreach, Islamic Center of America
Iftekhar A. Hai, Founding Director, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance

Visit the NILI website: www.nili-mideastpeace.org…

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America, it seems, is ever more frequently taking the back-seat in Middle-East peace negotiations. The Arab League are taking things in hand, and now the Patriarch of Moscow has entered the fray!

Certainly Russia has been playing a key role in the Syrian crisis – preventing the West from formally sending in troops to topple Assad. Perhaps the Russian church can play a role in helping to mitigate further human-rights abuses?

Father Dave

P.S. It is worth noting from the report below that it has been since the West ‘liberated’ Iraq that 300,000 Christians have had to flee persecution there.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow

source: www.globalresearch.ca/patriarch-kirill-worried-by-plight-of-christians-from-libya-and-egypt-to-syria/5319956…

Sectarian Violence and the Plight of Christians in Libya, Palestine, Egypt and Syria: Moscow Patriarch

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill said he was concerned by the plight of Christian communities in the Middle East during a meeting with the Lebanese President Michel Sulayman on Monday.

“We see Christians fleeing Middle Eastern countries, and we consider it a threat to peace and security, especially a threat to inter-religious peace in Lebanon and other states,” the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said.

Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians among all Middle Eastern nations, though no official figures have been available since the last census in 1926. Many Syrian Christians, who fled the ongoing civil conflict in the country, have settled in Lebanese border towns.

“I would like to assure you that the Russian Orthodox Church is ready to assist in solving the complicated issues that we have just discussed,” the patriarch said.

In the early 20th century, about 20 percent of the Middle East population were Christians, but the figure has now dwindled to around five percent.

According to Terry Waite, a Church of England envoy and a hostage negotiator in Lebanon, many Christians were forced to flee their homes after the Arab Spring, including in Syria, Egypt and Libya. The Christian population is also dwindling in the Palestinian Territories, while in Iraq over 300,000 Christians have fled persecution since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

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The letter re-published below has been drafted by a variety of prominent clergy in the US Episcopal church and has supporting signatures from prominent international Anglicans such as Desmond Tutu!

The letter has not been received well by the current Episcopal leadership (see this article). On the contrary, the authors have been heavily criticised for trying to circumvent due process!

It never ceases to appall me how quickly the church becomes just another bureaucracy, tied down in the red-tape of ‘due process’! Perhaps Jesus and the Apostles should have formed a committee to decide on the fate of that poor woman caught in adultery (John 8)?

Father Dave

source: episcopaldigitalnetwork.com…

Episcopal Voices of Conscience

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 21, 2013

A Prophetic Challenge to the Executive Council

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”-  Martin Luther King , Jr. August 28, 1963  Washington, D.C.

Today as we celebrate the life and witness of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., we affirm once more that we will continue to build on his dream of a fully inclusive America, “where we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last!  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Today we also want to invoke Dr. King’s call for justice on the land where Jesus lived his earthly ministry, the holy land that is precious to all Jews, Christians, and Muslims – the people of Abraham. We affirm that God intends for Israeli Jews and Palestinians to live together in a just peace. Dr. King reminds us that justice must be the arbiter of this conflict, and we add that truth must be its accompanist. This is the justice Jesus called for when he said, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, … to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

Just as this church stood with South Africa and Namibia during the dark days of Apartheid, so we recognize that we need to be standing with our sister and brother Palestinians who have endured an Apartheid that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has described as worse than it was in South Africa.  All peoples who have experienced oppression, including indigenous peoples who have known what it is to be dispossessed of their land, understand the Palestinian issue.

Israel must be held accountable for allowing an occupation for 45 years that suffocates the dreams of freedom that Palestinians hold every bit as much as African Americans sought on that day when Dr. King told the world that he had a dream. Occupation cannot be justified as a tool of security. Occupation is its own form of violence, a prescription for frustration and rage among those shackled under its harsh restraints.

We ask the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church to look carefully at the full body of our Church’s policy on Israel and Palestine, and to implement those policies whenever the opportunity arises. The Episcopal Church General Convention held in July, 2012, adopted resolution A015 which reads in part: “Resolved, That that the General Convention reaffirms Resolution 1991 – A149, “Urge a Full Accounting of the Use of Foreign Aid to the Middle East,” adopted by the 70th General Convention,” which reads in part:  “require(s) the State of Israel to account to the Government of the United States for all aid to Israel…in compliance with the Foreign Assistance Act.”

As elected leaders of The Episcopal Church, we ask Executive Council to:

  • Immediately send a message to Congress that the Episcopal Church supports our 15 ecumenical colleagues, who include the church leadership of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and United Church of Christ denominations, that wrote to Congress October 5, 2012, calling for accountability of Israel’s use of foreign aid from our government. The voice of The Episcopal Church is woefully missing in the request our colleagues made to Congress.
  • Immediately move forward with our Church’s corporate engagement policy so that our financial resources are not being used to support the infrastructure of this suffocating occupation.
  • We respectfully ask for a public accounting of the Executive Council’s work on these matters no later than the meeting of Council June 8-10, 2013.

The truth that is so readily seen worldwide, except among our nation’s leaders, is that Israel imposes a matrix of control over the occupied Palestinian territories, locating Jewish settlements on prime Palestinian land, building segregated roads forbidden to Palestinians to connect the settlers to Israel proper, erecting a wall that causes havoc in the daily lives of Palestinians and serves as another pretext to occupy yet more land. We see check points that are used to control the movements of people on their own land where tactics of bullying, intimidation, and detention are practiced; and where the demolition of homes and the uprooting of olive tree orchards are commonplace causing further humiliation and insult, along with the destruction of livelihoods. We see what was once Palestinian East Jerusalem being subsumed through Israel’s settlement policy. We see the teeming population of Gaza held under confinement on land, in the air, and at sea.

We ask today why is it that Congress and the White House are unable to see the injustice of the occupation, where Israel is the oppressor, and the Palestinians the oppressed? Why is it that our government could not recognize the rights of Palestinians to status as a non-member observer state at the United Nations? Why do our country’s leaders embarrass us as a nation by being on the short end of the UN vote, 138-9, and expose our irrational bias? We are mystified that Washington lives in a bubble of unreality in its blind support of an immense injustice perpetrated every day on the Palestinian people, and foments anger across the Middle East and the world.

Just as Dr. King spoke to the throngs on the Mall of our nation’s Capitol so, too, do his words ring true for Palestinians: “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells.  And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

We believe, as does our Church, in the right of the state of Israel to exist, and we are aware of the threats against it from multiple sources, which saddens and concerns us. We assure all Jews in Israel and everywhere that we too share a commitment to Israel’s security and peace even as we insist that the state of Israel end this miserable occupation, which diminishes both the oppressed and the oppressor.  We affirm our commitment to non-violence and reject the use of violence from either side. We oppose the indiscriminate use of rockets fired into Israeli communities as we oppose bombs being dropped on Gaza by Israeli fighter jets. We affirm the right of Israel to be at peace with her neighbors, but insist it be through the prism of justice as we believe Dr. King would insist.

As our Church stated in 1991, we differentiate between anti-Semitism, which we abhor, and legitimate criticism of the state of Israel, especially as Israel imposes an unjust system of occupation upon another people. We affirm the right of Palestinians to non-violent resistance to the occupation just as African Americans resisted the inhumanity of Jim Crow and segregation.

And just as Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, we hear from Palestinians who have a dream. We hear from Israeli Jews of goodwill that share that dream. May both peoples dream as Martin Luther King, Jr. did: “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

We turn to our elected Church leaders, the Executive Council, to take up the mantle of justice and truth and undertake the long standing witness The Episcopal Church has made over these last three decades.  We ask you, our elected leaders, to give voice to our long held policies, remembering that the arc of history bends towards justice.

Signed- Titles are for identification purposes only and do not imply organizational endorsement

Canon Bonnie Anderson, D.D., President of the Episcopal Church House of Deputies, 2006-2012

Owanah Anderson, citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Right Reverend Edmond L. Browning, former Presiding Bishop, 1986-1997, Current President of Sabeel, North America

Patti Browning , wife of Edmond Browning and long time activist for Palestinian justice

The Right Reverend Steven Charleston, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska, retired

The Right Reverend Leo Frade, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida

The Reverend Canon Brian J. Grieves, former Peace and Justice Officer, The Episcopal Church 1988-2009

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean, Washington National Cathedral

Diane B. Pollard, Senior Deputy to General Convention, Diocese of New York, 1979 – 2012

The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, retired, current Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC

The Reverend Canon Edward Rodman, John Seeley Stone Professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry, Episcopal Divinity School

The Reverend Winnie Varghese, Rector, St. Mark’s in- the-Bowery, New York, Executive Council 2006-2012

Supported by Internationals endorsers:

Dr. Jenny Te Paa – Dean, Te Rau Kahikatea, St. Johns College, Auckland, New Zealand

The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu – Archbishop Emeritus, Cape Town, Patron of Sabeel, International

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I guess it should not surprise us to see both the Israeli and the Palestinian governments vying for support from the Christian West by demonstrating their love for Christmas.

Both governments released official videos this Christmas (featured below), highlighting how Christmas-friendly (and Christian-friendly) their governments are.

Netanyahu’s video is very explicit about the way his country embraces religious minorities in contrast to so many of his intolerant neighbours. Frankly, I find his rhetoric as sickening as it is misleading.

Certainly I would prefer to be a Christian living in Israel than in some of the West’s other staunch Middle-Eastern allies, such as Saudi Arabia or Jordan, but the truth is that the current Israeli government has done little to stop the recent ‘price tag’ attacks by settlers against churches and monasteries. Netanyahu has voiced official disapproval but at the same time he has enlarged the settlements from which these attacks are carried out!

(click here if you can’t see the video)

The Palestinian video is wordless. I wish it said more. At least it does illustrate what the majority of Christians in the West seem to have forgotten – namely, that the Christian population of Israel/Palestine is almost entirely Palestinian.

(click here if you can’t see the video)