Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories by Ahron Bregman: a Summary by Colin Chapman

‘This is the story of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula since its sweeping victory over the combined forces of its Jordanian, Syrian and Egyptian neighbours in the Six Day War of 1967… The story that follows is about the politics and practice of the Israeli occupation …’

 This summary of the main themes – with extended quotations – answers questions like these:

– Is Israel justified in arguing that it is not an ‘occupation’?

– How has Israel managed the occupation? What has it meant in practice for ordinary people?

– Why did Israel withdraw from Sinai (after Camp David 1999) and from Gaza (2005), but not from the West Bank or the Golan Heights?

– Is there any hope of the occupation coming to an end? Continue reading

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Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of US Arab Relations 1820-2001 by Ussama Makdisi. A Summary by Colin Chapman

A Summary by Colin Chapman

It’s impossible to understand the present American policies regarding Israel and the Middle East without understanding the previous history of US – Arab relations. Here is a book which explains what Americans (and especially American Christians) need to know about this history.It has three major themes:

  1. The attitude of Arabs towards the US in the 19thcentury was overwhelmingly positive

‘Christian and Muslim Arabs were able to draw a picture of the US as a benevolent great power that was neither imperialist nor covetous of the resources or lands of the Ottoman Empire.’ (3)

‘American missionaries, not soldiers, constituted the first face of America to Arabs …’ and they built up a ‘reservoir of good will.’ (3) Continue reading

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Three Kinds of Faith in Jesus

Three questions: The Beaufort scale measures…. wind speed. The Richter scale measures…. earthquakes. The Engels scale measures… faith. That’s right – faith. The Engel scale was developed by James F. Engel, as a way of representing the journey from no knowledge of God, through to spiritual maturity as a Christian believer.

Everyone in the world, and everyone who has ever lived, is somewhere on the Engel’s scale.The Engel’s scale is helpful in identifying where people are in their spiritual journey and how best to help lead them to Jesus Christ. Continue reading

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How Can I Overcome Failure?

I wonder what you consider to have been the biggest business failure of all time? Toys R Us? Poundworld? Blockbuster? HMV? Jessops? Comet? Remember Habitat or Oddbins? And I forgot Readers Digest, MFI, Woolworths, Homebase, Poloroid and or course, MG Rover. But the biggest failure? Or perhaps rather the company with the greatest number of failures? How about Dyson? If Hoover became synonymous with the vacuum cleaner, Dyson has become synonymous with… the dual cyclone, bagless, vacuum cleaner, the bladeless fans, the uniball wheelbarrow, the quickest, most efficient hand driers in the world, the most powerful and lightest rechargeable vacuum cleaner and … probably the greatest number of failures in the world as well. Check their website out and they admit they are failures – indeed they are proud of it:

“Most people think testing is all about durability and reliability. Of course that’s a big part of it. But before that happens – before you even have something to beat the hell out of – you need an idea that works. Dyson engineers get those ideas often by trying the ridiculous. Most of the time it ends in failure. That’s good. Failure sparks thinking and the extraordinary.”

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How to Develop an Umbrella Faith


A small farming village was threatened with drought because the rains had failed to arrive. On a hot and dry Sunday, the pastor told his congregation, “There isn’t anything that will save us except to pray for rain. Go home, pray, believe, and come back next Sunday ready to thank God for sending rain.” The people returned to church the following Sunday. As they sat down the Pastor gently rebuked them. “We can’t worship today because you do not yet believe,” he said. “But we prayed” they protested, “and we do believe.” “Believe?” he responded. “Then where are your umbrellas?”  Faith is made visible by our actions.  So let me ask you this morning “Where are your umbrellas?” Do you have umbrella faith?

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I Have a Dream: Al Quds Day 2018

I have a dream. I have a dream. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

It was August 1963. At the height of the civil rights protests in the USA. Dr Martin Luther King gave a speech in Washington.  A powerful speech against hatred, against racism, against segregation, for justice, for equality, for integration.   A speech that has inspired millions of people all over the world. To dream of a different future. And not just to dream. But to strive to make that future a reality.

Imagine if Martin Luther King had been a Palestinian. Imagine he was speaking here this afternoon. What would Dr King say? I believe his speech would be very similar. Let me quote a few sentences from his speech in 1963. Notice how prophetic it is today. I have simply substituted the word Palestinian for Negro.  Continue reading

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Jesus and your Confirmation Bias

Bertrand Russell once said, “Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.” A recent research study at the University of Iowa, seems to confirm that. Researchers found that people are reluctant to change their minds and adapt their views, even when new information has been presented. This holds true even if they stand to lose money.

The phenomenon is called “confirmation bias” and apparently operates at a subconscious level at all times. The new research confirms numerous previous studies which show people invariably stick to their original viewpoint even when new facts contradict those beliefs.  When faced with facts that don’t fit, we tend to ignore or change them to fit our beliefs.[1]

In our gospel reading this morning, Mark 3:20-35, we see confirmation bias at work. Faced with the same facts, people reach very different conclusions about Jesus. Continue reading

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Jesus the Peacemaker

“Treacherous colleagues, competitive friends, bloody-minded commuters – it’s a war out there. And according to Robert Greene, it’s a conflict we’re ill-equipped to deal with. After analysing the moves of history’s great military leaders, he’s written a rulebook to achieving victory in life’s daily battles.”[1]

Spanning world civilizations, synthesizing dozens of political, philosophical, and religious texts and thousands of years of violent conflict, The 33 Strategies of War is a comprehensive guide to the subtle social game of everyday life informed by the most ingenious and effective military principles in war. Abundantly illustrated with examples from history, including the folly and genius of everyone from Napoleon Bonaparte to Margaret Thatcher, from Shaka the Zulu to Lord Nelson, and from Hannibal to Ulysses S. Grant, each of the thirty-three chapters outlines a strategy that will help you win life’s wars. Learn the offensive strategies that require you to maintain the initiative and negotiate from a position of strength, or the defensive strategies designed to help you respond to dangerous situations and avoid unwinnable wars.[2] Continue reading

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The Spirit of Pentecost Today

You will probably be well aware by now of a new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is being introduced later this month. This is about your data protection and privacy. You have probably received several emails and letters from organisations and charities asking you to respond if you wish to continue to receive communication from them. If you don’t, they will no longer be able to contact you, legally. As the founder and director of a small Christian charity, Peacemaker Trust, www.peacemakers.ngoit has consumed a lot of time and energy to comply. But as the recipient of a large amount of junk mail, I think it is a positive step. We are fascinated when secrets are revealed in the media – except it seems when they are, our own.

Those deeply personal things that matter the most to us – our children, our family, our bodies, our emails, our text messages, our age, our photos, our income, our bank accounts, we keep these private, and in many cases wisely so. The more important, the more personal, the more sensitive the information, the more likely, we will want to keep it private, confidential, or concealed. And many people feel the same way about their religious faith. Its personal. Its private. And it remains concealed.

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The New Antisemitism

Ten years ago, in September 2008, an anonymous ‘Mordechai Maverick’ sent a defamatory message about me to everyone in our church Facebook group. The message drew attention to a new but anonymous blog called Seismic Shock (intended apparently to sound like my name), which described me as a “dangerous anti- Semite” and promised to publish articles to expose me. The anonymous author(s) then began to write articles about me on a weekly basis, sometimes daily. These were subsequently re-posted on other websites such as Rosh Pina Projectand Harry’s Place. In a one year period September 2008-to July 2009 well over one hundred articles about me were published on the Seismic Shockwebsite.

Surrey police took an interest and provided me and my family with additional security. On 29th November 2009, I received a report from West Yorkshire Police to advise that they had identified and visited an individual and asked him to desist writing defamatory material about me and remove from his website material of that nature. I was asked to contact them if I became aware of further articles by the same individual “causing you harassment”. Despite the fact that at the time I did not know the name of the author, he subsequently went public and then accused me of using the police to suppress free speech on the internet. Continue reading

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