Category Archives: Israel

Faith Groups Under Attack: Hilary Wise

The Israeli government and a variety of Zionist organisations have long been pouring huge resources into “hasbara,” meaning “advocacy” or “propaganda” in Hebrew. This involves both promoting a positive image of Israel and hounding and intimidating those they say are guilty of the “new anti-Semitism,” which amounts in practice to any criticism of Israeli policies and actions.

The bodies involved in this hasbara campaign range from the immensely powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to internet-based organisations such as Honest Reporting, BBC Watch and the Jewish Internet Defence Force, and poisonous personal blogs.

Christian churches, having by definition a special interest in the Holy Land and what is happening there, are increasingly coming under fire from such sources for noting and deploring Israel’s policies of oppression and dispossession, which affect Christians and Muslims alike.

Methodists in the US and the UK have for years been outspoken in their concern over the plight of the Palestinian people. The report Justice for Palestine and Israel, presented to the 2010 Methodist conference, was harshly criticised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Chief Rabbi and the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ).

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The Bible, Israel and the Church in Korea

My book, Zion’s Christian Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and the Church has been published in Korean by Christian Literature Crusade (CLC).

You can download a PDF copy of Seven Biblical Answers (Korean).

And you can buy the book from Christian Literature Crusade (CLC) in Seoul.

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Conciliation with Board of Deputies of British Jews

I am very happy to announce that following meetings with conciliators appointed by the Bishop of Guildford, the complaint brought against me by the Board of Deputies of British Jews has been resolved on terms set out in the Conciliation Agreement.

Whilst pleased that this matter is now concluded, I am saddened that it has taken so long to reach this stage. Towards the end of 2011, concerns were raised about an article on my Facebook page which linked to a website named “the Ugly Truth.” In recognition of those concerns, I offered to meet leaders of the Jewish community but this offer was never taken up. Instead, in October 2012, Mr Arkush on behalf of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, made a formal complaint against me alleging “a clear and consistent pattern” of misconduct “unbecoming or inappropriate to the office a work of a clerk in Holy Orders”.

The Board of Deputies also took the unprecedented step of publishing it in full on their website. I refrained from publishing my formal Response until the complaint was resolved. I am therefore doing so today.

The complaint alleged that I had made anti-Semitic statements and had deliberately introduced my readers to anti-Semitic websites. I have always maintained that these allegations were untrue and am confident that I would have been vindicated had I been forced to contest them at a clergy disciplinary tribunal. That said, I am pleased that these issues have sensibly been resolved.

As many will be aware, I have long been an enthusiastic user of new media. The internet allows us to communicate with a mass audience at the press of a button, but with it comes the risk that we might publish our thoughts without adequately reflecting on our choice of words or how they might be interpreted. I will do all I can to guard against this risk in the future. Whilst the web is a rich source of reference, it also contains a great deal of material with which one would not wish to be associated. It is important that those using new media to conduct political debate ensure that they do not inadvertently associate them with such material.  It is for this reason that I have undertaken to take greater care over links in the future. In addition, my blog now contains a disclaimer identical to that which appears on the Board of Deputies’ Fair Play website.

It is my sincere wish that disputes such as this will be avoided in the future. The conciliation agreement includes a number of principles that we agree those engaged in political debate should follow. They emphasize that free speech does not cease to be legitimate simply because it might cause offence to some, whilst at the same time affirming that care and sensitivity should be employed in the use of language. As someone who has been virulently attacked in the past for my political and theological views, I will do my best to abide by these principles, but my hope is that my critics will do so too.

I care passionately about the safety of the Jewish people and the right of Israel to exist within internationally agreed borders. I have always opposed racism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial as well as Islamophobia and the denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination and will continue to do so.

Jesus calls his followers to be peacemakers and to fulfil a ministry of reconciliation. The New Testament reinforces the mandate of the Jewish prophet Micah, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

Revd Dr Stephen Sizer
Christ Church, Virginia Water

23rd October 2013

Form 2 Stephen Sizer
Response to the Complaint of Misconduct from Stephen Sizer
Letters of Support
Conciliation Agreement

Jeremy Moodey of Embrace the Middle East writes “Stephen … has an outstanding legal bill of almost £4,000 as he has sought to respond to the BoD’s bullying. The defence fund is in my name, audited by Steve Leah. Please give what you can to support the right of free speech.”

Sort Code: 08-93-00, account no 80407856.

For international money transfers, the additional details are:

Co-op Bank SWIFT number CP BK GB 22.
Bank’s head office address: The Co-operative Bank PLC, 1 Balloon Street, Manchester, M60 4EP.

 

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Christian Zionism: The New Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace

At least one in four American Christians surveyed recently by Christianity Today magazine said that they believe it is their biblical responsibility to support the nation of Israel. This view is known as Christian Zionism. The Pew Research Center put the figure at 63 per cent among white evangelicals. Christian Zionism is pervasive within mainline American evangelical, charismatic and independent denominations including the Assemblies of God, Pentecostals and Southern Baptists, as well as many of the independent mega-churches. It is less prevalent within the historic denominations, which show a greater respect for the work of the United Nations, support for human rights, the rule of international law and empathy with the Palestinians.

The origins of the movement can be traced to the early 19th century when a group of eccentric British Christian leaders began to lobby for Jewish restoration to Palestine as a necessary precondition for the return of Christ. The movement gained traction from the middle of the 19th century when Palestine became strategic to British, French and German colonial interests in the Middle East. Proto-Christian Zionism therefore preceded Jewish Zionism by more than 50 years. Some of Theodore Herzl’s strongest advocates were Christian clergy.

Christian Zionism as a modern theological and political movement embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism. It has become deeply detrimental to a just peace between Palestine and Israel. It propagates a worldview in which the Christian message is reduced to an ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ’s love and justice today.

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Len Rogers on Vindication

Dear Stephen,

I await your vindication. You are a messenger just like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela. Unlike them you may find that in this life you will not be accepted except by a few but in years to come the world will realize you were a champion of justice and human rights. Do what is right in God’s eyes. May the Holy Spirit give you strength. Keep your roots and values in God’s word in a loving relationship with Jesus. You are always in my thoughts and prayers.

Your friend and brother in Christ,

Len Rodgers

Director Emeritus of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding
Founder/President-Emeritus Venture International
Founder of World Vision Middle East

And a few other friends

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Church of Scotland Censors ‘Inheritance of Abraham’ Report

In May, the Church of Scotland published a major report on Israel-Palestine entitled the Inheritance of Abraham. Under pressure from the Zionist Lobby, however, the report was swiftly removed from their website and a revision promised.

Read the original report here and the heavily redacted revision here with changes highlighted.

A ‘before and after’ comparison is both illuminating and depressing. It shows that what was promised would be a minor rewrite of the introduction, to provide “context”, actually became a major rewrite of the whole document.

It appears the Church of Scotland has censored itself and limited its own theological discussion under intense pressure from the Israeli ambassador, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities and the Council of Christians and Jews.

In particular:

  • The section dealing with the writing of Mark Braverman has been heavily edited so as to remove his most penetrating comments on the Holocaust and Jewish ‘specialness’.
  • A reference to Jerusalem as ‘the most contentious religious and political issue’ has been deleted.
  • The quote from Ben Gurion (‘The Bible is our mandate’) has been removed.
  • All references to the book of Joshua in relation to the occupation of the land have been removed.
  • The reference to “the violence used to deprive some 750,000 Palestinian people from their homes” has been toned down.
  • References to the State of Israel have been amended so as to dilute criticism of the state and to remove any suggestion that it is ‘an ethnic democracy’.
  • The reference to Luke 4:25-30 (Jesus’ rejection by the Jews in Nazareth) has been deleted, along with the sentence ‘Jesus offered a radical critique of Jewish specialness and exclusivism, but the people of Nazareth were not ready for it’.
  • The reference to Paul’s writings about the Jews in Romans 11 has been deleted, along with the sentence ‘No part of the New Testament gives any support to a political state of Israel beyond that to any other state. All are challenged to the same requirements for justice and the protection of human rights for all their inhabitants’.

The only part where the revised report has been strengthened is the very final sentence, where the Church of Scotland says it should urge the UK government to “remove existing illegal settlements” in addition to stopping further settlement expansion.

In no sense did the original report disenfranchise anyone from legitimate rights to citizenship in Israel and Palestine, merely the claim made by some Zionists that the Bible mandates an exclusive right to the land for the Jewish people alone.

On the contrary the Hebrew Scriptures repeatedly insist that the land belongs to God and that residence was always conditional. For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23).

The following notes are a summary of chapter 4 of my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers.

They amplify and explain the significance and purpose of the Promised Land,  its geographical boundaries, the conditions for residency, the nature of the Kingdom and concept of land in the New Testament.

Read more here or you can download a copy as a PDF. The Promised Land from the Nile to the Euphrates.

A summary of the book as a whole is also available entitled Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions.

Marc Ellis has written a useful commentary on the Church of Scotland report Exile and the prophetic: the Church of Scotland weighs in

“Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing: “Surely the great houses will become desolate.” (Isaiah 5:8-9)

The losers? Genuine interfaith dialogue between Jews, Christians and Muslims, willing to engage honestly with our sacred texts, openly share our theological convictions and aspirations for a just and lasting peace in Israel-Palestine based on justice, mercy and reconciliation.

The indigenous Church in Palestine are learning to our shame that they cannot rely on the wider church to advocate for them or speak biblically and theologically on their behalf.

Watch this space for the Kairos UK Report due in August. No doubt its authors will come under the same pressure.

See also:

BBC News: Church of Scotland revises controversial Israel report
Christian Today: Church of Scotland releases revised report on Israel
Christian Today: Church clarifies its position on Israel
Church of Scotland: The Inheritance of Abraham? A report on the ‘promised land’

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Council of Christians and Jews Initiative to be Welcomed

Now that the dust has settled on the decision of the Church of Scotland to withdraw their report, The Inheritance of Abraham, temporarily, so that the foreword can be rephrased after complaints from some Jewish groups, the initiative of CCJ to call a meeting of both sides to resolve misunderstandings and find common ground is to be welcomed.

Some of the reporting has been intemperate to say the least. In the Jewish Chronicle, for example, we read ‘This church report on Israel sets the clock back 70 years’ , ‘A damaging document‘ and SCoJeC Rebukes Church of Scotland Over Report. Sadly, Scottish Friends of Israel claim ‘Once again racism raises its ugly head in the form of anti-Semitism at the Church of Scotland.’

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The Inheritance of Abraham?

The Church of Scotland is to be commended for their report, The Inheritance of Abraham? published a week or so ago but swiftly removed under pressure.

In no sense does the report disenfranchise anyone from legitimate rights to citizenship in Israel and Palestine, merely the claim made by some Zionists that the Bible mandates an exclusive right to the land for the Jewish people alone.

On the contrary the Hebrew Scriptures repeatedly insist that the land belongs to God and that residence was always conditional and must be shared. For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23).

The following notes explain the significance and purpose of the Promised Land,  its geographical boundaries, the conditions for residency, the nature of the Kingdom and concept of land in the New Testament. They are a summary of chapter 4 of my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers. You can download a copy of the chapter The Promised Land from the Nile to the Euphrates. A summary of the book as a whole is also available entitled Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions.

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Over 1000 Clergy and Laity Co-Sign Letter to Archbishop of Canterbury in Support of EAPPI

9th April 2013

Dear Archbishop Justin,

We write as representatives of organisations and as individuals who are deeply involved in the search for peace with justice in the Holy Land to express our deep concern over the remarks that have been attributed to you in a recent interview with the newspaper “Jewish News”. Amongst the aspects of the interview with which we were most saddened were that you regretted not voting against the General Synod decision to support EAPPI.

As you know, the main criticism that was levelled against EAPPI before the vote was, in the words of one of their more strident opponents, that it created “a cohort of very partisan but very motivated anti-Israel advocates who have almost no grasp of the suffering of normal Israelis”.

However, EAPPI seeks a just solution to the problems in the Holy Land that will benefit both Palestinians and Israelis. It operates in terms of what it calls “principled impartiality” with its Code of Conduct stating: “We do not take sides in this conflict and we do not discriminate against anyone but we are not neutral in terms of principles of human rights and international humanitarian law. We stand faithfully with the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. We want to serve all parties in this conflict in a fair and unbiased manner in word and action.”

In our experience, all Ecumenical Accompaniers are scrupulous in their determination to be fair to all sides in their work, as befits both the programme and the senior positions they often hold as Church leaders, in the legal profession, as teachers and many other areas.

Its participants are given a full briefing on a wide variety of Israeli perspectives including taking an extended tour of the Holocaust Museum and travel to Sderot to meet Israeli people affected by rockets fired from Gaza. Their discussions with Israelis also include briefings from those who work with Palestinians most directly – some of whom wrote most powerfully in support of EAPPI when it came under its most sustained attack.

One of these was Professor Jeff Halper, who wrote as an Israeli Jew and as one of the founders of EAPPI in Geneva to remind us of the particular challenges that EAPPI addresses in the Palestinian West Bank. He says that many of these have no parallel for Israelis, “where children hardly need to be escorted to school and where children of settlers are escorted by the Israeli army, and Palestinian children walking miles through the hills of Hebron to school and being regularly attacked by thugs from the settlements armed with baseball bats and guns. Anyone who tries to equate the “sides” ignores the immense power differential created, among other things, by the Israeli Occupation. (Last time I looked, the Palestinians were not occupying Tel Aviv or demolishing Israeli homes.)” He went on to say that “as the head of an Israeli peace and human rights organization that tries to stop Israel’s wanton demolition of Palestinian homes (27,000 so far since 1967, almost none for “security” reasons), I call on the Synod to give the EAPPI all the support it can.”

It need hardly be added that some of the organisations who have attacked EAPPI most vociferously have seldom been noted for their own impartiality in the Middle East conflict, promoting as they do their “Speak out for Israel” campaign.

Many of us are frequent visitors to the Holy Land and are passionate in our belief that peace with justice will only come when all communities have their need for security, equality and dignity addressed. But this will not come whilst discriminatory laws, home demolitions, planning restrictions, checkpoint and movement restrictions and enforced family separations persist. Indeed, we agree with the former Speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg that the constant building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, not only prevents the emergence of a viable Palestine but jeopardises the future of the state of Israel.

We welcome the news that you are to visit the Holy Land in June. In hoping that you get the opportunity for a comprehensive view of the conflict, we encourage you to visit Israelis from all sides of the spectrum of opinion, including those who are risking so much in the campaign to end the occupation. We also encourage you to visit Palestinians who are suffering behind the walls, including the Christian community in Bethlehem, the people of the Jordan Valley, those living in refugee camps such as Aida and Balata as well as the people of Gaza who are so often marginalised and forgotten. We also encourage you to visit with international lawyers, who can provide vital background on the legal obligations, such as in the 4th Geneva Convention, that a situation of Occupation imposes.

Please support those who are advocating for peace with justice, please support those who are risking their reputations and even their lives to oppose military domination of one by another and please speak out for those who oppose oppression. Above all, we ask you to hear the 2009 Kairos call of the Palestinian Christians, who ask “are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?”

This comes with our prayers, support and good wishes for your important ministry.

Yours sincerely,

Laura Abraham, Founder of the Peace Cycle
Issam Aburaya
Suzy Andrews
Revd John Angle
Revd Alan Ashton
Right Revd Riah Abu El Assal, retired Episcopal Bishop of Jerusalem
Revd Andrew Ashdown, Enham Team Rector
Fr Robert Assaly, Chair Canadian Friends of Sabeel
Revd Warren Bardsley, Methodist minister and former Ecumenical Accompanier
Leonard Beighton
Leila Bentley
Karen Chalk, former Ecumenical Accompanier and Administrator of ICAHD UK.
Revd Colin Chapman
Anne Clayton, Friends of Sabeel UK
Diane Conti
Janet Davies
Joy Davies
Rebecca Dawson
Verity Elson, St Andrew’s Church Cobham
Adam Estle, Executive Director, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding
Noushin Framke, Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church
Angus Geddes, member of Havant URC
Sharen Green
Professor Mary Grey, Emeritus Professor of Theology, University of Wales
Norma Hashim
Kamel Hawwash
Revd Dr Fiona Haworth, Chaplain, University of Worcester
Revd Canon Garth Hewitt, Honorary Canon of St George’s Cathedral Jerusalem
Donna Hicks, Convener, Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network
Revd Wendy Hough
Carol Hylkema, IPMN
Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
Barbara Ivy
Lucy Janigian
Revd Stuart Jennings, Methodist Minister and University Chaplain
Darlene Jones-Owens, Christians United for Peace
Keith Killough
Salaam Khoury
Stevie Krayer, signing as a concerned Jew
Revd Emma Langley, Priest in Charge of St Alban’s Church, Bristol.
Dibartolo Laurie
Dr Stephen Leah, Member of the Methodist Conference
Cilla Lynch
A.J. McDonald Jr. Christians United for Peace
Joy McKenzie
Audrey McKenzie
Elizabeth M. Molchany, USA, Attorney-at-law
Mary Morris, USA, former Ecumenical Accompanier
Jon Neall, former Ecumenical Accompanier
Michael Newbold
Revd Steve Openshaw, Ramsbottom and Edenfield Team Ministry
Revd Tom Patton, Methodist Minister and former Ecumenical Accompanier
Miranda Pinch, former Ecumenical Accompanier
Penny Potter
Dee Poujade, Ecumenical Accompanier
Ronan Quinn, Armagh, former Ecumenical Accompanier
Alexandra Pupo Quintino
Linda Ramsden, Director of ICAHD UK
Christine Robson
Len Rogers, Former Executive Director, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding
Revd Chris Rose
Revd Dr Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Virginia Water
Revd Alison Shaw, Vicar St Boniface, St Budeaux, Plymouth, Sabeel Peninsula
Philip & Denise Small
Andrew Smith
Colin South, Chair of Living Stones
Jake Terpstra
David Toorawa
Maggie Vicuna
Michaela Whitton, peace activist
Revd David Willis
Revd Simon Winn
Revd Anna Wright, Blyth Valley Team Ministry, Wenhaston

If you wish to add your signature to this letter please do so here

For more information on EAPPI

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Christ Church Hosts Jews for Jesus

On Palm Sunday we are delighted to welcome Yoel Ben David again as our guest speaker. Yoel was raised by his Jewish Moroccan Mother and Scottish father in England and France. After school in England, Yoel moved to Israel where he met Adel. When they married, Adel and Yoel were Orthodox Jews. A year later, when he was serving in the Israel Defence Force, they became believers in Jesus in Jerusalem.  Yoel joined Jews for Jesus staff in 2004 and since has led several outreaches in France, Israel and the USA and served in the UK during 2009. He returned to the London office of Jews for Jesus in July 2010 to assume his present responsibilities as Head of Evangelism.

See also Yoel on Y’Shua and the Harvest

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