Tag Archives: Palestine

Light Force: Brother Andrew

Reading this book may seriously put some at risk – at risk of facing latent prejudices and stereotypes caused by selective reading or biased reporting on the Middle East. I am delighted that Hodder has had the courage to publish Brother Andrew’s book Light Force in Britain, because it could not have been an easy decision. There will be many who will wish this book does not receive the wide readership it justly deserves. Elizabeth Elliott, for example, lost many ‘friends’ when she wrote her similarly controversial book, Furnace of the Lord (published in 1969 also incidentally by Hodder & Stoughton), in which she describes her empathy for the suffering of the Palestinians and her overriding concern for people rather than so called ‘prophecy’.

In his first book, God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew describes how the Lord provided an open door through the Iron Curtain enabling Western Christians to sustain and equip the suffering Church in Eastern Europe to withstand the onslaught of atheistic Communism. Eventually, however, he became too well known, a marked man. Brother Andrew was therefore led to focus his ministry on supporting another persecuted Church, this time in the Middle East, caught between Jewish Zionism and Islamic fundamentalism.

While many have succumbed to the temptation to make an all too brief visit and write yet another superficial account of their impressions of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Brother Andrew has waited 35 years to publish his diary, revealing with great candour, his many unpublicized visits to strengthen the suffering Church.

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The Bible and the Land: Gary Burge

Gary Burge has written not one but two short and very readable books for Zondervan – The Bible and the Land and Jesus, The Middle Eastern Storyteller. Both are about 110 pages long, easy to read and bursting with glorious photos and simple maps.

Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller

In Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller, the parables of Jesus come alive as never before when Gary uncovers the culture that gives them their deepest meaning. His expert, illustrated guide shows in everyday terms how the customs, literature and values of the ancient world can inform and grow your faith in today’s digital age.

Storytellers made history, and Jesus was the greatest of them all. But how can modern readers know what he actually meant in such iconic parables as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan? Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller combines the readability of a popular novel and the authority of scholarship to uncover the hidden meaning of references too often misinterpreted or left shrouded in mystery. The first volume in the Ancient Context, Ancient Faith series drives to the heart of readers’ desire to know the culture behind the Scriptures. Colorful maps, photos, and illustrations enhance the context of the times that shaped Jesus’ vivid communication of core truths. This expert guide is an invaluable resource for study groups, teachers, leaders, and inquiring Christians who want to dig deeper and enrich their spiritual life.

The Bible and the Land

In The Bible and the Land Gary offers a rare exploration into the world of the Bible and how its land, culture, and traditions contribute to a unique understanding of a life with God. Insights into numerous biblical passages reveal how cultural assumptions lie behind countless biblical stories.

As the early church moved away from the original cultural setting of the Bible and found its home in the west, Christians lost touch with the ancient world of the Bible. Cultural habits, the particulars of landscape, even the biblical languages soon were unknown. And the cost was enormous: Christians began reading the Bible as foreigners and missing the original images and ideas that shaped a biblical worldview.

This new book by New Testament scholar Gary Burge launches a multivolume series that explores how the culture of the biblical world is presupposed in story after story of the Bible. Using cultural anthropology, ancient literary sources, and a selective use of modern Middle Eastern culture, Burge reopens the ancient biblical story and urges us to look at them through new lenses. Here he explores primary motifs from the biblical landscape—geography, water, rock, bread, etc.—and applies them to vital stories from the Bible.

Listen in on a Q & A with Gary over these two new books:

Q:     Does culture always affect one’s understanding of spiritual life?

A:      Every community of Christians throughout history has framed its understanding of spiritual life within the context of its own culture. Byzantine Christians living in the fifth century and Puritan Christians living over a thousand years later used the world in which they lived to work out the principles of Christian faith, life, and identity. The reflex to build house churches, monastic communities, medieval cathedrals, steeple-graced and village-centered churches, or auditoriums with theater seating will always spring from the dominant cultural forces around us.

If it is true that every culture provides a framework in which the spiritual life is understood, the same must be said about the ancient world. The setting of Jesus and Paul in the Roman Empire was likewise shaped by cultural forces quite different from our own. If we fail to understand these cultural forces, we will fail to understand many of the things Jesus and Paul taught.

Q:     If we fail to consider cultural context, are we in danger of misinterpreting scripture?

A:      We must be cautious interpreters of the Bible. We must be careful lest we presuppose that our cultural instincts are the same as those represented in the Bible. We must be culturally aware of our own place in time-and we must work to comprehend the cultural context of the Scriptures that we wish to understand. Too often interpreters have lacked cultural awareness when reading the Scriptures. We have failed to recognize the gulf that exists between who we are today and the context of the Bible. We have forgotten that we read the Bible as foreigners, as visitors who have traveled not only to a new geography but a new century. We are literary tourists who are deeply in need of a guide.

Q:     Why did you write the Ancient Context, Ancient Faith series?

A:      The goal of this series is to be a guide-to explore themes from the biblical world which are often misunderstood. In what sense, for instance, did the physical geography of Israel shape its people’s sense of spirituality? How did the story-telling of Jesus presuppose cultural themes now lost to us? What celebrations did Jesus know intimately (such as a child’s birth, a wedding, or a burial)? What agricultural or religious festivals did he attend? How did he use common images of labor or village life or social hierarchy when he taught? Did he use humor or allude to politics? In many cases-just as in our world-the more delicate matters are handled indirectly, and it takes expert guidance to revisit their correct meaning.

In a word, this series employs cultural anthropology, archaeology, and contextual backgrounds to open up new vistas for the Christian reader. I wrote the first two volumes of the Ancient Context, Ancient Faith series to connect modern readers with ancient life.  If the average reader suddenly sees a story or an idea in a new way, if a familiar passage is suddenly opened for new meaning and application, this effort has succeeded.

Q:     Do I really need to understand ancient Middle Eastern culture in order to understand the Bible?

The stories we read in the Bible sometimes presuppose themes that are completely obscure to us (e.g. the scarcity of water; see next question). Moreover, when we read the Bible, we may misrepresent its message because we simply do not understand the cultural instincts of the first century. We live two thousand years distant; we live in the West and the ancient Middle East is not native territory for us.

Q:     How does water highlight the simple yet profound differences between ancient Middle Eastern life and ours today?

A:      Those of us who live in North America or Europe think little about water.  Rainfall averages are generally ample; if anything, we may experience flooding.  This is the opposite of life in the Holy Land. The people of the Middle East think about water constantly: it is the “oil” of the Holy Land.  And if you control it, you have power.  Glimpses of this reality are hidden behind many political struggles. When the rains failed to come during biblical times, the springs dried up and the wells went dry, drought and famine became a reality.

Judaism also distinguished between “living” water (which came from the hand of God via rain, a spring, a river) and common water (held in a cistern or “lifted” by human hand).  Many Jewish purification rituals had to take place in such living water; living water had the power to cleanse and purify.  So when Jesus offers “living water” to the Samaritan woman at the well, he is offering an inner life-giving spring for cleansing.  This significance would not have been lost on a woman who had probably been barred from her community’s ritual baths of purification.

Q:     How is an understanding of the Holy Land’s geography, topography, and agriculture vital to interpretation of scripture?

A:      The Holy Land itself gives us a window into God’s purposes for life.  The Promised Land is not an easy land-it is not paradise, neither today nor in biblical times.  The land has a spiritual architecture that incorporates elements we desire (good cities with ample rainfall and rich soil) and things we would prefer to avoid (wilderness).  But this is life.  And when God brought his people to this land, he built into it those elements that would provide a framework for his people to understand life with him.

The land is itself the cultural stage-setting of the Bible.  Biblical stories assume we know something about altars, sheepfolds, cistern water, and the significance if the wind blows west out of the desert.  To project European or American notions of farming (seed distribution) or fishing (cast and trammel nets) or travel (at night or day) onto the Bible is to immediately distance oneself from what the Bible may have intended to say.

Q:     How did Jesus’ storytelling fit the context of his culture?

A:      Jesus lived in a storytelling world and he was well known for his ability as a storyteller.  Jesus himself was theatrical, and this was feature of his teaching strategy.  Rather than giving a speech about a corrupt temple, he ransacked it.  His culture valued the clever image, the crisp story.  Jesus himself was clever and in this brilliance, people intuited his sophistication.  However, Jesus’ best figurative stories contain a surprise.  They are like a box that contains a spring-and when it is opened, the unexpected happens.  They are like a trap that lures you into its world and then closes on you.

Q:     Do we need to become more like the ancient world in order to live biblically?

A:      No, we do not need to imitate the biblical world in order to live a more biblical life. This was a culture that had its own preferences for dress, speech, diet, music, intellectual thought, religious expression, and personal identity. And its cultural values were no more significant than are our own. Modesty in antiquity was expressed in a way we may not understand. The arrangement of marriage partners is foreign to our world of personal dating. Even how one prays (seated or standing, arms upraised or folded, aloud or silent) has norms dictated by culture. There is no ideal cultural standard; we must each learn how to live biblically within the context of our own culture.

Gary M. Burge (PhD, King’s College, Aberdeen University) is a professor of New Testament in the Department of Biblical & Theological Studies at Wheaton College and Graduate School.

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The Battle for Jerusalem

The Battle for Jerusalem from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

What provides you with most security? After your faith and your family, what comes next? Probably your home.

It is probably your largest monthly financial expense or, if the mortgage is paid, your most valuable asset. You may have only just moved in yesterday. Your life, your memories, your hopes and dreams are still carefully packed away in those unopened boxes, but it is still your home. Or you may be living in your parents home. You may have been born there, grown up there, never spent a night anywhere else. What ever, your home is your security. The place where you can lock the door, feel secure, be yourself, protect your loved ones, raise your family.

Now imagine losing it. Not to a mortgage company through repossession, not because of a divorce settlement or an act of nature be it fire or flood, but lose it violently to a foreign government. Imagine being woken at 6:00am by riot police with dogs and bulldozers. They force you out at gun point.

They give you 15 minutes to remove your possessions.

They demolish your home in front of you. Then a week later, they send you the bill. It happens every day. Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh live in Anata, a village to the east of Jerusalem.

In June, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that their home could be demolished – for the fifth time. Four times it has been demolished and four times friends and international volunteers have rebuilt it.

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With God on our Side

I am delighted to endorse a new film being launched this autumn produced by Porter Speakman Jr and Rooftop Productions.

“With God On Our Side takes a look at the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that because the Jews are God’s chosen people, they have a divine right to the land of Israel. Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians, leading to great suffering among Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike and threatening Israel’s security as a whole.

This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn’t favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians.”

Launch: Autumn 2009. More news soon.

With God on our Side – Website, FaceBook and YouTube

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A Critique of Christian Zionism: Tony Higton

Published in Mishkan, A Forum on the Gospel and the Jewish People: Issue 55/2008

The following quotations are taken from an article by Tony Higton published in Mishkan which includes a response to my book, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?

Tony Higton is Rector of North and South Wootton near Kings Lynn. The fact that I was married in South Wootton and my mother in law lives in the parish is purely, if delightfully, coincidental. Tony previously served as the General Director of the Church’s Ministry among Jewish People and Rector of Christ Church, Jerusalem. Before publishing my book, he read the draft sections pertaining to CMJ, made comments, and these were all incorporated in the published version.

I warmly commend his article and the case he makes for Moderate Christian Zionism, and invite you to read it and decide whether the selective quotations below, which specifically pertain to my views or book, are in any way taken out of context.

In his introduction, Tony writes:

“After years of sparring, Stephen Sizer and I met up and found we had wide areas of agreement. Having worked in Jewish ministry for seven years, half of them in Jerusalem, I have seen the best and worst of Christian Zionism. Insofar as it combats anti-Semitism, defends the existence of a safe homeland for Jewish people, promotes evangelism among Jewish people, and supports reconciliation in the Holy Land, it is good.
However, Sizer is right to criticize the serious failings of some Christian Zionism. I agree with him in rejecting the following errors which are held by many Christian Zionists:

  • Lack of godly compassion for the Palestinians, and of concern for their human rights and about their legitimate aspirations.
  • A negative attitude toward Palestinians, and Arabs in general, to the point of racism.
  • Uncritical support for Israel (a secular, sinful state like any other), justifying all its actions against the Palestinians.
  • Neglecting or even opposing and forbidding evangelism of Israelis, sometimes believing that Jewish people can experience salvation through Judaism.
  • Being more interested in the fulfilment of prophecy than in application of kingdom principles such as justice and reconciliation.
  • Opposing the peace process.
  • Sometimes advocating the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Holy Land.
  • Sometimes supporting the rebuilding of the temple regardless of the problematic theological implications and the danger of provoking extreme violence.” (p. 18)

In the second section entitled, “Dangers of Unbiblical Views” Tony writes:

“I am grateful for Sizer’s book because it stimulates thought and, in my case, underlines many of the questions I have been asking about Christian Zionism in recent years. And I speak currently describing myself (provocatively) as a pro-Palestinian Christian Zionist!”
“Having said that, I am unhappy about calling myself a Zionist because of the prevalence of extreme Christian Zionism which Sizer describes. I attended a week-long conference on Christian Zionism held in Jerusalem by the Sabeel Palestinian Liberation Theology Centre. Initially, I was quite irritated by what I felt was their extreme model of Christian Zionism. I thought it was a caricature and the moderate view I held was the majority view. But one of the main things I learned from that conference was that it is American Christian Zionism (which is very influential among Messianic believers in Israel) which is dominant, and it is very extreme. British (and other moderate) Christian Zionists need to understand this.” (pp. 19-20)

In the fourth section entitled, “Putting Principles into Practice”, Tony writes:

“Sizer seems not fully to understand the Israeli need for security. We once stood together in Abu Dis, just outside Jerusalem, at the foot of the security wall – ten meters of concrete towering above us. He asked me: “Well, what do you think of the wall, Tony?” I replied: “I think it is obscene. But terrorism is even more extreme.” (p. 24) – on this I concur.

In the fifth section in which Tony makes the case for “Moderate Biblical Zionism” he writes:

“It seems to me that Sizer, in his convert’s passion for justice for the Palestinians, tends to throw the baby out with the bathwater with respect to Christian Zionism. One result is that he does not treat the biblical material seriously enough… I still believe that a biblical case can be made for (balanced and moderate Christian Zionism).” (p. 25)

“Sizer raises various criticisms of the biblical justification Christian Zionists claim. In particular he claims that Christian Zionism has an “ultra-literal” and futurist hermeneutic. It is, of course, very simple to make out that all the prophecies referred to by Christian Zionists are not to be taken literally as referring to the Jewish people. In one stroke it removes all sorts of questions and difficulties. But, as we shall see, there are difficulties with this view.
I am also aware that the New Testament radically develops the teaching of the Old Testament. The Old is the bud and the New is the flower. In rightly stressing the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, we must never forget this radical development, which Sizer stresses. So there are important developments of land to world, temple to Jesus, etc.” (p. 25-26)

“I is true that some, including some Orthodox Jewish people, think that such a re-establishment of the state is not the real thing prophesied in Scripture, which could only be established by Messiah. Others, including Sizer, think Israel, because of disobedience to God, could lose the land again.” (p. 28)

“Sizer writes: “Belief in the final restoration of the Jews to Zion is also based on a literal and futurist reading of selective Old Testament prophecies. However, the texts themselves indicate that such a return occurred under Ezra and Nehemiah and that no further return is to be anticipated. It may be argued that Jesus repudiated any such expectation. New Testament writers apply such Old Testament promises to both believing Jews and Gentiles.”
However, there are OT prophecies which scholars believe relate to a time much later than the return under Ezra and Nehemiah, and are often in a messianic context. I refer to Isaiah 11:11-12; 60:4, 9, 21-22; 61:4-5; Jeremiah 3:12-18; 23:7-8; Ezekiel 38:8, 16; 39:25-29; Joel 3:1-2, 17, 20; Amos 9:14-15; Zechariah 12:2-3, 10-11; and 14.” (p 29)

“In conclusion, then, I agree with much of the criticism Sizer makes of Christian Zionism and particularly of its lack of commitment to justice and reconciliation. Like him, I too reject the extremes of Christian Zionism, seen particularly in the USA and Israel. However, I believe Sizer throws the baby out with the bathwater, particularly by not dealing seriously enough with the biblical material, which I believe forms a credible foundation for a balanced, moderate Christian Zionism.
Moderate Christian Zionists will:

  • Pray for the Israelis and the Palestinians, showing compassion for their needs, pain, and fears, and an awareness of their faults.
  • Pray for and, where possible, take action to promote reconciliation, peace, security, and justice for both people groups and an end to violence on both sides.
  • Pray for and support evangelism among both people groups.

Having read Sizer’s book carefully, I remain a pro-Palestinian Christian Zionist who is passionate about justice and reconciliation and sensitive to the needs, pain, and fears of both Palestinians and Israelis.” (p. 29)

It was in part to encourage further dialogue on the interpretation of Scripture regarding the relationship between Israel and the Church that I wrote the sequel, Zion’s Christian Soldiers. I look forward to further conversations with Tony Higton on the case for Moderate Christian Zionism.

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Melanie Phillips: Beware The New Axis of Evangelicals and Islamists

Melanie Phillips’ article “Beware the New Axis of Evangelicals and Islamists” published in the Spectator last week is libellous. It contains untruthful statements about me which may injure my reputation or standing in the community.

I have never said that I wish Israel, in her words, “to be destroyed” or to “disappear just as did the apartheid regime in South Africa.” I have never believed this and categorically reject any position that threatens the integrity of Israel as a sovereign nation.

On the contrary I have repeatedly stated in writing (for example here, here and here) that I wish to see a safe and secure Israel with internationally recognised borders, alongside a sovereign, viable, independent Palestine.

I have, however, spoken out against Holocaust denial as well as religious extremism. I have also highlighted British involvement in saving Jewish people from the Nazi Holocaust. I have specifically challenged Christians who see nothing incompatible with membership of the BNP.

Far from seeking to “appease radical Islam”, I have criticised Islamist attacks against Christians in Iraq here and here, as well as in Afghanistan. I have challenged Iran’s human right’s record here and here and commended an important book about the Church in Iran here.

I have never knowingly, to use her words, “given interviews to, endorsed or forwarded material from American white supremists and Holocaust deniers”. My publisher in the USA, InterVarsity Press, occasionally arrange TV and radio interviews for me with Christian stations to promote my books. I trust their judgement.

On her use of the term “islamofacism“, I subscribe to the view of a leading authority on Fascism, Walter Laqueur, who concluded that “Islamic fascism, Islamophobia and antisemitism, each in its way, are imprecise terms we could well do without but it is doubtful whether they can be removed from our political lexicon.” The best piece of writing I have seen recently on “Radical Islam” is by Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek.

I keep an extensive and growing mailing list and am no more responsible that Melanie Phillips is for how others make use of material I write, or forward, which is invariably from mainstream newspapers and journals. Unlike those who choose to use anonymous blogs and websites to express their opinions, I have made my own views plain and my external ministry public.

“we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2).

To clarify my position and to anticipate such criticisms, in my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers?, I wrote the following:

“It is true that at various times in the past, churches and church leaders have tolerated or incited anti-Semitism and even attacks on Jewish people. Racism is a sin and without excuse. Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally. However, we must not confuse apples and oranges. Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as anti-Semitism despite attempts to broaden the definition. Criticising a political system as racist is not necessarily racist. Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate anti-Semitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within borders recognised by the international community and agreed with her neighbours. But like many Jews, I disagree with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world, while denying the same rights to the Arab Palestinians born in the country itself.”

I endorse the position taken by the Heads of Churches in Israel regarding the need for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Others such as former US President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have made comparisons between Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories and South Africa under apartheid.

I do wish to see the present illegal occupation of Gaza, the Golan and the West Bank “disappear”, but only as a result of the peaceful implementation of all relevant UN Resolutions, the Roadmap to Peace previously agreed by the US, EU, Russia and UN in April 2003, and Annapolis Agreement of November 2007 and Quartet Statement of December 2008.

I have a high regard for Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and the courageous stand he has taken on inter-faith as well as ecclesiastical issues. Indeed I helped organise and promote his recent visit to Guildford Diocese.

I also deeply regret hearing that Patrick Sookhdeo has received a death threat as a result of writing his recent book, Global Jihad. Unfortunately, it is increasingly common. I have too. Veiled threats even feature on pro-Zionist Christian websites that seem to want me dead. Another example on the same website has the author lament, “Unfortunately (in my opinion) we no longer publicly and immediately stone false prophets to death.” then a few sentences later asserts, “One of the latest in a very long line of succession is a false teacher by the name of Stephen Sizer.” Thankfully, the police take these threats seriously and have arranged a measure of additional protection for my family also.

Back to Melanie Phillips. Her inflammatory alleagations about my involvement in interfaith conferences or TV programmes, alongside Jewish or Islamic leaders, is a tried and tested method intended to alienate, isolate and silence the views of those deemed critical of her own. Prior knowledge of, or agreement with, the views of others invited onto radio or TV programmes or conference platforms is not a significant criteria I use to decide whether to participate. Gaining a hearing for an explicitly Christian perspective committed to peacemaking and non-violence is.

What saddened me most, however, about Melanie Phillips’ article, were her concluding remarks criticising the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England. This is what she wrote:

“Many will be deeply shocked that the Church of England harbours individuals with such attitudes. But the church hierarchy is unlikely to act against them. Extreme hostility towards Israel is the default position among bishops and archbishops; while the establishment line is to reach out towards Islam in an attempt to accommodate and appease it. With Christians around the world suffering forced conversion, ethnic cleansing and murder at Islamist hands, the church utters not a word of protest. Instead, inter-faith dialogue is the order of the day…”

I have been a Christian minister for just short of 30 years but have yet to meet a priest, let alone a Bishop or Archbishop who displays, “extreme hostility towards Israel” or who wishes to “accommodate and appease” Islam. Just the reverse. While there is clearly a spectrum of opinion on the best way to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict within the House of Bishops, and the most appropriate way to present the good news of Jesus Christ in a multi-faith context, they are nevertheless united in opposing racism and religious intolerance whether directed toward Jewish people or Muslims.

One has to ask what has motivated her to compose such a mendacious and libellous caricature of Christians within the Church of England concerned for justice and peace in the Middle East? Is it to deflect attention from Israel’s recent wanton killing spree in Gaza? Or was it written out of frustration at the decision of the Church of England Synod to divest its shares in Caterpillar? Or just part of the wider Zionist lobby targetting Barak Obama’s new Administration? Or is it perhaps a precursor to an imminent pre-emptive attack against Iran? Lets hope not otherwise it won’t be the libel or calumny we are debating but whether her friends who seem anxious for Armageddon are right after all.

For answers – check out Melanie’s Wiki entry – that bastion of ‘objectivity’ and truth. It alleges,

“Phillips strongly defends Israel and its actions. She argues the Palestinians are an “artificial” people who can be collectively punished for acts of terrorism by Islamist terrorists because they are “a terrorist population”. She believes that while “individual Palestinians may deserve compassion, their cause amounts to Holocaust denial as a national project”.[12] She has repeatedly claimed that footage of those injured in Israeli attacks on Palestinian areas has been “fabricated/faked”.[13][14]

She frequently accuses Israel’s critics (including many Jews) of being motivated by anti-Semitism. She has described the paper “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” written by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt as a “particularly ripe example of the ‘global Zionist conspiracy’ libel” and expressed her astonishment at what she calls “the fundamental misrepresentations and distortions in the paper”.[15]

In a recent article, she criticised the membership and leadership of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches in Britain, and specifically the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, accusing them of antisemitism because of remarks made by the Archbishop about the plight of Bethlehem Christians under Israeli occupation; another factor was an opinion poll showing that the majority of Anglicans were opposed to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The article ended with a condemnation of what she sees as the churches’ failure to criticise the President of Iran’s desire to “destroy Israel”,[16] and that “the churches in Britain are not only silent about the genocidal ravings emanating from Iran but are themselves helping pave the way for a second Holocaust“.[17]

I think its time Melanie came back to church and stopped telling porkies.

For the official response from the Church of England – see here.

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Statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem on the current devastating situation in Gaza


Photograph: Adel Hana/AP

We, the Patriarchs, Bishops and the Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem, follow with deep concern, regret, and shock the war currently raging in the Gaza Strip and the subsequent destruction, murder and bloodshed, especially at a time when we celebrate Christmas, the birth of the King of love and peace. As we express our deep sorrow at the renewed cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians and the continued absence of peace in our Holy Land, we denounce the ongoing hostilities in the Gaza Strip and all forms of violence and killings from all parties. We believe that the continuation of this bloodshed and violence will not lead to peace and justice but breed more hatred and hostility – and thus continued confrontation between the two peoples.

Accordingly, we call upon all officials of both parties to the conflict to return to their senses and refrain from all violent acts, which only bring destruction and tragedy, and urge them instead to work to resolve their differences through peaceful and non-violent means.

We also call upon the international community to fulfill its responsibilities and intervene immediately and actively stop the bloodshed and end all forms of confrontation; to work hard and strong to put an end to the current confrontation and remove the causes of conflict between the two peoples; and to finally resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a just and comprehensive solution based on international resolutions.

To the various Palestinian factions we say: It is time to end your division and settle your differences. We call on all factions at this particular time to put the interests of the Palestinian people above personal and factional interests and to move immediately toward national comprehensive reconciliation and use all non-violent means to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the region.

Finally, we raise our prayers to the Child in the manger to inspire the authorities and decision makers on both sides, the Israelis and Palestinians, for immediate action to end the current tragic situation in the Gaza Strip. We pray for the victims, the wounded and the broken-hearted. May the Lord God Almighty grant all those who have lost loved ones consolation and patience. We pray for all those living in panic and fear, that God may bless them with calm, tranquility and true peace.

We call on all to observe next Sunday, January 4, as a day for justice and peace in the land of peace.

+ Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
+ Patriarch Fuad Twal, Latin Patriarchate.
+ Patriarch Torkom II, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate.
Fr. Pier Battista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custody of the Holy Land
+ Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate.
+ Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate.
+ Abune Matthias, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
+ Archbishop Paul Nabil Sayyah, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate.
+ Bishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem & the Middle East.
+ Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan & the Holy Land.
+ Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
+ Bishop Youssef Zre’i, Greek Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate.
Fr. Raphael Minassian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

Read John McArthy If it were your home, what hope restraint? and Ilan Pappe Israel’s Righteous Fury and its Victims in Gaza

The Narrow Gate of Justice: Sabeel Statement
Pirates of the Mediterranean: Gaza Update
Photos of Gaza

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Suicide Bombers: A Palestinian Christian Perspective

What is Theologically and Morally Wrong with Suicide Bombings? A Palestinian Christian Perspective

The following is taken from an article by Canon Naim Ateek published in the Sabeel journal Cornerstone, and subsequently expanded into a 35 page booklet. It is the best critique of suicide bombing I have read.

“The issue of Palestinian suicide bombings has become a familiar topic to many people throughout the world. It is easy for people to either quickly and forthrightly condemn it as a primitive and barbaric form of terrorism against civilians, or condone and support it as a legitimate method of resisting an oppressive Israeli occupation that has trampled Palestinian dignity and brutalized their very existence.

As a Christian, I know that the way of Christ is the way of nonviolence and, therefore, I condemn all forms of violence and terrorism, whether coming from the government of Israel or from militant Palestinian groups. Having said that clearly, it is still important to understand the phenomenon of suicide bombings that tragically arises from the deep misery and torment of many Palestinians. For how else can one explain it? When healthy, beautiful and intelligent young men and women set out to kill and be killed, something is basically wrong in a world that has not heard their anguished cry for justice.

The Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip took a very important turn since the early 1990s. Young Palestinian men, and more lately women, started to strap themselves with explosives, make their way to Israeli Jewish areas and blow themselves up, killing and injuring dozens of people around them. Between the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000 and February 22, 2003, Palestinian militants carried out 69 suicide bombings in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank including Jerusalem, as well as inside Israel, killing, according to Israeli statistics, 341 Israelis including soldiers, men, women, and children. In the same period, the Israeli army killed 2,106 Palestinians including police, men, women and children.

For the last 35 years, the Palestinians have been engaged in resisting the occupation of their country. For many years they have worked through the international community to bring an end to the Israeli occupation, but they have been unsuccessful.

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Stowe School Tackles Arab-Israeli Conflict


It was worth making the 151 mile round trip this evening, through the driving rain, to dialogue with between 80-100 of the most intelligent and articulate Sixth Formers you will find anywhere in Britain.

Stowe is one of the UK’s leading public schools with a wide range of nationalities represented. Members of the faculty invited me to address the historical and political context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, from an Israeli and Palestinian perspective, and summarise the position of the United Nations and rulings of the International Court of Justice.

The Faculty and Stoics engaged in a stimulating discussion, raising questions that centred on why Israel has been able to act with impunity and why the occupation, settlements and separation barrier are largely funded through US loan guarantees. The frustration expressed at the failure of British diplomacy to achieve the implementation of UN Resolutions was most encouraging. As with similar school presentations, I explained to the Stoics their homework – to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict and succeed where their parents generation has failed. If some of the world’s brightest and best young minds cannot bring about a diplomatic solution based on justice and the rule of international law, then God help our world.

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Messianic Good News (and the Perils of Dispensationalism)



Yesterday I returned from Johannesburg, South Africa, where I was attending the Messianic Good News Conference,’Israel in the Last Days

Messianic Good News was founded in 1950 for the purpose of proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus the Messiah to Jews and Gentiles primarily through the written format. They publish and distribute tracts and books for outreach as well as the quarterly, “Messianic Good News,” through which we aim to encourage and equip readers with a deeper understanding of the faith. The ministry originated in Hamburg, Germany in the late 1800’s with the conversion of a young Jew named Arnold Frank. Frank had a burden to share the good news of salvation with the many Jewish emigrants who were passing through Germany hoping to find a better life in the new world. He published and distributed gospel literature and he also responded to their dire physical needs by organising a soup kitchen, a hospital staffed with compassionate Christian nurses and the Mission House, “Jerusalem” to accommodate and disciple the many young Jewish enquirers who were responding to the gospel.

In 1938, at the age of 79 he was forced to flee to Ireland to escape arrest by the Nazis. The mission property was confiscated but Frank continued to minister in Ireland for a further 26 years until his death at the age of 106. Although the Nazis tried to destroy the work he had dedicated his life to, his legacy lives on through the labours of those whom he led to the Saviour.

One of those young men was John Düring, who fled to South Africa in 1938. In 1950, Düring, with Frank’s support and blessing, established the “Good News Missionary Society” primarily as a literary outreach to Jewish people. Düring established a strong witness to the Jewish people through the excellent literature produced by the society. In 2000 the society was renamed “Messianic Good News” and continues to publish and distribute literature proclaiming the good news about the Messiah. They have an office in Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as in America and their literature is also translated into Spanish and German.

It was heartening to meet many Messianic believers at the conference with a passion for the gospel, with a love for Jewish people and a desire to introduce Jesus to them, while at the same time repudiating the false gospel of dispensationalism and Christian Zionism.

One of the speakers at the conference was Kevin Daly, In his talk entitled, ‘The Good News to Israel and the Nations’ he exposed the dangers of dispensational teaching that insists God has a separate plan for the Jewish people apart from the Church. Daly illustrated this error with a quote from ‘Hebrew Roots’ teacher Jacob Prasch. Prasch uses the story of Rachel and Leah from Genesis to teach that Jesus did not desire the Church as his bride.

“Jacob came for a bride from his own people. He desired Rachel, but he did not get Rachel at first, but Leah. After he learned to love Leah as much as he did Rachel, he got Rachel as well. In the beginning Leah had all the babies, her womb was most fruitful. But then Rachel conceives. Israel shall be a fruitful vine. Jesus came for Israel. He wanted to marry Israel, but He did not get Israel. He ends up with the bride He did not desire at first, the Gentile church. After He learns to love the Gentile church, then He gets Israel. In the beginning, the church has all the babies. But in the end, Israel becomes a fruitful vine.” Jacob Prasch

You can read the context for this erroneous theology here. Daly highlights the dangers of this false teaching,

“The Gentile Church was unforeseen, and somewhat of a disappointment and a second prize. Because of God’s failure to get the Bride he always wanted, he extended his favour to the Gentiles. By contrast, Jesus taught that flesh gives birth to flesh and counts for nothing. The NT states clearly concerning the unbelieving Jews: “They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for.” (1 Peter 2:8)

Does God’s plan depend on Man, or does Man depend on God’s Plan? The God-centred view is that God’s purposes prevail and unfaithful individuals disqualify themselves from participation. The humanistic, Judo-centric view which Prasch advocates is that God’s purpose was unfortunately frustrated by the non-participation of the Jews. The NT states further that salvation was always part of the Plan contained in the Abrahamic promise, and presents the Church as the fulfilment of God’s “eternal purpose”. The true worshipper, and the type that God desires, is the one that worships Him ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:23-24).” (Kevin Daly)

I’ll share more about the conference in later postings.

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