Seventy years ago today the world had its first glimpse of the horror that was Auschwitz. We honour those who survived what we know as the Holocaust, and grieve with them, and all Jews, as they remember those who were murdered during this time.
I’m sometimes asked how the Holocaust (Shoah) is different from genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia etc. All of those were horrendous mass killings of people because they belonged to a certain tribe, religious, social or education group and are rightly condemned by any right thinking person. Each took place within the context of war in that country. The Holocaust was the attempt to wipe an entire group of people, Jews, wherever they lived. Unlike the other genocides which occurred within a particular country, Jews were rounded up from many countries,- including the Channel Islands,- and transported on journeys, that sometimes took several days, to concentration or extermination camps. Six million Jews were wiped off the face of the earth, not for doing anything wrong, but simply because they were Jews.
The Holocaust did not happen overnight. Irwin Cotler said:- “the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers – it began with words”.
Adolf Hitler voiced his plans for the Holocaust as early as 1922. He then told a journalist: “Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows – at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example – as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon as they have been untied, the next batch will be strung up, and so on down the line, until the last Jew in Munich has been exterminated. Other cities will follow suit, precisely in this fashion, until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews.”
It is said that, if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will instinctively try to climb out. However if you gently place it in a pot of lukewarm water and turn the heat on low, it will float there calmly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog is unaware of its deadly changing environment and before long it boils to death.
This is what happened in Nazi Germany. If the killing of the Jews had started as soon as Hitler came to power there would, probably, have been opposition from the German people. When Hitler gained power he began a a concerted propaganda regime to set the German people against the Jews. He blamed them for the financial problems the country was experiencing, he set in motion a series of restrictions on Jews that, over time, became wider and more rigid. Word by word, restriction by restriction, boycott by boycott, he put in the minds of the German people that the Jews were evil, the root of all problems, they were no better than vermin and needed to be destroyed.
By the time the restrictions had been placed on the Jews, and the negative propaganda had done its cumulative work, the expulsion, and eventual killing of them, was accepted, in some cases seen, as necessary.
Today we are seeing, more and more, the same build up of hatred against Jews that were seen in the 1930s. We are seeing the same calls for boycotts of products from Israel, the same refusal to allow Israeli (Jewish, not Arab) academics to lecture in universities or to speak in churches, the same attacking of Jews in the streets and even in schools, the same destruction of synagogues.
Last week a Belgian watchdog on anti-Semitism warned that the country’s public schools are becoming “Jew-free” zones because of harassment. Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, revealed that the only Jewish student at the Emile Bockstael high school in Brussels was forced to leave the school. She had posted a picture of herself holding the Belgian flag alongside the Israeli one in summer. As a result she received 288 abusive comments, including threats, on Facebook, also by classmates and other pupils she did not know.
The school “has become Judenfrei, there are no more Jewish students there,” Rubinfeld said, using the German-language term that the Nazis applied to locales which had been rendered “free of Jews.”
In September, she began attending one of the Brussels region’s three major Jewish schools, but the harassment continued. On Sept. 10, she received a photo of a former classmate performing a Nazi salute telling her that she is missed.
We cannot hide from the fact that anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world. It is usually “dressed up” as being anti Israeli policies to try and make it seem, not only respectable, but virtuous, BUT it is anti-Semitism. We MUST speak out against it and stand firm with Israel,- land and people (wherever they are).
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me
Khaled Abu Toameh
May 30, 2014
The Palestinian Authority’s move against the BDS activists shows that it considers the movement a threat to Palestinian interests.
A Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah explained that BDS and its followers make the Palestinians appear as if they are all radicals who are only interested in boycotting and delegitimizing Israel.
“No, we do not support the boycott of Israel” — Mahmoud Abbas, President, Palestinian Authority.
At university campuses in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe, they are hailed as heroes campaigning for Palestinian rights. But in Ramallah, ironically, activists belonging to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] movement are seen by the Palestinian Authority [PA] as trouble-makers and law-breakers.
For some PA officials, BDS is a movement that acts against the true interests of the Palestinians. They say that the actions of those promoting BDS make the Palestinians appear as if they are not interested in peace and coexistence with Israel. BDS activists in Ramallah have succeeded in preventing several planned meetings between Israelis and Palestinians in Ramallah and east Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Authority is also worried that BDS is harming the Palestinians’ relations with other countries. The most recent example of BDS efforts to damage Palestinians’ relations with friendly countries occurred a few weeks ago, when the “anti-normalization” activists tried to disrupt a performance by an Indian dance troupe in Ramallah.
A PA official in Ramallah explained that BDS and its followers make the Palestinians appear as if they are all radicals who are only interested in boycotting and delegitimizing Israel. “This goes against the PLO’s official policy, which is to seek a peace agreement with Israel based on the two-state solution,” he said.
In the first case of its kind, four prominent BDS activists this week went on trial before a Palestinian Authority court for “provoking riots and breach of public tranquility.”
The four men, Zeid Shuaibi, Abdel Jawad Hamayel, Fadi Quran and Fajr Harb, were detained by PA security forces after protesting against the performance of an Indian dance troupe.
During the show, which was attended by senior PA officials, the BDS activists protested against the presence of the dance troupe in Ramallah because its members had also performed in Tel Aviv.
The protesters accused the Indian dancers of violating their campaign for boycotting Israel, claiming that their appearance in Tel Aviv was a form of “normalization” with Israel.
The incident seriously embarrassed the Palestinian Authority leadership and resulted in a decision to prosecute the four BDS activists.
The four appeared in court on May 28 to face the charges against them. However, the trial was postponed until July 14 because state witnesses failed to appear in court.
The decision to prosecute the BDS activists has drawn strong condemnations from the anti-Israel movement and other Palestinians.
Omar Barghouti, one of the leaders of the BDS movement, said that the PA should be put on trial for bringing the four men to court. “If the four men are brought before a court, then we should prosecute the Palestinian Authority for serving the Israeli occupation’s project,” he said. “The decision to prosecute the four men was taken in collusion with the fierce Israeli campaign against the BDS.”
Amnesty International also criticized the Palestinian Authority and called for dropping the charges against the four activists. “We urge the PA to drop the criminal charges against them and to ensure an independent and impartial investigation into their allegations of ill-treatment,” Amnesty said in a statement:
Amnesty International emphasizes that peaceful expression and protest must never be punished as criminal offences and that imprisonment is always a disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression. Furthermore, the reported treatment of the four men once in custody has undermined their right to a fair trial and raises concerns that they are being punished for their political protest.
The Palestinian Authority’s move against the BDS activists shows that it considers the movement a threat to Palestinian interests.
Abbas himself has come out in public against the BDS movement. During the funeral of former South African President Nelson Mandela last year, when asked about BDS, Abbas told reporters: “No, we do not support the boycott of Israel.”
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have good reason to oppose the BDS movement. BDS leaders and supporters are opposed to the PA leadership’s contacts with Israelis and have often denounced Abbas for conducting peace talks and security coordination with Israel.
The Palestinian Authority has come to the conclusion that the BDS activists are in fact anti-peace extremists whose goal is to prevent any peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. The decision to prosecute the four Ramallah activists is also aimed at sending a message to BDS supporters worldwide that the movement is acting against the true interests of the Palestinians and promoting hatred and bigotry.
It now remains to be seen whether BDS supporters around the world will absorb the message and realize that apart from being anti-Israel, BDS is also an anti-Palestinian and anti-peace movement.
The committee that met to consider whether the Methodist Church should continue its divestment policy has reached its conclusion.
Many Methodists took the time to complete the questionnaire re divestment and, from the communications received at MFI, a huge number opposed it.
Sadly, as usual, the committee took no notice of the points raised by those opposed to BDS,- even the very valid point that BDS harms the Palestinians. The recent outcry against Sodastream produced many comments from Palestinians stating that they had good jobs with the company, were well paid and well treated and that BDS would cause them financial difficulties.
An unemployed youth near Qalandiya checkpoint, who gave his name as Yasser, said the minimum wage in the Palestinian Authority made it nearly impossible to live. “We need more factories like SodaStream. It’s hard to get a job there,” he said. (International Business News Feb 3rd 2014)
The conclusion was reported in the Jerusalem Post:-
UK Methodists continue boycott of Israel
By JERRY LEWIS
The Board of Deputies of British Jews made strenuous efforts to steer the 800,000-strong Church into a more neutral approach on Israel.
LONDON – After lengthy internal consultations, Britain’s Methodist Church has published guidelines effectively endorsing its previous stance favoring a pro-BDS approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though it claimed it was making no recommendations.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews made strenuous efforts to influence the process and steer the 800,000-strong Church into a more neutral approach on boycott, divestment and sanctions, or at least one which had a more muted line, but it was clear the board’s attempts had failed.
In the just released nine-page briefing paper, the Methodists stressed that having considered 2,500 responses and undertaken a joint Jewish-Methodist mission to Israel, they acknowledged that while a BDS approach is “likely to entrench division,” the way forward for their church was one of implementing a nonviolent line so that the government of Israel “must understand that failure to respond to international concerns over compliance with international law with respect to the occupied territories will come at a cost.”
They attempt, however, to allay Jewish and Israeli concerns about a pro-boycott stance by saying that there are Jews and Jewish organizations that “support some form of BDS,” implying that view is commonly held or even a majority view.
And they are dismissive of claims that a consumer boycott of Israel could cause economic hardship for Palestinians.
“Endorsement of the BDS movement by major Palestinian trades unions and farmers unions indicates that many Palestinians take the view that the pain inflicted by BDS is necessary to achieve rights in the longer term.”
Their report will be submitted to the Methodists conference due to take place in June. Its authors appear to just take note of Jewish community concerns before arguing that the benefits of a “pro BDS” line, regardless of its origins, is one worthy for the Church to follow.
A spokesman for the Israel Embassy in London maintained that the Methodists report was “harmful and divisive” and would help neither Palestinians nor Israelis in their quest for peace.
The Board of Deputies reflected on the “flawed process” followed by the Methodists as they had “only considered BDS” and not alternatives which promote peace.
“It only deepens divisions,” the board said.
The report was both “skewed and problematic,” the board said. But the board, which had already severed ties with the Church over the issue, appears still to believe it could influence its outlook, but as of now trying to win over the British Methodists in the battle against the advancing tide of BDS has failed. (Jerusalem Post 04/05/14)
When, I wonder, will the people who make up the committee call for sanctions against the Palestinians in Gaza who have fired 108 rockets and mortars into Israel between January 1st 2014 and April 21st 2014, and over 8000 since the Israelis withdrew from Gaza in the “Land for Peace” deal of 2005? Appeasement did not work with Hitler, it’s not working now!
Once again the Methodist Church will be asked at Conference to approve a move to touch Israel, the apple of God’s eye. I hope the representatives to Conference will have the wisdom to oppose the motion.
My escape from Iraq
Some of your members, under the banner of human rights, have demonized one country. According to them, the one country that destabilizes the Middle East and creates much pain and suffering to the Arab world, is not Iran, Syria, or Lebanon. It is Israel. They believe the root of the problem is Zionism and the return of the Jews to Israel.
Your group has just published a booklet entitled “Zionism Unsettled”. The booklet claims that if it weren’t for the Zionist movement that established Israel, the Jews from Arab lands would still be living in peace and harmony among the Arab nations.
I quote from Page 48 of “Zionism Unsettled”. “Middle eastern Jews, also called Mizrahi Jews, share a history of largely harmonious integration and acculturation in their host countries. Sadly, this model of coexistence was destabilized by the regional penetration of Zionism beginning in the late 19th century.”
My Arabic name is Yusuf. I was born in the Jewish quarter of the old city of Baghdad known as “Taht El Takia” in December of 1930. I am now 83 years old. My mother tongue is Arabic and I am one those Jews who was integrated in the Arabic Islamic culture of Iraq.
Here are some examples of how us Arab Jews lived in harmony with our hosts: I survived the Farhud of 1941 – a violent “pogrom” when Iraqi Muslims, incited by Nazi Germany, took to the streets, destroyed the Jewish quarter and killed 180 Jewish men, women and children. I was 11 years old. Google Farhud or read Edwin Black’s book “The Farhud”. This cause of the Farhud, wasn’t Zionism. The Farhud was purely an Anti-Jewish act. At 14, I was chased by two Muslim youths with a knife for stopping them from molesting my neighbor’s teenage daughter in broad daylight. At 18, after graduation from Al A’Adadiah High School, I was refused an exit visa to leave Iraq to study in America, because I was Jewish. My story is not unique. I am one of 150,000 Iraqi Jews who was discriminated against, oppressed, and forced to escape religious persecution because of my faith.
In May, 1948, after failed attempts to destroy Israel in it’s fight for independence, the Iraqi government, turned against its Jewish citizens whose ancestors had been there continuously for over 2,500 years. Arrests, tortur, imprisonment and hanging of Jews sent fear in every Jewish person’s heart. It was the fear for my life that made me attempt to be smuggled out of Iraq in December, 1949. I was smuggled through Iran and found my freedom for the first time in Israel. In 1941 during the Farhud, there was nowhere to run to. Thank God Israel was there to take us. I started my life there, like many Jews from Muslim countries, as a dispossessed, homeless, penniless refugee.
Your comment that “the Jews in Arab lands lived in harmonious integration and coexistence in their host countries and were destabilized because of Zionism in the 19th century” is totally misleading and wrong. First there was never a continuous peaceful coexistence between Muslim and Jews. There was existence of the Jews in Arab lands for thousands of years, but we lived as second-class citizen dhimmis. We had to pay bribes regularly and take abuse without seeking justice. For example when a Jewish girl was raped, when a Muslim customer didn’t pay my father for merchandise he bought, or when a Muslim murdered a Jew, we wouldn’t dare seek justice for fear of the threat of retaliation.
Out of the 850,00 Jews who once inhabited Arab lands who were either expelled or fled, myself and family included, none of us are living in refugee camps. We are settled around the world as good-standing citizens in many countries. My family is grateful to be citizens of the United States. We are happy to have escaped Iraq and none of us share your sadness or have nostalgia to go back and live as oppressed second-class citizens of any Muslim country.
Of the 600,000 Jews who left Arab lands for Israel, none of them are living in refugee camps. A similar number of Palestinian refugees, from the war their leaders started, are still living in refugee camps in Arab lands after 66 years.
Imagine the Iraqi government promising to return my family’s confiscated home in the Al Alwiya district. Imagine them promising the return of my father’s import business. Imagine taking my wife, my three children (two PH.ds, and one M.D) and five grandchildren to Baghdad. How crazy would I be? As American Jews and Zionists, how long do you think we would last before being killed?
Your publication, “Zionism Unsettled,” advocating for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel rejects the existence of a Jewish state. It is not an attack on Israeli politics, but the very idea of Jews being self-determined and having our own country and home. To pretend that your publication is about occupation, to pretend this is about peace, to pretend this is about human right abuse, to pretend that this anything other than vile, spiteful Anti-Semitic Jew hatred is a lie.
As a Christian church, shouldn’t your priority be to advocate for your Christian brothers? Where is your publication “Islam Unsettled, and the treatment of Christians in the Muslim world.” Fifty Coptic churches were burnt in one day when Morsi ruled Egypt. One Million Iraqi Christians live in refugee camps in Jordan. How about Christians in Syria under the rebels or Christians in Gaza? Bethlehem was a Christian majority; today it has a Muslims majority. Lebanon was the only Arab country with a majority of Christians. Today the Lebanese Christians live as minority and dare to disarm Hezbollah, the Islamic extremist group, that rules Lebanon?
Rev. Chris Leighton, the Executive Director of the Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies, who strongly objected to your publication, summarizes his objection in an open letter to the church. He wrote, “to suggest that the Jewish yearning for their own homeland — a yearning that we Presbyterians have supported for numerous other nations — is somehow theologically and morally abhorrent is to deny Jews their own identity as a people.”
There are 22 Arab countries. There is place for a 23rd. Yet there is no place for a Jewish state the size of New Jersey? Shame on you.
Monday, February 24, 2014 | Ryan Jones
Even as activists worldwide purportedly working on behalf of the “Palestinian cause” push for a boycott of Israeli products, the Palestinian Arabs themselves are increasingly buying “blue & white.”
Initially, members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement were upset that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas would not officially endorse their efforts to put Israel in an economic stranglehold.
But a recent survey by the Palestinian Authority’s Consumer Protection Authority revealed the possible reason for Abbas’ reluctance: the Palestinian Arabs are major consumers of Israeli products.
According to the survey, which was reported on by Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds, 70 percent of the Palestinian Authorities imports come from Israel.
Israel does not restrict imports to the Palestinian-controlled areas, and Israeli goods sold there must compete with those imported from Europe and other Arab states. The reason Israeli products are doing so well is simply because Palestinian Arabs prefer them, several Palestinian merchants told the newspaper.
For Palestinians, Israeli products are less expensive than European imports, but of much higher quality than cheaper Arab-made alternatives.
The survey is yet another example of how the BDS movement’s goals will hurt Palestinian Arabs as badly or worse than Israelis, and therefore do very little, if anything, to advance the cause of peace, assuming that is the true intention of the movement to begin with.
Let History guide judgement
(1) Following WW1 and the defeat of the Turks, the Ottoman Empire which spanned the Middle East for 400 years, was divided up by the British and French, and new countries were created, namely Iraq (British jurisdiction),and Syria and Lebanon (French jurisdiction).
The whole geographical area known as Palestine was designated to the Jews (British jurisdiction) in recognition of their historic connection to the land.
In 1922, Churchill awarded the land east of the Jordan river to the Hashemite dynasty, in recognition of the help it gave Britain in defeating the Turks. Abdullah became King of the newly created Trans-Jordan, which covered some 77% of historic Palestine.
In 1922, the 51 member states of The league of Nations unanimously ratified a document called “The Mandate for Palestine” which called for the Jewish national homeland to be RE-CREATED in Palestine in the area West of the Jordan river, and called for “close settlement” by Jews of this area , which also included Gaza and the Golan heights.
Jews were not allowed to settle on land east of the Jordan river.
The Arabs, in the main (most of whom were immigrants from Syria and Egypt) did not accept this and there were riots, and ethnic cleansing of Jews from areas such as Hebron in 1929.
The Mandate document specified that there should be religious and civil rights for the non-Jews in the future Jewish state, but not political rights.
When the league of Nations was superceded by the UN, the “Mandate for Palestine” was incorporated into Article 80 of the UN Charter, which, in the absence of any agreement to end hostilities, remains the legal status of the area to the present day.
There were many attempts to placate the Arabs, by whittling down the size of the future Jewish state, but were never accepted by them.
Finally, the UN, in 1947, proposed a partition of Palestine, giving the Jews a very small proportion of the original area.
The Jews accepted reluctantly (Jerusalem was excluded), while the Arabs rejected the proposal.
It was put to a vote in the UN in November 1947, and passed.(Resolution 181)
In the following May, on declaration of Israel’s statehood, 5 Arab armies attacked the fledgling state, but the new state survived (just!).
Then Trans-Jordan made a land-grab of the West Bank, and annexed it, in a move which was recognised only by Great Britain and Pakistan (but minus recognition of the annexation of Jerusalem). It became Jordan.
Egypt illegally annexed Gaza and Syria, ditto the Golan.
In 1967, Israel again won a defensive war against the combined armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, and by the time the ceasefire was called, had reached the Golan, the Jordan river and the Sinai peninsula up to the Nile.
Israel’s offer to withdraw totally to the armistice lines of 1948 (the so-called Green line) in return for peace was rejected out of hand at the Arab summit in Khartoum, which issued a statement known as the 3 NOs… no peace, no negotiation, no recognition.
Subsequently, Egypt made peace, in return for the Sinai in its entirety.
Jordan made peace, but gave up all claims to the West Bank, which was never legally theirs.
(2) The UN then passed Resolution 242, calling on Israel to withdraw from territories, deliberately omitting the definite article (the), in return for a cessation of hostilities from the Arab side, (which has never happened).
Israel started to re-settle some of the areas which had legally belonged to Jews before 1948, such as the Etzion bloc, near Jerusalem, for which Jews held the title deeds, and Hebron, in both instances from whence they had been driven out.
Interestingly, although the status of the WB remains legally part of the Jewish state, before any new settlement was formed, every Israeli government of whatever hue consulted with a specialist lawyer called Plia Albeck, to ensure that it was built on state land and not privately-owned land.
She was an expert in the field and consulted British and Ottoman law before sanctioning the building of every new settlement.
(3) There is also the legal precedent of land won in a victorious, defensive war.
In a landmark ruling, Judge Stephen Schwebel, one time head of the International Court of Justice, the court of the UN, ruled in 1970, that where a country had won territory in a defensive war, and that territory had previously been taken by force (ie, by Jordan), then the victor (ie.Israel) had the better title.
Indeed, following WW11, the Axis powers lost land that had been theirs, such as Germany losing the Sudetenland, and other lands which went to Poland.
There are many such examples, and there are never demands to return them.
The only exception seems to be Israel.
It’s also worth remembering that the reason that East Jerusalem is often called Arab East Jerusalem, is because in 1948, the Jews were ethnically cleansed from there.
The only time during 2,000 years that there were no Jews in the old city of Jerusalem, was between 1948 and 1967.
The oldest and holiest Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives is in East Jerusalem, (3,000 years old) as is the Western Wall, so to call new Jewish suburbs in East Jerusalem, settlements, is absurd, and designed to undermine Jewish legitimacy there.
The reason why Western and other powerful nations perpetuate the myth of illegal settlements, when there are no such thing, is because it suits them— they need Arab oil and Arab/Muslim markets to trade with.
(4) The only people to have enjoyed sovereignty (countries called Judah and Israel) in the geographical area of Palestine were the Jews.
No independent country of Palestine ever existed— neither was there ever a Palestinian people— that is a myth.
The name “Palestine” was given by the Emperor Hadrian in AD 135, when he wanted to obliterate the names of Israel and Judah forever.
Thanks to Mervyn Bufton for this article
Christmas is fast becoming a distant memory. As usual organizations and churches used the commemoration of the birth of the Saviour of the world, the King of the Jews, to bash Israel.
A few examples:-
On the 1st Advent Sunday: We will shed light on the refugees and refugee camps in Bethlehem.
On the 2nd Advent Sunday: We will focus on the plight of Palestinian prisoners, both children
On the 3rd Advent Sunday: We will address one of the major difficulties and injustices facing
many Palestinian families: the divisions afflicting individual families due to obstacles imposed
by the Israeli state. These obstacles that prevent families from being unified and living together
violate a basic human right.
On the 4th Advent Sunday: We will talk about the main cause that pushes Palestinians to leave
their country: namely, settler violence against them, their properties, their land, and their trees.”
A festival of Bethlehem at Christmas
St James’s Piccadilly, London. December 23rd 2013 – January 5th 2014
Through music, food, art, poetry, debate and more Bethlehem Unwrapped goes behind the romanticised Christmas card images of the ancient city to show what life is like for people in Bethlehem today. The festival celebrates the culture and stories of those living behind the wall and their work for peace. Hope, humour and humanity are reflected throughout the programme, which brings together renowned musician and composer Nigel Kennedy, chefs Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi, comedians Mark Steel and Jeremy Hardy, activist and speaker Jeff Halper, actor Adjoa Andoh, film-maker Leila Sansour, video artist Larissa Sansour, writer and speaker Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, slam poets Harry Baker and Rafeef Ziadah and more.
Thanks to all those who joined us for the launch at 6pm on December 23rd for the unveiling of the wall, our major interactive art installation. To find out about the rest of the exciting programme click here and watch the launch day video here. beth 20131223_193536
If you can’t join us in person to add your message to the wall, join with us online on Twitter or Facebook, using the hashtag #AtTheWall to send your own messages of peace. We are excited to explore Bethlehem with you this Christmas.
Book event tickets here
All net proceeds of the Bethlehem Unwrapped festival will be donated to Amos Trust’s ‘Future Peacemakers’ Appeal, supporting the work of the Holy Land Trust, Bethlehem http://www.holylandtrust.org http://www.amostrust.org
“The most unhelpful thing you can do is be pro one side; it just adds to the conflict. We have to not only understand those people who are oppressing us, but try to walk in their shoes, and ultimately to really engage with what it means to love our enemies.”
– Sami Awad, Director, Holy Land Trust
Ironically, in view of the above quote, the instigators of this display will not listen to anyone who supports Israel.
Further information about the above, and other anti Israel appeals, displays at Christmas, can be found on the internet.
November 4, 2013 Author: Dexter Van Zile
May it please the Kangaroo Court…
I write to you in your capacity as the point person for the survey that the Methodist Church in Britain has posted online. I do so reluctantly and after struggling with a difficult question: How does one respond to an invitation to testify at a kangaroo court?
A quick perusal of the questions indicates that the church has already concluded that Israel is solely responsible for the continued existence of the Mideast conflict, and that the Palestinians (and their Arab supporters) bear no responsibility. The only question facing your church is how Israel should be punished.
So, like any kangaroo court, the survey presents a conundrum.
Should people submit their testimony and risk giving the kangaroo court unwarranted legitimacy?
Or should they ignore the proceedings only to risk being told, “You were given a chance to participate” when the church imposes its sentence?
Despite my misgivings, I decided to respond to your survey.
While I work for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, I am not writing on behalf of my employer. I am responding as a Christian who has grown disgusted with the monomaniacal focus of so-called peace and human rights activists in the West, who have hijacked church bureaucracies in their campaign to demonize Israel.
Below are my responses to your churches interrogatories.
Question One: What do you understand to be the motivation/inspiration behind the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in relation to Israel?
The BDS campaign has, as intended by its organizers, proven to be a powerful vehicle in the effort to enlist people to the demonization and de-legitimization of the Jewish State, which represents the gold standard for human rights in the Middle East.
Israel treats its enemies, dissidents, minorities, and its own citizens with far greater humanity and respect than any other country, regime, or political movement in the region and yet it is the country that is being targeted by BDS activists both inside and outside the Methodist Church in England. Anti-Semitism is clearly part of the equation in the BDS movement.
If you doubt that anti-Semitism plays a role in this campaign, consider the following:
Saudi Arabia is responsible for broadcasting Wahhabism, a radical form of Islam, to other countries in the world. In addition to oppressing women and minorities, and supporting jihadis who have killed Christians in Syria, the Saudi regime has funded the construction of mosques in North America and Europe whose leaders have made it harder for Muslims to integrate into Western society. (Inhabitants of England may have some knowledge of this problem.)
Iran has oppressed religious and ethnic minorities and supports Hezbollah, an organization that has intentionally murdered civilians throughout the world. It is, by many accounts, pursuing a nuclear weapons program to provide an atomic umbrella to its proxies in Syria and Lebanon.
Syria has been the scene of a deadly civil war where more than 100,000 people have been killed in just over two years. The Assad regime has used poison gas against civilians.
Turkey brutally oppresses Kurds and has refused to accept responsibility for the Armenian Genocide, which resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million people between 1915 and 1922.
Many goods produced in China are manufactured by slave labor. The country oppresses religious and ethnic minorities and has occupied and brutally repressed Tibet.
Moreover, Christians are being ethnically cleansed in Iraq, with hardly a word of protest from their co-religionists in the West, although to be fair, people are coming around on this issue. (Just not the Methodist Church.)
Why is there no BDS campaign targeting these countries? Where is the Methodist outrage over these misdeeds?
Question Two: In your view, what would be the essential elements of any peace agreement in Israel/Palestine?
Personally, I used to think that the Clinton Parameters would bring an end to the conflict. Today I’m not so sure.
The problem we face is that the current crop of Palestinian leaders who have encouraged their people to fight against Israel for the past several decades cannot obtain anything that wasn’t already offered to them previously on a number of occasions.
If they were to accept a peace treaty now that was largely similar to what could have been achieved in 1947, 1948, 68, or at Camp David in 2000, Palestinians would ask: “What was the point of all the suffering we endured over the past several decades? Why did you send us off to war? What did we achieve with the death of our children?”
As a result of this reality, one essential aspect of peace is the departure of the current crop of aged leaders from the Palestinian scene.
Other essential elements of peace include an acknowledgement of Israel as a Jewish state by Palestinian leaders and a repudiation of the anti-Jewish hostility that has animated Palestinian public life for decades (and which has only gotten worse since the Oslo Accords).
A normalization and routinization of daily life for both Israelis and Palestinians would also be necessary. That would require the cessation of rocket and other terror attacks against Israel, which in turn, would allow the reduction of security measures that Palestinians complain about. This is not possible until Palestinian leaders of all stripes abandon their efforts to exercise a veto of Jewish national life in a sovereign state.
Peace will also likely require tolerance for the presence of Jews in the West Bank. The West Bank will not and should not be Judenrein, even if it is part of a Palestinian state. Israel has a 20 percent Arab population. Palestinians will have to tolerate the presence of the other in their state, just as Israel has.
Can the Methodist Church in England encourage Palestinians to accept the Jewish other?
Question Three: Do you support a boycott of products produced within Israeli settlements?
No. A boycott would undermine the ability of Palestinians who work for these companies to earn a living. In my response to question two, I stated that routinization of daily life would be a factor in promoting peace. Jobs and economic development are part of the process of normalization. “Normalization,” by the way, is a dirty word in Palestinian discourse.
Question Four: Do you support the call for a wider consumer boycott of all Israeli products?
Question Five: If you answer ‘Yes’ to Question 4, what changes would you need to see to be content to end your boycott?
Intentionally left unanswered.
Question Six: What are the arguments against a consumer boycott of all Israeli products? What are the risks?
Please see my answers to questions one and three.
One risk you might want to consider is that it will not marginalize Israel, but the Methodist Church in England.
Question Seven: If you do not support the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, could you ever see yourself supporting such a call in the future? Under what circumstances?
No. My understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict does not presume Israel’s guilt for its existence as your church does.
Your use of the phrase “under what conditions” indicates that a boycott of some sort against Israel is the sine qua non of the church’s peace-making efforts in the Middle East. It is a roundabout way of asking “So when are you going to let us boycott Israel, huh?” I am reminded of my children asking when they get to open their presents on Christmas morning.
It seems as if your church is looking for a set of circumstances to justify what it has wanted to do all along.
If that’s the case, then why ask for input?
Question Eight: What message does the call for a consumer boycott of Israel communicate to the general public? (please specify whether you are answering with reference to the public in the UK, in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, or elsewhere)?
The messages sent by a consumer boycott of Israel are that (1) the Jewish state is a singularly malign presence in the international system and (2) that Methodists in England have lost their minds. The first message is not true.
Question Nine: Do you support an academic boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning.
No. I do not support the creation of an international ghetto bench.
Question Ten: Do you support a cultural boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning.
If the members of the Methodist Church in England were to stop using life-saving Israeli medical inventions in their daily lives, I would be less bothered by their decision not to buy the latest Matisyahu CD. A cultural boycott means nothing if it is not accompanied by a technological boycott.
Question Eleven: Under what circumstances, if any, should the Methodist Church divest from companies operating in Israel?
If The Methodist Church simply must divest from companies doing business with Israel, it should tell non-Muslim minorities in the Middle East that they are on their own – just like Israeli Jews. It would also be reasonable for the church to admit that divestment from Israel is an irrational and immoral decision, but that there is something about the Jews and their state that the Methodist Church simply can’t abide.
Question Twelve: Should the UK government or European Union impose trade or other restrictions on economic relationships with Israel or alternatively limited restrictions on economic engagement with settlements? If so what form should such sanctions take?
If the UK government and EU are intent on: (1) committing cultural and moral suicide, (2) siding with Islamists against the forces of civilization and enlightenment, and (3) divorcing themselves from all that is good and just, then sanctions against Israel are perfectly reasonable.
Such sanctions should take the form of taking all useful technologies – especially those invented by Israel – and throwing them into the English Channel. But before you turn England into modern-day Atlantis, please send us Yanks your original folios of Shakespeare and the original writings of Edmund Burke because you will not be needing them. Send us your unused copies of Orwell’s collected essays as well.
Question Thirteen: What actions other than BDS might members of the Methodist Church take to encourage a political process that could deliver a just and sustainable resolution in Israel and Palestine?
Embark on a campaign of self-education that results in the church achieving a better understanding of:
1. The problem of Muslim anti-Semitism. See Neil J. Kressel’s “The Sons of Pigs and Apes”: Muslim Antisemitism and the Conspiracy of Silence (Potomac Books, 2012).
2. The impact of Muslim doctrine on the lives of Christians and Jews in Muslim-majority settings. (The word of the day is “dhimmi.” Look it up.)
3. The violence endured by Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim-majority the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. The fate of these communities might shed some light as to why Jews are so persistent in the defense of their state. Jews know better than many Christians (at least those in the West) what happens to defenceless minorities in Muslim-majority settings.
Question Fourteen: Is there any further theological or other comment that you would like to make in relation to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or are there papers or other resources that you would highlight?
It is time for the Methodist Church in England (and other churches) to assess the impact of theological supersessionism on Christian attitudes toward the Jewish state. Many Christians ultimately feel that Jews are an artefact of ancient history that contradicts the church’s witness to the truth of Jesus Christ. Their assessment is that, ultimately, the world would be better off without the Jews and that Israel is somehow an obstacle to this desired end state.
This attitude helps explain why Christian peacemakers have been so indifferent to Muslim anti-Semitism. Simply put, Christians share many of the same suppositions about Jews that Muslims do and as a result cannot bring themselves to respond forcefully to Muslim anti-Semitism.
It might help to take a look at the Barmen Declaration, one of the few Christian denunciations of Nazism. It does not mention Nazi antisemitism. Why is that? Why did the authors of this statement find Nazi anti-Semitism unremarkable? For the same reasons that Christians currently find Muslim anti-Semitism unremarkable?
Submitted under protest.
Dexter Van Zile
The true aims of BDS!!
Co-founder and Steering Committee member of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). He was also a doctoral student at Tel Aviv University.
“‘The only ethical solution is a (single) democratic, secular and civic state in historic Palestine,’ says Omar Barghouti, founder member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.”
“(The one state solution means) a unitary state, where, by definition, Jews will be a minority.”
Barghouti also falsely claims a “right to resist”:
“International law does give people under occupation the right to resist in any way, including armed resistance.”
Dr. Norman Finkelstein
A major BDS supporter, severely critiqued the BDS movement for being “dishonest” about their goals, saying,
“We have to be honest, and I loathe the disingenuousness. They [BDS] don’t want Israel… And they think they’re very clever because they know the result of implementing all three [demands] is what? What’s the result? You know and I know, what’s the result? There’s no Israel.”
Dr. As’ad Abu Khalil
A California academic and BDS campaigner, responding to Finkelstein: “Finkelstein rightly asks whether the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel. Here, I agree with him that it is. That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”
A leading BDS activist in the United States
“Ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state itself… Ok fine. So BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state… I view the BDS movement as a long-term project with radically transformative potential. I believe that the ultimate success of the BDS movement will be coincident with the ultimate success of the Palestinian enfranchisement and equal rights movement. In other words, BDS is not another step on the way to the final showdown; BDS is The Final Showdown.”
“Peace—or, better yet, justice—cannot be achieved without a total decolonization (one can say de-Zionization) of the Israeli state; it is a precondition for the fulfillment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians—refugees, those living under military occupation, and the second-class citizens of Israel.”
“BDS represents three words that will help bring about the defeat of Zionist Israel and victory for Palestine
Thanks to Yitzhak Santis for above info.
‘We are not Arabs. We are Christians who speak Arabic’
Many of Israel’s Christians feel that their history, culture and heritage have been hijacked by Muslim Arabs in the region, while they feel a much stronger link to Israel’s Jews • The Jewish state is the only place where we are protected, they say.
A conference titled “Israeli Christians: Breaking Free? The advent of an independent Christian voice in Israel” in Jerusalem | Photo credit: Dudi Vaaknin
It was not just any conference. Even the word “historic” would not do it justice. This was nothing short of the shift of an ancient paradigm.
For a long time we had grown accustomed to thinking about the Middle East as an Arab region. But this region, the vast majority of which was actually originally not Arab, was conquered in the seventh century by tribes hailing from the Arabian Peninsula. They imposed their religion, their culture and their language on the indigenous population, and to top it all off, claimed ownership of the land in the region.
But the social and diplomatic firestorms currently raging around us have begun to chip away at this monolithic point of view among various ethnic groups, whose identities are actually different than the ones we have lazily attached to them, and their voices are beginning to be heard loud and clear: “We are not Arabs,” they are saying. “We are Christians who speak Arabic.”
At the “Israeli Christians: Breaking Free? The advent of an independent Christian voice in Israel” conference in Jerusalem, one after another, Israeli Christian representatives took to the stage and greeted the audience with a “moadim l’simcha” (“times of joy” – a common Jewish holiday wish of good tidings). The first speaker was the Rev. Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest in Nazareth and spiritual leader of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum. Naddaf is an impressive man, who speaks in a reserved tone, but is nonetheless articulate and resolute. “I am here to open the public’s eyes,” he said. “If we want to refrain from lying to our own souls and to the general public, we must say clearly and unwaveringly: enough!”
“The Christian public wants to integrate into Israeli society, against the wishes of its old leadership. There are those who keep pushing us to the margins, keeping us the victims nationalism that is not our own, and of a conflict that has nothing to do with us,” he said.
Naddaf spoke of the Christian roots, planted deep in this land since the dawn of Christianity. This is where Jesus Christ’s doctrine first emerged. The Christian faith, he said, came out of the Jewish faith and its biblical roots. As far as Naddaf is concerned, what happened in the seventh century was an Arab invasion from which the Christians also suffered. He added that he wasn’t very proud of the Christian crusades either, and distanced himself from them.
He surveyed the dire situation currently faced by Christians in Arab states, and said that the realization that Israel is the only country in the region that protects its Christian minority has prompted many Arabic-speaking Israeli Christians to develop a desire to contribute to the state of Israel. That is how the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum came to be.
Naddaf quoted the founder of the forum, Maj. Ihab Shlayan, as saying: “The Christians will not be made into hostages, or allow themselves to be controlled by those who wish to impose their nationality, religion and way of life upon us. We will not agree to hide behind the groups that control the streets. We want to live in Israel — brothers in arms and brothers in peace. We want to stand guard and serve as the first line of defense in this Holy Land, the Land of Israel.”
“We have broken through the barrier of fear,” Naddaf went on to say. “The time has come to prove our loyalty, pay our dues and demand our rights.” He spoke about the death threats that he and his friends face, and added that despite the hardships they continue forward “because the State of Israel is our heart. Israel is a holy state, a strong state, and its people, Jews and Christians alike, are united under one covenant.”
Naddaf was followed at the podium by Lt. (ret.) Shaadi Khalloul, the spokesman of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum and an officer in the Israel Defense Forces Paratroopers Brigade. Khalloul, a scholar who studies the history of the Christian faith in the region, spoke about the eastern Christian identity that had been stripped of his people. Over the last three years, he has fought Israel’s Interior Ministry over recognition of his community as Aramaic Christians.
We are “B’nei Keyama,” which means allies in Aramaic, he said. He has nothing against the Arabs, but it is simply not his identity. It is especially problematic for him because being associated with the Arabs pulls him into a conflict that is not his own, entirely against his will.
Khalloul said that the way to integrate into Israeli society was through military service in the IDF, which he described as a melting pot, but also through education. It turns out that Israel’s Christian population is not educated in their own history, only the history of the Arabs and of Islam.
“The typical Christian student thinks that he belongs to the Arab people and the Islamic nation, instead of speaking to the people with whom he truly shares his roots — the Jewish people, whose origins are in the Land of Israel.”
Adding to that point, Rev. Naddaf stepped in and said, “It is unthinkable that our children will be raised on the history of the Nakba and on the hatred of Jews, and not be taught their history.”
It was no coincidence that Khalloul chose the Aramaic word for allies to describe his people. In his view, Israeli Christians are not mercenaries, as they might be perceived, but in fact allies. “We want to defend the holy land alongside the Jews,” he insisted. He mentioned the Christians’ support for the establishment of a national homeland for the Jews in the 1947 UNSCOP Committee. In a letter to the committee at the time, the Maronites rejected any reference to the land of Israel as Arab land.
Khalloul said further that global Christianity supported them, but refrained from making the support public because of the fact that Christians in the Middle East are hostages in the hands of Islamic forces.
Remarking on the ongoing debate surrounding the issue of a Jewish-democratic state vs. a so-called state of all its citizens, Khalloul said that he preferred a Jewish state that takes care of all its citizens over a state governed by all its citizens, without a Jewish identity.
“Several decades ago, 80 percent of the Lebanese population was Christian,” he recalled, “but the 20% Muslim minority imposed their Arab identity on them and many of them left. Today, only 35% of the population is Christian.”
Syria, too, he added, is comprised of Christians and Kurds who are not Arab. “Where is the respect for these groups? For their history and their culture?” Only in a Jewish state, he concluded, will different groups be given the right to exist.
Naddaf then interjected and said, “That is not just [Khalloul’s] opinion. The entire forum shares this view.”
The last representative to take the stage was Capt. Bishara Shlayan, whose initiative to establish the Christian Israeli Party was first reported in Israel Hayom this past July. Following the report, Shlayan was bombarded with responses from all over the world.
“We were raised on Arab political parties,” he said, “the communists, and then the National Democratic Assembly. In time, I realized where these Arab parties were taking us — only against Israel.”
He said that Islam was imposing itself on the Christians in the region. Thus, for example, the ancient “Miriam’s Spring” evolved into the “Nazareth Spring.” In his youth, he had received a red flag, he recounted. But today, he sighed, “our children are being raised on the green flag, on anti-Israeli culture.”
“We need to create a different culture,” he continued. “We need to hand out Israeli flags to every child. Education begins here. You enter a school in Nazareth, and you will not see a single Israeli flag. They don’t recognize it. You will only see Palestinian flags.”
Shlayan is well aware of the claims that Israeli Christians are not afforded all the rights to which they are entitled. “That may be,” he said, but “you have to begin by pledging loyalty to your country and serving it. I believe that.”
All the above is only part of what was said at the recent conference of the Liaison Committee of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel.
The Christian communities’ march toward the heart of the Israeli consensus has an iconoclastic significance. It is reminiscent of Abraham’s smashing the idols and thereby smashing certain thought conventions and patterns. It is important not only on the inter-faith and theological level; it is also important to Israel’s efforts to prove our rights to the world. Parts of the Christian world see us as the crucifiers of the Palestinians, even though this could not be further from the truth. Therefore, when the Israeli Christians stand by the State of Israel and declare that this is the Land of Israel and not Palestine and that Jews did not steal this land but rather returned home as the Bible prophesied, it has immeasurable significance.
We, as a society and as a state, must embrace these courageous people, who spoke from the very deepest recesses of their hearts. We must help them, provide for them and integrate them into our society. And no less importantly, we must protect their lives. Our lives and our future depend on it.