Archive | June 15th, 2012

Russia prepares army for Syrian deployment

By Clara Weiss

Given the worsening crisis in Syria, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reported that the Russian army is apparently being prepared for a mission in Syria. Citing anonymous sources in the military leadership, the newspaper said that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the general staff to work out a plan for military operations outside Russia, including in Syria.

The units being prepared for an intervention are the 76th Division of airborne forces (an especially experienced unit of the Russian army), the 15th Army Division, as well as special forces from a brigade of the Black Sea fleet, which has a base in the Syrian port of Tartus.

The details of the operational plan are being prepared by the working parties of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, to which most of the post-Soviet states belong, as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to which China and Russia belong.

According to the newspaper report, deployment depends on the decision of the Russian government and the UN. However, the plans also foresee that the troops might intervene without UN approval. The Russian government has so far not confirmed the report.

On Monday last week, three Russian warships were sighted off the Syrian coast. An anonymous source from the Russian government told the Iranian newspaper Tehran Times that Moscow wants to show NATO that it will not allow any military operation against Damascus under the guise of a humanitarian mission.

Earlier, the secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Nikolai Bordjusha, had held out the possibility of using “peacekeepers” in Syria. “The task in Syria is likely to be to impose peace—primarily against the insurgents, who use weapons to solve political problems.”

Russia and China strongly oppose a military intervention by NATO in Syria, and have already blocked two UN resolutions on the issue. The US and its allies, especially Turkey, Saudi Arabia and France, have stoked up a civil war in Syria and are systematically arming the so-called rebels, who consist mainly of Islamists, ex-members of the government, or Al Qaeda terrorists. Turkey is increasingly in the leadership of the US proxy war in Syria.

In recent weeks calls for a military intervention in Syria have increased. After the massacre in Houla, French President Francois Hollande spoke out in favour of military intervention. The West blamed the government of Bashar al-Assad for this massacre without any clear evidence. The German elite is also openly discussing a possible military intervention; Berlin has tried unsuccessfully to push Russia to make concessions on the issue.

Russia has not excluded a “political solution”, i.e., the slow transition from the Assad regime to another government. At all costs, however, the Kremlin wants to avoid the violent overthrow of Assad by the West for several reasons, whether it is through direct military intervention by NATO or is brought about by the rebels armed by the West. Two weeks ago, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that a military intervention in Syria could quickly escalate and lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

Since Soviet times, Moscow and Syria have maintained close ties, especially in military and economic matters. More importantly, however, a war against Syria means a ramping up of US aggression in the Middle East. The US has already significantly extended its influence in the region through the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. They also have military bases in almost every country in the area: Pakistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Turkmenistan, as well as some in other smaller states. Meanwhile, Syria and Iran, which are virtually surrounded by US military bases, have become the last bastions of Russia and China in the Middle East against the encroachment of the United States.

A regime change in Damascus would probably bring a Sunni government to power, which would work closely with Saudi Arabia and the United States against Russia and China. Moreover, an escalation of the civil war in Syria—which is already well underway—and a military intervention would set the entire Middle East ablaze. A NATO-led war against Syria would be an immediate prelude to a war against Iran. An attack on Iran would mean another step toward a military escalation of tensions between Washington and Beijing.

While China obtains a significant portion of its raw material imports from Iran, Tehran is Russia’s most important ally in the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to counter the influence of the US and Israel. Both Moscow and Tehran oppose the construction of a trans-Caspian pipeline by the West. They also reject the massive military rearmament of Azerbaijan, which is promoted by the United States, Israel and Turkey. The Caspian region is of key geopolitical importance because it links resource-rich Central Asia with Europe, and because it also has extensive oil and gas reserves.

The growing threat of war in the Middle East—and the fact that the European countries, including Germany and France, are siding with the United States—is increasingly driving Russia into a military alliance with China.

It is significant that Vladimir Putin’s first foreign visit since taking office was to Belarus, and that he then only spent a few hours in Berlin and Paris before going on to Central Asia. The highlight of his visit abroad was in China, where he met with the Chinese president, and then took part at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on June 6 and 7. In addition to Russia and China, the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan also belong to this organization; Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have “observer” status.

As was the case at the previous meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, discussion at the SCO summit centred on military and economic cooperation. The summit adopted a declaration on the “establishment of a region of lasting peace and common prosperity”. Military intervention against Syria or Iran was explicitly rejected.

The declaration also condemns the establishment of the NATO missile defence system in Europe, which is directed primarily against Russia and has led to severe tensions between Washington and both Europe and Moscow. In future, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is planning to cooperate militarily more closely on issues of “regional security”.

During his two-day visit to Beijing, Putin had previously agreed with Chinese President Hu Jintao to jointly strengthen “security in the Asia-Pacific region”. Both countries intend to hold frequent joint military exercises in the Pacific, after holding joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea in the spring. The United States is increasingly focussing its military build-up in the Asian Pacific region in preparation for a military confrontation with China.

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ZiO-Nazi seeks to block listing church in ‘Palestine’

jpost.com

Efforts are underway to block a PA bid to register Church of Nativity in Bethlehem under country of Palestine.

Israel is working to block a bid by the Palestinian Authority to register the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem under the country of Palestine, when the World Heritage Committee meets in Russia from June 24 to July 6.

Earlier this month the committee announced that the church, as well as the nearby pilgrimage route, is among 36 sites which it plans to debate during that meeting. The debate marks the first time that the committee has considered registering a World Heritage site under Palestine.

The UN has not recognized Palestine as a state. But as a result of the October vote, Palestine has full state rights in all UNESCO bodies, including the right to register sites on the World Heritage List.

As soon as its signature with the UNESCO’s Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage was ratified in March, the PA asked the World Heritage Committee to register the church and the pilgrimage route in Bethlehem under Palestine. It made it onto the list under an emergency provision for endangered sites.

Earlier this month, UNESCO announced the inclusion of the Church of the Nativity on its list of 36 potential sites. It noted that this was a first for Palestine.

It did not mention that its International Council on Monuments and Sites, which evaluates each application, had recommended that for technical reasons the World Heritage Committee reject the PA’s application at this time.

“ICOMOS does not consider that the property can be considered to have been severely damaged or to be under imminent threat,” it said in a report, which can be found on the UNESCO web site.

It added that no immediate action could by taken by the World Heritage Committee “that is necessary for the survival of the property.” It advised the PA to resubmit its application under the normal assessment process.

“This could provide the opportunity for a full assessment of the needs of the property in terms of protection, conservation and management,” it said.

The decision with regard to placing the Church of the Nativity on the World Heritage List will be made by the committee, which is composed of 21 countries. Committee members include Algeria, Cambodia, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Qatar, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

An Israeli official said that the Church was worthy of inclusion on the World Heritage List, but that the PA had politicized the cultural and historical issues at play.

Israel, the official said, opposes all Palestinian endeavors to unilaterally act as a state in advance of negotiating a final-status agreement for a two state solution. Such steps, he said, harm the peace process and the possibility of a two state solution that ends the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

But a Palestinian official said that Palestine was already a state and that all UNESCO has now done is recognize that fact. He added that his country had a right to act as all other countries in front of UNESCO by registering important sites that fall within its jurisdiction.

The official said that in spite of ICOMOS’s conclusion, his government believed that the church was endangered.

In its report to the committee, the PA said, “the combined effects of the consequences of the Israeli occupation and the lack of scientific and technical measures for restoring and preserving the property are creating an emergency situation that should be addressed by an emergency measure.”

The issue of the church is only one of a number of ways in which the Israeli- Palestinian conflict will be part of the World Heritage Committee meeting.

It will hear a report on the protection of the Palestinian cultural and natural heritage. It will also debate issues relating to the Old City of Jerusalem which is registered under Jordan, and which is considered an endangered site. Israel expects that UNESCO will pass a resolution condemning Israeli treatment of the site.

The committee will also debate registering the site of human evolution at the base of Mt. Carmel in Israel.

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In joint appearance with Nazi Peres in Washington, Clinton condemns Syria for using attack helicopters to quash uprising


Secretary of State appeared alongside Israeli President at Washington event; Peres to raise issue of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in a meeting with President Obama.

Haaretz

WASHINGTON – Israeli President Shimon Peres and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared on Tuesday at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, where they spoke about the escalating violence in Syria, the negotiations with Iran and the peace process with the Palestinians.

At the event, Clinton expressed deep concern over Russia’s reported shipment of attack helicopters to the Syrian regime. “Attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria will escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” she said.

The event was held a day before Peres was scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama – a meeting at which Peres promised to raise the issue of clemency for convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard “on humanitarian grounds.”

On Tuesday, two U.S. lawmakers circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter, expressing support for Peres’ bid for clemency. Pollard has spent more than 26years in a federal prison for passing classified information to Israeli officials.

Congressmen Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ), are behind the initiative. In a letter to Obama, the duo wrote: “Mr. Pollard has expressed remorse for his actions, and his health is reportedly declining – he has recently been hospitalized for kidney and gallstone problems. It is also clear that Mr. Pollard has served a disproportionately severe sentence. A number of people convicted of spying for other countries, ranging from the former Soviet Union to South Korea, have been given lighter sentences than Mr. Pollard. We would not expect that Mr. Pollard would be treated any better than anyone else who has committed similar acts, but we certainly do not believe he should be treated any worse.”

On the situation in Syria, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in briefing on Tuesday that the U.S. “has been pushing the Russians for months to break their military ties with the Syrian regime, and they haven’t done it.” Instead, she said,” they keep reassuring all of us that what they’re sending militarily to Syria can’t be used against civilians.

“But now what are we seeing? We’re seeing the Syrian government using helicopters to fire on their own people from the air. So our question remains, how can the Russians conscience their continued military sales to Syria?” asked Nuland.

Nevertheless, Clinton stressed that the U.S. still supports Kofi Annan’s plan. “We do so because he represents both the United Nations and the Arab League”, she said.

“It’s quite unprecedented to have a joint special envoy who is speaking for two organizations that have seen their common interests in trying to bring an end to the violence and help to precipitate and then shepherd through a political transition,” said Clinton.

“The six-point plan that former Secretary-General Annan laid out is a good plan. Of course, it’s not being implemented, and of course, the contempt and rejection of the first principle of that plan – namely the cessation of violence by the Assad regime -has certainly been a grave assault not only on the lives of the Syrian people, but on the international effort intended to bring an end to this ongoing conflict,” said Clinton.

In mid-July, the UN Security Council will decide whether or not to extend the observers mission that, as Clinton noted, is becoming more and more dangerous.

Peres stated that it is better for Arab nations to deal with the situation in Syria themselves – so that no other countries will be blamed for interventionism. “They are ready, let them take the responsibility, let us support them in any way we can. The Arab league should and can do it,” said Peres.

Speaking about changes in the Middle East, Peres expressed optimism with regard to the possibility to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. “To have a state you need to build a nation and Palestinians started to build a nation,” he said.

Commenting on the Arab Spring, Clinton urged to regard the transition with patience. “We need both humility and patience,” she said.

“We have to remember we [the U.S.] didn’t have a straight line – we didn’t include everybody in the first run, we excluded women, we had to fight a civil war to free slaves. Time has sped up, but work that has to be done is much harder today than even when the Berlin wall fell. Every step is now scrutinized,” said Clinton.

Clinton also commented on upcoming nuclear talks with Iran, to be held in Moscow. Peres expressed skepticism regarding the talks, claiming that the Iranians “are taking advantage of the American democratic process.”

“I am quite certain the Iranian regime is under tremendous pressure from the Russians and Chinese to come to Moscow prepared,” Clinton said.

“The Russians have made it very clear that they expect the Iranians to advance the discussion in Moscow, not just come, listen and leave. The unity and resolve that was shown so far is of real significance,” continued Clinton.

“Let me talk about Iran without passion, to be really straight and cool, and say Iran — the Iranians are not our enemies. In history we had many very friendly relations,” Peres said, “So I’m asking myself, why are we really against Iran? Is it just because of nuclear bomb? Not only. They are the only ones that want to renew imperialism — we can’t accept it”

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Demographic study also shows Zionist comprise 7% of New York City’s Jews

Haaretz

There are 1.54 million Jews living in 694,000 Jewish households in New York City and three suburban counties, an increase of 9 percent between 2002 and 2011, according to the Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011. The figures in the study, released Tuesday morning, show the New York area with the largest Jewish population anywhere outside of Israel.

The study, sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York, was conducted from Feb. 8, 2011, to July 10, 2011 by Jewish Policy & Action Research, led by Dr. Steven Cohen. Some 5,993 self-identifying Jewish adults from New York City and suburban Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties were interviewed by telephone. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2 percent.

New York City was home to 127,000 Israelis last year, who together comprised about 7 percent of the city’s total Jewish population, the study found. But only three percent of New York’s Jews were sabras, or people born in Israel, the study said.

Altogether, the city has 1.77 million Jews if you include the non-Jewish halves of intermarried couples, or 1.54 million if you don’t.

Of the Israelis, more than one third are Orthodox or Haredi (ultra-Orthodox). These two groups also comprise 40 percent of New York’s total Jewish population, up from 33 percent in 2002, when the last Jewish Community Study of New York was published. But the Orthodox account for 64 percent of Jewish children.

Presumably because it is heavily Haredi, the Israeli community has less education, less wealth and more children than New York’s overall Jewish population. Fully 39 percent lack a college education, compared to 23 percent of Jews overall; the same proportion lives under or near the poverty line, compared to 28 percent overall; and 42 percent of Israeli families have children (24 percent overall).

The Israelis are less likely to be intermarried (only 9 percent, compared to 23 percent overall), more likely to send their kids to Jewish schools (72 percent versus 45 percent), and more likely to attend synagogue.Among the general Jewish population, 44 percent feel “connected” to Israel. But the proportion, as many other studies have shown, varies with religious affiliation and age: While 69 percent of Orthodox Jews and 46 percent of people 65 or older feel such a connection, only 38 percent of the non-Orthodox and 25 percent of young singles do.

The study, commissioned by the UJA-Federation of New York, found that while the number of Orthodox and nondenominational Jews both increased by more than 100,000 over the last decade, the number of Conservative and Reform Jews dropped by about 40,000 each.It also found that while the overall intermarriage rate was 23 percent, the rate soars to 50 percent among non-Orthodox Jews married in the last five years.

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GUEST POST: “Why is Israel the Exception?” Asks Protester Thrown Out of Globe Theatre

On Monday 28th May 2012, the two day caravan fest of Israel’s apartheid promoting wagon, Habima, rolled into town faced with vehement anti-Israel Apartheid Protests. Criticism is levied against Habima, National Theatre of Israel and the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London for hosting them; they serve to support and promote Israel’s Apartheid. The Russell Tribunal Session held in South Africa in November 2011 found that Israel infringes International law and must be prosecuted for its international crimes which include Apartheid & Persecution.

The Issue with Habima

Habima is an extension of the State of Israel’s political public relations arm which attempts to use ‘theatrical culture’ to whitewash Israel’s crimes. Israel spends millions of pounds and devotes large scale resources in an attempt to create and promote a globally appealing public face and silence dissent on the truth of its criminal conduct.

Habima, with full knowledge of the global call to boycott illegal Israeli settlements, is determined to continue and regularly performs to settlement audiences. Palestinians in neighbouring villages are physically excluded from attending. Habima does this in cahoots with Israeli State Officials and its activities are funded by the State of Israel. Israel’s foreign ministrycontributed £10,000 towards Habima’s London visit to the Globe.

Other Israeli Theatre Professionals have refused to Perform in illegal Israeli Settlements so WHY NOT HABIMA?

Illegal Settlements in Ariel and Kiryat Arba in the West Bank have created ‘halls of culture’ inviting many theatres to perform there. In 2011, numerous Israeli theatrical professionals publically refused to participate in such performances and their noble stance was supported by many fellow Hollywood celebrities.

The World Shakespeare Festival is aware that Habima works to legitimise & support Illegal Activity yet refused the Global Call to Boycott Habima

‘Boycott from Within’, a group of Palestinians, Jews and citizens of Israel who support the campaign to Boycott, Divestment from and Sanction Israel, in order to work towards the ‘promotion of just peace and true democracy’ in the region, wrote to the Directors of the World Shakespeare festival in 2012. Their letter informed directors that Israeli actors themselves have refused to perform in Israel’s illegal settlements and included the following statements:

‘The dissident Israeli theatre professionals have argued that the West bank settlements had been created in violation of International Law and with the specific aim of blocking any possibility of achieving peace with the Palestinians; that the expropriation of land in an occupied territory and the creation and maintenance of armed settlement enclaves are the very opposite of what is commonly termed “Culture”; and that therefore, a settlement maintaining a “Hall of Culture” was a blatant contradiction in terms. …however, on this issue the management of Habima has taken a position which is remote from any kind of social engagement. Claiming to be “non-political”, the management has reiterated its decision to perform in West Bank settlements, “like everywhere else”. Moreover, the management specifically promised Limor Livnat, Minister of Culture in the Netanyahu Government, to “deal with any problems hindering such performances”, i.e. to pressure recalcitrant actors into taking part in them, even against the dictates of their conscience. And it must be pointed out that for several months, Habima has indeed sent out its actors to hold theatrical performances in West Bank settlements, on a regular basis.’

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre refused the Global Call to Boycott Habima

The Shakespeare Globe Theatre attempted to suggest that by inviting both Palestinian and Israeli Theatre to their festival, they are somehow promoting harmony. I understand that the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is funded by the National lottery.

Habima’s Opening Night Performance at the Globe, greeted by Anti-Israeli Apartheid Campaigners

Over 50 Human Rights campaigners gathered outside the Globe, in a protest organised by PSC. A counter protest was organised with Israeli Propagandists waving their symbol of Apartheid Israel – ‘Their Israeli Flag’.

There was a clear distinction between how the two protests were policed. Both protests had pens and whilst the police insisted that Anti-Israeli Apartheid Campaigners remain tightly confined within their pen, the Apartheid Israel propagandists were at liberty to venture freely outside of theirs with posters, banners and flags. The Palestine Solidarity protest was set back at least 50 metres from the entrance to the globe and around a corner, whilst the Israeli apologist demonstration was within a few metres of the main entrance.

Protesters Evaded High Scale Globe Security & Conducted Peaceful Protest inside the Globe during Habima’s Performance

Whilst campaigners on the outside were prevented from entering within a few metres of the globe grounds, which were heavily policed by an approximately 50 London Met officers, through the glass campaigners could see inside the foyer. A young man had been detained and was surrounded by police officers for over 20 minutes. His hands were held behind his back as large globe security persons stood in front of the window in an attempt to obstruct campaigner’s views. When he eventually came outside he was greeted by large cheers. He kindly explained what had happened to him inside.

A Protester from Denmark had much to say about Apartheid Israel, Habima & The Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

He explained he had unfolded a banner inside the theatre during Habima’s performance which read ‘no to apartheid Israel’. He said, “One security guard shouted scum at me, they got physical with me, they grabbed me by my hands, lots of police were there, obviously it’s not illegal to put a banner up, that’s called freedom of speech, right? Everyone’s allowed to do it and Israel is an apartheid State so it’s the least we can do…Israel is the one allowed to put on their national theatre here, they are the ones that have the priviledges, we just go in and protest, put up banners, we didn’t say anything, we just let the words speak; the truth is apparently too much for these people.”

In reference to the London Mets policing he replied, “Obviously a complete over reaction…There are like 50 police officers here. There has never been any threat of violence.”

How did you manage to get your banner in, did they not Check?
“No, it was easy, if you have been through Israeli security. This was easy compared to that.”

Have you been to Israel?
“I have been to occupied Jerusalem, that’s the only place I have been to.”

What was your experience of it?
“Blatant racism wherever you walk. You go to Jerusalem you see the light rail that goes through the city but it only connects the centre of the city to the settlements…Palestinians aren’t allowed on the rail. I went to see the wall in Bethlehem, it’s obvious, its complete racism, its apartheid. The friends I was staying with there, when they were kids, before they were teenagers they were shot by the Israeli military. They go to sleep and they have IDF soldiers with sniper rifles up in the towers in Bethlehem by the wall. What kind of life is that? They live in refugee camps. They were born in refugee camps and they have lived their entire life in refugee camps.”

Have you visited any refugee Camps?
“Yes, in Bethlehem. It’s terrible, you go to Jerusalem to the western bit of Jerusalem and you see just how much wealth there is there… and how privileged people are and then you go to Bethlehem and it’s a completely different world. It’s like 20 minutes away and people there live in intense poverty and are victims of racism on a daily basis. To me it’s very obvious. If people go and see it with their own eyes its very obvious. Either you are with humanity or you are against equality for everyone.”

What do you think of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’s decision to wilfully continue to host Habima’s performance today and tomorrow?
“Well, I think it’s quite an atrocity actually. I believe in a full cultural, academic and economic boycott of Israel until they allow the right of refugees to return to Palestine and until they dismantle the occupation, until there is full equality for Palestinians. I think that’s an entirely reasonable demand”.

“Today I saw people calling for full economic boycott of Syria, Iran and all these other countries so why is Israel the exception? We are always asked, ‘why do you single out Israeli, why do you always target Israel? No, it’s not us that target Israel; our governments don’t want to target Israel so somebody has to do it. If the politicians don’t want to do it, then we have to do it. So that’s why I believe in a full boycott, especially of settlement goods… they are the worst of the worst”.

The atrocities and the illegalities there are so glaringly obvious, if you go and see it or if you talk to any Palestinian, even any Palestinian here or any Palestinian diaspora they will tell you the stories from their family. To me, it’s obvious. I have no vested interest in this conflict. I am not Muslim. I am not Jewish. I am not Arab, nothing like that. I see things on the TV, you go and talk to actual people and you go and visit the place and it’s very obvious.”

It’s clear to me that Habima is an agent of Apartheid Israel. The parallels between South African apartheid and Israeli apartheid are similar. South Africa used its national rugby team to promote itself abroad in a bright and progressive light. There were large scale anti-apartheid protests against the South African rugby team which supported an end to South African apartheid. Neither am I surprised by the UK Governments support of apartheid Israel. Again, Thatcher’s government was one of the last to withdraw its support for apartheid South Africa. Apartheid was wrong in South Africa and is wrong in Israel. Please support the Palestinian call to Boycott, Divest from and Sanction Israel.

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How Not to Criticize Israel

NOVANEWS

 

The following was presented at the most recent Jewish/Evangelical Dialogue and is somewhat longer (to say the least) than a normal blog post.  A number of my friends have requested the paper so I have chosen to post it here.  I welcome your responses.

How Not to Criticize Israel: Guidelines for Conversations between Evangelicals and Jews
John E. Phelan, Jr.
North Park Theological Seminary
Evangelical Christians have for years been dependable supporters of the state of Israel.  Dispensationalist interpreters saw the reconstitution of the state in 1948 as a fulfillment of prophecy and a clear sign that the return of Jesus was at hand.  Throughout the following decades Israel could count on Evangelicals to support the state in the voting booth as well as from the pulpit.  This support, of course, was not new.  Zionists found support for their cause in the late 19th and early 20th century from Christian students of prophecy who were convinced the fulfillment of God’s purposes required a Jewish state in their ancient homeland.  In the early decades of the 20th century pastors, theologians, and Christian politicians enthusiastically promoted the cause of a Jewish homeland.  In many circles to this day it is unthinkable for an Evangelical to criticize or question the state of Israel.
In recent years things have begun to change.  Many Evangelicals have been sensitized to the sufferings and struggles of the Palestinians—particularly Palestinian Christians.  At the same time, Dispensationalism has fallen into disfavor in many Evangelical circles.  For many the state of Israel is no longer necessary for the fulfillment of prophecy and the Jews’ return to the land is no longer seen as a reason for celebration.  Evangelical Christians committed to social justice have joined their colleagues in mainline Protestant churches in criticizing Israel over the plight of the Palestinians.  Its Christian critics now frequently depict Israel as just one more oppressive colonial power in the Middle East.  Supporting Israel has become as unthinkable for some Evangelicals as supporting cuts in government support of the poor!
Israel is a state like any other.  It has had good leaders and poor ones.  It has made wise decisions and foolish ones.  It is as subject to criticism as Egypt, Iraq or the United States.  One of my Jewish friends says that among Jews criticizing the government of Israel is an intramural sport.   No state, Israel included, is beyond criticism.  Nevertheless, some Christian and specifically Evangelical criticisms of Israel are neither just nor helpful and others are simply shockingly inappropriate.  Conversations between Evangelicals and Jews over the perceived failures of the state of Israel are fairly new.  In what follows some principles of engagement are proposed that may enable those conversations to be helpful rather than hurtful.
Principle One: Evangelicals should not criticize the state of Israel by questioning the legitimacy of Judaism itself.
            
Some Evangelical criticism of Israel has come by way of a critique of so-called “Christian Zionism.”  Such criticism is intended to break the hold that Dispensationalist thinkers have had on Evangelical conversations about Israel and Judaism.  Unfortunately, when critics launch salvoes at the popular dispensationalist approaches to the interpretation of the Bible the Jews are caught in the crossfire.  It is popular to argue against the Christian Zionists, for example, by suggesting that the Jews no longer have any right to the land of Israel in that Christians are now the sole heirs of all the promises to Abraham.  Some have gone as far as to say this means the Palestinian Christians are the true heirs of the land of Israel—not the Jews (or the Muslims, for that matter).
In making their case against the Christian Zionists and for the Christian Palestinians these Evangelical critics of Israel have perhaps inadvertently launched an attack on Judaism itself.  Their approach implies not only that Jews no longer have a right to the land of Israel, but also that they no longer have a right to interpret their own holy texts.  Christians are now entrusted with the stewardship of the Jewish scriptures and their meaning.  This amounts to a Christian colonization of Jewish texts and traditions.  To many Jews this sounds like theJews, not simply Israel, have no right to exist.  This is not simply an attack on their homeland but on their core convictions about their identity and purpose as God’s people.  Given the ugly history of Christian and Jewish relations such approaches sound a warning bell for even the most secular Jew!
Christian scholars have in recent years been engaged in serious discussions of “supersessionism” or “replacement” theories.  In its crudest form supersessionism holds that the people of Israel have simply been superseded by the church of Jesus Christ and therefore have no claim on their own texts, traditions or future.  This conversation is not a new one. The future of the people of Israel as Israel was an issue that deeply troubled the apostle Paul.  Some argue that the entire book of Romans is dedicated to exploring this issue.  When Paul discusses this directly in Romans 9-11 he begins by arguing “they are [note the present tense] Israelites.  The adoption as God’s children, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship and the promises belong to them.”  A bit later he insists, “God did not reject his people whom he foreknew.”  He concludes his argument with the startling assertion: “All Israel will be saved.”  It seems clear that Paul, at least, did not think that with the founding of the Christian church God’s promises to and love for Israel, as Israel had become passé.  Paul, it seems to many of us, foresaw a future for Israel as Israel.
The upshot of all this is that Evangelicals would do well to avoid using theological arguments to criticize the state of Israel.  Such theological arguments may be heard as at least indirect attacks on Jews and Judaism. This will, to say the least, not foster helpful conversations.  It is certainly fair to criticize Israel where its actions are demonstrably unjust and contrary to its own laws and principles, but it is frankly anti-Jewish to criticize Israel by implying Jews, as Jews have no right to land or a future.  Evangelical critics of Israel need to recognize how painfully this rings in Jewish ears.  Evangelicals implying that Israel, as a Jewish state, has no right to exist will not improve the situation of the Palestinians.
Principle Two: Criticisms of the State of Israel must be grounded in an understanding of the history of the region and a fair assessment of its contemporary challenges.
            
The history of this region did not begin with the construction of the separation fence and wall or even with the foundation of the state in 1948.  The conflicts between Israel’s Jews and their neighbors did not begin with the first Intifada. Israel’s critics need to remember that the Jews did not simply take the land in the war of independence but were promised a homeland by the Balfour Declaration of 1917.  The British, anticipating the fall of the Ottoman Empire declared that they viewed “with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”  The declaration became part of the peace treaty with Turkey after the war.  Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire with the help of the British, Arabs, long under the thumb of the Ottoman Empire and European colonial powers, established several large states in North Africa and the Middle East.  The Jews, in spite of assurances from the British, faced a long and bitter struggle to see their promised homeland established.
Years ago the American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, a supporter of the creation of the state of Israel, argued that justice could only be relative in the Middle East.  Surely many Palestinians suffered losses of land and place with the creation of the state of Israel.  Some were driven from their homes.  Some fled fully expecting to return.  Some, of course, stayed where they were.  The Palestinians, like millions of others in the wake of the Second World War, suffered tragic displacements and bitter losses.  This is well known and should be remembered.  What is less well known is that hundreds of thousands of Jews were driven from their homes, lands, and businesses at the creation of the various Arab states and, in many cases, found refuge in the emerging state of Israel.  Nothing justifies or makes easier the loss of land and home, but historical context matters.
Having said this, although history matters, it is fruitless to adjudicate the past.  Making a tally of which party is the most oppressed or has suffered the greatest losses leads only to balkanization and bitterness.  The challenge of a tragic history is to find a way out of violence, fear, and distrust.  Neither Jews nor Palestinians should forget their pasts, but neither should let the tragic realities of their shared pasts prevent them from seeking a safe and healthy future for their children and grandchildren.  Evangelicals, justly eager to support and encourage their Palestinian brothers and sisters should know and appreciate this painful past and the reasons the Israeli government acts as it does in the present.  The separation fence and wall, for example, did not come into being because the Israelis wanted to make life miserable for the Palestinians.  It came into being because Israelis were dying at the hands of suicide bombers on busses, in cafes and on the streets.  As ugly and unfortunate as the wall is, it has, tragically, worked.  If Israel is to remove this barrier, as I hope it one day will, it must be given an alternative means of protecting its people and their future.  Nothing exists, not even the wall, in a vacuum.
Third Principle: Conversations between Evangelicals and Jews about Israel and Judaism must recognize and acknowledge foundational disagreements between and shared ignorance of one another.
            
Evangelicals should not assume they understand contemporary Jews and Judaism.  They may know the Hebrew Scriptures well.  They may be well versed on the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day.  They may imagine that because they understand Paul’s critiques of his Jewish contemporaries, that they understand and may critique their Jewish contemporaries.  Such assumptions are fatal to dialogue.  The key to any useful dialogue is to let the dialogue partner speak for him or herself!  It is not for Evangelical Christians to tell Jews what they believe.  Nor, of course, is it the place of Jews to tell Christians, evangelical or otherwise, what they believe.  Dialogue always begins with listening.  Evangelicals should let their Jewish partners tell their own stories and vice versa.  In these conversations the differences will emerge and be acknowledged soon enough!
Careful listening will reveal that there are many religious, political, and theological differences within the respective Jewish and Evangelical communities!  There are a variety of opinions within both camps regarding the politics and practices of the state of Israel.  There are significant disagreements regarding how the texts and traditions of Judaism and Christianity are to be applied to living in the modern world.  But whatever the differences, there is in many if not most Jews a fierce commitment to endurance the Jewish people.  A bitter history of pogroms and the Holocaust has bound many Jews, both religious and secular, to the land of Israel.  Here, if nowhere else, in a Jewish homeland, Jews can be safe to live as Jews and practice their traditions well, poorly, or not at all! For many Jews the state of Israel is an assurance of a Jewish future.  Evangelicals cannot pretend to understand fully or appreciate what it means to the survivors of centuries of violence and hostility to find a safe home in the land of Israel.
Jews and Christians view differently the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.  They view differently the role of Torah in the life of an individual and community.  They regard the same texts as the authoritative word of God but read them through a very different set of lenses.  Their sense of “peoplehood” is very different.  Only if Evangelicals and Jews listen to one another and learn from one another over time will they begin to understand their varied convictions and commitments.  Only if Evangelicals and Jews listen to one another will they come over time to understand the significance and challenges of their different perceptions of the state of Israel.  Perhaps then, together, they may have a role in pointing to solutions to its many problems and challenges.
 In spite of their many differences, Evangelical Christians and Jews still have a great deal in common and profound reasons to listen to and learn from one another.  Evangelical Christians and Jews worship the same God—the God of the Jews—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This is the God who calls all Jews and Christians, “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8b).  And whatever their differences with Jews over Israel, Evangelical Christians who hold authoritative the words of the Apostle Paul should be concerned that the Jewish people have a future, believing the Jews beloved of God and that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”
Principle Four: Evangelicals should criticize Israel as friends of Israel.
Criticism from those hostile to the state of Israel and critical of its very existence are certainly less well received than that of critics committed to a just a safe future for Israel and its Jews.  Any criticism that is not founded on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state may sound like an attack on the very survival of the Jews.  Criticism grounded in love is more easily borne that criticism rooted in hostility.  Critics of Israel would do well to listen to the anguish and longing of Israelis for stability, peace, and hope for a shared future with their Palestinian neighbors.  They should also listen to the despair of a people with few friends and many enemies.  Threatened people do not always behave in the most judicious manner.  Israel needs friends who support its existence as a healthy and secure state.  Such friends earn the right to raise questions and offer criticism.  Why would the Jews of Israel listen to critics who are determined to write them not only out of their own story, but the story of the world?  The best way for Evangelicals to address the challenges of the Palestinian people, both Christian and Muslim is to be a friendly critic of Israel committed to its survival and not its destruction.
Conclusion
Evangelicals sometimes are not aware that others may be overhearing their internal conversations.  These conversations can produce pain and bewilderment among our Jewish friends and colleagues.   Frequently the targets of our critiques are our theological and political opponents within the Evangelical community.  But rhetoric intended to undermine positions we find unacceptable from a justice perspective or biblical point of view can inflict unintended wounds upon the Jewish community.  This is especially true if our views are in the first place uninformed, unfair, and unreflective.  I encourage all of us to speak thoughtfully, carefully and lovingly if we hope to address the painful realities on the ground in Israel.

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Olympic Sweatshops Campaign

Dear,

We launched our Olympic sweatshops campaign Not Ok Anywhere last week and already many of you have emailed Adidas over its treatment of workers. Thank you!


New free resources
 – Get others in your local area involved in the campaign by putting in your order for fact sheets, action cards, stickers and other materials today.

Organise a local event – Last week we joined a protest in front of one of Adidas’ central London shops. You can follow suit! Check out our Ideas & Advice Guides and organise your own fundraiser/stall/protest and help raise awareness and put on the pressure. We’ll give you as much support as we can and promote your event.

Help us encourage others –  Already done an action or held an event? Email us your info and pictures to olympics@waronwant.org and we’ll put them up on our blog!

Teachers & youth workers – If you haven’t seen it already, check out our free Sweatshops & Olympics Resource Pack. It’s full of fun classroom activities designed to educate and empower young people in the fight against sweatshop exploitation.

With the London Games fast approaching, this is our moment to highlight the exploitation of garment workers by sportswear companies. Get involved and together we can grow the movement for global justice.

Nadia Idle
Activism & Outreach Officer
War on Want

nidle@waronwant.org

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Another Racist Zionist Senator

English: Official Congressional portrait of Co...

 

Phillip Giraldi

It is ironic that the hard core supporters of Israel among the neoconservatives are hoping for a Republican victory in the fall even though the party that has passionate Israel firsters most deeply embedded continues to be the Democrats. To be sure, Eric Cantor, Republican majority leader in the House and the only Jewish congressman from the GOP, has done some heavy lifting for Benjamin Netanyahu, including advising the Israeli Prime Minister that congress would protect him in any conflict with President Barack Obama. Republican from Florida Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is descended from Sephardic Jews, has also burnished her pro-Israel credentials as chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee while other Republicans from the Bible belt reflexively praise Israel as, one assumes, a tenet of their faith.

But the breadth and depth of outspoken advocates of Israel in the Democratic Party goes far beyond anything the Republicans can muster. Thirteen Jewish Senators are all Democrats as are 26 of the 27 Jewish members of the House. The Democratic National Committee is headed by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz while Steny Hoyer, who is not Jewish, is Minority Whip in the House of Representatives and an outspoken passionate supporter of Israel. Other frequent sponsors of resolutions favoring Israel and condemning Iran and the Palestinians include Howard Berman, Steve Israel, Steve Rothman, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Sherman, Benjamin Cardin, Carl Levin, Frank Lautenberg, Charles Schumer and Joe Lieberman. The late Tom Lantos, often referred to as Israel’s congressman, was also a Democrat. Many of Israel’s friends have characteristically sought and attained powerful positions on committees that deal with foreign and defense policies to enable them to directly influence legislation favorable to Israel.

One would think that more pro-Israel muscle wouldn’t be needed in congress, but yet another prominent Israeli firster is now being groomed for bigger things. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley is being promoted by the Democratic Party leadership to make a run for a Senate seat from the State of Nevada currently held by Republican Dean Heller. Berkley’s support of anything and everything Israel does is notable even by congressional standards. She is co-chair of the Israel Allies Caucus (part of the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation) and has been described by the Jewish media as “one of the most hawkish pro-Israel voices in the US House.” She has co-sponsored six resolutions relating to Israel including one “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza” and has been blistering in her condemnation of the several Gaza relief flotillas, which she evidently sees as boatloads of terrorists.

Berkley is also not shy about supporting other special interests. She is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee (an oxymoron if there ever was one) because she allegedly used her influence to block the closure of a kidney transplant facility in Las Vegas, where her doctor husband works. Given that lack of separation between her personal interest and her responsibility as a congresswoman one might have thought that she should have recused herself from the issue, though the scandal is unfortunately probably insufficient to derail her senatorial bid.

Unlike in some other recent congressional races in Illinois and New Jersey where Israel was a focal point, Berkley will no doubt campaign on local issues in Nevada because raising the ethnic card could prove risky. Heller is a Mormon in a state that has many of his co-religionists. But it should be assumed that if Berkley is elected to the Senate her advocacy of Israel and its policies will be a hallmark of her time in office, just as it has been during her time in the House of Representatives.

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In Norway, 38% believe Zio-Nazi treats Palestinians like how Nazis treated Jews, survey shows

Haaretz

More than a third of Norwegians believe that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is similar to how Nazis treated Jews, according to a survey of attitudes toward Jews in Norway.

The recent survey found that 38 percent of Norwegians feel that way about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. It also indicates that 25 percent of Norwegians believe Jews exploit the memory of the Holocaust to their own advantage and 26 percent think Jews “consider themselves better than others.”

Some 12 percent of the Norwegian population “can be considered significantly prejudiced against Jews,” according to the survey, which was published last month by the Oslo-based Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities.

The survey said the prevalence of anti-Semitic notions in Norway is limited and comparable to that of Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.

TNS Gallup collected data from 1,522 respondents last November for the survey.

Seventy-six percent of those who demonstrated anti-Jewish attitudes in the survey displayed similar attitudes toward Muslims.

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Wednesday urged the Norwegian Justice Ministry to “protect threatened children” in Norway’s school system following an unconfirmed report about alleged schoolyard abuse against a Jewish teenager in Oslo. The report, which appeared on the blog Norway Israel and the Jews, said a classmate of the 16-year-old Jewish boy branded him by placing a hot coin on his neck. The blog said the boy’s father was Israeli.

The head of Oslo’s Jewish community, Ervin Kohn, told JTA that he had not heard about the incident prior to the blog posting. Øivind Kopperud, a researcher at the Oslo-based Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, said his watchdog organization was unaware of the attack.


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Iran detains suspects behind assassinations of nuclear scientists, report says

Haaretz

Iran’s security forces have arrested suspects linked to the assassinations of two nuclear scientists, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Thursday.

According to the report, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry indicated that the suspects were in detention, adding that the “details of the arrest will be made public after lapse of security precaution.”

Iranian officials indicated to Fars that those arrested were involved in the assassination of nuclear scientists Majid Shahriari, who was killed in late 2010 and Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, targeted earlier this year.

A Fars report from 2010 claimed that Shahriari was assassinated after a bomb was attached to his car by assassins on motorcycles, with Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najar accusing the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services of carrying out the attack.

“The CIA and Mossad have always been the enemies of Iran and constantly tried to sabotage our technological progress,” he told state television.

On January of this year, Iranian media reported that Roshan, a supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was also reportedly killed after a bomb was placed on his car by a motorcyclist in Tehran.

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