Archive for the ‘Christians’ Category

Atallah Hanna: On Syria

March 30, 2013

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Christians being ‘driven’ out of Libya due to Nato installed terrorists

February 2, 2013
Vatican City – Christians are being driven out of eastern Libya by Muslim fundamentalists, the Catholic Church’s main clergyman in the country told the Vatican missionary news agency Fides.

The situation was “critical” and the “atmosphere very tense” in the Cyrenaica region, the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli said in the interview on Thursday.

He said two religious communities are leaving “after being pressured by fundamentalists”, adding that the Apostolic Vicar of Benghazi was cautioned to take shelter ahead of a large-scale demonstration on 20 February.

“In past days, the Congregation of the Holy Family of Spoleto who had been there for nearly 100 years were forced to abandon Derna,” east of the main eastern city of Benghazi, he said.

“In Barce [located between Benghazi and Derna] the Franciscan Sisters of the Child Jesus will leave their home in coming days.”

On Friday, Martinelli told Vatican Radio that for some time now fundamentalism has governed decisions in Libya.

Christians have voiced fear of a rise in sectarian sentiment in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation following the 2011 revolt that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi and in which hard-line Islamists played a major part.

Before the uprising, 3% of Libya’s population of around 6.3 million were Christian.

Now only a couple thousand of them remain, with the majority of them expatriates.

In December, two Egyptians died in a blast at a Christian Coptic church in the Libyan town of Dafniya, and two others were wounded

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Are Zionists now calling the shots in the Anglican Church?

January 28, 2013
by Stuart Littlewood

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

rowan williams
Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, has stepped down from his post (sigh of relief).
Williams’s role as a figure of unity in the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is represented in over 130 countries, meant that he was in a position to “bring the needs and voices of those fighting poverty, disease and the effects of conflict, to the attention of national and international policy makers and donor agencies.” Or so we were told.
In 2010, when the Archbishop announced he was planning a visit to Gaza just a year after the slaughter and devastation of Operation Cast Lead, I asked his Lambeth Palace office for more information. Whom would he meet? Would he see the health minister? Would he sit down and talk with the elected prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, man of God to man of God (for Mr Haniyeh is an imam)?  Would he do Gaza (and all of us) proud by spending a generous amount of his time with senior members of the Islamic faith?
His office didn’t reply.
According to the Archbishop’s website he did none of those things. At least, he didn’t mention them if he did. Unless I’m mistaken he said nothing about Gaza in the House of Lords, where he had the ear of Parliament and the support of 25 other Church of England bishops.
Yet he began his Ecumenical letter that Easter by declaring: “Christians need to witness boldly and clearly”.
A lady wrote to me saying she had emailed Lambeth Palace 18 times asking if the Archbishop’s party could please bring back some deaf children’s art, which should have been picked up by members of a recent Gaza blockade-busting convoy. The Palace eventually declined saying the Israelis wouldn’t allow it.
If he’d been ‘witnessing boldly’ as he exhorted other Christians to do, the Archbishop would surely have instructed his staff to pick up the children’s art and dare the Israelis to confiscate it.
She complained that by not using his position in the House of Lords and elsewhere the Archbishop was failing to improve the situation for Palestinians, quoting the words of Desmond Tutu: “Where there is oppression, those who do nothing side with the oppressor.”
It was later revealed that the Israelis severely restricted the Archbishop’s time inside Gaza.  I asked why such interference with the Church’s pastoral business in the Holy Land, of all places, wasn’t broadcast on the website, in mainstream media and in Parliament.
His office confirmed that the Archbishop had initially been refused access to Gaza but was eventually permitted one-and-a-half hours. This was just enough for a hurried visit to the Ahli hospital and no more. When my questions were forwarded to the Archbishop’s public affairs spokesman, the reply was headed “NOT FOR PUBLICATION”. Suffice to say the Israelis from the start blocked the Archbishop’s visit to Gaza and only at the last minute granted him a piddling 90 minutes.
Was this his idea of ‘witnessing boldly’?
The Archbishop’s website joyfully reported how he hobnobbed with the Chief Rabbinate, paid his respects to Yad Vashem and the Holocaust, and talked with the President of Israel – the latter no doubt sniggering up his sleeve at his guest’s frustration at being prevented by Israel’s thugs from seeing what horrors they had inflicted on the Gazans.
Why did he agree to fraternise with Jewish political and religious leaders when his wish to carry out his Christian duty in Gaza was so rudely obstructed? Did Lambeth Palace not realise that meekly accepting such insults only served to legitimise the Israelis’ illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and gave a stamp of approval to the vicious siege of Gaza, the ongoing air strikes against civilians, the persecution of Muslim and Christian communities and the regime’s utter contempt for international law and human rights?
There was no mention of a get-together with senior Islamic figures, leaving a question-mark over Williams’s real commitment to inter-faith engagement.
Earlier, while the Jewish State was putting its finishing touches to Operation Cast Lead (the infamous blitzkrieg launched over Christmas-New Year 2008/9 against Gaza’s civilians including the Christian community there), the Archbishop joined Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in a visit to the former Nazi camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland to demonstrate their joint solidarity against the extremes of hostility and genocide.
“This is a pilgrimage not to a holy place but to a place of utter profanity – a place where the name of God was profaned because the image of God in human beings was abused and disfigured,” said the Archbishop. “How shall we be able to read the signs of the times, the indications that evil is gathering force once again and societies are slipping towards the same collective corruption and moral sickness that made the Shoah possible?”
Read the signs? Surely they were plain to see. The forces of evil had already pushed some societies into the moral cesspit. He needed to look no further than the hell-hole that the Holy Land had been turned into by the Israeli occupation, with good old England’s blessing. If ever there was a place where “the name of God was profaned” this is it.
Who will step forward and save it? The Holy Land is the well-spring of the Christian faith, but you wouldn’t think so from the don’t-give-a-damn attitude among senior churchmen.
Open door for the bully-boys
The multitude of inter-faith committees and Christian-Jewish councils has opened the door to the Zionist lobby and made it easy for them to meddle in Church business and bully Christians into submission. There’s even a propaganda outlet calling itself Anglican Friends of Israel. A few weeks ago Zionists, no doubt emboldened by the Church’s appeasement policy, put the squeeze on the Bishop of Newcastle, Martin Wharton. The Representative Council of North-East Jewry wrote to him complaining that he voted for a motion at the General Synod which supported the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) despite their “grave concerns… that it would encourage anti-Semitism”. His action, said the letter, “makes any further contact with the Jewish community in the North-East impossible”.
So be it, would seem an appropriate response. But oh no. What brought this on, according to the Church Times, was Bishop Wharton’s agreement to speak at a conference, ‘Peace & Justice in the Holy Land’, organised by a group of people who had taken part in the EAPPI programme. Its sponsors included Christian Aid, CAFOD, and Friends of Sabeel UK.
The chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), the Revd David Gifford, said that the conference had “the potential of becoming yet another anti-Jewish meeting, creating more anxiety and distrust between the north-east Jewish community and the Church”. Then the Board of Deputies of British Jews chimed in saying that the EAPPI was “partisan” and “anti-Israel”.
Let’s be clear what the EAPPI is actually about:
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. When they return home, EAs campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.  
 The EAPPI programme was set up by the World Council of Churches in response to a call by the churches of Jerusalem. Its mission includes engaging in public policy advocacy and standing in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the illegal occupation. Few people except those who support the brutal Israeli regime would disagree with the programme’s principles and objectives. And few, surely, would condemn the humanitarian work the EAPPI carries out with great courage in the face of criminal hostility. Nevertheless its success has whipped the usual suspects into an orchestrated frenzy.
As reported in the Jewish Chronicle, John Dinnen whose motion sparked the Synod debate pointed out that well-known Jewish groups such as Jews for Justice for Palestine and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition [ICAHD] are entirely supportive of EAPPI, and that five per cent of EAPPI volunteers are Jewish “which is a higher ratio than the number of Jews in England”.
But despite having the moral high ground Wharton caved in and decided not to attend the conference “for the sake of good relations between all the faith communities in Newcastle”. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham & Newcastle, Seamus Cunningham, also decided not to attend. He told the Jewish Chronicle that he had become aware “that many Jewish people in the north-east were angry and upset”. Perhaps the angry and upset should go themselves to the West Bank and experience the behaviour of their brethren towards Palestinian women and children and the EAPPI volunteers.
Throughout his time on the Archbishop’s throne Williams was mad-keen on inter-faith dialogue, for what good it has done, and spent an inordinate amount of time with Chief Rabbi Sacks. At one point the Jerusalem Post suggested that the chief rabbi had “in some respects eclipsed the archbishop as the religious voice of the country”.
This is the UK, remember, where Jews comprise just 0.5% of the population and Muslims are 8 times greater in number.
Nor was the Archbis
hop the best-known Christian according to a survey 3 years ago. Harry Webb (aka Cliff Richard) beat him into second place The survey made Cliff even “bigger than the Pope”, who trailed in seventh place.
Now we hear that the squeaky-clean, born-again-Christian megastar is to perform in Israel in July, and the Israeli media are making a meal of it. Does none of these pious dudes understand the appalling, inhuman situation out there?
I’m not sorry to see the back of Rowan Williams – a good guy but not the right man at this time. And what are we to make of his replacement, Archbishop number 105, who will be enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral in March?  Justin Welby is touted as an expert in conflict resolution, but he comes from nowhere and is not known for his concern about the Holy Land. His grandfather was a Jewish immigrant and Welby was Bishop of Durham for barely five minutes before landing this top job.
justin welby
The Jewish Chronicle reported that Welby last year helped mount a Holocaust Memorial Day exhibition in Liverpool Cathedral and… wait for it… abstained in last summer’s vote at the Anglican Synod which endorsed the EAPPI.
In my view, anyone who cannot bring himself to give wholehearted backing to a worthy humanitarian project like EAPPI shouldn’t be leading a great Christian church.
Stuart Littlewood
24 January 2013

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Israeli Vandals Cite ‘Revenge’ in Latest Church Attack

January 9, 2013

By Richard Edmondson

I guess the Christ haters in Israel just couldn’t let the old year pass without carrying out one last church desecration. According to a report in Haaretz, vandals attacked a church in a small village in northern Israel just after Christmas, sometime during the night of December 26-27. For the most part, the attack followed a pattern similar to other church and mosque desecrations that have been occurring regularly in the Jewish state and which I have reported on in the past. Graffiti, some of it obscene, was spray painted, a flammable liquid was poured, and a cemetery adjacent to the church was broken into and the graves vandalized.

But there was one slight little twist. The graffiti included two instances of the word “revenge” (one in Hebrew and one in English). Revenge for what? one might ask.

The church targeted this time was the Church of Our Lady—one of the few structures left standing in the abandoned village of Kafr Bir’im, located just four km south of the Lebanese border. The village is abandoned because it was ethnically cleansed in 1948, and while the Haaretz article does mention that it isabandoned, it leaves the impression that its inhabitants left voluntarily. This is not what happened. I’ll relate some of the village’s history below, but first a couple of excerpts from the Haaretz story. An abandoned village, to be sure, but there are still people attached to it, as you’ll see:

The church is the only remaining structure in the town of Baram in northern Israel, which was abandoned in 1948 by its Arab-Christian population.

The committee of the abandoned town said that this was not the first time unknown suspects have broken into the cemetery and vandalized the graves. The word “revenge” and a Star of David were spray-painted at the entrance of the church.

The committee explained that in the last few days families came to the site to celebrate Christmas and that no signs of vandalism were discovered. Only on Thursday was the vandalism discovered so that the attack must of taken place during the night of Wednesday and Thursday.

The “committee” referred to in the above passage is the Committee for the Uprooted of Kafar Birem, made up of the village’s former inhabitants and their descendants. While their desire, for the past 64 years, has been to return to their home, so far Israel has forbade resettlement of the village. However, it does permit them to visit and to bury their dead in the church cemetery, and occasionally weddings are still held in the church.

Camal Yaakub, a member of committee, said an official complaint was lodged with the Safed Police, but that similar complaints were lodged in the past, and no one has been arrested.

“This is a heinous act that epitomizes criminal extremism and it cannot be ignored…We plan to contact the Vatican and complain about the repeated attack on this holy site without any proper action on the part of the police,” Yaakub said.

The Haaretz article refers to Kafr Bir’im as “Baram,” however, Baram is actually the name of a Jewish kibbutz located nearby on what was once village land. The kibbutz was founded in 1949, less than a year after the new state forcibly exiled Kafr Bir’im’s native inhabitants. The villagers were told that they would have to leave but were promised they would be allowed to return in two weeks. This promise was broken by the Israeli authorities. The displaced population was almost wholly Christian. Kafr Bir’im had been one of a small number of Christian villages in the upper Galilee.


The Church of Our Lady as it looks today–or as it did before
vandals struck in December of 2012

At the beginning of this article I used the term “Christ haters.” This of course is not the first time Christian churches in Israel have been attacked. In fact, it’s not even the first time the Church in Kafr Bir’im has been attacked. Would it surprise you to learn that the year 2012 saw no less than seven attacks on Christian sites in Israel? This indeed is the case. In February, vandals hit the Narkis Street Baptist Church and the Valley of the Cross Monastery, both in Jerusalem ( see video ); the Monastery of Notre-Dame de Sept Doulers in Latrun, 25 km west of Jerusalem, fell prey in September; next targeted was the Convent of St. Francis on Mt. Zion in early October. And finally the year 2012 went out with a bang, with three attacks in December—the Church of Our Lady in Kafr Bir’im in the early part of the month, the Valley of the Cross Monastery on December 12 (the monastery’s second desecration of the year), followed by the Church of Our Lady again on December 27. Funny how the Israeli police don’t seem to be able to make much progress in solving these cases.

In addition to the above acts of vandalism, Israel has issued a confiscation order for 37,000 square meters of privately owned land in the Cremisan Valley near Bethlehem. The valley is home to the Salesian Sisters Convent School and the Salesian Monastery, and the order leaves Christian families in the area faced with the prospect of losing their land.

The year 2012 also saw a member of the Israeli Knesset publicly tear apart a copy of the New Testament (see story and photo here ).

And now we have Jewish vandals invoking the word “revenge” in their latest attack against the Church of Our Lady. Clearly, then, the term “Christ haters” seems to be warranted.

“Revenge”? Let’s review briefly who did what to whom.

21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”
22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

John 13: 21-27

63 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65 And they said many other insulting things to him.

Luke 22:63-65

13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.[c]
18 With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)
20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Luke 23:13-21

38 Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”

41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”

Matthew 27:39-42

The passages above bear an unmistakable parallel to what we see happening in Israel today. Why was Jesus hated so much by the Jews of his time? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Christ rebelled…not against Rome (as Pilate aptly observed in the passage from Luke 23), but against Jewish supremacism. Think of his parable of the Good Samaritan, with its message that all people, and not just Jews, are loved by God. Or consider his tenet that we are to love our enemies, be compassionate, and treat people with justice. Teachings of this nature are anathema to the Jewish supremacist mindset and to the view of Jews as “chosen.” And it is no wonder they hated him. So how deep did this hatred run? The best clue to that can be found in the final passage, the one from Matthew. There was Jesus hanging on the cross as the Jewish supremacist psychopaths gathered about him, taunting, jeering, “hurling insults”—even as his blood flowed from his pierced flesh. It was a betrothal of sorts—between the Jews and their long-lived hatred for Christ; a betrothal sanctioned by the law of Moses, which viewed the Jews as chosen; a hatred born in a walled-in Gabbatha of the first century, and which remains firmly entrenched in Jewish thinking to this day. 

For consider: despite all the Gospel passages I’ve quoted above, the Jewish settlers of Israel apparently feel it is the Christians of Palestine who warrant an act of “revenge” of some sort.

The following is an account of the December 27 attack upon the Church of Our Lady posted at the website of The Committee for the Uprooted of Kafar Birem. The account is posted in Arabic, the English translation is by Nahida Izzat.

A new attack on a church and cemetery of Kafr Bir’em village which was ethnically cleansed
  in 1948. The villagers were promised then by an Israeli minister at the time that they would be allowed back to their village after two weeks. 

As usual, the refugees of  Kafr Bir’em  gathered on 12.25.2012  for Christmas prayer in their old church, they stayed there for many hours after prayer, and despite the extreme cold some youth stayed overnight.

The next day (the second day of the Feast), many of villagers walked around between their homes and in the church, including the National Parks Association official who is responsible for historic and archeological sites who toured the village before leaving the place, there were no signs or traces of attacks on any archaeological site.

On the morning of (12/27/2012), racist and immoral graffiti insults to the Cross were found on the walls of archaeological sites and the door of the church, including the Star of David. On the steps of the church, the word “revenge” was written in Hebrew, and on one of the walls, the word “revenge” was written in English. Furthermore, some oil substance was found on the door and the steps of the church, perhaps an attempt to burn the church.

This kind of attack was not the first, three weeks ago similar attacks happened, a complaint was presented to the police of Safed, which attended and examined the place but as usual, did not find the perpetrators.

As mentioned, today’s attack is one of dozens of similar racist acts which reflect religious and national racism. In all of the events complaints were made to the police, and in all times they were not “successful” to capture the perpetrators.!!

The Committee of Kfar Bir’em, the stewards of the local church and the heads of the local church in general, are furious for these heinous acts which reflect violence and racism, they reject the series of attacks on Christian holy places and others, especially in light of apparent impotence shown by officials to protect the security of people and places in general, and sacred in particular.

The Committee of Kfar Bir’em also intends to take the complaint further to the institutions concerned in the country, to institutions in the Vatican embassy in Israel and to the Holy See in the Vatican, demanding action to protect the holy places where it appears that the state is “unable” to protect them.


Take notice of the second paragraph. The Israelis have refused to allow the former inhabitants of the village to return to their homes, yet despite this, and despite the winter temperatures, they gather there at the church each year for Christmas, and some even stay overnight. Does this sound like a people who would have “voluntarily” abandoned their village 65 years ago?

The reference to the “National Parks Association” makes sense when we learn that in 1977 the Israeli government turned Kafr Bir’im and its surrounding land into a national park. You’ll note the reference in the fifth paragraph to the attack that occurred three weeks earlier and the mention that the police did not find the perpetrators then either…as well as the following paragraph, which places the attacks on the Church of Our Lady within the context of a national pattern of “religious and national racism.” As I said above, hatred for Christ remains firmly entrenched in Jewish thinking to this day, and this report from the Committee for the Uprooted of Kafar Birem about the attack on their church gives us a graphic example of this.

Some history of Kafr Bir’im:

The information I’m about to present comes from the book, Returning to Kafr Bir’im, compiled in 2006 by the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. The full document can be accessed in pdf format here , and gives a detailed history of the ethnic cleansing of the village in 1948 as well as the efforts by successive generations of Bir’imites to return to the place they still, 65 years later, think of as home. It is basically a history of the Palestinian Nakba as it played out in this one particular village, and it is one of only a handful of such histories available on the Internet (another reliable source on the village’s history, of course, being the site of the Committee for the Uprooted of Kafr Bir’im. )

The ethnic cleansing began roughly some five months after the formal establishment of the state of Israel—specifically on October 29, 1948 when Israeli occupation forces arrived at the village as part of “Operation Hiram.” It was one of the first of what have now become commonplace—i.e. biblically-themed military operations aimed at eliminating or dislocating Palestinians from their native lands. Hiram was the Old Testament king of Tyre who, as the story goes, helped the ancient Israelites build their temple by supplying laborers and cedar timber from Lebanon. The objective of Operation Hiram was to create a military buffer zone by clearing out the populations of all the Palestinian villages on or close to the Lebanese border.

On this day, the soldiers carried out a house-by-house search of Kafr Bir’im. When this was done the people were allowed to reenter their homes, yet at the same time the military imposed a curfew on the village. A week later they conducted a census count, in the course of which they registered 1,050 people living in the village. Still the residents believed themselves safe for the reason that they had been on good terms with the Jews, and had not resisted the occupation or participated in the earlier fighting by Palestinian resistance groups. But this faith they held in the Jewish authorities was misplaced. On November 13, 1948, the Israeli forces ordered the villagers to leave their homes within 48 hours. This was done under the pretext that officials were concerned about their safety. As one of the officers informed them, “Our intelligence sources say that Kafr Bir’im is in serious danger, but you are fortunate because my men can protect it. Your lives, however, may be in danger. Therefore you have to close your houses, give us the keys and head to the surrounding hills for a few days. I promise you that none of your belongings will be touched.”

The Bir’imites were told they would have to leave for a two-week period, but that at the end of that time they would be allowed to return. It was a promise which was of course never kept.

Initially it was the Israeli military’s plan to drive the Upper Galilee Palestinians across the border and into Lebanon, but for whatever reason that part of Operation Hiram ended up never being implemented. While some of the displaced did make their way to Lebanon, most ended up being resettled inside Israel. The majority of Kafr Bir’im’s residents moved to the village of Jish, four km to the south.

By the time the infamous two week period had passed, Kafr Birim’s inhabitants were still waiting for the imminent return. Officer Emmanuel (Mano) Friedman and other Israeli officials were still making promises and assuring the villagers that everything was going well. The villagers (now residing in Jish) were allowed to fetch the dried tobacco hanging in the ceilings of their homes and market it through a Haifa-based company. Kafr Bir’im inhabitants displaced to the Lebanese village of Rmaish were also permitted to come to Kafr Bir’im, prepare the tobacco and sell it in Haifa, in order to then go back to Rmaish and wait for the ultimate return to Kafr Bir’im.

But the “ultimate return” never came. On February 22, 1949, the situation became more tense. Some 65 villagers who had returned to make repairs on their homes following severe rains were rounded up and deported into the West Bank, then under Jordanian rule. Village leaders and clergy protested this action to Israeli officials, but to no avail. But more was to come. In June of that year, the Bir’imites discovered the houses that they had once lived in now were occupied by Jews, and that a kibbutz was being built on a section of their village land. The Jews continued living in the Palestinian homes until 1951, at which time they moved into the newly-completed kibbutz. The kibbutz was named the Kibbutz Baram. It was established on land belonging to Kafr Bir’im, and its builders seemed to have helped themselves liberally to whatever Palestinian property they needed at the time.

Vandalism and theft of land and property of Kafr Bir’im by Kibbutz Bar’am continued over a period of several years and included destruction of wells. The use of stones from the village houses for the pavement of the kibbutz’ main street in 1952, and the uprooting of olive trees from village land.

Moreover, Kibbutz Baram did not remain the only Jewish settlement which would swallow the land of Kafr Bir’im. In 1958, Moshav Dovev, an agricultural co-operative, was established on the land northwest of the village. Other parts of the village land were exploited by Kibbutz Sa’sa set up on land of the depopulated Palestinian village of Sa’sa.

But the worst was yet to come. Eventually Israeli leaders decided to make the cleansing complete by destroying all the remaining homes, and on September 16-17, 1953, Israel’s Air Force bombed Kafr Bir’im, destroying every structure in the village with the exception of the church and its school. To make matters doubly painful, the villagers were able to watch the bombing from a hilltop two km away—a hill that became known as “the Bir’imites wailing place.” Even until this day, the date of the destruction is commemorated each year with demonstrations and other activities. One of the displaced residents, Sami Zahra, recalls what it was like:

When the planes appeared above the village, and the houses were bombed, we all went up a hill located in the high area of Jish overlooking Kafr Bir’im. Every time a bomb fell on a house, the people would mention the name of the house owner and cry, and wait for the next bomb which would destroy the next house. They were unable to intervene against the destruction…Ever since that time, the hill has been called the ‘Bir’imites wailing place.’

The Israeli military had declared the entire region a “closed area,” and the objective was basically to make it impossible for people to return and live there. Other villages were being dealt with in similar-type manners.

The people of Kafr Bir’im protested the aerial destruction of their village. They lodged their complaints with all the political leaders in Israel, as well as with the ambassadors of the United States, Britain, France, and the Vatican. In one message, addressed to a number of top Israeli officials, they declared:

The owners of Kafr Bir’im strongly condemn the bombing of their houses and consider it the worst form of injustice. They would have preferred to be slaughtered by the racist oppressor, rather than having their houses demolished before their eyes in a situation of calm and without justification. The bombing of the houses will not make the owners cede their rights.

And so it hasn’t. In the six decades since that anguishing event in 1953, the people of Kafr Bir’im and their descendants have waged a nonviolent campaign for their cherished right of return. Over the years, at different times, these efforts have included appeals to the Israeli courts as well as lobbying public opinion, both inside and outside of Israel. They have also told their story in films, books, documentaries, and artistic endeavors. Occasionally these efforts have met with some moderate successes. In the early 1970s, for instance, the plight of the people of Kafr Bir’im became a major issue in the Israeli media, and some Israelis called for the villagers to be given the right to return to their homes. But still the government refused this request, fearing the legal precedent that would be set and that could possibly be seized upon by other displaced people from other villages.

Painting of the Church of Our Lady
by Roni Issa

In 1965, Israeli officials began a project of converting the Kafr Bir’im area into a national park, a plan that also included the development of new residential areas. The park was officially designated as such in 1977—on land that included the village, its church and cemetery, and all surrounding land. Even though the ruins of the destroyed houses belonging to the people of Kafr Bir’im were still visible, government authorities posted a sign at the entrance identifying it as the site of an ancient Jewish village. Said Natalie Makhoul, a young woman from the third generation of the Bir’imite displaced:

In my childhood, I never thought of my village as a national park. My connection with it was free of such provocations and anger. It is very painful for me now, that the land of my village and grandparents is treated as a ‘national park.’ My feeling towards the village is stronger than the signs that carry the name of the park. It’s a malicious act, and it makes me angry to see people and tourists come to my village and read stories about its history which have been fabricated in order to obliterate our personal past.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Bir’imites were prohibited by law from entering their village, and visits were limited to making treks up to the “wailing hill.” But in 1967, Israeli authorities loosened restrictions somewhat, allowing people in for visits, though not to stay. And thus began a practice that has continued down to today, of holding weddings and religious ceremonies in the church, along with burial services in the cemetery. A youth summer camp is also held each year in the first week of August, all of which helps keep ties to the village alive.

In 1972, the villagers undertook a project of renovating the Church of Our Lady. The church had been vandalized by the Jewish settlers who had arrived in 1949, and again in 1951 with the establishment of the Kibbutz Baram—and then in 1953, when the village houses were bombed from the air, the church walls and edifices were cracked. Later during the 50s its bell was also stolen, the theft carried out by a person or persons unknown from the nearby kibbutz. But the renovation was successfully completed, and a new bell acquired. According to Father Elias Shaqour:

They took it [the bell] so that they could ring it at lunchtime in the kibbutz, and when our young people went to get it, they found it broken. The church remained without a bell until I went to Lebanon, collected 3,650 Lebanese Pounds from the Biri’mites there, and brought the bell with me in 1975. The bell weighs 285 kilograms and carries an inscription saying: ‘A gift from Kafr Bir’im’s sons and daughters in Lebanon.’

In 1998, the church was connected to the grid of the regional electric company, and today religious ceremonies continue to be held there, particularly at Christmas and Easter, as well as weddings. But still no one is allowed to return to rebuild their homes or live there.

A wedding held at the church in 1980

In 1986, a village clergyman, Father Yusef Istifan Susan published his memoirs, entitled Shahadati: Yawmiyat Bir’imiyya 1948-1968 (My Testimony: a Diary of Kafr Bir’im 1948-1968). In the book he records a conversation he had with an Israeli official in 1951. The man’s name was Na’man Stavi, the military governor of Nazareth (all Palestinians at that time were under military rather than civilian rule, a state of affairs that continued up until 1966), and judging from the callousness of his response he seems to have had little sympathy for the priest and his pesky humanitarian appeals ( my own emphases are added in red):

Father Istifan: We met Mr. Fox [nickname of David Anan, Liaison Officer with Christian Communities in the Ministry of Religions] yesterday here in Nazareth. He told us that the government has agreed to allow us to harvest in this season the olives on our trees and the Waqf trees in Kafr Bir’im. We have come to you to get a permit to enter the area.

The Governor: I don’t know about this and have certainly not been informed. I wish Mr. Fox was with us to provide us with the source of this information. Do you have a letter to that effect?

Father Istifan: He did not hand us the notice in writing, but to dispel your doubts I can add that he came with us to your secretary’s office and informed him of the decision. He had also arranged a meeting with you and expressed his regret that you were not there.

The Governor: I have received notice that Kafr Bir’im’s properties and the Waqf property in the village are under the control of the Department of Agriculture [the department responsible for uncultivated land], the only party now authorized to lease these properties as it wishes. No Arab is allowed to enter this area at all for security reasons.

Father Istifan: Has Kafr Bir’im been designated a closed area recently or earlier on?

The Governor: It has been a closed area since the time you were evacuated from your village.

Father Istifan: We were allowed last year to harvest the Waqf land and we did not violate security, and Kafr Bir’im’s inhabitants were also allowed to pick their olives as paid laborers for the Kibbutz. How do you explain that? If we work for the Kibbutz, we are not considered Arabs and a threat to security, but if we pick our olives for ourselves, we are considered Arabs and a threat to security. Is this logical?

The Governor: I do not know more than I told you.

Father Istifan: It seems that the government has ulterior motives.

The Governor: What do you mean?

Father Istifan: I mean that we have never been a threat to security and will not be one if we pick our olives, and that the government is only trying to extract our properties from us unjustly and by force.We are sorry, but the government is violating the promise made in the leaflets thrown to us from the planes which said: ‘stay in your homes peacefully and you will be treated like us.’ Where are we now with regard to this promise?

The Governor: This is not my business.

You’ll notice, of course, the irony—of the kibbutz growing its olive trees on stolen land, and of the rightful owners of the land being allowed to pick the olives as the paid laborers of the very thieves who stole it from them.

And finally, I have saved the most crucial part of this story till last—crucial, that is, from the point of view of American Christians who may still be laboring under the opinion that Jews, by and large, somehow are our friendsand share certain common values with us—for yes, it seems the Christians of Kafr Bir’im at one time held the very same view of Jews. Keep in mind that on October 29, when the Israeli troops taking part in Operation Hiram arrived, the villagers were right in the middle of their olive harvest. Again from the book, Returning to Kafr Bir’im:

The inhabitants of Kafr Bir’im were ordered to leave despite the special relationship which had linked some villagers with the Zionist movement before 1948. This special relationship, which may even have resulted from understandings reached between the Zionist movement and the Maronite episcopal authority in Lebanon in the 1940s, was described by the Israeli journalist Aaron Becher in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot on 28 July 1972:

Recall, as I said above, that Kafr Bir’im became a major issue in the Israeli media in the early 1970s. Here is the quote Returning to Kafr Bir’im gives from Becher’s 1972 report in Yediot Aharonot:

Long before the creation of the state of Israeli (sic) in May 1948, the inhabitants of Kafr Bir’im had lived in close friendship with the Jews in Palestine. An Israeli Jewish writer has given an account of how, as early as 1945, the villagers had assisted—at some risk to themselves—Zionist Jews of Palestine who were conducting Jewish immigrants passing south from Lebanon through this area into Palestine. One of the Jews involved in this operation was Yeshua Felmon (later changed to Palmon); he was to become adviser to the Israeli government on Arab affairs. One of the Arab youths of the village of Kafr Bir’im was Ayub Mtanis; in 1972 he was to head the protest Committee for the Return of the Uprooted of Kafr Bir’im. In 1972 Mr. Mtanis recalled how in 1945 he saw Mr. Palmon arrive in Kafr Bir’im to smuggle into Palestine four Jews, two men and two women, who had come down from Lebanon. The Arab youngsters distracted the policemen in the village while the Jews were hidden and passed through. This account of Mr. Mtanis was confirmed by Mr. Emmanuel Friedman, who was adviser on minorities in the provisional Jewish government. He stated: “Not only Mr. Palmon, others too…used to visit frequently in the village and to be helped by the villagers. The inhabitants of Kafr Bir’im were considered faithful friends.”

Let’s read that last sentence again: “The inhabitants of Kafr Bir’im were considered faithful friends.” It didn’t take the Zionists long to turn around, stab their “friends” in the back, occupy their homes, and steal their land—did it? I would suggest the following to John Hagee and his bunch and all the other Christian Zionists in America: as long as you continue to be useful to the Jews, they will continue to pretend to be your friends. But the moment you have outlived your usefulness, you can expect to see the same side of them as that experienced by the Christians of Kafr Bir’im in 1948.

And to America’s mainstream Christians, I would ask the following: are these the people you really want to have “interfaith dialogue” with? To what purpose? They will smile and have dialogue with you to your face, and then laugh, smirk, and call you a “stupid goy” behind your back. I offer all of this simply as a cautionary element, as something you might want to think about, particularly you Methodists, the next time a boycott, divestment and sanctions resolution comes up at your next General Conference.

The Bir’imite in the video below (or perhaps his father or grandfather) may well have been one of those villagers who regarded the Zionist Jews as friends. Now, however, with his childhood home bombed and his land taken over by a kibbutz, the elderly gentleman seems to have come (perhaps belatedly) to a different realization—that not only are they not his friends, they are in fact “mafia” and “criminals,” as he puts it.


And now the church and the cemetery—the very cemetery in which we see the old man toiling in the above video—have been vandalized. Vandalized by Christ-hating Jews calling for “revenge.”

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.

John 7:1

The parallels between the past and the present are striking, are they not?
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

O Syria Year of salvation,

January 4, 2013
سنة الخلاص يا سوريا
ناهض حتر
الانتقال من سنة إلى أخرى ليس مفصلاً، لكنه لحظة للتأمل والأمل، لحظة للروح. فهل بقيت لنا هذه اللحظة في هذا المشرق الغارق في حمّى الطائفية والمذهبية والهمجية والجنون؟ وهل بقي لنا أن نقول: سنة الخلاص يا سوريا، ففي خلاصك خلاص المشرق كلّه، خلاصنا الجماعي والفردي من آثار ثورة أوضح ما يميّزها أنها مضادة للروح؟

يوضح مثال «الثورة السورية»، وبغضّ النظر عن دوافعها المتداخلة، المكنونات الإجرامية للتعصب الديني بوصفه هوية سياسية جماعية، هذا التقليد اليهودي القديم للدين/ الأمة، الذي يستعاد في بلادنا اليوم، ويعيد إنتاج الله كقائد حربي أعلى، يجرّده من المطلق، ويجسّده، ويستخدمه في القتال، ويشرعن، بوساطته، اللاأخلاقية كمنهج شامل، والبراغماتية المنهجية والانتهازية والعدمية والخديعة والكذب والتآمر واللصوصية ومفخخات القتل الجماعي وسكاكين الذبح الفردي والاغتصاب والدمار. وباختصار، إباحة كل المحرّمات، ما دامت تُمارس ضد «الأغيار».

المسيحية كانت اعتراضاً على خواء الروح اليهودية والكَلْبيّة الأخلاقية، محاولة في استنطاق معاني المطلق، محاولة تقود إلى الإخاء في الإنسانية ـــ لا في العقيدة ـــ إلى السماح والتسامح، والالتزام بمعايير أخلاقية موحّدة إزاء النحن والآخر. وتطبيقات هذا الالتزام تفصل، حتماً، بين الدين والدولة، الله بوصفه المطلق، لا ينحاز إلى عقيدة ولا إلى طائفة ولا إلى حزب.

اللحظة المسيحية لم تدم، غرقت في ضدها اليهودي، اللهمّ خطرات روحية بقيت في المسيحية المشرقية، وتجلّت منذ عصر النهضة العربية. واظبت على نبذ التسيّس كدين، وإطلاق الحرية للمسيحيين لأن يتسيّسوا كأفراد، كمواطنين. نستثني بالطبع المثال المسيحي اللبناني الشاذ حيث نشأت أحزاب مسيحية. وهذه، في المشرق، فردية، فلا يمكن المسيحية أن تكون حزباً. لذلك، يغدو المسيحيون في بلدان الاندماج، هدفاً للتطهير الديني.
أخذ الإسلام عن اليهودية فكرة الأمة، لكنه أخضعها للمطلق وليس العكس: الأمة في خدمة المطلق وليس المطلق في خدمة الأمة في مواجهة «الأغيار»، ديناً أو مذهباً أو جماعة إلخ. لكن تاريخ الإسلام، كتاريخ المسيحية، شهد مرات عديدة عودة اليهودية إلى قلوب وعقول الجماهير المؤمنة الطائفية المتعصبة التي ما إن يفلت عقالها حتى تتحول إلى وحش لا يشبع من الدماء.
ما أنقذ الروح المسيحية وروح الإسلام في المشرق إنما هو التجربة التاريخية الفريدة المتمثّلة في العروبة. العروبة ليست نسباً بالدم (ففي العرب أجناس وإثنيات)، وليست نسباً في الدين (فالعرب أديان)، وليست إيديولوجية قومية (ففي العرب وطنيات وشعوب وأوطان)، وليست حتى لغة (ففي العرب لغات كالسريانية وسواها من لغات العرب).
العروبة تجربة فريدة ليست على مثال. فهي إطار أمة لا يجمعها عنصر ولا دين ولا لغة، ولكن تنتظمها روح هي روح المكان/ المشرق، ومنظومة قيمية، وسؤال في المطلق تكتشفه بلا توقف حفرية مفتوحة في تاريخ حضارات متراكمة بانسجام انصهرت، فكانت سوريا
سوريا عروبية وعلمانية. هذا ليس اختراعاً بعثياً، ولا مؤامرة «أقليات»، بل خلاصة الزمكان السوري. يكفي أن نلاحظ أنه بانتقال الثقل الإسلامي من الجزيرة إلى سوريا، نشأت للتوّ دولة عروبية وعلمانية (الخلافة الأموية) التي جدّدت نفسها في أندلس وقعت، بدورها، بين براثن كمّاشة: الإسلام السياسي من المشرق والمسيحية السياسية من الغرب.
تُحسَب الخلافة الأموية على السنّة. في المقابل، شهد التاريخ العربي الإسلامي لاحقاً دولة عروبية وعلمانية محسوبة على الشيعة، أعني الإمارة الحمدانية.
ليس أمراً يمكن تسويته ألا تكون سوريا عروبية وعلمانية؛ هذه هي روحها ورابطها الداخلي وضمانة تعدديتها وحصانة استقلالها إزاء الغرب، صليبيين وصهاينة، كما إزاء تركيا، لأنه بالسيطرة التركية، تفقد سوريا دورها وتتحول إلى جغرافيا.
صقر الأسد
أخطأ بشار الأسد في تبنّي نيوليبرالية عمّمت التهميش واستحضرت التعصّب المذهبي. وأخطأ بتقارب مع تركيا المستميتة بلا توقف لالتهام سوريا، وأخطأ وأخطأ… لكنه، في صلابة موقفه وسط النار والضغوط من كل صوب، تحوّل من مجرد وريث حافظ الأسد إلى قائد تلبّسته روح سوريا، فلم يعد يعبأ بالحملة العدائية التي تستهدف تحطيم روحه المعنوية، ولا بالنصائح التي يقدمها الأصدقاء والحلفاء للتعاطي مع تسوية لا تضمن المبادئ الكبرى للدولة السورية وروحها.
يقود الرجل حرباً ضروساً للدفاع عن نظام؟ بالطبع. فهذه مهمة ماثلة عملياً أمامه. لكن أشاءت «الأطراف» أم أبت، فإنه، في إصرار الأسد على القتال بلا هوادة، وجدان قائد يملك إرادة النصر. وامتلاك الإرادة هو نصف المعركة، بينما يدور نصفها الثاني سجالاً، بكلفة باهظة جداً، لكنها في الأخير، أقل بما لا يقارَن مع كلفة التفريد بالدولة والبلد لصالح احتلال عثماني جديد قد يكون البديل الوحيد من الأفغنة والصوملة. وفي الحالتين، نهاية سوريا.

Brahimi’s visit to Damascus: Not published Information .. French intelligence expects the failure of his mission
معلومات لم تنشر عن زيارة الإبراهيمي لدمشق.. والمخابرات الفرنسية تتوقع فشل مهمته

نضال حمادة
تروي مصادر في المعارضة السورية لديها اطلاع واسع على حركة المبعوث الأممي الأخضر الابراهيمي في زيارته الأخيرة لدمشق، أن القيادة السورية رفضت استقباله إلا بعدما تم الاتفاق على معنى المرحلة الانتقالية في خطة جنيف وتفسيره لها.
وتضيف المصادر، أن التفسير الذي حمله الإبراهيمي الى دمشق قال أن خطة جنيف تعني حكومة جديدة بصلاحيات موسعة على أن يبقى الجيش والأمن والسياسة الخارجية من صلاحيات رئيس الجمهورية، إضافة الى تفسير واضح يقول ببقاء الرئيس بشار الأسد في موقعه الى حين الانتخابات الرئاسية القادمة التي يحق له فيها الترشح. فيما بقي الخلاف بين الطرفين حول ضرورة وجود جماعة الإخوان المسلمين في الحكومة وحصولهم على وزارات سيادية كما يسوق الابراهيمي فيما ترفض دمشق اي مشاركة لجماعة الإخوان، ويبدو أن هناك تيارا داخل النظام يقول بوضع شروط كثيرة على الجماعة في حال توليها وزارات سيادية.
وتلحظ خطة الإبراهيمي المتنقلة رئيس وزراء من المعارضة ومن الأسماء المطروحة والتي كان عليها “فيتو” قوي من قبل العناصر المسلحة الإسلامية ومموليها الخليجيين القيادي في هيئة التنسيق الوطنية هيثم مناع. إضافة إلى المنافسة الشخصية عند أسماء سادت ثم بادت في المجلس الوطني تعتبر نفسها مرشحا طبيعيا للوزارة أو تشكيلها. ويبدو أن مناع يعزز صلاته بعدد كبير من الضباط الحوارنة المنشقين. وقد لوحظ غياب هؤلاء عن اجتماع التوحيد العسكري في تركيا مؤخراً.
هناك أيضا أسماء مطروحة وفق ما سمي بحل “أوت سايدر” أي الأشخاص الذين تجنبوا أخذ مواقف تثير حساسيات أي طرف، الأمر الذي يجعلهم مقبولين من معارضة الداخل والخارج وليس هناك موقف مسبق من الجيش تجاههم. وفي حال كان رئيس الوزراء من هذه الفئة، يعهد منصب نائب رئيس الوزراء لأربعة شخصيات تمثل معارضة الخارج ومعارضة الداخل والمؤسسة العسكرية والأطراف السياسية المشاركة في الحكومة الحالية.
وبينما لم تتفق بعد جماعة “الائتلاف” على اسم واحد ناهيك على خطة عمل، ينقل سفير امريكي في بلد عربي مجاور لسوريا عن طلب مسؤول الملف السوري في الخارجية الأمريكية روبرت فورد اكثر من مرة من معاذ الحطيب زيارة موسكو وبغداد، بل وقال له بصراحة مؤلمة “الدبلوماسية الخارجية للائتلاف فاشلة جدا وهي تعتمد على دعم الآخرين لكم ولا تعتمد على مبادراتكم، ليس لديكم شخصية واحدة ناجحة في العلاقات الدولية، لم تنجحوا في كسب دولة واحدة غير ما قدمناه لكم على طبق من حرير، خطابكم غير مقنع، لا يمكن باستجداء المساعدات المالية بناء هيكل سياسي قوي”.

وقد كان رد الخطيب “هذه السياسة ستحرقنا في الشارع السوري المقاتل لأنها تخطئنا وتصب في خدمة هيئة التنسيق الوطنية التي أرسلت وفدا لموسكو قبلنا”. وأضاف “نحن بحاجة لمساعدات كبيرة نكسب بها الشارع، عندها يمكننا التحرك سياسيا بحرية أكبر، اليوم وضعنا في سورية صعب جدا خاصة مع المجاهدين“.
المخابرات الفرنسية: مهمة الإبراهيمي فاشلة
في السياق، نشرت اسبوعية “لوكانارد انشينيه” الفرنسية المقربة من دوائر الاستخبارات في فرنسا، أن باريس وواشنطن ولندن لم تقدر في بداية الأزمة السورية حجم الخطر الذي تمثله الجماعات المتشددة، مضيفة ان احد مساعدي وزير الخارجية الفرنسي السابق آلان جوبيه بعث بمذكرة عدد فيها اخطاء السلطات الفرنسية فضلا عن أخطاء الدول الغربية :

  1. الاعتقاد ان نظام الأسد سوف ينهار بسرعة أمام المتمردين.

  2. الاعتقاد ان قيادة المتمردين سوف تكون ديمقراطية وعلمانية.

  3. تجاهل الحجم الإقليمي لأي صدام سني شيعي وتأثيراتها على لبنان، الأردن العراق.
ونقلت الأسبوعية الفرنسية عن دبلوماسي فرنسي قوله “في الظاهر الكل يؤيد اتصالات الأخضر الابراهيمي لك نحن لسنا مستعجلين في الحقيقة”، فيما ذكرت في مكان آخر عن مسؤول عسكري في قيادة الأركان الفرنسية قوله “هذه الحرب الأهلية كانت بالنسبة لنا مفاجأة إلهية بالنسبة لكل من يريد إضعاف إيران ويريدون ان يرونها تفقد حليفها بشار، إذن من اجل الوصول الى هذا الهدف الذي لا جدال فيه، يجب أن تستمر هذه الحرب أيضا بعض الأسابيع ويمكن بعض الأشهر مهما كان خطر الإسلاميين على الأرض”، تختم صحيفة “لوكانارد انشينيه” نقلها كلام المسؤول في قيادة الأركان الفرنسية.

عام 2013 انتصار الأسد,, وعام الطلاق بين الادارة الاميركية و ثورتها
سوريا من عام الصمود الى عام الانتصار ؟
سورية ترسم المعادلات الجديدة

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Rabbi: ‘Islamization of Europe is good for Jews’

January 3, 2013

We all know how paranoid anti-Islam Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, pro-Israel English Defense League (EDL), David Horowitz and his American Islamophobe are due to Europe’s rising Muslim population. However, Rabbi Baruch Efrati, a teacher at Yishva community school in the West Bank, says Jews around the world should be happy at turning Europe into a Muslim majority region.

With the help of G-d, the Gentile (non-Jewish) will adopt a healthier life with a lot of modesty and integrity, and not like the hypocritical Christianity which appears pure but is fundamentally corrupt,”said rabbi – reported by Israeli daily YNet News on November 11, 2012.

Jews should rejoice at the fact that Christian Europe is losing its identity as a punishment for what it did to us for hundreds of years we were in exile there,” said Rabbi Efrati quoting the Rishonim literature written by leading rabbis who lived in Europe during 11th to 15th centuries about pogroms and mass murders committed by Christians against Jews.

We will never forgive Europe’s Christians for slaughtering millions of our children, women and elderly. Not just in the recent Holocaust, but throughout the generations, in a consistent manner which characterizes all factions of hypocritical Christianity,” added the rabbi.

Rabbi Efrati claimed that though Islam misjudges some of Biblical prophets – but basically Islam is an “honest religion”, for commanding modesty, stable marriage and more respect for G-d, as compared to Christianity which preaches idolatry.

Rabbi’s quarrel with Islam’s view of Biblical prophets is that Holy Qur’an dismisses Bible’s narration of some prophets being rapists, sex-maniacs (King Solomon holding three-hundred of concubines in addition to 400 wives), adulterous and disrespectful to God and their parents (Lut, Jesus, etc.).

Rabbi Efrati was responding to a question posed by an oriental studies student, who asked him Judaism’s stand towards the process Europe has been going through in recent years.
Rabbi Efrati concluded his response by saying: “Even if we are in a major war with the region’s Arabs over the Land of Israel (Palestine), Islam is still much better as a gentile culture than Christianity“.

In January 2012, Rabbi Efrati had upset the Zionist crowed when gave a ‘fatwa’ that if a Jew cannot find a synagogue to pray, he should pray at a Muslim mosque but not in a Christian church which houses idols.

On January 9, 2008, American Rabbi Haim Ovadia wrote: “I am a Jew of Islam“. Why? Because: “Judaism under the rule of the Crescent took a different (for better) course than that under the rule of the Cross“.

The so-called “Islamization of Europe” or the “Muslim tide” to over-run the West is myth created by Zionist mafia to create a “clash of civilization” between the Christian West and the Muslim East for the benefit of Israel. Doug Saunder , head of European bureau of Canada’s No.2 English daily, The Globe and Mail, in an article titled ‘The Unfounded fear of Muslim immigration’, published on August 25, 2012, lift the curtain on this myth.

Behind the “Muslim tide” myth lie three core beliefs. First is the claim that their populations are growing so rapidly that Muslims will become majorities everywhere. Because Muslim immigrants tend to come from poor, rural regions prone to overpopulation, they often arrive with large families and have many children soon after settling in their new country. This has created the perception that they will soon swamp countries with low fertility rates,” wrote Saunder.

But this is a gross misinterpretation of what is happening to Muslim populations. Muslim-majority countries are experiencing the fastest decline in fertility and population growth in the world. Witness Iran, the world’s only Islamic theocracy, where mothers had an average of 7 children each in the 1980s; that number has now dropped to 1.7, below the averages in France and Britain (at least 2.1 is required for a country to have population growth). In Turkey, the average has fallen to 2.15 children; in Lebanon, to 1.86; in the United Arab Emirates, 1.9. In Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, the family size is about to slip below two children. This rapid decline in fertility is even more pronounced among Muslims who migrate to the West. Muslims in Canada have on average 2.4 children per family. That’s above Canada’s average of 1.7, but it appears that Muslims born in Canada – that is, the children of immigrants – go on to have only about two children each. And by the next generation, they will be close to the Canadian average,” added Saunders.

However, what Saunder avoided to mention is that Islam instead is attracting more converts among the westerners than any other faith. The results of British Census released in December 2012 claimed Islam to be the fastest-growing faith in England and many parts of the West.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!


December 27, 2012


Forbidden to celebrate: Israel’s war on Christmas continues despite Netanyahu’s claim of tolerance

Submitted by Ali Abunimah
Palestinian children play outside Deir Latin church in Gaza City on Christmas Eve 2012.
(Ezz Al-Zanoon /APA images)

In his Christmas greeting video, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted of Israel’s supposed religious tolerance.

“Today Christian communities around the Middle East are shrinking and in danger. This is of course not true in Israel. Here there’s a strong, growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country,” Netanyahu said.

Vowing to “continue to protect freedom of religion and thought,” Netanyahu also promised “to safeguard Christian places of worship throughout our country” and not to “tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against any place of worship.”

Making a pitch for Christian Zionist tourism he urged listeners to “Come see our ancient land with your own eyes. Visit Nazareth and Bethlehem, wade in the Jordan River, stand on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and next year come visit our eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

His inclusion of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, as well as the banks of the Jordan River, can be taken as another affirmation that Israel, despite its rhetoric, has no interest in a “two-state solution” and intends to absorb all of historic Palestine as an exclusively “Jewish state.”

Disappearing Christmas trees

Netanyahu’s professions of tolerance would have come as news to Palestinian Christian students at Safad Academic College in the Galilee. There, students who could not get home for the holidays bought a Christmas tree and set it up outside their dorm.

But in the evening when they got back from class, they found the tree was gone, Israel’s Walla! News reported.

“This is the saddest Christmas,” said Gabriel Mansour, 24, a third-year political science student, identified by Walla! as a representative of Arab students. “All we wanted to do was provide some good cheer for all the students who remained alone in the dorms, and who were unable to go home to their families.”

When Mansour investigated, he was told by college officials that the tree had been hidden lest it spark riots among the Jewish students.“I was angry to hear this,” said Mansour of the claim that the tree might spark riots among Jewish students and residents of Safad. “Unfortunately they don’t respect our holidays. We fully respect all Israeli holidays. Why can no one respect our traditions? Why can’t we put up a Christmas tree?” “I do not think Christmas should be marked with such ostentation,” Walla! quoted an unnamed Jewish student saying. “The college has a distinctly Jewish character. It’s not healthy for anyone to be able to do whatever he wants.”

And there was a mini-scandal when the girlfriend of Yair Netanyahu, the son of the Israeli prime minister, posted a photo of the youth wearing a Santa hat and posing next to a Christmas tree, on Facebook. Under the photo was the caption “My Christian boy.”

The prime minister’s office was forced to issue a statement that the image was a joke and that Yair had been attending a party hosted by “Christian Zionists who love Israel, and whose children served in the IDF,” Israel’s Channel 2 reported. Nevertheless the photo was removed from Facebook.

State rabbis order bans on Christmas

The ban on Christmas at Safad college is no isolated incident. For several years, Shimon Gapso, the notoriously racist mayor of the Israeli settlement of “Upper Nazareth” in the Galilee, has banned Christmas trees, calling them a provocation. “Nazareth Illit [Upper Nazareth] is a Jewish city and it will not happen – not this year and not next year, so long as I am a mayor,” Gapso said.

According to journalist Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, such bans continue and are widespread this year with Israel’s state-financed rabbis warning hotels and restaurants that they will lose their kosher certifications if they put up trees or other Christmas decorations or hold Christmas events.
“In other words,” Cook says, “the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.”

Publicly visible Christmas tree could “injure the souls of Jews”

When the Israeli occupation municipality in Jerusalem this year put up a small Christmas tree near the Jaffa Gate, there were strong protests from rabbis. Occupation municipality city council member Rabbi Shmuel Yitzhaki told settler news website Arutz 7 that the display was a “desecration” and a “grave offense against the Jewish people” and that it was “inconceivable” that a Christmas tree should be allowed in a “public place” where it might be seen by Jews on their way to pray at the Western Wall in eastern occupied Jerusalem.


Christmas trees as propaganda for ethnic cleansing group JNF

Mina Fenton, a former city council member, said, “There’s a Christian Quarter. They can put it [the tree] up there,” where it couldn’t “injure the souls of Jews.”

While Israel’s official rabbis, colleges and municipalities discourage or ban displays of Christmas trees, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the racist state-backed agency actively engaged in ethnically cleansing Palestinians and stealing their land for exclusive use by Jews, has found a way to use Christmas trees to paint a false image of itself as a promoter of multicultural harmony.

The JNF, which misrepresents itself as an environmental charity, now gives away some trees and felled branches particularly to foreign embassies, for use as Christmas trees in private homes, and markets the initiative as outreach to maintain “good relations between religions.” Against the background of the JNF’s true activities, such cynical propaganda should convince no one. But it might be useful in raising donations from Christian Zionists.

The efforts by Netanyahu and the JNF to present Israel as tolerant and friendly to Christians are important to maintain external, especially Christian Zionist support, and to hide a much uglier reality.

Discrimination against Christianity inherent in Israel’s “Law of Return”

Israel claims to be a “Jewish state.” Its blatantly discriminatory “Law of Return” grants the automatic right to those it recognizes as Jews from anywhere in the world to emigrate and receive citizenship even if they have no connection to the country. At the same time, Israel prevents indigenous Palestinian refugees, including those born there, from returning home just because they are not Jews.

But according to the US State Department in its 2011 report on religious freedom around the world, Israel specifically applies a blatantly anti-Christian test in applying this bigoted law:

The question of whether one believes Jesus is the Jewish Messiah has been used to determine whether a Jew was qualified to immigrate. The [Israeli] Supreme Court repeatedly has upheld the right, however, of Israeli Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah to retain their citizenship. The immigration exclusion was routinely applied only against Messianic Jews, whereas Jews who were atheists were accepted, and Jews who chose to believe in other religions, including Hindus and Buddhists, were not screened out.

In other words a “Jew” can be an atheist, Hindu, or Buddhist – anything at all – and be granted citizenship by Israeli authorities. It is only a belief in Jesus that disqualifies them.

Attacks on Christian holy sites

As for Netanyahu’s promise that Christian holy sites would be protected, he failed to mention that in recent months, Israeli settlers, acting with the collusion of Israeli authorities, have stepped up so-called “price tag” attacks on Christian holy sites.

Meanwhile, Christmas celebrations proceeded this year in Gaza and in Iran, where municipal authorities in Tehran have in recent years put up banners celebrating the birth of Jesus on many main streets. Both Iran and Gaza re Muslim-majority places that Israeli propaganda loves to paint as particularly intolerant of religious minorities.

Few countries live up to their own claims about religious freedom and tolerance and many must do better. But selling Israel in particular, whose whole raison d’être is to privilege Jews qua Jews over the indigenous Palestinian population of any religion, as a paragon of tolerance and pluralism is patently absurd.

Merry Christmas!

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Karbala and Calvary, Two Resistance Pillars Inspiring Activists in West

November 20, 2012

Franklin Lamb

Nabatieh, Lebanon

As the culture and the era of resistance spreads internationally, with objectives as disparate, but linked, as the liberation of Palestine, the resistance to western hegemony in the Middle East, and obtaining the elementary civil rights to work and to own a home for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, the two largest religions, Christianity and Islam are solidifying in certain of their beliefs and their applications of the lessons from Karbala and Calvary to obtain social justice.

On 11/24/12, many western Christians and those raised in a Christian tradition, including this observer, will travel by bus and car to Nabiteyeh, Lebanon to watch the Ashoura passion play, held on an outside field that commemorates the Battle of Karbala on 10 Muharram in the year 61 AH (October 10, 680 CE). This observer has attended more than once and can attest to the power of drama of Karbala and its relevance, indeed, seeming close connection, to the teachings from Calvary.

 Some compare Ashoura to the medieval era passion play at Oberammergau, in Germany. People, devout and secular, attend for many of the identical religious, spiritual, emotional, personal reasons despite hailing from many cultures and areas of the globe.

This month’s commemoration of Ashoura, which every year expands globally and is observed by millions around the world is growing in Christian countries including America and many non-Muslim countries. In some Shi’a regions of Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Bahrain, the Commemoration of Hussein ibn Ali has become a national holiday and most ethnic and religious communities participate in it.

While Ashoura, a day of mourning and atonement among Shia Muslim, is not yet a national holiday among Christians globally, but Christian and Sunni Muslim increasingly accept the messages of Karbala, originally thought is the west to be for Muslims and the legacy of Calvary, from the Christian tradition.

Theologians and scholars who believe in the relevance and modern day applications of the teachings from religious texts from centuries past, have for years noted the remarkable similarities between the inspiration for humanity from the events at Karbala in the 7th Century(in modern day Iraq) and those at Calvary in the 1st century (in modern day occupied Palestine). But it is not just among the serious students of religion that Karbala and Calvary appear linked. People who were raised in a Christian tradition, including many Americans and other westerners living in Lebanon who have crossed paths with or live currently in Shia communities, increasing feel connected to what they have been learning and studying about Ashoura and its meanings for humanity.

Many progressive followers of the Christian tradition, even as children, come to believe what Islam teaches about Jesus of Nazarath. They reason that Jesus is not God, but rather a prophet and social reformers and himself a pillar of resistance to evil in society as presented in the Koran. Recognizing Issa (Jesus) as a Prophet and not as a deity often strengthens Christian faith rather than weakening it. One reason among many is that Jesus as Prophet offers a solution to the conundrum of the concept of a holy trinity, father, son, and hold sprit. This is welcome for the reason, as this observer knows well from two decades of regular Church attendance as a youngster, no Sunday school teacher, or lay preacher, TV evangelist, or deacon, priest, theology professor, bishop, archbishop, cardinal or Pope, has ever been able to offer a convincing explanation of the concept of a holy Trinity meaning that there exists God, also the son of God, and a Holy spirit all together in one “God person”. Try as they might, and despite centuries of infra-Christian strife and slaughter of “mis-guided” fellow Christians, many of this faith find Islam more rational of this point and it has led to more interest and acceptance of Islam.

Religious surveys have noted that Christians who study Karbala identify with it spiritually much like some Shia Muslims have an affinity for Calvary once they become familiar what its meanings for humanity.

In their essence, the teachings Calvary and Kabala are very similar and the core elements are nearly identical. In the Christian tradition all the power, love and wisdom of the Godhead were manifested in the death and resurrection of Christ. God planned this one act to deal with sin. And when He did it, it was done forever (Eccl. 3:14).

For much of the Christian community, Calvary has become the watershed of history. It is the event of all events. The death and resurrection of Christ give meaning to everything else. Nothing in itself has any meaning unless related to the death and resurrection of Christ. “All things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16, 17). The sacrifice, torture and humiliation of Jesus/Issa on Calvary, is understood as God’s offering to public justice. The most mournful day for Christians is Good Friday when many believe Christ was crucified for the forces of abject evil.

During Ashoura, Shia Muslims greet one another with the words: “Azam-Allah-Ujoorakum” On Good Friday, Christians express their sorrow to passersby with the words “Christ was crucified to save us sinners. Peace is Upon You.” Expressing with different words the same sentiment.

Like Jesus for Christians, Hussein’s sacrifice is widely interpreted by Shi’a as a symbol of the struggle against injustice, tyranny, and oppression.[ Shi’as believe the Battle of Karbala was between the forces of good and evil with Hussein representing good while Yazid represented evil. Shi’as also believes the Battle of Karbala was fought to keep the Muslim religion untainted of any corruptions. These messages connect deeply with devout Christians and have led in recent years to a growing study of Karbala among Christians many of whom feel a deep, seeming religious connection with Hussein at Karbala.

Hussein ibn Ali and Jesus of Nazareth both sacrificed themselves to oppose injustice and inspire their communities, and all human kind to resist injustice wherever it is found.

At a recent conference on Islam and Christianity held at the Unitarian Church in Boston, one agenda item was “Karbala and Calvary” and the universal concept of self-sacrifice for the community. So far, linking Karbala and Calvary is a modest concept in the West and among activist movements but it is growing.

Many are coming to believe, as does this observer, in the spirit and power of Karbala and Calvary being connected are forging powerful instruments for justice. During October, 2012, month, two mainstream Protestant denominations, Presbyterian and Methodist, led fifteen Christian denominations and delivered strongly-worded letter to Congress on Israeli human rights violations, pointing out that Israel was probably in violation of the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits sale of arms to human rights violators.

At a recent ecumenical discussion at the Washington National Cathedral, where many establishment US government officials attend services, if only from time to time, a discussion was held in late September 2012 on the subject: “Karbala and Calvary- two pillars of Resistance.” The discussion included reports from activists from the Muslim and Christian communities of Israel’s massive human rights violations. The participants urged Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance with American and International laws. A communiqués was sent to Congress, under the heading, Karbala and Calvary, two pillars of Resistance, urging it to issue regular reports on compliance and the withholding of military aid for violations.” In other words, some American Christian denominations—including the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church and the United Methodists— also want the US to document any refusal to comply. If Israel continues to violate Palestinian human rights, military aid must be ended according to attendees.

While the US Israel lobby is attacking any connection or cooperation between Islam and Christianity, some calling both Karbala and Calvary nothing but myths, and seeing in Muslim and Christian communities who are working together, an existential threat to the Zionist occupation of Palestine, the power of Karbala and Calvary is growing with the increasing participation and approval of people of good will.

At Karbala and Calvary two sainted martyrs for resistance and justice, Hussein Ibn Ali and Jesus (Issa) of Nazareth sacrificed themselves and inspired humanity, their deaths helping to create and advance the two major religions as codes of humanitarian conduct. These events are among the reasons that Western Christians and Muslim are now, after waiting too long, uniting to resist the occupation of Palestine.

Similarly the Day of Ashoura on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar marks the climax of the Mourning of Muharram and is increasingly commemorated not just by Shi’a Muslims as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala on 10 Muharram in the year 61 AH (October 10, 680 CE) but also by Sunni Muslims and Christians and other people of religion.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Church Leader Explains Why He Caved in to Zionists

October 2, 2012
Rev. J. Mark Goodman

By Richard Edmondson

What can we make of Christian ‘leaders’ like the Very Reverend J. Mark Goodman, dean and rector of the Cathedral Church of St. John in Albuquerque, New Mexico? Do they simply have no feeling for, no sense of obligation to, their fellow Christians in Palestine who suffer under Israeli occupation?

Last week I wrote an article entitled New Mexico Jews Scream ‘Anti-Semitism!’ Over Sabeel Conference, about an Albuquerque event sponsored by the Friends of Sabeel-North America. Sabeel is an ecumenical organization founded by Palestinian Christians, and the conference, which included a number of speakers, was entitled “Justice: The Path to Peace in Palestine/Israel.” Since I posted my article last week, the conference has come and gone, and reportedly it went off without a hitch—thanks to the speakers, the organizers, and perhaps most of all thanks to the folks at Albuquerque’s Immanuel Presbyterian Church, where the event was held.

But as I noted in last week’s article, the conference was originally to have taken place not at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, but at an Episcopal church, the Cathedral Church of St. John—and FOSNA organizers even at one point paid that church a $1,000 deposit to secure permission to use their premises. But then the Zionists got organized, and you can pretty much guess what happened next. The Zionists trotted out some rancid charges, accusing Sabeel of portraying Jews as Christ killers, and “vilifying” Israel through the spreading of “vicious propaganda,” etc.; church leaders got edgy and nervous; they backed out of the deal, and refunded the money.

The following article is by Ali Abunimah, of the Electronic Intifada, who was one of the speakers at this past weekend’s event. Abunimah discusses a recent statement in which the Very Reverend Goodman explains his reasoning for closing his church’s doors to Sabeel. Posted on the church website this past Sunday, the statement is entitled “Cathedral News—From the Dean,” although perhaps instead the title rightfully should have been, “Why I Caved in to the Zionists.” Goodman’s manifesto runs a total of eight paragraphs, four of which deal specifically with the Sabeel conference. That portion is quoted below by Abunimah, but I will offer a brief snippet of it here: “What is helpful in the Body of Christ is conversation and dialogue,” says Goodman, “not assumptions or judgments based on misinformation.” Wrong, Dean! What the Body of Christ needs now, more so than anything else, is leaders with the courage to make a stand for justice.

H/T to msa.

“Seeking Balance”: How Albuquerque Cathedral that slammed its doors to Sabeel helps Israeli oppression

By Ali Abunimah

I just returned from the Friends of Sabeel – North America conference in Albuquerque. It was held at the very welcoming Imanuel Presbyterian Church, because the original venue, the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. John, disinvited the conference after pressure from the local Israel lobby.

Rev. Don Wagner, National Program Director of Friends of Sabeel – North America, an ecumenical Christian organization that supports Palestinian rights, called the pressure on the Catherdral “interfaith bullying” in a recent article.


Now, the Dean of the Cathedral, The Very Rev. J. Mark Goodman, has responded to Wagner’s charges with a statement that appears on the Cathedral’s website.

It offers weak and evasive justifications and alludes to – without substantiating them in any way – repeated Zionist smears against Sabeel:

Our decision was based upon the conclusion that it [the conference] dealt with a political issue that has polarized people in ways that we felt were unhelpful. We did not want to introduce a polarized issue into the life of the Cathedral that would have the potential to divide rather than unite. Our decision was not based upon anti-Palestinian positions. In fact, many on the Vestry are very sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people, yet they were concerned about the rhetoric of the literature from Sabeel. The decision was not influenced by pressure or threats from any group or individual.

In his presentation at this weekend’s conference, Miko Peled, the Israeli-born anti-Zionist and advocate of equal rights and decolonization in a single state, made the observation that every cause of social justice in history that has been worth fighting for was divisive in its time. The Civil Rights struggle in the United States was one such cause, but even more divisive than that, Peled reminded us, was slavery. So divisive, it led to Civil War in which hundreds of thousands died.

Seeking “balance” between oppressor and oppressed

A fter denying that the Cathedral acted under pressure, the Dean states:

This summer at General Convention, I served on a committee that dealt in a focused way with resolutions about the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It was my personal prayer that we would craft resolutions that were balanced and offered a way forward with positive engagement with each side, seeking a way forward that would bring security, dignity and peace to a region that has known strife for too long.

This seeking of “balance” between oppressor and oppressed, and “positive engagement” as a way to avoid the “divisiveness” that inevitably must come with taking a righteous stance against injustice, indicates that despite the Dean’s protestations, the Cathedral does indeed feel the pressure.

Notably, the Dean’s statement refers to “security” – Israel’s euphemism for its ability to colonize and occupy Palestinians in tranquility – but says absolutely nothing about Palestinian rights.

Tutu says take sides

The refusal to take sides between oppressor and oppressed is, in effect, siding with the oppressor. Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican (Episcopalian) Archbishop of Cape Town, has not been shy to tell the world that it is time to take sides.

Writing last May in the Tampa Bay Times, Tutu urged delegates of the Presbyterian Church USA to vote to divest from companies profiting from Israeli occupation:

My voice will always be raised in support of Christian-Jewish ties and against the anti-Semitism that all sensible people fear and detest. But this cannot be an excuse for doing nothing and for standing aside as successive Israeli governments colonize the West Bank and advance racist laws.

I recall well the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail in which he confesses to his “Christian and Jewish brothers” that he has been “gravely disappointed with the white moderate … who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom. …”

What is Dean Goodman’s desire to avoid “divisive” issues and seek “balance” other than refuge in just such an “absense of tension”?

In my own talk at the conference this weekend, I reminded fellow participants that the struggle against apartheid in South Africa was also long and difficult – such as when, in 1987, the Church of England voted against divestment from South Africa.

Dean Goodman and his colleagues were not asked to divest from anything but simply to host a conference, something they did not have the courage to do. But would they look back at that 1987 vote today and say that it was the right and ethical decision? It must have been “divisive” too.

Full statement of Dean of Cathedral of St. John

This statement appeared on the website of the Cathedral Church of St. John in Albuquerque as part of its  Announcements for the week of 30 September 2012:

This summer, the Vestry and I decided not to host the Sabeel Conference that is taking place in Albuquerque. We sought out various perspectives, we considered the stated positions of the organization, we said our prayers and deliberated thoughtfully and purposefully. Ultimately, the decision was made not to host the conference. Bishop Vono, in his own prayerful deliberations, made the same decision not to be a sponsor of the conference. Likewise, the New Mexico Council of Churches opted not to sponsor this gathering.

Our decision was based upon the conclusion that it dealt with a political issue that has polarized people in ways that we felt were unhelpful. We did not want to introduce a polarized issue into the life of the Cathedral that would have the potential to divide rather than unite. Our decision was not based upon anti-Palestinian positions. In fact, many on the Vestry are very sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people, yet they were concerned about the rhetoric of the literature from Sabeel. The decision was not influenced by pressure or threats from any group or individual. We extended an invitation to a local rabbi to come and speak to the Vestry, whose visit was quite brief and consisted primarily in urging us to read carefully the positions held by the organization. Vestry members also attended the Dean’s Forum classes that were offered in the Spring of this year, after which they had misgivings about serving as hosts. In short, the decision was not made lightly or in a vacuum.

The Vestry and I realize that there are those who disagree with the decision that we made. That is the reality of any group of people: some will agree and some will disagree. We would only ask that the disagreement be based upon fact and not upon mischaracterization of either the motives or basis of the action taken, and that it be done in a respectful way. If you have questions or concerns, please seek out a member of the Vestry or clergy. What is helpful in the Body of Christ is conversation and dialogue, not assumptions or judgments based on misinformation.

This summer at General Convention, I served on a committee that dealt in a focused way with resolutions about the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It was my personal prayer that we would craft resolutions that were balanced and offered a way forward with positive engagement with each side, seeking a way forward that would bring security, dignity and peace to a region that has known strife for too long. I believe we succeeded. It is my hope that we, at the Cathedral, will find ways to support the work of our Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church to seek a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. As the Psalmist urges us, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

The above is actually not the “full statement” of Goodman, but only that portion dealing with the Sabeel conference. The entire full statement, as I said above, can be found here. If you read it you’ll see that before getting into his comments about Sabeel, Goodman discusses a clergy conference he attended the previous week, commenting at one point that his purpose as a Christian is “proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Let us, by way of comparison, see if we can find some unfolding insight into how one best goes about such a worthwhile endeavor—for making a difference in people’s lives is indeed a noble goal.

Goodman: This summer, the Vestry and I decided not to host the Sabeel Conference that is taking place in Albuquerque. We sought out various perspectives, we considered the stated positions of the organization, we said our prayers and deliberated thoughtfully and purposefully.

Jesus (to his disciples): If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. This is why the world hates you.

Goodman: Our decision was based upon the conclusion that it dealt with a political issue that has polarized people in ways that we felt were unhelpful.

Jesus: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Goodman: We did not want to introduce a polarized issue into the life of the Cathedral that would have to potential to divide rather than unite.

Jesus: Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’

(shades of Kol Nidre in Jesus’ time?)

Goodman: This summer at General Convention, I served on a committee that dealt in a focused way with resolutions about the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It was my personal prayer that we would craft resolutions that were balanced and offered a way forward with positive engagement with each side, seeking a way forward that would bring security, dignity and peace to a region that has known strife for too long. I believe we succeeded. It is my hope that we, at the Cathedral, will find ways to support the work of our Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church to seek a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. As the Psalmist urges us, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

John the Baptist: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

(Israel has produced much bad fruit in 64 years, and the “brood of vipers” presently running its government are not likely to change. So is the Judeo-Zionist state about to be cut down and thrown into the fire?)

Jesus: Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it a “den of robbers.”’ The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, they went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.

(Israelis cut down trees that bear good fruit—the olive trees of the Palestinians—while their own trees produce no fruit.)

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‘Jews Need to Respect Others,’ says priest in wake of Monastery Attack

September 9, 2012
Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa–‘If you as a Jew
want people to respect you,  you need to respect others.’

By Richard Edmondson

  The state of Israel seems to be in “damage control mode” over the vandalism of a monastery earlier this week. While the attack, apparently perpetrated by Jewish settlers, received limited coverage from the US mainstream media, the news has been carried on a number of Christian websites (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here— see also my own article on the attack which I posted on Tuesday) and has equally gotten wide attention from the international media.

The vandals attacked the Monastery of Notre-Dame de Sept-Douleurs, located in Latrun, about 25 kilometers west of Jerusalem, setting fire to the front door and defacing the walls with hate-filled graffiti, including the words “Jesus is a monkey.”

The incident has been viewed as a “price tag” vandalism carried out in response to the clearing of Migron, a West Bank settlement outpost, a day earlier. And while other vandalisms of Christian sites in Israel—such as the attack on the Narkis Street Baptist Church in February this year—largely escaped notice, this one seems to have provoked a more visceral reaction from the Christian world.

“The Christian community awoke this morning…to discover with horror that once again it is the target of forces of hatred within Israeli society,” said a Catholic statement issued in response to the attack. “What happened in Latrun is only another in a long series of attacks against Christians and their places of worship.”

The statement went on to ask: “What is going on in Israeli society today that permits Christians to be scapegoat and targeted by these acts of violence?”—and also wondered, “What kind of ‘teaching of contempt’ for Christians is being communicated in their schools and in their homes?”

The statement was released by the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land and included the signatures of Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch for Jerusalem, Gerogio Lingua, Apostolic Nuncio for Jordan, and former Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah. The church officials called upon the Israeli authorities to “act to put an end to this senseless violence and to ensure a ‘teaching of respect’ in schools for all those who call this land home.”

Outside the Holy Land, the attack was also condemned by the Catholic Church in England and Wales, where Bishop Declan Lang warned of a climate of “rising intolerance” in Israel and said the incident follows a “disturbing pattern in which Christian and Muslim sites are being targeted by extremists or settlers within Israeli society.”

This “disturbing pattern” was also remarked upon by Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, a Franciscan priest who serves as the Vatican’s Custos, or Custodian of the Holy Land, and who discussed the matter within the context of the tearing apart earlier this year of a copy of the New Testament by an Israeli Knesset member.

It was shocking,” Pizzaballa said of the book destruction. “If you as a Jew want people to respect you, you need to respect others. There are billions of Christians for whom this book is holy.

And that seems to be what has Israelis worried. As I said, there is a certain amount of damage control going on. And as is typically the case when, say, Israel commits war crimes against Palestinians, it isn’t so much the act itself but rather the damage to Israel’s public image that appears to be of foremost concern. Consider the following news item from Ynet:

Cables sent by Israeli ambassadors in Europe to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem indicate that the recent desecration of a monastery outside Jerusalem has resulted in a major hit to Israel’s image in the continent.

“The media coverage (of the vandalism) is causing grave damage to Israel’s image in France,” a cable sent by the embassy in Paris read.



And indeed, the attack has even been condemned by the French government (not a peep of protest from our own, but of course that’s par for the course), while the Italian media, perhaps not too surprisingly, are in a frenzy over the affair as well. Again from Ynet:

Media outlets in Italy criticized Israel’s security forces, who “apprehend terrorists before they leave for their mission but fail to catch a few Jews who are operating right under their noses.”

The following video, posted by the Jerusalem Post, reports on the monastery attack but also takes pains to emphasize the more positive aspects of Israeli society. Lucky us, we also get to see a visit to the monastery by a high-ranking Israeli official.

  Pizzaballa says the animosity toward Christianity is reflected throughout Israeli society, and in an interview with Haaretz he also discussed the common occurrence of priests being spat upon as they walk through the city of Jerusalem.

In a reference to the long-standing, continual incidents of Orthodox Jewish extremists in Jerusalem spitting at Christian clergy, Pizzaballa said: “When I came to the country, I was told that I should know that if I walk around with a frock in the city [of Jerusalem], people would spit on me, and I shouldn’t be offended, it’s normal.”

No matter how high his position, any priest who makes his way around the city will sooner or later be spat upon and cursed by a yeshiva student, he added.

Pizzabella, by the way, is head of the Franciscan order in the Middle East, and has lived in Israel for 22 years. Again from Haaretz:

After more than two decades here, he said he knows the areas of Jerusalem where he is at risk of being spat upon, including the area of Jaffa Gate and the Armenian Quarter…

In February, following incidents in Jerusalem, Pizzaballa wrote to President Shimon Peres that in recent years, he and his colleagues had learned to ignore provocations, but that now they were escalating to the point that they had become intolerable.

The monastery’s vandalism was also condemned in a statement by Hamas, which called it a “racist crime,” and went on to add:

“The organized crimes committed by this regime against the holy Islamic and Christian monuments show the real face of the racist Zionists.”
Indeed, on June 19 a mosque in the West Bank village of Jaba was torched by vandals who spray painted a number of slogans including the words “pay the price,” “death to Arabs,” and “the war has begun.”
As I mentioned in my previous post on the matter, the monastery attack was also condemned by Palestinian Authority spokesman Saeb Erekat, who called it “further confirmation of the culture of hatred and racism” by Israeli settlers.
Pizzaballa believes at least part of the problem is the tendency by Jews to blame Christianity for their problems of the past. Or as he put it, “When you say ‘Christianity’ to the Israelis, they immediately think of the Holocaust and the Inquisition. People don’t know that we are here and that we have roots (here).”

Is Christianity really responsible for all the misfortunes Jews have suffered through history? Apparently a good many Jews prefer to believe that rather than examine their own behavior for possible causes. But as I said in a post two years ago, views antagonistic toward Jews in the ancient world were harbored and expressed long before Christianity came into being.
In the church vandalism back in February, the attackers spray painted, “Jesus is dead,” “Death to Christianity,” and “Mary was a prostitute.”


More on the monastery attack in video:

Interestingly, vandalism of Christian sites in Israel is also discussed in a Wikileaks cable dating back to February of 2009. The cable seems to have originated from the US consulate in Jerusalem and makes mention of Consul General Jake Walles. Apparently the Franciscans and the Vatican Custos appealed to the US consulate for help at that time in curbing acts of Israeli vandalism. “Macora said the Franciscans reported the vandalism to the Israeli police, but he does not expect a response,” the cable reads at one point.

Here is the full text of the cable :

Classified By: Consul General Jake Walles, per reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 1. (C) Summary. The Franciscan (Catholic) Custos of the Holy Land reported vandalism against a monastery on Mount Zion and requested USG assistance to protect Jerusalem’s Christian holy sites. A representative of the Custos told PolOff vandals accessed the monastery from the neighboring Cenacle complex (see background in paras 4-5), and the Franciscans believe students at the yeshiva in that complex are the perpetrators. In the most recent act of vandalism on January 30, someone broke a stone cross off the top of the monastery. (Note: Photos of vandalism at the monastery can be found on the ConGen’s classified website at ex.cfm by clicking on the link for Political Reporting Attachments. End note.) End Summary.
2. (C) Father Athanasius Macora, Head of the Christian Information Center and a representative of the Custos of the Holy Land, briefed PolOff on February 2 about a series of acts of vandalism against the monastery on Mount Zion. Macora said that vandals broke a stone cross off the top of the Franciscan monastery on January 30, adjacent to the Cenacle complex. Other incidents include throwing stones through windows and tossing heavy metal objects over the wall into the monastery’s courtyard. Macora said that all acts of vandalism have originated from the Cenacle complex, which houses a yeshiva, and he suspects students at the yeshiva are the perpetrators. The person who broke the stone cross apparently used a ladder from the yeshiva rooftop to access the monastery.
3. (C) Macora said the Franciscans reported the vandalism to the Israeli police, but he does not expect a response. Macora said that vandalism has damaged church property, caused stress to the monks living there, and strained an already fragile relationship with the yeshiva. He asked for USG assistance to protect this and other Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
4. (U) The Cenacle is the purported site of the Last Supper. The building contains the Cenacle room, the Room of the Holy Spirit, and a cenotaph associated with King David. It is part of a former Franciscan monastery. The site housed one of the earliest Christian churches in Jerusalem, and has been razed and rebuilt at least twice. The Franciscans acquired the property in 1342 and established a monastery, but were forced out by the Ottomans in 1552. The complex served as a mosque until the mid-twentieth century and contains Muslim symbols and a Muslim cemetery. The GoI took control of the property after 1967 and a yeshiva was established there in 1975. Many Jews consider King David’s cenotaph a holy site.
5. (C) The Franciscans have a monastery in an adjacent building in order to maintain a presence on Mount Zion, and it is this monastery that is being vandalized. The Franciscans claim continuous ownership of the site since 1342, in spite of not having control of it since 1552. The Custos of the Holy Land has complained to the GoI that the yeshiva is removing Christian symbols from the Cenacle complex that undermine the Franciscan claim to the site (reftel). Franciscan contacts have said that vandalism threatens to eliminate Mount Zion’s historic Christian nature. WALLES

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!