After just over 10 years of supporting the cause for justice and self determination for Palestinians, I have gotten somewhat used to being called an anti-Semite by the fanatical supporters of the Zionist State of Israel. It is the most crass and obvious ploy imaginable to get any criticism of the Zionist State shut down. And this most disingenuous strategy has been clearly admitted to even by members of the Israeli Knesset.

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Picking the difference between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel is really quite simple. To put it plainly, anti-Semites just hate Jews and everything about them, period. They hate Jewish anything. Jewish language, Jewish culture, Jewish religion. They hate Zionists, religious Zionists, Orthodox, Reform or liberal Judaism. They hate Jewish scientists, Jewish musicians, Jewish politicians, Jewish doctors, Jewish plumbers! They hate any mathematical, scientific, philosophical or political contributions made by Jews. They hate the Old Testament, the Torah and the Talmud. For anti-Semites, Jews can do no right, no good. They either want them to disappear, die or go live altogether somewhere where no one else needs to see them! They believe that most, if not all wars, are started by Jews and think that there exists a world-wide conspiracy of Jews to dominate the world. Many Christians believe that the anti-Christ mentioned in the book of Revelation will be Jewish. Are you starting to get the picture? And of course, they hate Israel. Their hatred of Israel has nothing to do with the human rights of Palestinians. They would hate Israel regardless of whether or not the creation of the Zionist State upset or dispossessed anyone in any way. They would hate and criticise every policy issued from the Knesset regardless of the topic, whether it involved the treatment of Palestinians, its policies on climate change, gay and lesbian rights or abortion rights. Anti-Semites, strangely, both deny the Holocaust and believe that the Jews got what they deserved in the Holocaust that they deny even occurred! Anti-Semitism is totally irrational and evil.

In the 10 years that I have been involved in this issue I have never been to a single Palestine solidarity rally or meeting that didn’t entirely focus on one issue and one issue alone. And that issue is, of course, the treatment of Palestinians (be they Christian, Muslim or otherwise) by the Zionist State of Israel. No other criticism of Israel or Jews in general, is ever made. If I believed, as many Israelis do, that the survival of the entire Jewish people absolutely depends on the existence of Israel, then I would be forced to support the Israeli State. As it is, I don’t remotely believe in such an obviously false concept.

Israel, funnily enough, although it has now got incredibly right-wing political leaders, is quite a liberal and progressive country. For Jews that is. Israel has about 20,000 legal abortions every year (which is about the same number per capita as my country, Australia), and is a self-declared beacon for gay and lesbian rights. Israel doesn’t have same sex marriage legislation like Australia, but it does recognise the same sex marriages of Israelis that were performed outside of Israel. It recognises such couples as having full adoption rights in Israel. Israel has universal health care and government subsidised tertiary education. Even the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is an advocate of Global Climate Change due to human agency and proudly boasts Israel’s development of Green technology. Netanyahu has declared that global warming is as bigger threat to the world as any other security issue. Israel, historically, has had a strong labour Union movement. It has had strip clubs and brothels and drug traffickers as well, just like most western countries. At the moment, Israeli feminist groups are trying to shut down strip clubs and brothels.

The crazy thing is that the Christian Right-wing, particularly of the English-speaking countries, pretty much despises most of these ideas as “godless, liberal or left wing” ideology, while at the same time unconditionally supporting the Zionist State in its project to take all of historic Palestine without allowing self-determination of Palestinians. When countries like Australia, England, Canada and the U.S. indulge in these policies, cries of Godlessness and imminent judgement from God can be heard from nearly every conservative Christian pulpit. But Israel gets a free pass on these issues even though on top of this the State of Israel’s state sanctioned ideology, Zionism, denies outright the divinity of Christ as being a valid belief for any truly Jewish citizen of Israel to indulge in!

And if that wasn’t enough to make your head spin, most Muslim countries in the world agree with the Religious Christian right on nearly all of the values or ideas mentioned above yet the Religious right feel totally entitled to demonise such countries day and night!

Anti-Semitism comes in many forms and degrees, just like any type of bigotry or racism. For my part, I will state my beliefs on the record here for all to see and later quote.

I believe in the right of Jews and Arabs to live in Israel/Palestine with self-determination, safety and security. I do not believe that Israel is the state that represents all Jews, nor do I believe that Benjamin Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of all Jews. I believe that Zionism is a secular movement whose goal is to change the traditional Jewish identity from a religious identity centred on the Torah, to a national identity like the nation states of Europe. Many Jews, both religious and otherwise, do not support or identify with the State of Israel. Criticism of the treatment of Palestinians by the State of Israel, nor anti-Zionism in general, is not anti-Semitism. For sure, anti-Semites would nearly always end up being anti-Zionists as well but the logic simply doesn’t go the other way around. It is no more anti-Semitic to criticise the State of Israel for its policies in regard to Palestinians as it is anti-Asian to criticise the Communist Government of China. Anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, Christa-phobia, Homo-phobia, all belong in the dustbin of history.

I believe that Jews and Arabs (Christian, Muslim or secular) have a long history of mutual cooperation and respect for each other in the Holy Land before the Zionist era as Albert Einstein noted:

“There could be no greater calamity than a permanent discord between us and the Arab people. Despite the great wrong that has been done to us, we must strive for a just and lasting compromise with the Arab people. Let us recall that in former times no people lived in greater friendship with us than the ancestors of these Arabs” (cited in Jerome, 2009, p.70).

The real home of anti-Semitism is in Christian Europe, not the Middle East.

I believe that the best solution to the issue is the creation of one state, call it Israel if you must, that is a state for all its citizens equally. Neither a Jewish state, nor an Arab state. A democratic state much like the one dreamed of by Zionists like Albert Einstein and millions of Palestinians and Jews throughout the world.

CRAIG NIELSEN

February, 2020

 

When representatives of the Zionist State of Israel are asked by the media regarding what it is that Israel ultimately wants, the answer inevitably is that all they want is peace. All they want is a place where Jews can live in peace.

Any half reasonable person would have to validate that answer as a good and decent thing for anyone to want, let alone a people who had just recently suffered the horrors of the Holocaust.

But while that may be the reality so far as what the Zionist State wishes for it’s (Jewish) citizens, it is the way that they are going about reaching this goal that is so offensive to any reasonably minded person. If we unpack Israel’s desire for peace we find that this goal contains three basic goals within it.

The first of these goals is that Israel be a Zionist State. Zionism is an ideology whose goal it is to transform Jewish identity away from its historic roots in Torah Judaism into a secular nationalistic identity like the European nation states of the last century. As a Zionist state, Israel desires to be a Jewish state in that it is a state that belongs to the Jewish people in a way than non-Jews living in Israel can never attain to. As it stands, Israel has some fifty laws that discriminate between Jews and non-Jews living in Israel, in favour of Jews.

Secondly, Israel wants to be a democracy. This is a very controversial point as the reality of the situation is that Israel is really only a democracy for Jews in Israel. In effect, Israel has four systems of law for the people that it rules over in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The first is the system of democracy for Jews who live in Israel and the settlements in the West Bank. The second system is for Palestinian citizens of Israel that are clearly discriminated against even though they have voting rights and can be members of Parliament. If this were not so, then in what way could it be said that Israel was a Jewish state? The very demand for Israel to be a Jewish state inevitably creates discrimination against non-Jews living in Israel. By any other name, this is racism. The third system is for Palestinians living in the West Bank. They live under the extremely harsh rule of the Israeli military. The fourth system is really no system at all. This system relates to the Gaza Strip, which Israel declares as an “enemy entity”. As such, Gazan’s are persona non grata. Israel considers itself free to treat the Gaza Strip in anyway it sees fit with no recourse to International Law in any way.

Thirdly, Israel wants territory. At the moment it desires to be in control of 100% of historic Palestine.

The problem is that Israel simply can’t have all three of these things at once. If Israel annexes the West Bank and Gaza, then it will somehow have to incorporate millions more Palestinians into the greater state of Israel. It really has only two choices of how to do this. One, it gives Palestinians equal voting rights as Jews. This would put the whole Zionist nature of the state in jeopardy. This is because Palestinians would have electoral power because of their increased numbers. Palestinians would have a chance of having an Arab political party in power and they would inevitably overturn the Zionist nature of the state. The alternative is that they do not give equal voting rights to the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza and Israel would officially become an Apartheid state. This situation would be intolerable in the sense of support from the International community, even the U.S.

In 1948, The Zionists ethnically cleansed nearly 800,000 Palestinians from their homes. This was done so that the newly created Jewish state would have a Jewish majority. Soon after this, Israel instituted laws that gave any Jewish person in the world the right to come to Israel while at the same time it forbade the return of any Palestinians to their former homes. This meant that the state of Israel now had a means of having a permanent Jewish majority within its borders. It was only after Palestinian resistance in Israel had been effectively crushed, that, in 1967, Palestinians in Israel were given voting rights. This ensured that even though Palestinians could vote in Israeli elections, they would never have enough numbers to have any real electoral power.

It is the demand of Israel that they succeed in all these three goals that is the cause of violence in this dispute. Israel does want peace, but in endeavours to get peace in a way that will never obtain it because it continually creates injustice for Palestinians. Without justice, peace has no chance.

CRAIG NIELSEN

January 2019

 

 

It’s probably pretty accurate to say that most traditional marriage ceremonies in this country have some part of the marriage vows that include a statement about forsaking all others and being faithful to their partner.

Many young people hope, or believe, that when a person gets married they will no longer have romantic feelings or feel sexually attracted to any other than their spouse. Older heads realise that this just isn’t the case no matter how much you feel that you are in love when you get married. It is because of the fact that people feel attraction and feelings of love for others they are not married to that such marriage vows are even needed. The simple fact is that God allows people to be unfaithful in their marriages. This is obviously not because we believe God endorses such behaviour, but that God places responsibility on faithfulness in marriage on our shoulders while still being sovereign over His creation. If God had promised that somehow, He would never let Christian couples fall into the sin of unfaithfulness in marriage, then we wouldn’t need to make such vows at all!

It follows that we only need make vows regarding things that are actually possible to even occur in our world and conversely, vows to not commit any particular sin presuppose the possibility that such a sin can occur in reality.

I mention all this to make a point that Christian Zionists seem to stubbornly ignore.

The conditional nature of the relationship between Jewish people as a whole, and the Promised Land is explicitly and implicitly stated in scripture in so many places, and is an essential part of so many Biblical narratives that its denial is both incomprehensible and unacceptable. I have covered this point in my book, as well as so many of my posts, that I won’t bother going through it here.

In 130 AD, a tumultuous event occurred in the history of the Jewish people. After many years of brutal occupation of their land by a Pagan Roman empire, which they sorely resented and resisted in various forms for many decades, the Roman Emperor decided that the Kingdom of Israel be destroyed and its people scattered to the four corners of the Earth. Orthodox Judaism has traditionally seen this as an act of God, sending the Jewish people into exile. This exile continues up until this day. No Jewish Rabbi of any type has, or would, declare the Exile to be over. According to Orthodox Judaism, exile is a spiritual, rather than political or military problem and hence requires a spiritual solution. The solution would be the coming of the Messiah. This would be a supernatural event that would bring in the redemption of all God’s creation, not just the re-instalment of Jews in the Promised Land.

In 130 AD, the Rabbis of the time made oaths concerning their return to the promised land that were eventually recorded in the book known as the Talmud. The Talmud is a religious text that most Christians are not familiar with. It is central to Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source for Jewish religious law and theology.

The content of the oaths boils down to the fact that Jews vowed not to return to the promised land on mass, to create a Jewish state. They should not even try to bring this return about whether it be by force or diplomacy. They should not enter the land even if it were completely empty and or even if all the Kings, Queens and rulers of the Earth gave permission or even demanded it! They also vowed not to stir the nations up to persecute them and that the nations not persecute them.

Orthodox Judaism has taken these oaths very seriously for many centuries. It was Zionists, not Orthodox Jews, who initiated the creation of the State of Israel as it is today. Jewish law forbade such endeavours. It was even forbidden to pray too loudly or too fervently for the exile to finish lest anyone think that their efforts brought about the end of the Exile. The Exile was to be ended by God and God alone! No attempt was to be made to retake the land even in the face of harsh persecution. Jewish people were to remain in Exile as loyal and law -abiding subjects of their country of  exile. The traditional means of dealing with anti-Semitic persecution was to seek refuge in other countries of exile where other Jews could offer them safe haven.

The point that I am trying to make is that the very existence of these vows presupposes that Jews could, in fact, not only attemptto take control of the Promised Land illegitimately, but they could actuallytake control of it illegitimately. If God had somehow promised that such an action would never be allowed, then two things must follow. The first is that no such vows should have ever been taken, let alone them being put in the Talmud and secondly that any attempt, successful or not, of Jews taking control of the Promised Land must be endorsed by God and hence a fulfilment of prophecy.

The simple fact is that these vows were taken and have been a pillar of Jewish Law and theology and hence are not contradictory to any teachings of the Old Testament. Hence, they do not contradict New Testament teachings either.

The following statements can be made with full confidence from a Biblical perspective that I believe all Christian Zionists must agree with.

The entrance and occupation of Jewish people into the Promised Land in order to take control of it is conditional upon their obedience to the clearly stated commands of God in the Old Testament. Many of these statements relate to the fair and equal treatment of non-Jews living in the land with them. It is clear that oppression of non-Jews living in the Promised Land can result in the expulsion of Jews from the land.

The mere fact of the current occupation, or partial occupation, of the Promised Land by the Zionist regime is in no way an automatic sign of God’s endorsement of the Israeli State.

Israel is a Zionist State, a secular state that has, from its inception, sort to transform Jewish Identity from its traditional roots in the Torah, and hence the Bible, to a secular national identity so as to be “as the nations” surrounding them. While Zionism repudiated the Judaism of old, it does not embrace the Christian faith either.

Palestinians have a long history of respect and co-operation with the Jews of the Promised Land before the current Zionist era. Before the Zionist era, Jews and Arabs had good relations in the Middle East. Antisemitism was never a part of popular or elite culture in the Middle East. Christian Europe has always been the home of antisemitism and European nations bare responsibility for the Holocaust, not Arabs, be they Muslim, Christian or otherwise.

The above statements make it clear that no Christian has any absolute Biblical obligation to support the Zionist State of Israel or claim it to be the result of the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham or any New Testament prophecy.

CRAIG NIELSEN

December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having been one myself for a number of years, it suffices to say that conservative Christians fascinate me.

Most secular and non-Christian people wrongly associate conservative Christian faith with some sort of Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is then connected to a type of Biblical literalism which often includes ideas like Six-day Creationism, Premillennialism and the Rapture and a general belief in the miraculous stories of the Bible as literal, real historical events.

This categorisation of Christians overlooks a large amount of important theological distinctions that exist between conservative Christians. The real unifying factor for these types of Christians is really not their theology. When it comes to issues like Creationism, the End Times, Biblical miracles, Justification by Faith, Predestination or the Eucharist, conservatives can argue with each other just as intensely and divisively as anyone. Conservatives are equally likely to be Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox. They can be Baptists, Lutherans, Uniting Church, Methodist, Church of England or Pentecostal. Left wing, liberal or progressive Christians can also be found in all these denominations as well.

In my opinion, being a conservative Christian is far more about one’s politics rather than one’s theology. Their conservative politics often seems to be far more important to them than Biblical theology. Let me explain what I mean.

Biblically speaking, a person’s confession of Christ as God, Lord and Saviour, has long been seen as a major issue in deciding if any given person is a Christian or not. Of course, this confession needs to be heart felt and accompanied by repentance from sin. But it seems that for conservative Christians, this is often a side issue. I passionately believe that Jesus died for me on the cross and shed His blood as a covering for my sin. I believe that He is God, come in the flesh, the only begotten Son of God the Father and that He was bodily raised from the dead. I am saved by grace alone by the death and resurrection of Christ.

Yet I can hardly count the number of times that my faith has been denounced, even though I have made this confession publicly on many occasions. This denunciation has always come from conservative believers and normally for the same reason. That reason is nearly always related to my lack of allegiance to the Zionist State of Israel and my support for Palestinian human rights and justice. I’m seen as a deluded backslider at best, satanic infiltrator at worst.

Many others, who make similar confessions with regards to Jesus, have received the same treatment. Their issue may not have anything to do with Palestine. It maybe that they support gay and lesbian rights, abortion rights, believe in climate change due to human industry, denounce US imperialism, racism, sexism and fight for equality, workers and human rights and, in the worst-case scenario, support the demon of Socialism! All of these are basically recognised as the domain of leftists and liberals. They advocate for justice and mercy for Muslims and any minority group in general that you can think of.

Any of the above can earn you the title of non-follower of Christ, by conservatives regardless of any confession of Christ as Saviour, no matter how heart felt you feel your conviction is.

Conservative Christians are united by their conservative politics and allegiance to conservative and right-wing political parties like the Republican Party in the US, the Conservative Party in the UK and the Liberal/National Party Coalition in Australia. Many times, I have felt that their conservative politics is far more important to them than their Christianity.

I know that in my own case, I felt that the Christian faith was innately conservative. In some ways I still believe that this is true. Christians seek to conserve, or preserve the original essence of the faith as God revealed it to humanity in the first place. While Christian theology has clearly developed over the centuries, it is generally agreed that it cannot develop in such a way as to contradict the original concepts of the faith. It cannot progress beyond a certain limit. In this sense Christianity is conservative by nature. Finding out what these limits are, however, is another question entirely. It’s an endeavour that is far easier said than done in practice.

I long felt that somehow conservative politics owned the Christian faith with its conservative moral values. While liberals and progressives might have some interesting points to make, the real home of Christianity, politically speaking, was right-wing conservatism. Christian values would be safer in the hands of conservative governments.

I’ve since come to believe that this view is both un-Biblical and quite naïve. I think the best example that demonstrates the truth of this is the case of Palestinian Christianity. When I first got involved in the Christian faith I was told that I had many hundreds of millions of brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world. I thought that in the end, there must be some type of solidarity between Christians regardless of their theological differences. It wasn’t long before I started reading a bit of church history and finding out that this was far from the case. But at least I thought Christian faith would tie people together despite their political differences!

But the case of Palestinian Christianity blows this sky high. Conservative Christians, especially in the US, dominate the ranks of Christian Zionists. They passionately believe that it is their religious duty to unconditionally support the Zionist State of Israel in its project to colonise the region known as historic Palestine. These Christians have no pity for the Muslim people who have suffered due to this Zionist project, after all, they’re only Muslims! Enemies of God to be sure! Justice for Muslims in the Israel/Palestine conflict is a contradiction in terms.

But you would think it might be a different thing altogether when it comes to the case of Palestinian Christians. Palestinian Christians are Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic. They are Lutheran, Church of England, Baptist and even Pentecostal. Yet their cries to conservative Christians in the West about injustice and oppression perpetrated on them by the Zionist State of Israel gets completely ignored. Not an ounce of solidarity exists. Every year, the heads of the Palestinian Christian denominations make their suffering known to the Western conservative church via means like the Kairos Document and numerous conferences and meetings. All this gets ignored. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of Christian Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza recognise that their oppressor is the Zionist State of Israel, (not Muslim Palestinians). The voices of one hundred and seventy thousand Palestinian Christians are ignored, while the voice of one Palestinian convert to Christianity that supports Christian Zionism is heralded around the world in every Christian bookshop you can find!

In 2015, I went to the West Bank to observe this myself. I lived for 3 months in a conservative Muslim village in the West Bank as part of a program ran by the World Council of Churches. The program was called for by the Jerusalem heads of churches, (all of which are Palestinian). They wanted there to be a continuous western presence in the West Bank to observe the reality of the oppression that is the occupation. This program has had a continuous presence all over the West Bank for some 20 years now. Many of the people who have participated in this program have been from conservative Christian backgrounds like myself. We met Palestinian Christians who have visited the west only to find that their Christian faith was denounced when they owned up to being an Arab Christian that doesn’t support the dispossession of their own people by a secular state like Israel.

What motivates conservative Christians is not simply stated. To say that it is their theological beliefs, however much that they proclaim that it is, is still too simplistic. It is obvious that their political beliefs inform their conservative theology and vice versa. An uncomfortable fact for conservatives is that virtually no professional theologians in the English-speaking world endorse Christian Zionism. It is utterly bereft of any rational Biblical support but this seems to make almost no impact on them whatsoever.

Conservative Christians in the US routinely herald any President that seems to come from the right-wing as God’s man of the hour, come to save the world from judgement regardless of how immoral their actions might be on a personal level. Australian conservative Christians are often not far behind them.

When the excesses of a conservative President are finally brought to the public eye, the American public are reminded of their Christian duty not to judge, but to support their leader! But God have mercy on a non-conservative President, regardless of any professed Christian faith! God must be a Republican…surely?

So many conservative Christian friends of mine bemoan our secular, godless state with its permissive values. One particular sore point is the acceptance, by ultimately both political parties, of gay and lesbian marriage rights. Criticism of this judgement comes thick and fast from conservative pulpits. Yet the Zionist State of Israel has plans to follow this path. One of the reasons that the State of Israel says that it should be supported by the western world is its tolerance of gays and lesbians in contrast to the conservative values of Muslim countries.

Apparently these liberal, progressive values are all ok in a secular Israeli State, but deserve wrath and condemnation in our own western countries. It seems that the only duty of Israel is to take all of the land into its possession and sovereign control. Anything else it may do is irrelevant. This backflip on the moral values of God’s chosen people is hard to justify Biblically, but once again is not even acknowledged by conservative Christians in the west.

My belief is that Christianity is not owned by either side of the political divide. We are free to accept or reject political ideas without fear of abandoning God’s own political party. God’s politics don’t conform to the ideology of any political party, nor does His politics encourage us to turn a blind eye to the corruption and injustices perpetrated by those that we perceive as being our political friends. Nor does it prevent us from listening and learning from those whom we traditionally feel are not the friends of the faith. We are free to listen and to learn from anyone. Free to use our own God given reason and our knowledge of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as revealed in the scriptures with humility.

Unfortunately, conservative Christians are greatly in error when they unconditionally support the State of Israel with regard to its policies towards the Palestinian people. This does not mean that conservatives have nothing positive to offer or that progressives have all the answers. For Christians, humility and the mercy and justice of God for all humanity is our eternal duty. Amen.

CRAIG NIELSEN

December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Zionists, as well as religious Zionists in Israel and throughout the world, believe that Jewish people have an absolute entitlement to the lands of Israel including the occupied territories (OPT).

They claim that this fact is unambiguously stated in the Bible and can be seen to be so by anyone who bothers to take the time to read the Old Testament scriptures. They believe this fact is so clearly and obviously proclaimed that it is indeed a dividing line between those who honour God’s word and those who don’t.

Anyone declaring that the Israeli settlements are illegal, no matter what legal arguments are used to defend such a position, are denounced as being in league with Satan. The very concept of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Gaza or the Golan Heights is a contradiction in terms. The recent denial of the illegal status of Israeli settlements in the OPT by the current US administration has been met with rapturous approval by Christian Zionists the world over. This would be seen as further proof, as if any were needed, that the US is indeed God’s instrument on Earth in worldly affairs.

Any protests against Israeli settlements are met with accusations of anti-Semitism and racism against Jews. The spectre of Nazi Germany is quickly invoked to demonise anyone even thinking about Palestinian rights. Palestinians rights are the rights of the devil!

I well remember once telling an avid Christian supporter of Israel that Palestinian Christians didn’t share his view of Zionist entitlement. His only answer was a sarcastic, “Have they read their Bible?”

A “no concession” policy is rigorously held to by Christian Zionists when it comes to any type of negotiations with Palestinians. After all, you don’t negotiate with the devil!

But the simple fact remains that the settlements ARE illegal under the clear and reasonable demands of International Law, and the concept of illegal Israeli settlements, within the bounds of what is considered “the promised land”, is completely compatible with scripture and the justice and mercy of God as revealed in both Testaments of the Bible. I believe it is not only compatible with, but is indeed demanded by those same scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation.

My defence of this position is based on a two-pronged argument:

  1. The Bible does not teach that Jewish people, simply by virtue of their Jewishness,

have an absolute and unconditional entitlement to the “Promised Land”. Jewish

occupation of the land can indeed be illegitimate in God’s eyes.

  1. International Law on this issue is completely compatible with God’s will for how

nations should deal with each other and hence it’s clear dictates need to be

respected by ALL Christians who claim to believe in the rule of law.

I will start with a defence of point one.

From the very first instances in scripture, when God promised the Land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, we see that the relationship of the Promised Land (TPL) to the Jewish people was conditional. God delayed Abraham’s taking of TPL by some hundreds of years so as to make sure that no injustice was done to the people then occupying the land. It was not until God judged the people in the land as being guilty of innumerable sins and hence needing to be justly removed from the land that Abraham’s descendants were allowed to enter TPL.

But even then, as the scriptures clearly tell us, there was no unconditional entitlement of Jews to enter the land. We see that even Moses, hardly a more prominent Jewish person could there have been, was not allowed to enter TPL. The most obvious question to be asked is, “Why wasn’t he allowed to enter?” Even a cursory glance at the text shows that it was his behaviour that was the key reason that he was barred from entering TPL, and this provides us with the basis for the whole concept of the totally conditional nature of the Jewish people’s relationship to the land.

God indeed made a covenant with the Jewish people in that the only way that they could legitimately enter and occupy the land was that they faithfully obey the commands of God. Many of these commands relate to how they treat non-Jews living in the land with them. The punishment for disobedience with regards to this issue was expulsion from the land.

Every orthodox Jew in history will tell you that the occupation of the land for Jews is tied up with the concepts of redemption and exile. Jews are currently in a state of exile and are therefore forbidden to try and take control of the land. No Jewish Rabbi anywhere in the world would dare declare that the exile is over! So, if that be true, how is it that the State of Israel is in existence with half the world’s Jews living there?

The answer is that the responsibility for the creation of the State of Israel was in the hands of Zionists, not Jews who were faithful to the Torah and its traditional teachings about exile, redemption and the coming of the Messiah. Orthodox Judaism had taken oaths, as far back as 130 AD, to never even try and take TPL even if all the rulers of the Earth commanded it, even if the land itself was empty, even if it did not involve any kind of violence whatsoever.

Exile was a spiritual problem and required a spiritual, not military or even diplomatic, solution.

Scripture clearly relates that the Jewish people are God’s tenants, not landlords in TPL. If they do not obey God’s covenant with them, they will be expelled from the land, just like any other nation or people that defiled the land. Their Jewishness would not confer any special privileges for them if they were disobedient. If anything, it made them more accountable. God’s covenant with Abraham would not mean that they could unconditionally enter and occupy the land. Being in exile would not, however, make the covenant with Abraham void. This covenant was still in operation regardless of whether the Jewish people were in exile or not. Exile came when the Mosaic covenant was broken by the Jewish people while in the land. The Mosaic covenant could be broken but the covenant of God with Abraham could not. God would never give up on the Jewish people no matter how many times He had to cast them from the land. Orthodox Jewish tradition holds that this expulsion has already occurred twice. The end of the current exile will be heralded by the miraculous coming of the Messiah and not before. This event will come in God’s sovereign time.

God’s command that Jews treat the “alien”, (non-Jew) in the land fairly and justly and as an equal, stems from the fact that when Israel was in bondage as slaves to Egypt, God stood up for them against the oppressor and gave them freedom. In scripture God continually reminds the Jews to remember how they were slaves in Egypt and in doing so therefore do not oppress the non-Jews living amongst them. Failure to do this would bring consequences to the Jews almost too horrible to think of!

So, the question can legitimately be asked, “Is the Zionist regime in Israel legitimately occupying TPL?” The simple fact of their confessed Jewishness is not sufficient, regardless of any claims about fulfilled prophecy. End times prophecy can never be twisted in such a way so as to negate the righteous demands of God for the descendants of Abraham to live up to their obligations to God with regards to their relationship to the land. A secular Zionist state does not get a free pass any more than Moses did!

I will now move on to my second point:

The basis of the United Nations Charter and International Law with regards to how nations should deal with one another is grounded in the desire to avoid violent conflict and oppression by powerful nations over less powerful nations. This is clearly stated in the concept of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by means of force. This acquisition of territory in order to gain access to living space, resources or anything else by force is seen as the main motivation for armed conflict in our world. Making this type of acquisition of land illegal, by any nation, is a clear a deterrent for conflict between nations by removing the legitimacy of the very motivation for conflict.

This is obviously a good idea, and I see nothing in this that is somehow innately anti-Semitic or against God’s word. Whether or not this concept has been applied fairly and consistently is another matter entirely.

We need to remember that all members of the United Nations must sign on to this principal. Australia, the US, Israel, Canada and the UK have all signed on to this principal as a matter of law.

In 1947, the United Nations created a partition plan that gave the Zionists 55% of historic Palestine for the creation of a Jewish state and 45% of the land to the Arabs for the creation of a Palestinian state. The Zionists accepted this plan. The current regions known as Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights were not part of the land that was given to the Zionists in the 1947 partition plan. These regions are currently under Israeli control since they entered these areas by force in 1967. As such they are under Israeli military occupation.

The validity or fairness of this partition plan will not be dealt with here. At this stage it suffices to say that the Zionist State is in control of lands that it acquired by means of military force and is holding onto these regions by military force as well, despite the fact that International Law and UN Resolutions have demanded Israel’s ending of the occupation way back in 1967.

The Fourth Geneva Convention, of which all member states of the United Nations must sign on to, clearly states that no occupying power may transfer any of its population into the areas being occupied. Israel has clearly been in breach of this since 1967 when it started building Israeli only settlements in both the West bank and Gaza. It entices Israeli citizens to come and live in the OPT with significant financial incentives. These settlements are fully integrated into the rest of the state of Israel via Israeli only highways that connect the settlements back to greater Israel. Palestinians are forbidden to travel on these roadways.

The Israeli government rejects this judgement based on the fact that they do not consider the OPT to be occupied and hence International Law does not apply. This idea is based on the fact that the West Bank and Gaza had no official governance at the time of the 1967 War and so International Law does not apply.

This judgement has been rejected by the entire international community. The issue of governance is not the point. The fact is that Israel has gained access to territory by means of force. This territory was not granted to any Israeli government in the 1947 partition plan that the Zionists did agree with. That territory was inhabited by a people who did not identify as Jewish and hence are not represented by any Zionist government.

The Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been judged as illegal right from the start and this decision has been reviewed and verified on numerous occasions since then by the best legal minds in the world. This judgement is firmly based in International Law.

From the above we can see that the Israeli settlements are clearly in breach of International Law and that International Law in this particular context is neither anti-Semitic or un-Biblical.

It is possible, and I would say, highly likely, that God respects and agrees with the judgement that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal.

CRAIG NIELSEN

December 2019

 

The Oaths of the Talmud

The Oaths of the Talmud

As a supporter of the Palestinian cause for justice and human rights, I am frequently attacked with the accusation of anti-Semitism. I must admit that this accusation is both hurtful and intimidating to me at times. Hurtful because I vividly remember when, as a young boy, I first heard the story of the Holocaust. I remember being grief stricken at the thought of the horrendous suffering that Jewish people had endured during the war at the hands of the Nazis. Not only did the Jewish people experience this criminal behaviour towards themselves, but they felt a tremendous sense of betrayal and abandonment by the Western Allies. No-one seemed to want to come to their aid but for a few individuals who where brave enough to withstand the fear of putting oneself at risk for a people not their own.

And intimidating because I believe there is no worse accusation than being numbered with the Nazis. The temptation to be silent and avoid any scrutiny by a hostile Zionist mob, be they Christian or otherwise, can be significant.

And yet in the end I refuse to be silent about what I see is clearly the case In Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. To be silent, to hold my tongue would, in fact, make me a person far more in league with the Nazis than anything else I am likely to do. It would be my silence, not my voice, that would condemn me as one who knew what was going on but said nothing, just as those millions who must have had at the very least a hunch, an instinct that something terrible was happening to the Jews of Europe, but said nought, keeping their heads down and minding their own business. I owe it to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust to speak up. I owe it to the victims of persecution everywhere to speak up. And nothing will stop me.

Certainly, it is understandable that a Jewish person might have their suspicions raised of anti-Semitism being in the wind when a person rejects the colonialist dogmas of today’s Zionists. But the automatic association of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism is one of today’s most heinous errors perpetrated by the supporters of Zionism. It does their cause no credit.

Any person today who would be accused of racism against the Chinese simply because they rejected Communism, would rightly claim that they had been seriously misrepresented. Anyone who would claim that criticism of the People’s Republic of China was, in reality, a thinly veiled racist attack on Asians would not be taken seriously. Yet time and time again our media has been complicit with the Zionists of Israel who berate all criticism of Israel as racism in disguise. No serious discussion of the important issue of Palestinian rights is allowed to take place in our mainstream media or in many of our churches.

A simple fact that would greatly enlighten most Australians, is that Zionism and Judaism are not only not the same thing, they are antithetical. Orthodox Judaism and Zionism have a long history of both ideological and physical conflict.

Zionists come in all shapes and forms. Most Zionists in the world are probably not even Jewish. It has been estimated that there are about 50 million Christian (obviously non-Jewish) Zionists in the U.S. and this clearly overwhelms the Jewish Zionists throughout the rest of the world with respect to numbers. On top of this is the fact that many Jews are not Zionists. Zionism is a political ideology, one that can be legitimately accepted or rejected by Jewish people anywhere in the world.

The accusation of anti-Semitism by Zionists whenever the state of Israel is criticised is invalid and should always be ignored. Otherwise we risk the situation of Israel being accepted as a state that is intrinsically beyond reproach. I’m sure that many of the far-right wing Zionists of this world would gladly see to it that I am silenced for all time. That is just part of life. Ultimately it doesn’t bother me, I will just be replaced by someone else’s voice. Someone else who understands that the true voice of the victims of the Holocaust cry out, “Never again,…to anybody!” and not the Zionist mantra, “Never again,…to us!”

Craig Nielsen

People often ask me why the Israel-Palestine issue has gone on unresolved for so long. Before I can even get out a word, there is no shortage of people who want to interject and offer their own analysis. It seems that the least someone has done, in so far as researching the issue, the more certain they are that their answer is the correct one. “They’re born to hate!  (referring to the Arabs)” is a common answer. Somehow our media has taught some people that if you come from the Middle East, particularly if you are a Muslim, it means that you have an ingrained and irrational view of the world that makes you despise the idea of raising your family in peace and security, all for the sake of Jihad! That is, war for the sake of war!

“They’re all terrorists, and no one can negotiate with terrorists! It’s obvious, anyone with eyes and a brain can see the sense in that argument” That’s how the so called enlightened western view of the conflict is told.

Blaming religious belief is by far the most common and convenient excuse to dismiss all hope of peace and resign oneself to inaction and apathy about any cause for peace and reconciliation.

My own understanding, being born mostly from the experience of having lived in the West Bank for three months, has been confirmed by the analysis of dozens of academics and observers from all over the world. It is the ever-encroaching cancer of “Facts on the Ground” that perpetuate the violence, mistrust and injustice that keeps the fires of the conflict burning.

By facts on the ground, I am referring to not only the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but the whole infrastructure put in place by the Zionist State to facilitate the ever widening takeover of land that was set aside for the Palestinian state, and the continuing stranglehold on Palestinian life that makes it more and more difficult for Palestinians to live in their lands every day. These facts on the ground increase every day and affect the lives of all Palestinians in the West Bank. All these facts on the ground violate International Law and UN resolutions. The case that these facts on the ground violate International Law has been verified time and time again by the ICJ, as well as just about every legal authority that has ever bothered to look at the issue.

The permanency of these facts on the ground is made completely obvious when one visits the West Bank for example. The settlements aren’t structures that someone could dismantle in a day, the way Palestinian homes and structures are commonly destroyed by Israeli armoured tanks. Everywhere I went I saw Palestinian infrastructure being strangled or just plain destroyed while the Israeli settlements, Israeli only highways, checkpoints and of course the “security barrier”, remain standing or increase in size and scope.

The situation for Palestinians is intolerable. I can not imagine the frustration that I would feel if something had been done to me, and was still being done to me, that every law court in the land declared was illegal, and yet no one was doing a thing to bring those committing those acts against me to justice. Rather it was me who was considered to be the criminal even for just peacefully protesting about the injustice of my situation.

The facts on the ground continue to both aid the oppression of Palestinians and facilitate in them an ever-growing sense of despair with the so-called rule of law and the International Justice system. This despair leads some to resist the Israeli occupation by means which have no integrity. These are acts of terrorism and, as a Christian, as a human being, I can only condemn those acts with the same fervour that I condemn the acts by the Israeli government that provoke those Palestinians to violence in the first place.

History tells me that Palestinians in the Holy Land had long been friends with their Jewish neighbours until the Zionist colonialist project begun. With an openly stated plan to dispossess the Arabs of Palestine, be they Christian, Muslim or secular, in order to make way for the creation of a Jewish state with a permanent Jewish majority, it is the actions of the Zionists, I believe, that were responsible for provoking the conflict in the first place. The negligence of the international community, especially the US, Australia, Canada and Great Britain, in not enforcing International Law and UN resolutions to stop the creation of the above-mentioned facts on the ground, is responsible for it’s non-resolution

Craig Nielsen

Six years ago I began work as a secondary school teacher in a small country town of about 3,000 people in South Australia. It’s probably pretty safe to say that the major fear of most new teachers is that of behaviour management of the students in class.

Fortunately most of the students at my school are pretty good. But there are a few exceptions! One young boy, let’s call him Frank, to protect the guilty, was a challenging case to say the least.

Frank’s behaviour was fairly brazen. He seemed to have no fear of getting into trouble even when caught in breach of some of our most important rules in a grievous fashion. After only a few weeks I discovered where this brazen attitude to breaking school rules came from. The fact was that Frank’s mother would always “back” Frank in any dispute. Frank could do no wrong in his mother’s eyes regardless of the often overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Frank’s mum was extremely vigorous in her son’s defence and often threatened to have the entire schools behaviour management policy and procedures audited by the government (a threat that often strikes fear into most schools as it requires so much extra work to be done by the school to show that it is following proper procedures with all students).

With Frank having his mum ready to “back him in” regardless of whatever he did, Frank’s behaviour deteriorated to a point where he was openly hated by the rest of the students in the school as they were frequently a victim of his vicious bullying and harassment of anyone he pleased to or deemed to be in his way.

A mountain of paperwork was accrued during Franks stay at school that detailed his poor behaviour. This mountain grew and grew as Frank’s behaviour issues were never resolved. As well as this, Frank’s mum took this ever growing mountain of paperwork as clear evidence that Frank was being singled out and picked on by all staff. It was a mass conspiracy involving everyone, even the new teachers who had no history with Frank to bias their view of him.

The obvious point of all this, in my view, is the parallel with this example and the Zionist State of Israel with it’s nearly 60 year history of criticism by countries all over the world.

During my 3 month stay in the West Bank and Israel as part of my EA, I heard many Jewish people affirming to me that Israel is always being “picked on” and that it receives far more criticism than any other country in the world and is treated like a rogue state like North Korea. The really interesting thing is that this view of criticism of Israel is shared by many liberal Zionists and even Israelis in groups like Machsom Watch and others who do a wonderful job of trying to stand up for Palestinian rights.

I must admit that when I heard members of Machsom Watch echoing this view of criticism of Israel, I had to really check myself and ask if indeed they had a point. They also reacted very strongly against the idea that Israel was a racist country and in fact claimed that Israel lead the world in combatting racism in all its forms.

But in the end, much to the dismay of my very good friends in groups like Machsom Watch, I had to firmly disagree with them. I do not believe that Zionist Israel is picked on or criticized out of proportion to its faults and failings, as all countries inevitably do have.

When you analyse criticism of Israel, two things very much stand out above all others.

  1. Virtually all criticism, if not absolutely all, from the international community via bodies like the United Nations and various human rights groups, relates to one issue and one issue alone. Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people.
  1. The Israel-Palestine issue has not been resolved for over 60 years of conflict.

Claims that criticism of Zionist Israel is based in and motivated by anti-Semitism are very difficult to maintain in the light of the above indisputable facts.

Anyone who has sat through the nauseating criticism of Jewish people by Nazis and other anti-Semites will immediately recognize that in the eyes of anti-Semites, Jewish people or Israel as a Nation, has no redeeming qualities whatsoever and that every aspect of their lives and communities deserves the harshest criticism and vilification.

As a peace activist who has spent a reasonable amount of time in Israel and the occupied territories, I can attest to many admirable qualities of Jewish people, just as I can about any group or race of people you might like to mention. The nation of Israel itself has rightly won the admiration of the rest of the world in numerous areas just as my home country of Australia has. Over the last ten years that I have been involved with this issue, I have never heard anything like a universal condemnation of Israeli society in all its many facets by advocates of Palestinian rights. Criticism always centres on the same issue: the unresolved issue of the dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people. If this issue was resolved tomorrow, criticism of Israel would dwindle to insignificance very rapidly. But while the conflict remains unresolved and Israel clearly acts in a manner that is contrary to International Law, as has been acknowledged by authorities on this topic for decades, criticism of Zionist Israel will continue to pile up as it did for Frank in my high school example.

It has been my consistent experience that criticism of Israel can, and does, occur in a context completely devoid of anti-Semitism. Even criticism of Zionism itself centres on its colonialist aspirations, reflecting the tenets of International Law which deem colonialism as illegal.

Zionist Israel has never been treated like rogue states such as North Korea, Iran or Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein. Those countries, as well as many others who have been in regular breach of International Law, have come under sanctions of all descriptions, from the international community as well as direct military action being taken against them.

But when has Israel ever been treated like this? They have avoided all consequences of breaking international law due to the intervention of the U.S. just as Frank’s mum’s intervention protected him and empowered him in his poor attitude and behaviour.

In the end, those who protect and empower anyone to oppress and dispossess others is not acting in anyone’s best interest and a “use-by date” can be clearly seen on the structures of their power and oppression.

CRAIG NIELSEN

I can still very clearly remember when, in my early twenties, I had a job in a factory making stainless steel and Aluminium cookware. We started work at 6:30am each day and finished at about 3:30pm. The shed that we worked in was freezing cold in winter and boiling hot in summer. The work was boring, repetitive, dirty and very labor intensive.

At that time I was sharing a two bedroom flat with two other friends and for some reason, that I don’t remember, I had to sleep on the floor every night. I had to get up at 4:00am in the morning to catch two buses across town to get to work on time. It wasn’t fun!

So while I was monitoring the infamous checkpoint at Qalandya, I couldn’t help but think back to those days. That morning we got to the checkpoint at 4:30am and my team mate Peggy, stood on the exit side of the checkpoint to count people as they came out, and I went to the entry side to monitor things as people lined up to enter the checkpoint. Even at 4:30am, the checkpoint was crowded with people trying to get to work in Jerusalem.

The Qalandya checkpoint basically separates the Palestinian town of Ramallah (and hence the whole of the northern West Bank) from Jerusalem. The checkpoint itself consists of a large shed where people line up in what can only be called cattle shutes, which lead to turnstiles at the end of each shute. The opening and closing of these turnstiles are controlled by Israeli soldiers who sit in a main control room. On the other side of these turnstiles are five booths, each with its own turnstile controlled by soldiers in each booth.Once you get past this set of turnstile,s you must show your ID papers to the soldiers on duty, place your belongings on the conveyor belt to be X-rayed and walk through the metal detector. If the soldiers at the window of the booth are satisfied with your ID card and permit and everything else, you may pass through the checkpoint and go into Jerusalem. On a goodish day this can take 20 to 30 minutes.

Qalandya

      Qalandya checkpoint.

On the day that I was monitoring the checkpoint, all 5 booths were open but for some reason the lines were moving slowly. By about 5:10am the lines from all three shutes were so long that they extended way outside the shed into the car park behind the checkpoint. As time passed by, the people in line became agitated with the soldiers and some made gestures to me wanting me to do what I could to get things moving faster. I made a few phone calls to the Humanitarian Hotline and Machsom Watch but nothing seemed to be changing so far as the time to process people was taking.

Many of these Palestinians are day workers in Jerusalem and are desperate to get to their places of work since many of the companies they work for simply take the first lot of workers that arrive on time and forget about the rest. So being first off the ranks is very important for many people even at this early hour. The employers in Jerusalem seem to have no interest in improving conditions at the checkpoint in order to speed things up and get people to work on time. Buses on the exit side of the checkpoint taking the workers to their places of work in Jerusalem don’t wait for stragglers.

By about 6:10am some people, in absolute desperation, started trying to push in at the front of the line near the end of the cattle shutes. This created a “panic” of people in the line and suddenly about 100 workers stampeded the opening of the three shutes! It was chaos as all order broke down. Many people gave up and just sat down inside the shed and waited. Some knelt down and started praying, but for at least 50 or 60 people, they continued to try and push and shove their way into the openings of the cattle shutes in order to go through the checkpoint.

Some Palestinian people next to me blamed the soldiers for causing this chaos, saying that the soldiers were, in their opinion, deliberately holding the lines up so as to incite the workers. Whether the soldiers were in fact doing just that, is debatable, but anyone can see that such a system, in the context of the occupation. will be doomed to failure and cause a huge amount of tension and malice between the two groups.

The situation continued like this for over an hour and I have to admit that I felt quite scared at times. I could not imagine having to face the prospect of this every morning in order to get to work. A number of Palestinian men told me that they had to miss work a number of times because this sort of chaos had ensued at the checkpoint. It only increases their sense of desperation to get to work the next day.

One struggles to find a rational reason for why this checkpoint is the way it is. Israelis will often tell you it is necessary because of the suicide bombers of years gone by. I struggle with that explanation as there are a number of worker checkpoints from the West Bank to Israel that can cope with far more than twice the amount of people getting through the gates of Qalandya.  I have monitored some of those gates myself. So far as security goes, everyone knows that many hundreds of Palestinians get across into Israel from the West Bank “illegally”, every day.

No, to me it seems that it looks like the Israeli government just doesn’t want Palestinians in Jerusalem. This checkpoint is just part of a system that gives a clear message to Arabs in the West Bank. That message is…”Stay Out of Jerusalem!”

International Law states that Palestinians under occupation in Gaza and the West Bank are protected persons. at Qalandya, it doesn’t look like it!

CRAIG NIELSEN

DISCLAIMER

I am participating in a program as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving in the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained here are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Council of Churches Australia or the World Council of Churches. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer (eappi.communications@gmail.com) for permission. Thank you.

During our mid-term orientation for the program in Palestine/Israel, I had the privilege of visiting, what I believe is, the most inspiring and exciting place I have encountered in my stay here until now.

Wahat al Salam Neve Shalom is a village in Israel, about 40 kilometres west of Jerusalem, consisting of about 100 families, of both Palestinian and Jewish Israelis who have chosen to live together as an example of how Jews and Arabs can live with one another in peace and mutual respect without compromising their own identity, be it religious or secular. “Wahat al Salam” is Arabic for Oasis of Peace, the Hebrew equivalent being “Neve Shalom”, hence the name of the village.

The following information about the community is taken from their literature, and some is from what I was told during my visit there about 2 weeks ago.

The village is situated an equal distance between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and was founded in the 1970’s on land originally leased from the adjacent Latrun Monastery. It is hoped that eventually the village will contain about 140 homes. The village is democratically governed and owned by its members and the community is not affiliated with any political party or movement.

The vision of the community is expressed through various activities and programs that it runs.

Bilingual, Binational Schooling

  1. Equal participation by Jews and Palestinians in the administration and teaching.
  2. Providing a natural ongoing framework that enables the day-to-day meeting between children of the two peoples.
  3. Use of both Hebrew and Arabic in teaching all of the children.
  4. Nurturing each child’s identity by imparting knowledge of his/her culture and tradition while inculcating respectful familiarity with the culture and identity of the other people.

The School for Peace

  1. Encounter workshops on the conflict for Jewish and Palestinian youth in Israel.
  2. Encounter workshops, in-service training and seminars for adult groups, including teachers, journalists, lawyers, social workers and university students.
  3. Encounter workshops between citizens of Israel and Palestine together with Palestinian NGO’s.
  4. Facilitator training courses.
  5. Yearly graduates’ courses in cooperation with 4 Israeli Universities.
  6. Courses for empowerment of Jewish and Arab women.
  7. Training courses (in its working methods) for persons from abroad.
  8. Encounters for raising awareness towards intergroup conflicts within Arab and Jewish society.

Our guide in the village told us a lot about the encounter group sessions in the School for Peace which last for 3 days and all participants stay in the village for this period. The workshops begin with an all group session, with a facilitator, where all participants are encouraged to vent their feelings to the each other about the conflict. These sessions get extremely heated with a lot of screaming and yelling as you could imagine! This sessions pretty much fills the first day and at the end of the session the participants are given their rooms for the night. The facilitator chooses whom bunks with whom so that people are sleeping in the same room with an “adversary”, so to speak! This causes some consternation, but people accept the situation they are presented with. The next day’s session involves a role reversal whereby people must advocate for the exact opposite position that they took the day before. We were told that not all people come out believing the same thing, but everybody comes out a changed person! Of all the workshops that they have conducted of this nature, no one has every left a workshop before its completion. Some 45,000 young people have completed a similar workshop.

Doumia-Sakinah (The Pluralistic Spiritual Centre)

  1. Programs focus on open inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue and the advancement of peace.

Youth Club – Nadi al-Shabibah Moadon Noar

  1. The objectives of the youth club are to foster and sustain interpersonal connections.
  2. To encourage voluntary community involvement.
  3. To increase awareness on issues of Palestinian-Jewish relations and social justice.

Humanitarian Aid.

  1. Operates a program to provide humanitarian relief (usually but not exclusively medical) for Palestinian villagers affected by the ongoing conflict.

Volunteer Program.

The village has a framework that makes it possible to live and work in the village for a few months in exchange for living expenses. For details about conditions and how to apply, see the following email or website  volunteering@nswas.org or www.nswas.org/rubrique7.html

Hospitality

The village has a hotel with in season swimming pool that is open for guests and participants in the programs.

Visit Programs

For one day visiting groups there is introductory presentations and videos.

Wahat al Salam Neve Shalom has friendship associations in a number of countries but not yet in Australia. I am planning to set up an “Australian Friends of Wahat al Salam Neve Shalom Association” when I get home. If anyone would like to be part of this work to support this wonderful organization which shows to the world an example of how peace is possible in this region, then please contact me via this blog and we can arrange a meeting back in Australia.

CRAIG NIELSEN

DISCLAIMER

I am participating in a program as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving in the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained here are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Council of Churches Australia or the World Council of Churches. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer (eappi.communications@gmail.com) for permission. Thank you.

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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