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My apologies to readers of this blog for my long absence in posting on this blog. I am going to make up for it in the following weeks as I am participating in a program with the World Council of Churches in the West Bank (see disclaimer at the bottom of this blog). I will be here for 3 months, living in the small rural village of Jayyus in a typical house in the village but with 4 other internationals participating in the program.

During our initial orientation and training for the program, we listened to a talk by a young ex soldier named Shay Davidovich.
Shay grew up in the Ariel settlement which is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank and is situated in the Seam Zone in what is known as the Ariel finger. The Seam Zone is that area in Palestine that lies between the Separation Barrier and the Green Line (the 1949 Armistice line) and the term “finger” refers to the Seam Zone region that pokes into the West Bank like a finger, ending with the Ariel settlement at the tip.

Shay grew up in an Israeli family that had no particular interest in the issue of the Palestinians and after high school graduation he joined the Israeli military and was stationed in the West Bank. Fairly quickly into his service in the West Bank, Shay started to question his role and it’s relationship to the narratives that he had been taught as a student about the West Bank and Israel’s role in that region. This led to a gradual process of disillusionment that Shay related to us, and this process culminated in his joining the movement known as Breaking the Silence. This group consists of ex Israeli soldiers who have chosen to speak out openly about the things that they experienced as soldiers in the West Bank.

Amongst a number of other disturbing facts, Shay related a particular story of how Israeli soldiers in the West Bank are instructed as to how to conduct an arrest on Palestinian civilians. One might assume that new soldiers get involved in mock role plays using other soldiers as arrestees and arrestors, but at least in Shays case, you would be wrong.

According to Shay, soldiers are taught how to arrest Palestinians by choosing a Palestinian family that is known by Israeli intelligence to have had absolutely no connection to violence or violent demonstrations. The idea being that this would bring the risk level of new soldiers learning arrest procedures getting hurt, down to a minimum. I guess that sounds sensible to some. The soldiers would then go to the village where the family lives, in the middle of the night, usually between midnight and 5am, and carry out the arrest. The person arrested, usually the father or an older male, would be blind folded and hand cuffed (hands behind the back) and taken away without explanation. A day or two later the person would be restored to their family, once again, without explanation. The family would have no idea that this was a mock arrest. Given that Palestinians are routinely arrested and receive prison sentences of up to two or three years for, what would seem to my mind, fairly minor offences that many Palestinians believe that these arrests are just excuses made up by the Israelis to harass and control them, the upset that these mock arrests cause the families can not be underestimated.

Shay told us that as a soldier, he was instructed that the military’s job was to control the Palestinian population and that the main way to do this was to continually let them “feel your presence”. This meant that Palestinians must continually be let know who is boss and that it is the Israeli military that make the rules to achieve this goal of control.

Shay showed us a short film, that was actually made by the Israeli military, allegedly to teach Israeli soldiers how to achieve this goal of “letting them feel your presence” in the context of checkpoint duty. The video showed disturbing scenes of Israeli soldiers beating Palestinian civilians at crowded checkpoints, even while the Palestinians had their hands tied behind their backs. This video somehow made its way to Israeli television and a public outcry ensued. The soldier who in particular was shown to be handing out the most abusive treatment was court martialed and given a prison sentence. A petition, signed by 60 members of the convicted soldiers unit, said that the soldier accused was being used as a scapegoat and that this type of incident was common place and that all superior officers in charge were aware of the situation and know that it was standard procedure.

The Fourth Geneva convention, of which Israel, as well as all UN member nations are a signatory to, states clearly the responsibilities of an occupying power towards civilians of that occupied people. It states clearly that while security concerns are an issue for an occupying power, that these concerns can not be used as a continual excuse to abuse an occupied population and hence absolve the occupier of their moral and legal duty to protect and provide safety for the occupied population.

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.

Following on from my objections in part one and two, I reject Christian Zionism because of its unconditional support for the current Zionist State of Israel. I find this to be objectionable on political grounds as I firmly believe Zionist Israel to be an Apartheid state which is involved in a colonialist mission in the West Bank and Gaza. This colonialist project is fundamentally at odds with International Law and ethically bankrupt, as it is a clear violation of any reasonable concept of human rights. As an occupying force in the West Bank, and the ultimate authority over the “open air prison” that is Gaza, the Zionists have violated every law governing the behaviour of occupying forces as laid out by the United Nations.

Objections to my position usually start with the fact that anyone who believes in democracy should support Israel, as it a democracy: the only democracy in the Middle East. One should note that at the writing of this post, the western world is celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela. Mandela fought against apartheid in South Africa in the name of freedom and democracy for all South Africans. As noted in previous posts, Mandela fundamentally supported the cause of the Palestinian people and identified his struggle with that of the Palestinians. Mandela declared the policies of Israel regarding the Palestinian people as definitely being a form of apartheid. Alan Boesak, a long time South African opponent of apartheid said that the system of oppression in the West Bank and Gaza was worse than the system in South Africa.

The claim that Israel is a democracy needs to be looked at carefully, but even if Israel is a democracy, why does that mean that its treatment of Palestinians is ethically sound? I do not remotely believe that Israel’s violations of International Law and human rights are the worst of any country in the world. But that hardly means that I should therefore support them and not be critical of them! I believe that during World War 2, Italy was not as guilty of human rights violations as Nazi Germany, but that hardly means that I support Mussolini!

As a school teacher, I routinely hear the objection, to my rebuke of a student caught off task, that, “I should be picking on other students, that are involved in greater wrong doing”. This is not an argument from the student that he/she is innocent, but, in 99.9% of cases, is an attempt to evade responsibility by shifting attention away from the issue of the student’s behaviour in the first place. I believe the Zionist state of Israel makes very similar claims. When caught doing what is universally recognised as being against the law, simply finding someone else who is doing something worse and allegedly getting away with it, is not an ethically sound response. Certainly I think it will hold no weight in God’s eyes.

But is Israel a democracy? The answer is yes and no. Mainly no, I believe. The reason for this is that being a democracy goes beyond the simple idea of giving everyone a vote. Democracy is about real power sharing. It’s true that Arabs inside the Zionist State do have the right to vote. The problem is that the state of Israel has been put together in such a way so that it is impossible for Arabs in Israel ever to have real power at the ballet box. Israel accomplished this by firstly expelling hundreds of thousands of Arabs from their homes within the borders of the newly formed state of Israel in 1948. This made sure that Israel now had a majority of Jews within their borders. They now made this majority permanent by enacting laws that basically forbade anyone but Jewish people to migrate to Israel. Hence the Zionists had created their dream of a majority Jewish state that would be owned by Jews in a way that non-Jews could never hope to attain no matter how many generations of their ancestors had lived in the land. The Zionist State is not a state for all its citizens. It is a Jewish state. It conveys rights and privileges to Jews that non-Jews can never have.

It is worth noting that other nations, like Iran for example, have Jewish people as members of their parliament, yet I doubt that anyone would claim that Iran is a democracy.

If Arabs had real political power in Israel to change their situation, I doubt that they would ever need to resort to violent resistance. They would not need to. But with a Zionist State with a permanent majority of Jewish people (at the very least 80%) no real change can ever be made at the ballot box. Israel is a Zionist State and this Zionist ideology is not up for grabs at polling booths in Israel on voting day, it never can be, the type of “democracy” that exists in Israel has seen to that.

CRAIG NIELSEN

Slowly but surely the BDS movement, despite every effort of western “democracies” to stop it, is gaining ground in the fight for a free Palestine and peace and justice for Jew and Arab in the Middle East. The following article appeared on Alakhbar English website on October 28th 2011

Another BDS Victory: Alstom Loses US$10 Billion Saudi Contract Bid

http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/another-bds-victory-alstom-loses-us10-billion-saudi-contract-bid?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+AlAkhbarEnglish+%28Al+Akhbar+English%29

 

The Saudi government had previously given phase one of the Haramain railway project to Alstom, a decision that was met with fierce opposition from the BDS movement.

By: Annabel Turner

Published Friday, October 28, 2011

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) National Committee is celebrating another success after the French corporation Alstom lost the bid for the second phase of the Saudi Haramain railway project — a deal worth US$10 billion.

“Following this massive loss for Alstom in the Saudi market, we hope that all Arab states will pass laws that exclude from public contracts any company or institution that is complicit in Israel’s violations of international law,” says Omar Barghouti, a leading member of the BDS movement.

He adds, “If the Norwegian sovereign fund can exclude three Israeli companies since 2009 over their involvement in Israel’s human rights violations, we hope Arab states, especially in light of the popular revolutions, will adopt similar guidelines, if not stricter ones. This is the most effective way to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and end Israel’s occupation, colonialism, apartheid, and denial of refugee rights.”

The contract for the Haramain rail project — which will connect the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to Jeddah and the King Abdullah Economic City — was awarded to the Saudi-Spanish al-Shoula consortium yesterday. The contract includes the construction of 450km of railway, supplying 35 trains, and managing the system for 12 years.

This is a significant victory for the BDS movement, and a tremendous loss for Alstom. The Saudi government had previously given phase one of the Haramain railway project to Alstom, a decision that was met with fierce opposition from the BDS movement because of Alstom’s complicity in the illegal construction of Israel’s Jerusalem Light Rail. The project, according to official Israeli statements, has the sole intention of “Judaizing Jerusalem.”

The Jerusalem transit line connects illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem and surrounding areas. It relies on the colonization of Palestinian land to support the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, while at the same time, it fragments and divides the surrounding Arab villages.

BDS campaigners have not shied away from pointing to the complicity of Arab states in the occupation of Palestine through their business dealings with Alstom and have asked the Saudi leadership to stop working with the French firm.

The BDS National Committee has systematically targeted Alstom since 2008 through the ‘Derail Veolia and Alstom’ campaign. News of this US$10 billion loss for Alstom adds to similar setbacks, including more than US$12 billion of losses Veolia incurred due to their involvement in the Jerusalem project.

It is alleged that the PLO also urged the Saudi government to withdraw from any further involvement with Alstom.

The Saudi authorities have not revealed the exact reason why they granted the second phase to the al-Shoula group, but a number of statements have been circulated that refer to “multiple factors” influencing their decision, suggesting that increasing political pressure is one of them.

The Saudi decision is in line with an agreement made by consensus at the Arab Summit held in Khartoum in 2006, which both condemned the Jerusalem Light Rail project and called on Alstom and Veolia to immediately halt construction of the railway. The Arab states also demanded that punitive measures be taken against them if they fail to respect their obligations under international law.

However, many Arab states continue to conduct business with Alstom. In Lebanon, the firm is responsible for the control center of the national electricity company (Electricité du Liban). Alstom is also involved in various multi-billion-dollar infrastructure and energy projects in the region, notably in Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. It is also being considered for a number of other major contracts, including a railway project in Iraq, which is worth an estimated US$1.5 billion.

Jesus and the United Nations

In the theology of many Christian Zionists, the United Nations constitutes the very essence of the anti-Christ. The very embodiment of Satan’s plan to create an Israel-hating, one world, Godless empire bent on the destruction of God’s people and the thwarting of God’s plan of redemption. The United Nations, in their eyes, is run by a combination of atheistic Socialists, Islamic Jihadists (there is really no other kind of Muslim) and anti-Semitic Arabs. The United Nations mandate to help maintain peace, promote democracy and protect the rights of the vulnerable is a sham.

From this, one might imagine that the U.N. Charter is filled with blasphemies and calls for the end of Christianity and the imprisonment of all followers of Jesus, but one would be heartily disappointed to find such overt statements of the United Nation’s true agenda.

The United Nation’s obsession with Israel is proof enough of their Godlessness, or so it is claimed.
The real story of the U.N. is not exciting enough to maintain the interest of Christians who place their trust in Israel’s near divine role in the Christian Zionists version of God’s plan of redemption.

The United Nations was created to replace the failed League of Nations. The U.N. sought to create a world order where conflict, such as had just been experienced in World War II, would not happen again. The U.N. was not naive enough to believe it could stop conflict altogether, but that it could establish a world order where the basic motivations for war would be outlawed in the international community. The United Nations adopted three principles which were meant to prevent expansionism and colonialism: Inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war. Prohibition of the transfer of civilians of the occupying power to the occupied territory. Right of peoples to self determination. These principles are not remotely in conflict with the Gospel of Jesus.

In creating the State of Israel in 1948, the United Nations violated the right of the indigenous peoples of Palestine to self determination. The paradox of an Israel-hating United Nations which broke its own charter to create the state of Israel is not often remarked upon by Christian Zionists. The occupation of the West Bank by Israel in 1967 has violated the other two principles as has been acknowledged by the overwhelming majority of the international community. The regulations spelled out in the Fourth Geneva Convention pertaining to the treatment of civilians in occupied territories by the occupying forces, have been violated by the Zionist State in legions of well documented cases.

No doubt the United Nations obsession with Israel stems from the fact that the U.N. created the problem and hence feels that it is incumbent upon itself to find a solution. Israel’s demand that it is being picked on sounds very much like a student who continually disrupts the class and complains that the teacher “keeps picking on me!” With Israel continuing to violate the resolutions of the U.N., the U.N. has little option but to continue in passing more resolutions against the rebellious Zionist State.

Do Christian Zionists expect the United Nations to create resolutions based on Christian Zionist sectarian and incorrect interpretations of the biblical teaching about the relationship between the Jewish people and the land of Palestine? Normally Christian Zionists are happy to recognise the concept of Separation of Church and State in the national sphere, acknowledging history has clearly shown that such a separation is the healthiest arrangement for both institutions. When it comes to the situation of international law they become somewhat confused. International law can not be separated from religious dogma, they maintain.

The alleged control of the United Nations by Arab and Muslim countries is refuted by a simple look at the voting in the U.N. over resolutions concerning Israel. Only 21 Arab states exist and if we add to these the number of non Arab Islamic countries, we can see that the majority of countries in the United Nations are not Arab/Muslim. In 2002, a General Assembly resolution (‘Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine’) affirming Israel’s right to ‘secure and recognised borders’ as well as the Palestinian people’s right to an ‘independent state’ in the West Bank and Gaza passed 160 to 4. There are well less than 80 Arab/Islamic states in the United Nations. The 4 countries to go against this resolution were Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and the United States of America. The 2002 United Nations voting record on virtually every resolution concerning the Israel-Palestine issue was just as lop sided with the majority of countries supporting the resolutions going against Israel being non Arab/Muslim. The international consensus regarding Israel’s violations of international law has been extremely stable despite large scale geopolitical changes throughout the world in the last fourty years.

University of Cambridge scholar, Marc Weller, has shown that when comparing the case of Israel and the occupied territories with similar situations in Kosovo, East Timor, Bosnia and Herzegovina, occupied Iraq and Kuwait, and Rwanda, Israel has enjoyed a virtual immunity from such measures as arms embargoes and economic sanctions which have been employed by the United Nations against member countries that have violated international law in a manner identical to that of Israel. See Norman Finkelstein’s, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, page xvii, for documentation of this study.

As a Bible believing, born again Christian I recognise that the United Nations is a fallible, human institution. However I see no reason to cast it into the realm of the anti-Christ and condemn its resolutions as anti-Israel and therefore anti-God. The United Nations created the State of Israel and has never advocated its demise. Its mandates contradict no part of the Gospel of Reconciliation as revealed in scripture.

Neither the United Nations, Islam, Christianity, Marxism or even National Socialism (an early stage of Hitler’s final solution came up with the idea of all the Jews in Europe could be transferred to one place in the world where they could live together away from the rest of the world) has any basic problem with the idea of a state of Israel, where Jews (in any number) can live. The only tradition in the world that forbids Jews to have a State of their own is, ironically, the Jewish tradition itself as articulated in the Oaths of the Talmud. See posting in this blog “Sacred Oaths”.

Craig Nielsen
ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Theology and Colonialism in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

 

In order to understand the particular historical narrative concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict that is adopted by Christian Zionists, we must understand the theological context that underpins the basic presuppositions of the Christian Zionist worldview regarding the Zionist State of Israel. The historical narrative adopted by Christian Zionists regarding this conflict is virtually identical to the Zionist colonialist mythology of the State of Israel, with very few exceptions. The reasons for this marriage between the sectarian Christian theology of Christian Zionism and secular Zionist mythology is that this union is an absolute necessity for Christian Zionists in order for them to justify the unconditional support they give the State of Israel. Christian Zionists must contend that their support for the Zionist state in no way contradicts the obvious mandate, in both Old and New Testaments of scripture, for God’s people to care for the oppressed and marginalised. For Christian Zionists to adopt the narrative of the conflict as espoused by scholars like Pappe, Finkelstein and the Palestinian people as a whole, would force them to admit that their theological stance regarding the Zionist State of Israel has lead them to a position of supporting outright oppression and injustice. Adopting such a position would lead to a faith crisis of cosmic proportions and so all measures are taken to avoid it.

Christian Zionists maintain that non-Jews have no entitlement to the land of Palestine regardless of how long they may have occupied the land and in whatever number. An Arab majority presence in Palestine is completely irrelevant. Jewish people own the land of Palestine and have an entitlement to it by virtue of their Jewishness alone. Hence the dispossession of Palestinian Arabs from their land of birth is not a crime, it is completely just. Palestinian Arabs occupy the land “illegally” in the minds of Christian Zionists regardless of how long they have been there or how great a majority they have been at any one time in the past, present or may be even in the future.

When the brutal reality of Palestinian dispossession confronts Christian Zionists, they often resort to arguments that amount to “blaming the victim”. The brutality of Arab dispossession is entirely the fault of the Arabs themselves since they were unwilling to welcome the Zionists or leave the land of their birth if they could not tolerate the new arrivals. Resistance to the Zionists is clear evidence of both their unwillingness to subject themselves to the will of God as well as their in born hatred of Jews. Since no injustice has been committed against the Palestinians, that is not ultimately their fault, any real compassion or desire to advocate for their position is unwarranted and against the will of God. All that is afforded them is a weak sentiment of sympathy that is ultimately extinguished by the self assertion of Christian Zionists that all would have been different if they had only agreed to self-dispossession. A corollary to this position is that the Arab leadership are really the ones to blame for the circumstances of Palestinians, not the Israelis. Whatever spin is adopted by the Christian Zionists, the final judgment must, and of necessity be, one that portrays the Israelis as being in the end without basic fault. When Christian Zionists get “squeamish” about the obvious oppression and unfairness of a minority imposing their wishes on the majority, they once again resort to the Zionist colonialist mythology to come to the rescue.

This Zionist mythology has some basic elements that are vital to Christian Zionism.

1.                  The land of Palestine was basically vacant before the Zionist migrations.

2.                  The continuous presence of Jews in Palestine for thousands of years, underscores the Jewish people’s entitlement to the land over and above the wishes of other inhabitants of Palestine. Arab migration into Palestine is “invalid” when “compared” to Jewish migration. Migration to Palestine by Arabs confers no concept of rights to self determination regardless of when it occurred.

3.                  Arabs had no real interest in Palestine until the Zionists made it into a land of “milk and honey”. Arabs had done “nothing with the land”.

4.                  The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was “miraculous” and gave legitimisation before the world community to the entitlement of Zionists to Palestine.

5.                  The 1948 War of Independence was “miraculous” as was the ‘voluntary flight” of thousands of Arabs from the newly created Israeli state in that same year. Hence   there was no “ethnic cleansing” of Palestine. The Arabs left of their own free will and no foul was done to them by the Israelis as a whole.

6.                  All Israeli wars with Arab nations are therefore the result of pure anti-Semitism and have no basis in alleged injustices against Palestinians.

7.                  Arab nations have never wanted peace; they have deliberately sabotaged all attempts by the Israelis and their allies to create a lasting peace with the Palestinians.

8.                  The Six Day War of June 1967 was, once again, “miraculous” and evidence of the hand of Providence, legitimising the state of Israel’s existence.

9.                  Palestinian terrorism is entirely unprovoked and hence provides further evidence of their basic anti-Semitic tendencies.

10.              The Israeli state is under constant threat of annihilation.

This mythology (every single point has been thoroughly and rigorously refuted by Jewish and Arab scholars) perfectly deflects any criticism thrown at Christian Zionists for their unconditional support of Israel. Hence there are no embarrassing facts of history that would lend credence to the idea that Christian Zionist theology leads to an unbiblical ethical stance towards Palestinian Arabs. Israel is “squeaky” clean and so is Christian Zionist theology. Any errors are only minor and of no ultimate consequence. Christian Zionists can lie in their beds with the assurance that they are righteous and justified in their determination to see Arabs dispossessed in Palestine.

Colonialist myths are designed to justify the “entitlement” of the colonial power in taking land that is basically not theirs. The basis for this entitlement can be a conflation of religious and non-religious ideas. Crimes against humanity, committed by the colonialists, are covered up and written out of the history books. In my own case I can testify how, when it came to Australian history, I was not taught of the massacres and dispossession of Australia’s previous inhabitants. Only the courage, hard work and sacrifice of the white settlers and pioneers was worthy of mention.

Jewish people growing up in Israel are likewise not told of the ethnic cleansing that was an integral part of the creation of the state of Israel. Christian Zionists have a vested interest in promoting the colonialist mythology of Zionism over and above the version of events as told by the Palestinian Arabs who have lived in the land for centuries. The Christian supporters of Israel are therefore not even remotely dispassionate and unbiased when “analysing” the historical evidence pertaining to the history of the Zionist state of Israel. Their view of this history is fundamentally coloured by their theological pre-suppositions. Until they can remove these pre-suppositions, their view of events will always be suspect.

It has been my experience that the findings of Israeli and Jewish scholars that take into account the Palestinians perspective are much more reliable. They often do this at great personal risk. They are the ones labeled “traitor” and “self hating Jew”. They suffer all the same persecutions suffered by anyone challenging the colonialist myths of their resident nations or people’s. They are the “whistle blowers” of history. They span political and religious denominations. Their concern is not to validate sectarian religious doctrines or to help the ruling class with their project to indoctrinate their citizens with nationalist propaganda. Their research stands on its own merits.

CRAIG NIELSEN