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Destroying from Within

My Father, Frank Nielsen, served six years in combat service with the Australian Infantry during  World War II. He spent time in North Africa fighting Rommel’s Afrika Corp and was then shipped off to fight in the jungles of New Guinea against Tojo’s Imperial Japanese Forces. He came back a physical and nervous wreck. Years of shock treatment and a  Leucotomy (not dissimilar to a frontal lobotomy) gave some relief, but in the end he succumbed to his post traumatic stress condition and died when I was six years old of a massive heart attack.

Not surprisingly, after my father’s war experience, he was a strong advocate for peace  but still maintained that Australia’s war against the German’s was necessary and just. His attitude towards war is hardly controversial. He did not oppose the war against Germany as such but took a view that all wars should be avoided at all costs. I well remember asking him whether or not he was a “baddie or a goodie” during the war. All I got as an answer was a rather pained look which I didn’t understand at the time.

But when a member of a nations armed forces stands up and refuses to continue fighting a war that is basically unjust in his/her opinion, while it is still in progress and unresolved, people look up and take notice. Especially in a country like Israel where the military is held in such enormously high regard. And so people in Israel have stood up and taken notice of Yonatan Shapira, a former Captain and pilot in the Israeli Air force and a member of a family with a long history of distinguished service in the I.D.F. , who has joined the ranks of the some 1400 declared refusers or “refuseniks” as they call themselves. In a nearly hour long interview, Yonatan describes his journey from flying Black Hawk helicopters to refusing to take part in missions to target alleged Palestinian terrorists for assassination.

Just like the prophet Jeremiah, Yonatan loves Israel and its people and says that it has a right to defend itself from terrorism, but not at the expense of the ethical traditions that make up what Jewishness has always been about. He believes that the occupation is slowly destroying the moral and ethical fibre of the country he loves. And just like Jeremiah, Yonatan has been called a traitor to the Israeli nation because he believes that the ethical traditions that he has been taught, trump loyalty to nation when the two collide. To both of  these men, to love Israel but not criticise it when it strays, is  a contradiction in terms.

Yonatan firmly believes in the ethical nature of service in the I.D.F. as he has been instructed but believes that the current Zionist state is involved in an occupation that is pulling Israel down a path that is ever more morally compromising the Israeli people themselves. The occupation is destroying the fabric of Israeli life from within.

Christian Zionists would do well to listen to the story of Yonatan. Just as the great Israeli intellectual, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, believed  that the occupation would create a police state within greater Israel and sap it of its moral and spiritual values and that the use  of religion as a means to rationalise brutal chauvinism and the annexation of territories to which a previous historical connection existed was a debasement of Judaism, so Christian Zionists who claim to love Israel would be acting far more like a true friend of Israel if they implored the Zionist state to return to the ethical traditions of the Torah rather than egging them on in an insatiable land grab.

To see the full interview with Yonatan Shapira, follow the link below and hear this amazing story.

Craig Nielsen


The Real Obstacles to Peace.

During the negotiations of every part of the peace process in the Israel-Palestine conflict, Israel has continued to increase the number of settlers and settlements in the West Bank of Palestine. They have continued to confiscate land never allotted to them by the United Nations and have continued to build Israeli only highways on Palestinian land, doing everything they can to make life difficult for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian people have been forced to live with the indignity of a brutal and illegal military occupation of their lands. Israel has demolished over 25,000 Palestinian homes and have continued to deny the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. During this time Israel has killed thousands of Palestinians (many of them children), far more than the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians.

All this has only provoked the Palestinians to further resistance, as could be predicted by any sane person. A peace process in continual paralysis has definitely suited the cause of Israeli dispossession of Palestinian Arabs. Stalled negotiations have definitely not helped the Palestinian cause. So why is it that we believe that the Palestinians are the ones who have been the real party putting up obstacles to peace when it has clearly not been in their favour to do so? The answer is simply that this is the Zionist spin that is forced, uncritically, down our throats by the western media.

Israel has always benefited by stalled negotiations and intransigence towards finding peace. The Zionists have never wanted REAL peace. They have only wanted a cessation of fighting on their terms completely. They have been empowered to do so by the west because it is Israel (not the dispossessed Arabs) who have pledged to support western economic and strategic interests in the region. The Zionist state has wanted peace without justice and this is the real reason why the conflict continues to this day.

Christians are called to be  not just peace lovers, but to be peace makers. They have been entrusted with the Gospel of reconciliation. Reconciliation can only start when previous wrongs have been acknowledged. While the Zionists do not take responsibility for the crucial role they have played in Palestinian dispossession, while they continue to deny the overwhelming evidence of the crime of ethnic cleansing that was perpetrated in their name in 1948, while they continue to peddle the odious lie that Palestine was “a land with no people for a people with no land”, peace will be illusive. But at this stage, that is fine with them. They are happy in their illusion of denial. That’s just the way denial goes.

The Zionist state seems happy to keep provoking the Palestinians by claiming entitlement to the land of Palestine over and above all logic and reason. While Israel claims that Jewish migration to Israel (even if it occurred yesterday) has an innate legitimacy while indigenous Arabs  have no rights to ownership of their land in the same way that Jewish newcomers do, we will see continued hostility in the Middle East.

How have we let such an appalling situation develop? How is it that we have come to accept as normal and reasonable the idea that a Jewish person can migrate to Israel tomorrow with full rights and legitimacy to a state of his/her own, when an Arab Palestinian whose family has lived there for hundreds of years, or even a Palestinian who has only lived there for 10 years, can not do the same, and that any protest to this absurd notion is met with cries of racism and anti-Semitism?

The fight against anti-Semitism starts with a fight against all racism. It does not start with the idea of unconditional support of  Israel.

The Zionist state has no innate title to any of the land of Palestine. If it does not dignify all who live there regardless of whether they are Jewish or not, it will continue to grow in its status as a rogue nation.  Israel is an apartheid state by the decrees of Zionism, not by the decrees of God. Dignity means equality. Dignity means Arabs owning the state of Israel in a manner identical to the way that it is owned by Jewish people. Nothing else is acceptable to God or international law.

Craig Nielsen


The Legacy of Oppression in Palestine.

Supporters of the current policies of the Zionist State of Israel point to the situation in Gaza as proof as to why Israel can not afford to allow a Palestinian state of any kind to exist until the Palestinians somehow prove themselves to be worthy of such an honour.

They point to the brutality of Hamas militants and other extremists as justification for the oppressive policies of the Israeli state. “What else can Israel do?” they say. Such people seem to forget that self determination is a right, and a right is something you do not have to earn. What sort of behaviour do they think people will exhibit when their rights are continually denied? What behaviour did the Zionists themselves exhibit such that they earned the right to statehood in Palestine? Zionist terrorism in the British Mandate period (when Jews in Israel suffered the oppression of British policies that amounted to collective punishment against Jews) is well documented.

Was it the Holocaust that gave Zionists the right to self determination in Palestine? Do some people groups need to first become victims of atrocities before they are granted the same rights that we in the west take for granted? I think not.

Arab or Islamic extremists were not the cause of the Israel-Palestine conflict any more than the Black Panthers in the U.S. were responsible for the creation of slavery, discrimination and racism against Negroes in the U.S. or Aboriginal Land rights activists in Australia were responsible for the dispossession of Aboriginals in Australia that occurred at the hands of British colonialism. Nelson Mandela and the ANC were not responsible for the creation of Apartheid in South Africa.

Hamas and other Arab or Islamic extremists are the product of the Israel-Palestine conflict, not the cause of it. Those groups (with their hostility and violence towards Jewish people) simply did not exist before the advent of Zionist colonialism in Palestine. Religious Zionists who call for the extermination of Palestinian men, women and children did not exist then either. Those who do not grasp this fundamental reality will never make sense of the situation in the Middle East and hence will never understand the nature of any real solution.

What do we expect as a reasonable outcome of the conditions now experienced by the citizens of Gaza? A society under siege and cut off from the rest of the world. Do we really believe that such a situation is conducive to the creation of pacifism or democracy? Have such conditions anywhere else in the world been able to create such things? Conditions of despair and hopelessness make fertile soil for the voices of revenge and violence. Is anyone surprised that Gaza does not produce 1.5 million Zionists? Did Operation Cast Lead endear the citizens of Gaza to the state of Israel? Apparently not, yet the Zionist state is once again gearing up for another round of destruction in Gaza. Why do they think another episode of murdering Palestinian civilians will solve anything this time when it has clearly only strengthened the resolve of both moderates and extremists to continue to resist the Zionist state in the present?

If we do not approach the Israel-Palestine conflict with a sincere desire to listen to the basic, historic grievance of the Palestinian people, we can be assured that violence and horror will continue in this part of the world. What can Israel do? They can acknowledge the pain of the Palestinian people when they suffered the terrible dispossession of 1948. They can acknowledge the wrongs they have committed against the indigenous Arab population. They can stop perpetuating the odious lie that Israel was a land with no people for a people with no land. They can reciprocate the acknowledgment of the Palestinian people in 1993 that Israel has the right to exist with safe and secure borders. They can acknowledge the legitimacy of International Law that deems the occupation of the West Bank with its Jewish only settlements, Israeli only highways, checkpoints and separation barrier as being illegal. This would be a brilliant start and would not require Israel giving up once square metre of land that was not given to it by international law. I am certain such acknowledgments would bring a lasting peace within a very short period of time.

But Israel is drunk with power. Power that has been inflated by the continued empowerment of the U.S. and the west. And the powerful never just hand over their power; that would require a type of wisdom never seen by politicians. Anyone who empowers anyone else to commit crimes against humanity is no true friend, but is exploiting the other party just as surely as night follows day. The U.S. in reality is no friend of Israel.

The open-air prison that is Gaza will continue to fill the need for justification felt by the supporters of the Zionist state of Israel. The continued oppression of the Gazans will undoubtedly provoke some to violence and this violence will be used by the self righteous amongst us to say yes to yet more oppression of the 1.5 million inhabitants of that tiny piece of real estate. Sanity and humility must prevail. Put yourself in the shoes of the powerful, the ones who have the power to make real steps towards reconciliation and justice. What would you do? If you are a Christian…what would Jesus do?

Craig Nielsen

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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May 2023