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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

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Stephen Sizer has recently posted an interesting article on his blog contradicting the much loved narrative of the supporters of Zionist Israel that tells us that Iran wishes to wipe Israel off the map. The original article appeared at…

http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2012/04/16/meridor-concedes-irans-leaders-have-never-called-for-israels-destruction/

Israeli Minister Meridor Concedes Iran’s Leaders Have Never Called for Israel’s Destruction

In an Al Jazeera interview, one of the more moderate ministers in the current government, Dan Meridor, conceded that a notorious phrase widely attributed to Iran’s leaders including Pres. Ahmadinejad, that Iran would wipe Israel from the map, is false.  Though Meridor, a senior cabinet member in the Netanyahu ruling coalition, believes that Iranian statements about Israel being a cancer in the region are equally distressing to Israel, he acknowledged that neither of Iran’s current leaders had ever called for destroying Israel.  That of course, didn’t prevent him from lapsing back into precisely the same claim not once, but twice later in the interview.  It seems that some tropes are so engraved in a nation’s consciousness that a politician can intellectually know they are false, publicly admit it, and then contradict himself.

The interview proved interesting as well for exposing some of the underlying assumptions of Israeli attitudes and policy toward Iran.  When asked about the unique dangers that Iran posed to Israel or the Middle East, Meridor claimed that Iran has introduced a dangerous element into the region: religion.  Now, there’s no question that Islam is a critical element of the Iranian regime.  But was Iran the first to introduce such religious nationalism?  What about that notion of Israel being a “Jewish” state?  Seems to me that is a clear expression of it as well.  Of course, Israelis will argue that the character of religious expression in the Iranian state is fanatical, intolerant and homicidal, while the character of religious expression in Israel is moderate and tolerant.  That may be what Israelis would like to believe.  But is it true?

One of the primary elements of Israeli national purpose these days is the settlement enterprise.  The justification for it is purely religious in nature.  God gave us the land and commanded us to settle in it and warned us never to part with it.  That’s more or less the gist of the argument.  So if the Muslims and Arabs of the Middle East see such a fundamental element of Israeli nationhood underpinned by religious theology, what are they to think?

Further, when Bibi Netanyahu lays out his argument for Israel attacking Iran what language does he use?  The Holocaust.  Once again, this is discourse that is fundamentally religious in nature.  A Jew may argue that the prime minister has no choice because the Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust for their religion.  But the plain fact is that Netanyahu has many arguments he could wield in making his case.  The fact that he’s offered this one hundreds of times over the years indicates not only that he finds it a powerful one, but that it resonates deeply inside him as a Jew, and he believes it will affect his domestic and international audience in a similar way.

If I were to have to isolate one of the most important parts of my mission in writing this blog it’s to point out to both sides, but especially to Jews and Israelis, that whatever fanatical notions you seek to attribute to the other side, you better look in the mirror first, because it’s more than likely that your co-religionists and fellow citizens have expressed thoughts equally as fundamentalist in nature.

In yesterday’s Times, Steven Erlanger also reveals a certain western awkwardness about the injection of religious rhetoric into political discourse.  He says that Ayatollah Khamenei’s statements about Iran’s nuclear intentions are shrouded in a “fog” of theological terms:

Ayatollah Khamenei, who is not only the leader of Iran’s government but also the final authority on Islamic law, often uses religious language when he talks about the nuclear issue, which can jar Western analysts trying to gauge the meaning of such strong statements.

This is a further indication of how clueless secular western journalists can be to the role of religion in regions like the Middle East.  The unstated implication of such statements is that because Iran’s leaders are religious fanatics their word may not be trusted, nor can we ever know for sure what they really mean.  A further implication is that western secular leaders, when they make political statements, are speaking clearly in a language every reasonable person can understand.

This assumption is riddled with unsupported cultural assumptions.  If this were only a case of cultural misunderstanding, that wouldn’t rise to the level of an issue worth being overly concerned about.  But the fact is that western mis-impressions of the states, cultures and religions of the Middle East has caused round after round of mayhem throughout history.  And we may be walking into yet another one.

James Risen, in an article from yesterday’s Times makes the following racist claim:

…Some analysts say that Ayatollah Khamenei’s denial of Iranian nuclear ambitions has to be seen as part of a Shiite historical concept called taqiyya, or religious dissembling. For centuries an oppressed minority within Islam, Shiites learned to conceal their sectarian identity to survive, and so there is a precedent for lying to protect the Shiite community.

Why is it that some otherwise excellent reporters seem to lose their heads when writing about this subject?  Note Risen refuses to tell us who “some analysts” are so we can judge the credibility of this.  Further, while I’ve seen neo-cons, anti-jihadis and other crackpots make this claim about Shiites, I’ve never heard anyone support it with any proof that any Shiite has ever used taqiyya as justification for lying in a political context.  Just as Jews may annul vows in a purely religious context on Kol Nidre, I’m sure taqiyya is a similarly religious-based precept having nothing whatsoever to do with politics.  This is at best shoddy journalism and at worst outright racism.

Another interesting side issue that arose in the Meridor interview was a reference by the reporter to a statement by Avigdor Lieberman during Cast Lead that Israel should level a crushing blow upon “Hamas” (by which he meant Gaza) that would destroy its will to resist. He likened such a blog to the atom bombs that the U.S. dropped on Japan to end WWII. Meridor claims Lieberman never made the statement, and clearly believes the interviewer is making it up. Unfortunately, he is not and Maariv provides the proof.

In the context of the interview, Lieberman’s statement is important because it shows that Israeli leaders have spoken with bellicosity equal to anything Iran’s leaders have said about Israel. Israel has used homicidal, if not genocidal rhetoric in reference to its Arab neighbors no less than Iran may have. I would actually argue that no matter how troubling or hostile some of Iran’s rhetoric may have been, Iran has repeatedly said that it had no plans to attack Israel pre-emptively. Israel has repeatedly threatened to do precisely that to Iran. So whose rhetoric is worse?

In the interview, Meridor repeats another false claim often made by Israeli leaders and journalists: that the IAEA report released a few months ago says that Iran “has” a military nuclear “plan.” At another point, he says that Iran is “aiming” at building a “nuclear warhead” for its missiles so that they might reach Israel.  At another point in the interview he claims the IAEA has said:

Yes, they [the Iranians] are going for nuclear weapons…They are after nuclear weapons.  They [the IAEA] described the plan very well.

This is at best a wild overstatement of what the report actually said and at worst a tissue of outright lies.  The report said there are indications that Iran may have such a program.  After the interviewer points out to Meridor that all of the U.S. intelligence establishment believes that Iran has not made a decision to get a nuclear bomb, the Israeli minister says:

They said, if I remember correctly, that Iran is going after nuclear weapons…A general understanding between us and American, I think, and Europe–England, France, Germany–is, with no doubts whatsoever, that Iran has made a decision to go there…

Er, well no, they didn’t say that nor do any of the countries named believe that.  Of such errors are wars made.

Then Meridor surprised even me, by tearing a page right out of Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes and invoking Kulturkampf to explain Iran’s supposed desire to wipe out Israel and the entire western world.  The grandiose conspiratorial nature of his thinking reveals just how delusional is the mindset of some of Israel’s key decision-makers:

I think that the standoff between America and Iran, and the Muslim world is a sort of Kulturkampf, a clash of civilizations.  And some groups that are not nationally based, but religiously based–call them Al Qaeda or Jihad or Taliban and others–who think that this is a way to stop the west and the domination of those ideas, will have a real boost in a victory of Iran over those westerners that are trying to change the course, the historical course…

With thinking like this coming from one of the more moderate and supposedly sophisticated members of the Israeli governing coalition, you might as well have Anders Breivik making Israel’s strategic decisions.  There doesn’t appear that much difference in thinking between Meridor and Breivik regarding the threat posed by the Muslim world.

When the Al Jazeera reporter asked Meridor whether Israel shouldn’t join the NPT protocol and lay its own nuclear program open to the same inspections that Iran allows. The Israeli almost laughably says that Israel’s refusal to join is a “sound and good” policy and “does not bother anyone seriously.”  He also states that the question of whether there will be a war in the Middle East is “in the hands of Iran.”  This reminds me in a number of ways of the thinking of the bullies, child abusers or wife beaters who tell their victims that the question of whether they will beat them up is solely in the victims’ hands.  At the very least, it seems like putting the cart before the horse.

On a related note, the single most comprehensive debunking of the “wipe Israel off the map” claim is this article from the Washington Post.

The Lord hears the cry of the Palestinian people.

As a Bible believing Christian I find the anti-BDS sentiment of so called journalists like Greg Sheridan and Andrew Bolt to be based in nothing but European supremacist, pro-colonialist bigotry. The media representation of what the BDS campaign is all about is reprehensible to anyone who knows anything at all about the movement.

The BDS program against the Zionist state was called for by 170 civil Palestinian organisations in 2005 as a non-violent means to pursue the cause for self determination and justice for the Palestinian people by putting economic pressure on the state of Israel to align itself with international law regarding its behaviour and policies towards the Palestinian people. The goal of the BDS movement is not necessarily aligned with either a one or two state solution. At all levels, the BDS movement recognises the right of the state of Israel to exist with secure and safe borders. A right acknowledged by Yasser Arafat in 1993 but never reciprocated by the Israeli government to this day.

The western media has no complaint with sanctions against those nations that don’t “play ball” with us, regardless of the fact that, in Iraq for example, thousands of children suffer and die as a result. But when it comes to countries that are aligned with us, even the slightest hint of sanctions against them is met with almost hysterical cries of racist and terrorist motivations, regardless of the fact that, as in the case of Israel, the nation is guilty of more violations of International law than all the Arab/Muslim nations put together. We can bomb Iraq to the ground (killing hundreds of thousands) on the faulty premise that it had weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda when in fact it did not and our leaders had access to (or could have easily gained access to) information to the contrary. We can do these things without the slightest pang of conscience or pain of remembrance because our media and our leaders do not allow them to be part of our remembrance. They are not worthy victims; they are not worthy of our grief or sorrow let alone remorse. they are not us, they are them.

To the opponents of the BDS movement, the only true course for the Palestinian people is to either self dispossess from their homeland or be complicit with the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. The refugees that live outside of Israel-Palestine should just “get over it”. Those who oppose the BDS movement deny the Palestinian people any means to fight for their rights to self determination at all. They must in effect become Zionists or suffer the consequences. The anti-BDS proponents demonise all Palestinian resistance. They condemn Palestinians as terrorists if they resist with violence or condemn them as anti-Semites if they resist non violently as is the case with the BDS campaign. They demand that the game be played in such a way that “heads Israel wins, tails the Palestinians lose”.

John Pilger puts a far more correct spin on the BDS campaign when he says in support of the BDS movement:

“Sometimes, looked at from the outside, Australia is a strange place. In other ‘western democracies’ the ‘debate’ about the enduring injustice dealt the Palestinians and Israel’s lawlessness has moved forward to the point where the cynical campaign of anti-Semitism smears is no longer effective — in the UK, much of Europe and even the United States.
If Israel’s bloody assault on Lebanon was not the turning point, the criminal attack on the imprisoned population of Gaza certainly was. The same is true of the BDS movement. This eminently reasonable, decent and necessary campaign enjoys a respectability across the world, not least in South Africa, where it’s backed by the likes of Desmond Tutu and especially those Jews who fought the apartheid regime. The University of Johannesburg, the country’s biggest, has just broken all ties with Israel. Justice for Palestine, said, Mandela, is ‘the greatest moral issue of our time’. That’s the company those Marrickville councillors who have stood up for this ‘greatest moral issue’, keep. And those who have wavered and walked away should think again – remembering other waverers who, long ago, walked away from speaking out against what was being done to Jews. The scale is very different; the principle is the same. Do not be intimidated by Murdoch vendettas or by anyone else. All power to you.”

John Pilger

The words of the Torah cry out to all Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”( Exodus 22:21-24)

The God of the Old Testament cries out in dozens of verses in the Torah for Jews to reach out beyond the bounds of hatred, racism and bigotry; to take hold of the hands of the oppressed and the alien just as God reached out to them when they were helpless in Egypt, suffering under the oppression of Pharaoh.

The BDS movement will be heard in heaven, of that we can be assured. God’s promise to hear the cry of the oppressed in Israel should send shudders up the spine of those who arrogantly deny the right of the Palestinian people to be heard. The words of Jesus ring in our ears as well:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus care and concern for the marginalised and demonized in His time reflect the love of God for all humanity. His special concern for those at the “bottom” is a perfect reflection of God the Father’s heart towards Jew and non-Jew.

The gospel of Christian Zionism is not a gospel of Good News to Palestinians be they Christian, Muslim or secular. It is not really a gospel of Good News to anyone whose heart rejoices at the news of God’s reconciliation of all humanity to Himself.

The BDS movement affirms the right of Jewish people to live anywhere in the world (not just in Israel) in peace and equality with all peoples, free from racial and religious bigotry. The BDS movement wishes for exactly the same right for Palestinians. As such, the morality of the movement matches the morality of the God of both Testaments of the Bible. Anti-BDS supporters reject the concept of equality for Jew and non-Jew in Israel and the occupied territories. As such, they align themselves with the powers already defeated on the cross of Jesus some 2,000 years ago. Justice and equality for all in the Holy land is the ultimate goal of the Lord God and the BDS movement. That is why I endorse and am involved in it.

The New Testament affirms to Christians that both Jesus and Moses concur about justice and equality in all the world. Religious nationalism, self righteousness and hatred will be swept away, once and for all. this is the true hope that lies at the heart of all truly Biblically based doctrines of Eschatology.

Craig Nielsen
ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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