Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Longest Hatred 19

A Messianic Jewish friend has kindly allowed me reproduce this sickening anecdote of his. Sickening but, sadly, not surprising, since, as I too have experienced, Jew-hate is alive and well among some who attend evangelical churches.

Anti-Semite in Coeur D’Alene

It was my understanding that the virulent anti-Semitism thriving in Haden Lake, by Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, had been dealt with. Richard Butler et. al. were gone. Until today. (Click here for information on Coeur D’Alene’s history with anti-Semitism).

Emboldened by my misapprehension, I did away with the baseball hat, that often conceals my Kippah. That was when, outside Coeur D’Alene’s Office Depot, I locked my keys in the rental car. There was nothing for it but to call for a locksmith, and I quickly found one, listed under ‘Locksmiths’ in the Yellow Pages, with the simple descriptor, ‘Car Door Unlocking.’

How interesting to find, after he unlocked my car, that this was a Christian. In fact, he had spent a couple years distributing Bibles, etc. with the Gideons in Russia, Hungary, etc.
It didn’t take long before he began to express his displeasure at
Michael Savage and Savage’s alleged attitude of ’superiority’ as a Jew, and his supposed disdain of Gentiles. It went on from there. The Jews should have defended themselves during the holocaust. If they had, so many wouldn’t have died, he alleged. My protests and attempted corrections of his ignorance were to no avail. It wasn’t just the Jews who died in WWII (duh) - so were many others. (He was clearly moving towards blaming Jews for complaining too much about the holocaust), etc. etc.... All he wanted was to rant on… Clearly he was a problem. I tried to bring it home to him, telling him that I knew hundreds of Gentiles, and none of them had such strongly held anti-Jewish attitudes as he did. (How can you tell I was sensing I was under attack as a Jew?). This is when he asserted that all the Gentiles I know were ’sucking up’ to me (thus suggesting that my dear friends are hiding their true thoughts in order to please me). I was aghast. I hate conflict, but I made the point - he was an anti-Semite, and I had no time for him. My ten-year-old son, Sammy, was already in the car. He had figured the atmosphere was getting hot!

Time for me to get in the car. By this time I had a raving, shouting, gesticulating lunatic on my hands. What sadness I had, as we drove off, and I had to explain what had happened to my son - who hadn’t missed much, anyway.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Criticism gone too far

I've posted before on the tricky question of when, and how, Christians should criticise the state of Israel, here, making clear the point that legitimate criticism of Israel cannot be considered as antisemitic. This of course very much begs the question of what constitutes "legitimate" criticism of Israel. I would suggest that the denunciations of Israel by Naim Ateek of the Sabeel Ecumenical Palestinian Liberation Theology Center, some of which are outlined below in Jeff Jacoby's Boston Globe article, cross into the area of illegitimate criticism of Israel, if not outright antisemitism. Not content with unjustly denouncing Israel as an apartheid state, Ateek also invokes one of the standard tropes of antisemitism, namely the false deicide charge that "the Jews killed Jesus". He has likened Israeli counterterrorism measures to Herod' slaughter of the innocents and to the tomb placed on Jesus' tomb.

I should add that members of Sabeel have expressed heretical and blasphemous views of the Old Testament, for example declaring the God of the Old Testament to be a "genocidal maniac" and that we must "liberate" God from the Old Testament; for further examples see here.

Strangely, this does not stop Rev Stephen Sizer. a professed evangelical who has publicly written that he dearly loves the Jewish people and desires to repudiate antisemitism, from reproducing, without any qualification, entire Sabeel statements in his book on Christian Zionism; speaking at Sabeel Conferences; and writing in books edited by Naim Ateek. (Rev Sizer's website is here: much of it, in particular anything he says on the politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict, need to be taken with a very large pinch of salt; I hope to elaborate on this in future posts.) The burden would seem to fall upon Rev Sizer to explain the apparent dichotomy.

Criticism gone too far By Jeff Jacoby The Boston Globe
October 21, 2007

IN CIVILIZED circles it is considered boorish to speak of Jews as Christ-killers, or to use language evoking the venomous old teaching that Jews are forever cursed for the death of Jesus. Those circles apparently don't include the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, an anti-Israel "peace" organization based in Jerusalem, or its founder, the Anglican cleric Naim Ateek.

Sabeel and Ateek are highly regarded on the hard-line Christian left, and regularly organize American conferences at which Israel is extravagantly denounced by numerous critics. So far this year, such conferences have been held in Cleveland, Berkeley, Calif., and Birmingham, Ala.; another begins Friday at Boston's Old South Church.

Just as critics of the United States are not necessarily anti-American bigots, critics of Israel are not necessarily biased against Jews. But Sabeel and Ateek's denunciations of Israel have included imagery explicitly linking the modern Jewish state to the terrible charge of deicide that for centuries fueled so much anti-Jewish hatred and bloodshed.

"It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him," Ateek has written, envisioning "hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily."

In a sermon titled "The Massacre of the Innocents" Ateek similarly condemned the "modern-day Herods" in Israel - a reference to the evil king who the New Testament says slaughtered the babies of Bethlehem in an attempt to murder the newborn Jesus. In another sermon, Ateek portrays Israelis as having "shut off the Palestinians in a tomb . . . similar to the stone placed on the entrance of Jesus' tomb."

In Ateek's metaphorical telling, in other words, Israel is guilty of trying to murder Jesus as an infant, of killing Jesus on the cross, and of seeking to prevent his resurrection. To use "this imagery in reference to the Jewish state is inexcusable," says Dexter Van Zile, a layman in the United Church of Christ who serves on the executive committee of Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East. Millions of Christians would doubtless agree.

Writing in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies in 2004, Adam Gregerman observed that "liberation theologians" like Ateek "perpetuate some of the most unsavory and vicious images of the Jews as malevolent, antisocial, hostile to non-Jews. . . . As such, liberation theology impedes rather than fosters any serious attempt at understanding or ending the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians."

Exemplifying Sabeel's grotesque demonization of the Jewish state is the theme of its Boston conference: "The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel." It is hard to imagine an uglier slander.

Apartheid was the racist system through which South Africa's white minority government ruthlessly repressed the country's large black majority, denying them political rights and relegating them to third-class education, housing, and employment.

Israel, by contrast, is a flourishing democracy based on tolerance, individual liberty, and the rule of law. Israeli citizens of every race, ethnicity, and religion - and both sexes - exercise the right to vote and enjoy identical civil and political liberties. Within Israel's parliament, about 1 member in 10 is Arab; there is even a mosque within the Knesset for the benefit of Muslim parliamentarians.

Arabs and other non-Jews serve in Israel's government ministries and foreign service, on its courts, and in the military. From the Arab beauty who was crowned Miss Israel to the country's Arab soccer stars to the Arab students in Israeli universities, the evidence of Israel's democratic equality is overwhelming and ubiquitous.

It is true that in response to deadly terrorist attacks by Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel has been forced to adopt stringent security measures, such as the protective fence between the West Bank and Israel proper, or the checkpoints at border crossings. These are unpopular and inconvenient, but they have saved many Israelis, Arab and Jew alike, from being murdered or maimed. Checkpoints and fences can always be removed when the bombings and incitement end, but lives lost to suicide bombings can never be replaced.

This is not to say that apartheid doesn't exist in the Middle East. In some Arab and Muslim countries, harsh discrimination against non-Muslims, women or homosexuals is enshrined in law. But rather than explore that all-too-real apartheid, Sabeel's conferees instead denounce the freest nation in the Middle East. As they gather in Boston this week, they might reflect on the words of Martin Luther King:

"I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world," King declared in 1968, "and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy."

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Longest Hatred 18

The Times has helpfully compiled this list of Mahmood Ahmadinejad's various calumnies against Israel and the Jewish people. Amongst other things, he clearly believes Israel has no right to exist (and would therefore prefer to see another area of the world free of 6 million Jews); believes that the Holocaust never took place and, even if it did, was nothing to do with the Palestinians (therefore displaying culpable - or deliberate? - ignorance of the collaboration with Hitler of the Palestinians' wartime leader, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem); that Zionists are "are an organized minority who have infiltrated the world. They are not even a 10,000-strong organization"; and that Zionists are "are the true manifestation of Satan". However, as one Times reader comments, "At least he speaks his mind, which is more than can be said the Zionists and Neo-cons who rule this world through stealth and deception." Are there REALLY people who think like that?

Martyrdom in Gaza

A friend sent me the following report earlier in the week.


“…and that they loved not their lives, even unto death” (Revelation 12:11b).

The small Christian Arab community in Gaza was badly shaken last Sunday (Oct 6th) when Rami Ayyad, a 30 year old believer who ran a Palestinian Bible Society book shop in Gaza City was found slain after having been kidnapped from near his home the previous day. He had been stabbed and shot. He had been tortured before he died. Rami had received numerous threats before and after his shop was firebombed last spring. He is survived by his pregnant wife and two young children.

It is estimated that there may be up to 3,000 Christians in Gaza, in a sea of some 1.5 million Muslims. Most are Greek Orthodox; there are around 100 Baptists. Christian Arabs have a very difficult time in all of the areas under Muslim Palestinian control — those who have converted from Islam are especially targeted. In Gaza, since the takeover by the radically religious Hamas element, the threats and incidents of violence have begun to increase alarmingly (Hamas is an Arabic anagram — but in Biblical Hebrew, the word means “violent cruelty”, cf. Psalm 25:19).

A dear friend who is closely connected with the believers in Gaza reports that as always, fear is the weapon which the enemy is counting on most to further his work. The believers, trying to be strong, are under a barrage of fear — many are terrified to come out of their homes (“It’s not like they can go to Egypt and lie low for two months — they can’t go anywhere, but must just sit and see what happens”).

They also must battle the implications drawn from the facts that the murderers would have acquired Rami’s cell phone with the numbers of all of his friends, that there is no way of knowing how much information concerning his associates may have been forced out of him before he died, that no organization has come forward to claim responsibility, suggesting that they may have other incidents planned before doing so. Yet, a friend close to Rami’s widow shared with our friend how she expressed to her amazement at the grace she senses covering her during this time.


* For the widow of Rami Ayyad, angelic protection over her heart, spirit and body…her two children and the little one still in her womb.

* For the Father of mercies and God of ALL true comfort (II Cor. 1:3) to shelter this family and the believing community around them under His wings.

* Over the minds of Believers in this community, that they will be protected from the enemy’s attempts to plant and rerun images of what might have taken place in their minds. Phil 4:6-7 speaks of the necessity of God’s ineffable Shalom guarding our hearts and minds in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). A Scripture which we are praying for the loved ones is Ps 25:5, “Guide them in Your Truth and teach them, for You are God their Saviour.

* Acts 4:29-30 over Palestinian Arab believers throughout Gaza, Judea and Samaria: that God will take note of the threats and grant that His bond-servants may speak His word with all confidence, while He extends His hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of His holy servant Yasuah (Arabic--Hebrew: Yeshua; English: Jesus). Pray that the power of the Holy Spirit would break out through all denominational and religious boundaries in the brothers and sisters and vindicate the Name to the Muslim community in goodness, and mercy and power. That what Satan meant for evil in Gaza, the LORD will use to further His Kingdom of love and hope and life in this dark and despairing place.

* For the Body of Messiah in Israel… that as these things increase we will be sober-minded yet not fear the fire — that Jewish and Arab believers will be joined together in the unity of Yeshua’s love and that “those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Christians in Gaza

Following on from my previous post, a friend sent me this report from Compass Direct regarding a Bible Society Bookstore Manager Murdered in Gaza. We must continue to pray for our Palestinian brethren in the faith as they suffer!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Christians in Gaza

With her usual perceptiveness, Melanie Phillips comments on the sufferings of Christians in Hamas-ruled Gaza and Iraq; and the typically spineless response of the Anglican hierarchy.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The eloquent lies of Edward Said

The late Edward Said was probably one of the best-known advocates of the Palestinian cause in the West. As this article by Cameron Brown shows, this is unfortunate because, "In addition to his unending bias, Said's work is filled with constant historical distortion, a decetifully poor choice of historical texts, and, worst of all, the author butchers quotations and clearly ignores others - all in order to fit his political ideology." It's a lengthy article (30-odd pages) but worth taking the time to read; unsurprisingly, Said's flawed work is nevertheless quoted approvingly in much Christian anti-Zionist "scholarship".

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Letter to Evangelicals Now

I sent this letter to the editor of Evangelicals Now earlier today in response to an item in their October edition. Please pray that it will be published and will prompt British Christians to pray intelligently for Israel.

Dear Sir

Missions in Israel

October’s Evangelicals Now featured a News In Brief item (p. 11), drawn from the Religion Today website, regarding American missionary Ron Cantrell, who has recently been ordered to leave Israel after two decades. Whilst the details regarding Mr Cantrell are not in dispute, neither EN nor Religion Today is correct to suggest that Israel “bans” missionary activity. Israel’s constitution provides for full freedom of religion, including the freedom to evangelise. The only restrictions are on offering financial inducement to change religion, and on evangelising minors without parental consent. Although in practice, Christians do often face discrimination and harassment, the National Evangelistic Committee unites Messianic Jews and Arab evangelicals in open evangelistic outreach. Various foreign-based missions operate in Israel, including Jews for Jesus, Christian Witness to Israel and The Church’s Ministry among Jewish People.

As Mike Moore’s encouraging article on Jewish mission on p. 18 of the same edition indicates, there is now an unprecedented openness to the gospel among Israelis. There are today more Jewish believers in Jesus (10-15,000) in the land of Israel than there have been at any other time since the days of the apostles. Along with Arab evangelicals, they are surely in need of our prayers and support.

Yours sincerely,

Monday, October 01, 2007

Challenging supersessionism

Ive posted before on my view that theological supersessionism - i.e. the view that the church is the "New Israel" - is unhelpful, potentially damaging to the cause of Jewish mission, and unbiblical: here

The best stuff I've so far read speaking against the view is the great chapter on "Jew and Gentile in the NT" by Sydney evangelical and former Moore College lecturer Don Robinson in his book Faith's Framework, available free online here. More recently, I have seen a preview of a chapter of Barry Horner's book Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism must be challenged. I'm hoping that it will soon be available on Amazon; in the meantime, the whole book is available in PDF form (a mere 400+ pages!) here. The chapter on Israel - and comtemporary anti-Judaism in the UK will be of particular interest to UK readers.

The Longest Hatred 17

I'm pleased to see that the campaign by a small minority of members of my union, the University and Colleges Union, to instigate a boycott of Israeli academics, has failed: here

I previously posted on the proposed boycott here and here

Also interesting to note in passing that Richard Dawkins, more usually known for venomous attacks on Biblical creationists, is now apparently propagating the antisemitic myth that Jews disproportionately influence American foreign policy: here and here.