Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I'm praying that the Annapolis discussions between Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert will lead to a long-overdue just peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Honest Reporting have drawn up this helpful guide to the key issues.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Longest Hatred 22

A nationwide survey released on 1st November by the US-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reveals that 35 million Americans hold blatantly anti-Semitic views. Commenting on the high levels of Hispanic anti-Semitism, ADL Chairman Abraham Foxman said, "We believe that the strong anti-Semitic views held by one of the fastest growing segments in America is no doubt a reflection of what is being learned about Jews in the schools, churches and communities of Latin American countries, which is anti-Semitism at its most basic."

The survey also found that 32% of African-Americans hold strong anti-Semitic beliefs, more than three times the 10% for whites. The ADL survey concluded that the more educated a person is, the less likely he or she is to be anti-Semitic.

It is a sad reflection that anti-Semitism is flourishing in ethic communities that are home to high percentages of church-goers. There is still much to be done to undo the easy transition that is made from theological anti-Judaism to common anti-Semitism.

from Richard Gibson's column in the British Church Newspaper

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The true path to peace

For a whole host of reasons, I'm sceptical about the prospects of the Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, scheduled to start in Annapolis tomorrow, to bring peace (not least the disastrous legacy of the Oslo Agreement and the candid statements of even "moderate" Palestinian leaders that Israel should not be recognised as a Jewish state). I pray that I'll be mistaken.

God's path to peace, however - the gospel - has a proven track record in bringing peace between the most irreconcilable of enemies - even Jews and Arabs:

Richard Gibson writes here on our part in reconciling Jew & Arab in Israel;

whilst I today received the following prayer requests from the Arab General Secretary of the Fellowship of Christian Students in Israel, which unites Jewish and Arab students in gospel witness:

  • Praise the Lord for two student conferences last month (October): Arabic speaking conference in Bet-Jala (Near Bethlehem) from 10-13 October with the topic "Be zealous and repent" (Revelation 3:19), about 40-50 students took part. There was also a chance for some students from the Palestinian Authority areas to join. The Hebrew speaking conference took place in Sde Boker in Southern Israel (11-13 October), main teaching was from Ephesians, 80-100 students took part and also had the chance to explore nature around.
  • The academic year "started" more than three weeks ago with a strike by the senior lectures in the universities, this means that most courses are not taking place in universities while colleges are working as usual. In addition a strike by the high school teacher has been going for more than one month with no solution yet. Please Pray for the whole education system in Israel in this crisis. Pray for decision makers both in the government and from the teachers/lectures side to find fair solutions. Pray also for students so that the strike will not affect their studies, especially that this strike comes 6 months after a long student's strike!!
  • As to the student groups some groups were able to start while other the strike affected and they could not start, but praise the Lord for the groups (Some locations have more than one group) in: Jerusalem, Beersheba, Carmiel, Haifa, Netanya and Tel-Aviv.
  • Please pray for the student groups and their witness in campus/dorms, for students to grasp the vision in each group and be light and salt.
  • Pray for FCSI as a whole to be effective in supporting the students and for wisdom in future decision making.

The One-State Solution: Advocating Israel's Destruction


Is this thinly veiled strategy for destroying the Jewish state resurfacing in the mainstream media? As the US-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis draws near and prospects for new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians continue to improve, the enemies of peace and normalization are renewing efforts to scupper progress. While Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian regime openly declare their intentions to destroy Israel violently, others advocate a more subtle approach to achieving the same goal.

One such method is the so-called Palestinian "right of return", which would see Israel flooded with Palestinians ultimately leading to the end of Israel through demographic means. Those who advocate the Palestinian return to Israel know that Israel's Jewish character would not survive the influx of several million Palestinian refugees.

While there is a virtual consensus among world leaders for a two-state solution, another "solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, insidiously sold in the language of peace, is the "one-state solution" or "bi-national state", as laid out in the op-ed columns of Australia's The Age. Sonja Karkar, president of Women for Palestine, responds to an op-ed by Colin Rubinstein (which was itself a rebuttal of a previous op-ed by Ghada Karmi):

While Dr. Karmi does say that Israel - as a "Jewish state" that necessitated the removal of the indigenous Arab population - should never have been created, she does not suggest that present-day Israelis must be removed. Instead, she argues that a single state, that is secular and democratic for all its citizens, offers much more hope for peace than a state based on Jewish exclusivity next to a truncated and utterly unviable proposed Palestinian state under Israel's vice-like control.

The solution Dr. Karmi proposes shows remarkable magnanimity considering the terrible human cost of Israel's venture. Her vision is to bring Palestinians and the now established Israeli-Jewish community together in one state so that justice can be served for both sides.

Accepted diplomatic efforts for peace are centered around a two-state solution - Israel and a Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace and security. Yet, Karmi and Karkar's op-eds, along with a now canceled Oxford University Debating Society debate on the one-state solution, may indicate the beginnings of a new campaign to radically alter the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian discourse.

Why then is the one-state solution unacceptable?

  • At its most basic level, the one-state solution denies the right of Jews to self-determination in their historical homeland and calls into question the very legitimacy of Israel as a state.
  • A bi-national state would have the same consequence as the "right of return" - the negation of Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinians, by virtue of a higher birthrate, would turn Jews into a minority before voting in favor of another Muslim Arab state in place of Israel.
  • The one-state solution is therefore simply a thinly veiled strategy for destroying the State of Israel and questioning its right to exist. As Sol Stern and Fred Siegel have written in the New York Sun:

The "one state" solution is a euphemism for the destruction of the Jewish state - a trope of the most extreme rejectionist elements within the Palestinian movement and their allies in Syria and Iran. Terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah want to create an Islamic Republic in place of Israel.

Alan Dershowitz adds:

The one-state solution proposal now being made by Palestinian lawyers and some anti-Israel academics is nothing more than a ploy. It is designed to destroy the Jewish state of Israel and to substitute another Islamic Arab state. Those who advocate the single state solution would never do so with regard to India, the former Yugoslavia, or other previously united states which have now been divided on ethnic or religious grounds.

  • On a practical level, a one-state solution is simply unworkable. As Palestinian columnist Ray Hanania writes:

the two-state solution will always be the only option because the premise of "one state" where Christians, Muslims and Jews can live side-by-side and with equality, is fundamentally flawed.

It is a fallacy that can never be achieved not just because Israelis won't support it. The Arab and Islamic World don't practice it. Exactly where do Jews and Christians live in the Islamic World today side-by-side with equality? We don't even live side-by-side with equality in the Palestinian Diaspora.

  • The one-state solution is also proposed by those who refer to Israel as an "apartheid" state. Drawing upon this comparison, the example of post-apartheid South Africa is held up as a model for a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state. However, former anti-apartheid activist Benjamin Pogrund explains in detail, examining issues of economy, religion, third-party intervention, political culture, violence and leadership, why the South African model does not fit the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
  • While there are those who advocate a one-state solution as a means to destroy Israel, they are also aided by naive idealists. But, in a world where ethnically mixed states such as Yugoslavia have broken down in bloodshed, and Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia claim Muslim Arab exclusivity, why does the only Jewish state have to be the test case for a far-fetched utopian experiment? Why is Jewish self-determination in a state of their own illegitimate?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jewish New Testament and Jewish New Testament Commentary

My friend Christopher Skinner has kindly allowed me to reproduce his review of these two books.

The Jewish New Testament (JNT) and it's companion volume The Jewish New Testament Commentary (JNTC) by David H. Stern is a very valuable work in Messianic circles today. The authors intention is to restore the Jewishness of the New Testament and he has supplied a work which is very much needed. This short review is going to review both positive and critical aspects to this volume.

As an observation, The JNT is not a strictly literal translation and there is nothing wrong with that. Stern informs us that his approach to translation was that of dynamic equivalence. This approach aims to translate the thoughts of the writer rather than a word by word translation. Dynamic equivalence is also used by the NIV, The Message and The Life Application Bible. Those desiring a more literal-grammatical Messianic translation should check out the Hebrew Names Version (HNV) which is authored by a completely different party. The JNT and JNTC assumes knowledge of the Hebrew words and phrases such as Tanakh, Ruach HaKodesh etc which will make it more difficult for some readers, although it is worth doing some homework and receiving the blessing from reading it.

A strength of the JNT and JNTC is it's explanation and specific translation of the words usually translated "Jew" and "Jews". Various passages in standard translations of Johns gospel been used to justify anti-Jewish feeling in religious people. This has given ammunition to critics who charge the New Testament writers with anti-Semitism. In John 5:19, The JNT makes it clear that it is the Judean Jews (and not the Jews as a whole) which harassed Yeshua. The same is the case in his comments on 1 Thessalonians (where it is often dreadfully mistranslated "The Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus"). Stern's discussion of the famous words of the mob "His blood be upon us and upon our children" and Yeshuas prayer "Father forgive them" is both reasonable and sensible. Any believer who wants to stem the tide of theological antisemitism will find these volumes very helpful.

Another good feature of the JNT is the exposition of Pardes, the Rabbinic method of expounding the Tanakh as employed by the New Testament writers. Many standard evangelical commentaries are at a loss to explain apparent misquotes from the Old Testament (such as Matthew 2:15 "out of Egypt I called my Son"). Sterns understanding of first century Jewish interpretation is very helpful to the student of Scripture here. The Jewish context and background of the New Testament is brought out in many ways.

On the critical side, Stern allows his own theological bias to influence the resultant translation and this is evident in some places. This is most evident in his discussions of Torah observance and it's place today. His comments have very practical implications, especially in the areas of observing Intermarriage, Shabbat and Kashrut.

Stern believes that the Law of Moses is still effective and attempts to deal with his "problem passages" but, in my opinion, unconvincingly. My views on the law of Moses concur with that of The Association of Messianic Congregations which states that "The Law of Moses as a rule of life has been fulfilled in the Messiah and therefore believers are no longer under its' obligation or condemnation. While the Law of Moses is no longer obligatory for believers, the Law has much to teach us regarding a joyfully Jewish way of life. Both Jewish and non-Jewish believers have the freedom in Messiah to maintain any aspects of the Law of Moses which do not violate the entirety of the rest of scripture" 1. This clearly shows two different views amongst Messianic believers.

Sterns translation of Romans 10 verse 4 reads that "the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah". This brings out a meaning to the passage that fits very well into the wider context of Romans 10, and about the purpose of the Law. The standard versions (eg. NIV, KJV etc) read that "Christ is the END of the Law". Stern states that his translation is a correction of the mainstream versions here. In fairness, I believe both renderings of this verse are correct. The Greek word for "end" is "telos" and it can have both meanings - "goal" and "end". Vine's Expository Dictionary and Vincents New Testament Word Studies give both meanings equal weight, whilst Thayers Greek-English Lexicon gives the primary meaning as "end". Even if the primary meaning was "goal", as Stern believes in relation to this verse, an "end" is implicit as you don't carry on with something once the "goal" has been reached. Stern usually translates "telos" as "end" in numerous places (including Matthew 10:22, John 13:1 and 1 Cor 1:8) but insists that it exclusively means "goal" in Romans 10v4. This translation is favoured in order to preserve the doctrine of Torah observance. There is no reason for making Romans 10:4 an exception to the usual rule, nor is there any reason to restrict the term "telos" exclusively to "goal" in one verse. Stern states that the standard Christian theology based on this verse is anti-semitic but this accusation is extreme and unnecessary. Whilst Stern does a good job in fighting real antisemitism, he occasionally throws the accusation too easily and unfairly.

Overall, the JNT and the JNTC does a good job in achieving it's central aim - restoring the Jewishness of the New Testament. On peripheral matters he expounds the various different points of view before giving his own (and he does so in a way that is humble and not offensive to others who disagree). Such issues as this include the debates over spiritual gifts, eschatology, women in leadership, eternal security and the Calvinist-Arminian controversy. Most readers will probably disagree with some of his views on peripheral matters. The accommodation of different views adds value to a work of this nature as it serves to unite Jewish believers rather than divide. I hope the JNT and JNTC will have wide appeal.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Longest Hatred 21

Melanie Phillips writes with characteristic brilliance on modern British antisemitism here

"in Britain and elsewhere, anti-Semitism has mutated again, its target shifting from culture to creed to race to nation. What anti-Semitism once did to Jews as people, it now does to Jews as a people. First it wanted the Jewish religion, and then the Jews themselves, to disappear; now it wants the Jewish state to disappear. "

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Longest Hatred 20

A disturbing post from the Engage site on antisemitic abuse at English football grounds. Let's stand and pray against it - whoever we support.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Triumph of PLO Anti-Zionist Propaganda: How the West was won

Mike Moore, General Secretary of Christian Witness to Israel, here

Palestinian Christians

A friend alerted me to this very disturbing letter from a Palestinian pastor:

October 25, 2007

Attention: To Whom it May Concern

My name is Isa Bajalia. I pastor in the city of Ramallah and have been ministerially active there since 1991. Most recently, over the past two months, I have been facing severe persecution from two men whom I know.

This letter is not for the purpose of just writing a story, nor is it to complain against the Palestinian Authority. This letter is a heartfelt appeal for help. There are two men: One is named Abdullah Kustandi Abu Bishara. The second one is a Palestinian Authority Officer with the Tunzim*[a terrorist organization] in Ramallah and his name is Nader Dahoud Abu Dahoud.

As a pastor, I have been receiving threatening phone calls starting August of 2007 up to the present. Both of these men have said openly to me that they will "get me", whether I was here or in the United States. They are threatening to break my ams and legs, and besides the fact that I have a visual impairment, they said they would make sure that I never walked again.

A few days ago, Nader Dahoud showed up at my friend's home in search of me, wearing a militia uniform and a weapon on his side. I am aware of the intention of these two men, and it is not good.

I went to three Palestinian Authority officials in order to request their help. The first one said that he "did not want to get involved." The other two requested money in order for them to help me. They said if I pay them $5000, they would make sure I was protected.

I retained a lawyer for personal services, concerning my land in Ramallah; and he was also threatened by these same two men. The demands being made by these men include $30,000 in cash and that I register my personal property in their names. As a minister I have pastoral duties that must be carried out; I must be in Ramallah beginning next Monday on the 29th of October, 2007. At this point I do not know what will happen to me.

I know this matter can be solved if pressure is placed on the Palestinian Authority officials to tell these two men to stop harassing me. However, if anything should happen to me physically during my visit in Ramallah next week, let it be known these two men are directly responsible.

My telephone number is 054.205.1910. From the states you would dial 001.972.54.205.1910.

Again, please help as soon as possible.

Pastor Isa