Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The case against boycotting Israel

David Hirsh of Engage, here and here. (I've posted the second one previously but not the first one.) Required viewing for anyone who thinks there is no connection whatsoever between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, and those who subsume "demonisation" and "campaigns for boycott, divestment and sanctions" into the brave, virtuous category of "criticism".

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Longest Hatred 28

More than 60 years after the Holocaust, Jews are still being murdered simply for being Jews. Here.

The great embarrassment

Shhhh, keep this quiet, don't tell anyone, but Jesus was a (wait for it) Jew, who was born in (careful, is anyone listening?), Bethlehem. But don't say this too loudly, and certainly don't sing any songs about it, because it would be frighteningly embarrassing to have to acknowledge this when Palestinians are being persecuted by those horrible Jews. After all, that would complicate our relationships with the wider community (particularly the trendy anti-Zionist left) wouldn't it, and that has to be a higher priority than singing Biblical and historical truths, right? And, while we're at it, we'd better rip out all the references to Israel and Jews and Jewishness in the New Testament as well, there'll only be a page or so left but hey, it will be worth it so that we can show how relevant and with it we really are. In the process, we can rip out other bits of the Bible we don't like, and then people will really listen to us. Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Evangelicals Now, Israel, and "balance"

Following the frankly shocking article by David Rushworth-Smith in last month's Evangelicals Now, which I wrote about here, the latest edition contains an article by one Colin Nevin entitled "Should Christians support Israel?"
I'm not sure he actually answers the question, but it is certainly a good article. It contains much of what I would see as a solid Christian position on the question: an accurate summary of the reestablishment of the state of Israel and its subsequent struggle for survival; an acknowledgement of the terrible sufferings of the Jewish people throughout history, often at the hands of professing "Christians"; and an outline of a theological position which I believe it is possible even for amillenialist, non-dispensationalist, non-loony British conservative evangelicals to hold, namely that the state of Israel, for all of its flaws and challenges, is in fact a fulfilment of biblical prophecy and part of God's plans to save "all Israel".Given the strength of the evangelical anti-Zionist lobby in conservative circles, it is impressive that the editor has published Nevin's article and he deserves credit for this.

But does this mean that the editor has complied with the recommendation in paragraph 179 of the
Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Anti-Semitism that the media should "show sensitivity and balance in their reporting of international events and recognise that the way in which they report the news has significant consequences on the interaction between communities in Britain." In printing the Nevin article, good though it is, has EN now achieved "balance" in its coverage of the Arab-Isareli conflict?
Well, no.

Let's revisit some of the most glaring errors, untruths and distortions from David Rushowrth-Smith's piece. Here they are:

- The false claim that the Palmach was a "jewish-zionist terrorist organisation"

- the convenient omission of any mention of Arab terrorism either between 1920 and 1948 or at any other point

- the failure to distinguish between "Israel", "Gaza" and "the West Bank" and the failure to blame the correct parties for any relative lack of freedom of religion in those places

- the ludicrously false claim that there were no Jews in the area between 70 AD and 1948

- the claim that in 1948 land was "stolen from the legal owners" and that the Palestinian refugees were "herded out": while that was true in some cases, it is also the case that many fled because they were encouraged to do so by their own leaders.

- the omission of any mention of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands

- the fact that Mr Rushworth-Smith sought to bolster his "arguments" by citing Ilan Pappe (known for his fraudulent scholarship and for granting an interview to a neo-Nazi newspaper), Norman Finkelstein (known as the 'neo-Nazis' favourite Jew' and also known for his fraudulent scholarship) and Jeff Halper (likewise known for his fraudulent scholarship and radical anti-Israel agenda).

It follows that, for EN to truly "balance" this piece it would require a truly horrible article which might say some or all of the following transparently false statements:

- "All Palestinians are terrorists"

- "All of Israel's problems are down to the Palestinians and none have ever been caused by the mistakes of her own leaders"

- "Prior to 1948, there were no Arabs in what became Israel"

- "During Israel's War of Independence, no Palestinians at all were forced to leave their homes by the Jewish forces"

- "Israel is a perfect state and has never done anything wrong"

- "The Palestinians have no right at all to a state of their own, however small, and ideally they should all be forced to leave their homes"

The author of such a piece might seek to bolster his "arguments" by citing, say, the racist Israeli settlers who referred to Arabs as "sand niggers", or perhaps the late Meir Kahane, who founded the Israeli Kach party. (His agenda was to induce Arabs in the West Bank to leave by offering them compensation, or alternatively by forcing them to leave. If you've not heard of Kahane or Kach, that might be because in 1985, the Knesset passed an amendment to Israel's Basic Law, barring "racist" candidates from election.The Israeli High Court declared Kahane to be unsuitable for election. That's one of many reasons why its wrong to describe Israel as an apartheid state.)

Now, clearly, it would be deeply wrong for EN to commission or publish such a piece. So then, what should EN do to rectify the calumnies of David Rushworth-Smith? Clearly, it should acknowledge the various errors and distortions and apologize. This has not yet happened. Nor have any letters challenging David Rushworth-Smith been published.
Interestingly, a box in the letters page says that “the editorial policy of EN not to reply to abusive letters sent to the office”. This is probably a reference to strongly worded emails sent to the editor responding to the Rushworth-Smith article. Yet this stance has not stopped the editor from publishing a quite astonishingly aggressive (and abusive) letter from Jonathan Castro, entitled "Creationist idiots!", which attacks young age creationists with terms such as “nonsense”, “rubbish”, “quack” theories, incredible ignorance, “mind-boggling stupidity and wilful ignorance”, and the very serious charge that Ken Ham “and his ilk” are all liars! Is there a double standard at work here?
So where does this leave us? At present, EN has not apologized for, or acknowledged its error in publishing an article which encouraged Christians to apologize for the creation of the world's one Jewish state, replete with historical falsehoods and citations from fraudulent scholars and known antisemites.
And so, for the time being, my view of EN will remain sadly dim. At best, EN is promoting an unbalanced, one-sided view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is one of several factors serving to alienate Messianic Jews from British evangelical churches. At worst, it is sadly representative of those British evangelicals who are not only embracing theological and political anti-Zionism, but are also, doubtless unwittingly, turning a blind eye to the evil of genuine antisemitism in their midst. For shame.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The case against boycotting Israel

David Hirsh of Engage speaks in typically impressive manner, here. It is about 7 minutes long and is required viewing for anyone who maintains that anti-Zionism is always entirely separate and distinct from anti-Semitism.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Stephen Sizer and Leeds University 2

I'm going to give this post of Stephen Sizer's a second fisking because, the more I read it, the more repellent it becomes. I can't improve on Bernard Harrison, but there are other points which need mentioning.

The first thing to notice is how Sizer describes the motion being considered by Leeds University Students' Union. According to Sizer, the motion will "label anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and silence pro-Palestinian groups on campus". It won't. The motion is here, read it. It is a proposal that Leeds University adopts the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism, the full text of which is included in the motion.

Note that the Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Anti-Semitism ["the Report"] recommended that this definition be adopted and promoted by the government and law enforcement agencies so, in inveighing against this definition, Sizer is already putting himself beyond one widely-recognised boundary on thinking about antisemitism. Note too that Sizer is pleading on behalf of the Socialist Workers' Party, an organisation whose explanation of the Holocaust doesn't mention Jews and which has promoted the openly antisemitic Gilad Atzmon. I'm all in favour of free speech, but this is nevertheless concerning. For whom will Sizer plead next?

Now read the Working Definition again, noting how carefully nuanced it actually is.

The bit which Rev Sizer seems to have a problem with is the bit that suggests that there can be some occasions when criticism of Israel may in fact be antisemitic. Here is what it says, emphasis added:

"Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

  • Denying the Jewish people right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards b requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel."

"However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic."

Note how carefully nuanced it all is: "taking into account the overall context", "could include", and "criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic."

This will leave plenty of scope for pro-Palestinian groups to criticise Israel without being anti--Semitic: if they level criticism against Israel similar to that which could be made against any other country in the world, if they are factually accurate, and if they are careful with the language they use. Stephen Sizer would have us believe, though, that the motion will label anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and silence pro-Palestinian groups. This is not only a misrepresentation of the motion (which, incidentally, Sizer himself does not link to) but seems to indicate an unwillingness on Sizer's part to think through the issues. In a typical expression of the Livingstone Formulation, Sizer is claiming that the spectre of antisemitism is being raised disingenuously in order to silence criticism of Israel. He is either unwilling or unable to think through whether there might in fact be a genuine case that antisemitism is a problem which needs tackling. Rather than "Zionists" shouting "Antisemitism!" to stifle debate about Israel, what is actually happening here is that Stephen Sizer is shouting "Israel!" in order to avoid a genuine and necessary debate about antisemitism. Why?

The piece on Sizer's blog goes on to say, sceptically, that "The motion claims, without providing any supporting evidence, that “Anti-semitism is increasing significantly both across the country and within universities and student unions.”

Perhaps Sizer hasn't read Section 6 of the Report, entitled "Antisemitism on Campus". Here's an extract from para 203:

"Tensions and incidents on campus often peak around students’ union votes concerning Israel and Zionism. In 2002 the University of Manchester Students’ Union proposed a motion that anti-Zionism or criticism of Israel was not antisemitism, and that Israeli goods should be boycotted. The Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester told us that a leaflet from the General Union of Palestinian Students, quoting from a neo-Nazi propaganda forgery entitled ‘Prophecy of Benjamin Franklin in Regard of the Jewish Race’, was distributed amongst students queuing up to vote. The leaflet reproduced historic antisemitic slander describing Jews as vampires, and warning that unless they

were expelled from the United States they would enslave the country and control its economy. Further incidents occurred following the defeat of the motion – a brick was thrown through the window of a Jewish student residence and a poster bearing the words “Slaughter the Jews” was pasted on its front door. A knife was stuck in the door of another Jewish student’s residence."

Or perhaps Sizer hasn't read pages 16-18 of the Community Security Trust's 2007 Report, which says this: "The 59 incidents recorded by CST in 2007 in which the victims were students, student bodies or academics represent a considerable rise from the 18 incidents recorded of that type in 2006, 11 in 2005 and 21 in 2004. It is most likely that this rise (228 per cent from the 2006 figure) is largely because of better reporting of incidents to CST."

Examples cited in the report include:

  • A Jewish student was handing out leaflets outside a student union debate at Manchester University when an Arab student called him “You Jewish bastard.” When challenged, the Arab student and said: “Whoops, I mean you Israeli bastard” and walked off.
  • Swastikas were drawn on posters advertising Jewish Book Week at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.
  • “Mossad caused 9/11” and “Fight the Jewish terrorists” were written on a desk at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Sizer would seemingly have us believe that this is illusory. Why? Perhaps its because the first and last examples I've cited above, like the extract from para 203 of the Report, give very clear examples of how there are times when anti-Zionism very definitely can spill over into antisemitism. But Stephen Sizer seems to believe that the two are always entirely distinct and we must fight any attempts to suggest otherwise. Why?

So what do we have? We have a representative of the state church, and a professing antiracist evangelical, doing the following:

- twisting the words of the motion to make it say something different to what it actually says

- rejecting a widely accepted definition of antisemitism

- pleading on behalf of an organisation whose track record on antisemitism is notoriously poor

- minimising the reality of ongoing and increasing antisemitism on British campuses.

- denying the fact that yes, sometimes anti-Zionism can very definitely be antisemitic.

This should shock us, but it doesn't surprise me. Despite his frequent claim that he repudiates antisemitism, Sizer uses antisemitic language to describe supporters of Israel, invokes antisemitic conspiracy theories, cites antisemitic sources, asks Holocaust Deniers to cooperate with him, sends out antisemitic material to others, and carries links to the far right on his website. And yet British evangelicals still laud and applaud him. For shame.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stephen Sizer and Leeds University

Stephen Sizer is campaigning on his blog against Leeds University adopting the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism. He may have copied this piece from the Electronic Intifada website.

According to this motion there were 21 antisemitic incidents affecting Leeds students last year, and there have been more so far already this year, so for Stephen Sizer to be standing against a measure which seeks to counter this trend is disturbing at best. Why is an Anglican vicar campaigning against a measure which seeks to protective wellbeing of Leeds University's large Jewish student population? Isn't Rev Sizer supposed to be countering antisemitism? Doesn't he insist that he is antiracist? (Oh, and, if Rev Sizer is so concerned about freedom of speech, why did he disable comments on his blog when people criticised him?)

Bernard Harrison has answered the Electronic Intifada piece with devastating brilliance on the Engage website, here. I can't really do better than copy Harrison's piece, below. I've underlined or italicised my favourite bits.

On Friday November 28, the Leeds University student union will be considering a resolution to adopt the EUMC's working definition of anti-Semitism, in order to fight growing anti-Semitism at that university.

The Leeds student Palestinian support group has protested the motion, in a statement which has appeared on the Electronic Intifada, and has been picked up by other blogs.

The main claim made by this statement is that the definition of anti-Semitism arrived at by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) is so unreasonably restrictive that, “if adopted, the motion will shut down debate on the extent to which Israel should label itself as a state for the Jewish people as opposed to a state for all its citizens, such as the Unitied Kingdom or other liberal democracies.”

One could object straight away that this “objection” is in the form of a complex question, that ancient logical trick of which the stock example is “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Israel is not a “Jewish state”, nor does it “label itself” as one, which is hardly surprising, since it is Israel’s many enemies who think it in their interest to so “label” it. Unlike many countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, Israel is neither a religious nor an ethnic monoculture. Its present population is 7,337,000, of which only 75.5% are Jewish. The reminder are Israeli Arabs (1447,000) or non-Jewish immigrants and their children (318,000). All these people enjoy full rights of citizenship.

Nor do the logical confusions implicit in this brief but brainless sentence end there. Even if Israel were to all intents and purposes a religious or ethnic monoculture, that in itself would not establish that it was not a liberal democracy. Since plenty of liberal democracies are, to all intents and purposes, monocultures of one type or the other, the two issues are not only separate, but have no bearing whatsoever on one another. And in any case, Israel is a liberal democracy.

But (leaving aside the demonstrable lousiness, as arguments, of the “arguments” in question), one would have thought, anyway, that someone who complains that the observance of a restriction on anti-Semitism will deprive him of his best arguments is more or less hanging a notice round his neck saying “Look at me! I am an anti-Semite!”

This thought has clearly filtered through to the authors of the Leeds PSG statement, who have accordingly looked around for some means of neutralizing it. One knows very well, speaking as a non-Jew with a beady eye for his fellow non-Jews, that the best way of clearing oneself of a charge of anti-Semitism is to get a Jew to do it for one (which is why, among other things, Hitler and his friends found the writings of Otto Weininger so convenient.) For whatever reasons (and many at least, are perfectly respectable ones, for which one should feel at least some sympathy) supportive Jewish voices are seldom lacking on these occasions, nor are they on the present one. The authors of the PSG statement abandon independent argument after their fourth paragraph, the heart of which I quoted above, and instead turn for succour to three Jewish organizations with well-run websites, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, European Jews for a Just Peace, and Jews Against Zionism.

Of these, the last is an organization of Orthodox Jews whose objections to Zionism are religious rather than political. Their stance on anti-Semitism is the traditional Orthodox one that it is a punishment imposed on Jews by (as they would write the word) G-d, for their faithlessness in falling away from strict observance of the Mitzvot, a faithlessness of which the establishment of the State of Israel is merely the most blatant instance. Whatever one might want to say about this position, one thing that is clear is that it has no bearing whatsoever on the adequacy or inadequacy of the EUMC definition. A voice from the interior of another moral universe, it simply has no business being cited in this debate.

Of the other two organizations, the best attack on the adequacy of the EUMC definition is mounted by Jews for justice for Palestinians, whose page on the subject can be accessed here.

The page contains a letter sent to the EUMC in 2005, raising various concerns about the definition. If any succour is to be found for the authors of the Leeds PSG statement, one would suppose, it will be here. But the level of argument operating here is, if anything, weaker than that in the PSG statement itself.

The letter opens with a complaint to the effect that EJJP was not among the Jewish organizations consulted by the EUMC in the lengthy process which resulted in the drawing up of its definition. Public bodies do tend to decide, however, and on the whole have a right so to decide, who they think it worthwhile to include in their consultations. What the EJJP has to show, therefore, is that the EUMC made a serious error in leaving them out. In order to show that, it must provide telling grounds for regarding the definition which emerged from these putatively defective consultations as itself defective. This the EJJP sets out to do in the second part of its letter, headed “On content”. Unfortunately the three main (bulleted) objections set out in this turn out all to be non-sequiturs of one sort and another. Here they are:
1. The definition asserts that it is anti-Semitic to deny Jews, alone of all the nations of the world, the right to self-determination. To this the EJJP replies that not all Jews “equate self-determination with Zionism”, citing the Orthodox tradition, Buber, and sections of the current Israeli left, as instances. This is clearly factually correct, but equally clearly irrelevant to the issue. Even if some members of a nation do not desire national self-determination, it is still an instance of prejudice to deny that nation a right to self-determination, unless one holds that no nation has a right to self-determination, which in practice no-one does.

2. The definition says that one form of anti-Semitism consists in “applying double standards by requiring of it behaviour nor expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” The EJJC retort is that “This is a formulation that allows any criticism of Israel to be dismissed on the grounds that it is not applied to every other defaulting nation at the same time.” This seems simply to misunderstand the force of the EUMC’s point. That point is not that it is prejudicial to criticize a nation for a criminal act unless one simultaneously mentions every other nation whose record is so stained. It is, rather, that it is prejudicial to criticize a nation for acts which in the case of any other nation would not be considered criminal. Clearly this formulation places no restraint whatsoever on any deserved and non-prejudicial criticism of Israel.

[contrary to the claim in the piece copied by Sizer that "the motion will shut down an area of perfectly legitimate debate."]3. The EUMC definition says that it is anti-Semitic to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the state of Israel. The EJJP replies that “This is the flipside of a position frequently expressed by Prime Minister Sharon and many Zionists, that refuses to make any distinction between the interests of Israel and those of Jews worldwide.“ This reply is vitiated by the difficulty of attaching a clear meaning to the phrase “is the flipside of”. If it means that Sharon and some unnamed collection of Zionists are guilty of the conduct identified as anti-Semitic by the EUMC in this clause, then plainly it is false. Saying that the existence of Israel serves the interests of Jews worldwide is clearly not the same thing as saying that Jews worldwide share responsibility for the actions of the state of Israel. The first claim is very possibly true; the second is not so much false as conceptually incoherent: one might as well argue that because I am British I share responsibility for Gordon Brown’s recent nationalization of two British banks, and am therefore liable to be sued by the shareholders. One cannot conduct any intelligible politics on the basis of this kind of inane drivel.
Given the feebleness of the arguments brought against it by people very anxious to discredit it, in short, the only conclusion to be drawn is that the EUMC definition deserves to be adopted by the Leeds student union, not least in view of the level of anti-semitic incidents and intimidation of Jewish students on campus recorded by its supporters. Let us hope that the vote goes in favour of Motion 4.

[This piece was written for Engage by Bernard Harrison, E. E. Erickson Professor Emeritus at the University of Utah, formerly a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, and author of The Resurgence of Anti-semitism: Jews, Israel and Liberal Opinion.]

More people who don't check Stephen Sizer's sources or scholarship

Here and here. This is a real shame, since both John Stott and Rico Tice are good people who have given great leadership to British churches.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Some of Stephen Sizer's fans: do they not check his sources and scholarship?

Here and here, see my concerns here and here. Sizer quotes known antisemites in his writings and rewrites history to a degree that is simply ludicrous. Why do otherwise intelligent people take him so seriously?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The obscene Israel-Nazi analogy

Two really good pieces:

David Hirsh on the abuse of Kristallnacht memory (by a bishop), here

The (obscene) analogy between Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto - Petra Marquardt-Bigman - I loved this quote:

"it's a safe bet to predict that the planned three-day fact finding tour will avoid finding some important facts, such as the fact that, with the help of Iran and Syria, Hamas has organized some 20,000 armed forces and accumulated a formidable arsenal including long-range rockets, advanced anti-tank weapons, and some 80 tons of explosives."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Extracts from email to Stephen Sizer

Dear Rev Sizer
For your information, my Large Blue Footballs blog has never been anonymous, my name "James" appears on the right hand side. My surname can be found by clicking through some of the links. By the way, thanks for the free publicity, I often worry that not enough people read my posts.
Both the BMJA website and the LMF website have criticisms of you which are public and not anonymous. The only person who seems to have any interest in hiding anything is you: you would really prefer that people didn't know about your email contact with Israel Shamir or those antisemitic articles you sent out to the Palestinian Orthodoxy group, or your use of openly antisemitic language ("people in the shadows") in a national newspaper. Shouldn't you be apologizing and repenting for this, not trying to stifle those who happen to disagree with you? Sorry Stephen, but the language you use, the sources you cite and the company you keep leave me very far from convinced that you are not antisemitic....
If you are going to put controversial material into the public domain, you have to accept that you will be criticised in the public domain. It seems to me that you are trying to stifle free speech. If you don't want to be criticised, stop writing.
I really don't care if you name me on your blog. I am proud to be a Messianic Jew, and I am proud to be someone who loves my own people, my Messiah and the State of Israel. I am not a dispensationalist, I do not support Israel uncritically, and I contribute to relief projects for Palestinian Christians. I would be proud to be named by you as someone who stands against what in my opinion is your flawed theology, your rewriting of history, your callous indifference to Israeli pain, and your use of classic antisemitic tropes under the cover of "anti-Zionism".

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Who is silencing whom?

"Powerful Zionist lobby" stifled, here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Questions for Stephen Sizer

Dear Reverend Sizer,

If you are reading this, would you care to comment on this email which you sent, on first name terms, to a certain Israel Shamir in September 2004, asking him to cooperate with you in your anti-Zionist activities? Would you further care to comment on the fact that the same Israel Shamir elsewhere opines that "We must deny the concept of Holocaust without doubt and hesitation, even if every story of Holocaust down to the most fantastic invention of Wiesel were absolutely true", who assures us that "Nobody has to be a Jew, and as their crimes in Palestine multiply, it is imperative not to be one", and who is described by Times journalist Stephen Pollard as "an extreme anti-Semite"?

Oh, and should you perhaps care to preface your answer with "some of that material postdates my Sept 2004 email to Israel Shamir", perhaps you could answer me this: were you aware that some pro-Palestinian activists had disassociated themselves from Israel Shamir a full THREE AND A HALF YEARS previously? (Quote: "We do not have any need for some of what Israel Shamir is introducing into the discourse on behalf of Palestinian rights, which increasingly includes elements of traditional European anti-Semitic rhetoric.")

Perhaps you can also answer me this: why were you emailing Israel Shamir at the same time as you were presumably researching for your December 2005 book "Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon?" in which you claim that you desired to "repudiate anti-Semitism" (p. 261)? Rev Sizer, how do you square your desire to repudiate anti-Semitism with your documented links with Israel Shamir?

Just in case you're struggling for answers, let me help you out with a couple of suggestions:

(1) You knew that Shamir was a virulent anti-Semite, but chose to network with him anyway. If this is the case, then how do you expect people to believe you when you say you repudiate antisemitism?


(2) You did not know that Israel Shamir was a virulent anti-Semite, even though this had been made abundantly clear three-and-a-half years earlier. If this is the case, then how do you expect people to take you seriously as a scholar?

I can see no third alternative: perhaps you can suggest one?

I await your answers with great interest.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Email to editor of Evangelicals Now

Dear Dr Benton

I started writing this email at 12:05 on Friday morning. I was so angry at the article by David Rushworth-Smith in the latest EN that I could not sleep. I will try to write in measured and calm tones, but you need to know how disappointed, enraged, sickened and offended I am at this article and your decision to publish it. I am now seriously questioning why I bother continuing to subscribe to your newspaper.

It is well-known that evangelicals have differing views on the politics and theological significance of the modern state of Israel. In your June edition, you gave 25 words to one side:

"May saw the 60th anniversary of the setting up of the state of Israel, which many evangelical Christians see as a fulfilment of biblical prophecy." [This was an addendum to the article entitled "Israeli government awards British preacher," on page 3 if memory serves me right.]

Your latest edition gives a whole page to someone who takes an extreme opposing position, a position which borders on racism. I have included links and sources so that you can establish the accuracy of these strong words for yourself.

The very title and presupposition of the article is that the anniversary of the state of Israel should not be celebrated but mourned, indeed it is something for which Christians should apologise. According to the EUMC Working Defintion of Antisemitism , denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is antisemitic. The entire tone of the article is that it would be better if the state of Israel did not exist: does Mr R-S wish such a fate on any other nation in the world? Would he really prefer the world's one Jewish state not to be? Would he prefer that Jews fleeing postwar Europe had remained homeless, or remained as prey for the antisemitic vultures of "Christian" Europe?

In his first sentence, Mr Rushworth-Smith refers to unspecified "Jewish believers" who have signed a statement saying they would not celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary. This is flawed on numerous grounds. Firstly, the phrase "Jewish believers" is often used as shorthand for "Jewish believers in Jesus". Mr R-S's words could therefore be read as suggesting that some Messianic Jews mourn rather than celebrate the state of Israel, something which (in my experience) is totally untrue and potentially libellous. If Mr R-S means Orthodox Jews he should say this, not use loose language carelessly. Secondly, this "argument by ethnic admission" is entirely fallacious: some Arabs celebrate the state of Israel, whilst a minority of Jewish people flirt with Holocaust Denial and the majority deny that Jesus is the Messiah: presumably Mr R-S does not subscribe to those positions. Thirdly, to use Jews to argue against the existence of the Jewish state is reminiscent of the tactics of the Nazis who played off Jews against other Jews. Fourthly, some anti-Zionist Jews, such as the maverick Orthodox group Neturei Karta, have participated in Ahmadninejad's Holocaust Denial conferences. Does Mr R-S want Christians to follow their example in this as well?

In the penultimate paragraph in the second column, Mr R-S refers to the Palmach/ Hagannah as a "Jewish Zionist terrorist organisation". In fact it was set up in 1921 to defend Jewish settlement against attacks by Arab raiders and later became the Israel Defence Forces. (Source: Martin Gilbert, Israel: A History [Doubleday, 2008], p. 47. Sir Martin Gilbert is one of the country's leading historians and the official biographer of Sir Winston Churchill.) For much of the time the Palmach distanced itself from the (genuine) terrorist groups which Mr R-S mentions, the Irgun and the Stern Gang.

Mr R-S's treatment of the "golden years" says nothing, but nothing, about Arab terrorism in the period from 1920-1948. There were riots and attacks on Jewish settlements throughout the period, and there were attacks on the British as well: did these have no impact at all on Christian activities? Needless to say, Mr R-S says nothing about Arab terrorism anywhere else in the article either. There is no context given to current Israeli security measures (the tanks in one photo and the security barrier in another, captioned "the new gate out of the walled enclosure called Bethlehem"). The security barrier was built to stop Israelis being killed, and has been demonstrably successful: 431 Israelis were killed in 137 suicide bombings between September 2000 and the completion of the northern and most of the Jerusalem sections of the wall, 100 in March 2000 alone. After the completion of the wall in the north, there was not a single terrorist attack across that section. By December 2004, the number of suicide attacks launched from the West Bank had fallen by 84% in less than two years. (Figures from Sir Martin Gilbert's updated Israel, A History, p. 631.) Since Mr R-S neither mourns these Israeli dead nor condemns (or even acknowledges) their killers, am I entitled to conclude that he has no objection to Israelis being murdered?

The section entitled "Freedom of Religion" is simply shocking, not least because of Mr R-S' failure to distinguish "the State of Israel" from "Gaza" (which is ruled by Hamas) and the "West Bank" (which is governed by the Palestinian Authority). It is well-known that Arab Christians in Israel proper enjoy full freedoms, and Evangelicals among them cooperate with Messianic Jews in evangelism. In Gaza the situation is different because Hamas is a violent Islamist group responsible (among other things) for the murder of the owner of a Christian bookshop. In the West Bank, it is well-documented that the Christian population is suffering and declining because of pressure from the Palestinian Authority: Israel is not to blame. But one would not know this from Mr R-S's version of events.

Mr R-S says that "evangelical believers in the Holy Land suffer so badly." Yes, of course Arab Evangelicals are suffering as a result of the conflict, but so too are Israeli Messianic Jews, at least two of whom have been killed in suicide bombings. Why is Mr R-S not expressing solidarity for them as well? Is he incapable of showing compassion for Israeli pain? Why does he not recognise that the number of Israeli Messianic Jews has risen from 12 in 1948 to 10-15,000 today? Is even that not something to celebrate?

Mr R-S makes the ludicrously false claim that there were no Jewish people in the land between 70 AD and 1948. In fact there was continuous settlement in Safed, Tiberias, Hebron and Jerusalem from biblical times onwards (see M Gilbert, The Routledge Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict [Routledge, 7th ed. , p. 2) and Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority since 1880. Some (many?) of the missions and Christian groups he mentions in the first paragraph of his second column had the express aim of reaching the local Jewish population, as did the 1839 Palestine expedition of Robert Murray M'Cheyne and his friends.

Mr R-S's version of the history of the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 is hugely distorted, referring to land being stolen from rightful owners. What actually happened was that the Jews accepted the UN's partition of the land whilst the Arabs rejected it, and proceeded to attack Jewish settlement in every part of Palestine. The Jews defended themselves (at a cost of 1% of Israel's population) and, in the context of this Arab-initiated war, between 550,000-900,000 Arabs fled their homes, for a variety of reasons, one of which was being encouraged to do so by their own leaders, not being "herded out" as Mr R-S puts it. It is also well-known (and was pointed out in an article in EN by Tony Higton in 2000) that more Jews fled from Arab countries in 1948 than Arabs fled from what became Israel. Why does Mr R-S show no compassion for these Jewish refugees, most of whom settled in Israel because they had nowhere else to go?

Finally, and most disgracefuuly, R-S cites Jeff Halper, Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein as respected Jewish academics. In fact, all three have been exposed as fraudulent scholars on numerous occasions:

Halper: see here, here and here

Pappe is a postmodern revisionist historian who has himself admitted that facts are unimportant, see:

Efraim Karsh, Pure Pappe
Seth J. Frantzman, Flunking History
Ilan Pappe has also participated in propaganda hoaxes.

Earlier this year, Pappe gave an interview to a German neo-Nazi newspaper: SO HOW DARE MR RUSHWORTH-SMITH CITE HIM AS A CREDIBLE SOURCE?

As for Norman Finkelstein, he has been referred to as "the Nazis' favourite Jew", his book The Holocaust Industry can be found reproduced on Nazi websites the world over. You can get a flavour for his writings by looking at these links:

Deborah Passner, Norman Finkelstein�s Fraudulent Scholarship
Paul Bogdanor, The Scholarship of Norman Finkelstein
Steven Plaut, DePaul University�s Moment of Truth
Alan Dershowitz, Finkelstein�s Bigotry
Noam Chomsky�s disciple Norman G. Finkelstein dismisses the Holocaust as an extortion racket against Germany, says that Jews run America, compares Israelis with Nazis, justifies al-Qaeda, champions Hezbollah, speaks alongside Hamas supporters and gives interviews to Holocaust deniers.

Some of Finkelstein's work is tantamount to Holocaust Denial: again, WHY IS MR RUSHWORTH-SMITH CITING HIM? For a comprehensive demolition of Finkelstein's "scholarship" on the Holocaust and on Israel, Mr R-S would do well to read the relevant chapter of E Alexander & P Bogdanor (eds.), The Jewish Divide over Israel: Accusers and Defenders (Transaction Publishers, 2006, pp. 135-161).

Dr Benton, I do not expect you to have a comprehensive grasp of the nuances and sources of Israeli historiography. I would however hope that you would have a sufficient grasp of current events to recognise that Rushworth-Smith's article is massively one-sided and relentlessly blind to Israeli pain.

Whether Mr Rushworth-Smith likes it or not, it is a fact that there are British and Israeli Messianic Jews in British evangelical churches. Most if not all believe that Israel has the right to exist and defend itself. Some of my family live in Israel and are protected by the wall which the likes of Mr Rushworth-Smith can only demonise. I know at least one Israeli believer, at least one British Messianic Jew, and at least one Gentile who has an Israeli wife who have stopped subscribing to EN because of its perceived anti-Israel bias. If you give 25 words to one side of the debate and (however unwittingly) a whole delegitimising, demonising, flawed and polemical page to the other, you do very little to change their minds. Do you really want to drive Messianic Jews away from mainstream evangelicalism? If so, keep right on. If you don't (and I know that you don't), you owe it to them to rethink your editorial policy on the Middle East conflict - drastically.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sari Nusseibeh rejects the one-state solution

Here. An important contribution, particularly when some anti-Zionists seem to be champing at the bit for the eradication of the world's one Jewish state.

Monday, October 20, 2008

This makes me ill

Here. "Given Haider's anti-Semitic and xenophobic views, and taking into account that he represents a rallying point for Europe's radical right, it was an astonishing show of political solidarity as Austria's heads of state and political parties paid tribute to him."

I spent a year in Joerg Haider's Austrian stronghold of Klagenfurt as a student, 11 years ago now. I recall his stridently racist views, which in those days were mainly directed towards Slovenian immigrants. I don't remember him expressing openly antisemitic views at the time. The fact that, after his death, he drew plaudits from across the political spectrum, makes me sick. I hope, I really really really hope, that Austrian Christians took the opportunity to be different and to distance themselves from his odious views. God does not rejoice in the death of the wicked and neither should we, but we should also strive to avoid even the appearance of evil: and feting an openly racist politician as a hero is most certainly that.

Christian "Peace" Groups Ally Themselves with Advocate of Genocide

"Five Christian peace groups are embracing Hitler's heir, Mr. Ahmadinejad, the world's foremost advocate of genocide, terrorism and death to the West. It is an association with someone who is as close as we can get to a real live Devil, and an association, which these five Christian groups should be called upon to explain. These five Christian groups call into question their very nature and you have to wonder if they should use as their symbol the swastika rather than the cross."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

SNP direct public money to Hamas front group

Here. If, like me, you are enraged, do email your MP - whether you are based in Scotland or not.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Karsh on Morris

Efraim Karsh of the University of London reviews the latest offering of Israeli "New Historian" Benny Morris here. It's not really complimentary.

The ever-helpful Paul Bogdanor adds the following:

"Morris' new book is almost as misleading as its predecessors... e.g. he blames Israel for most of the atrocities in 1948. This is based on his estimate that enemy atrocities killed c300. Actually Israel lost 1,162 civilian dead (Arye Naor, "Israel's 1948 War of Independence as a Total War," Journal of Contemporary History, 43:2, 2008, p254). Nearly all died in indiscriminate enemy attacks. In July 1948 alone, terror bombing raids against Tel Aviv killed 142 Israelis, mostly civilians."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Why does Stephen Sizer misrepresent Zhava Glaser?

[Quotes from Stephen Sizer are in blue. Quotes from other sources are in red.]
In Zion’s Christian Soldiers? (IVP: 2007) at p. 118, in a section headed “The case for rebuilding the temple”, Stephen Sizer writes the following:
Orthodox Jews believe that a temple is necessary for them to offer sacrifices once again to make atonement for their sin. This is why religious Jews pray three times every day that ‘the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days’. They claim the Torah, or the Law of Moses, ‘obligates the Jewish nation to rebuild the Temple whenever it becomes possible to do so (Ex. 25:8)'.
Some Messianic Jews (that is, Jewish believers in Jesus) are also sympathetic to the idea that a temple is necessary for Jews to atone for their sins. Visit the Jews for Jesus website and you can read an article by Zhava Glaser, where she asks rhetorically,
Though some rabbis might minimize the revealed system of worship and its requirements, can the individual Jew neglect what God says? Can there be a ‘proper’ Judaism without a priesthood, an altar, a sacrifice and a place on earth where God meets the individual?
The answer to Glaser is obviously ‘no. This is also the reason why some Christian Zionist organizations celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem each year…
(emphasis mine)
So Sizer is using the Glaser article to generalise about “some” Messianic Jews. (Rev Sizer makes similar claims about "Messianic Judaism" in this radio interview, at about 18:35. Personally, I have never yet met a Messianic Jew who believes a temple is needed for Jews to atone for their sins.)
In his book, Sizer makes it sound as if Glaser is in agreement with Orthodox Jews who pray for the temple to be rebuilt. This is a serious matter, since Sizer later (rightly) says that "to advocate the rebuilding of the temple is heresy" (p. 130).
The Zhava Glaser article from which Sizer quotes is available at http://www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/8_3/rituals
The material quoted by Sizer comes from the penultimate paragraph. Immediately after the words Sizer quotes, Glaser writes this:
Isn't it ironic that it takes the New Testament to tell of the new altar, the everlasting sacrifice and the new high priest through whom gentiles as well as Jews are made holy?
When Messiah came as high priest of the good things that are already here he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made…He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." (Hebrew 9:11,12)
(emphasis mine)
Zhava Glaser makes it crystal clear that a temple is not necessary for Jews to atone for their sins. But who would ever know this from Rev Sizer's characterization of her argument?
Why does Stephen Sizer misrepresent Zhava Glaser in this way?
Why did his publishers not pick up on this?
Have none of the numerous influential Christian leaders who endorse Sizer's book picked up on it either?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Melanie Phillips on American Jews

Here. With some interesting asides on evangelicals and Jews for Jesus.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Strictly kosher

Moshe and Rabbi Abraham are feeling peckish after the Erev Shabbat service and nip into the Chinese takeaway on the way home. The Rabbi isn't sure what is and isn't kosher so he goes for a safe option - fish and chips. He then watches and listens incredulously as Moshe orders prawn crackers, spare ribs, and sweet and sour pork.
The food arrives and, once they have left the takeaway, the Rabbi can scarcely contain himself. "What are you doing ordering all that stuff? Whatever next - bacon sandwiches on Yom Kippur?"
Very calmly, Moshe replies, "Were you watching and listening as I placed my order?"
"Of course I was," replied the rabbi, "I was standing right next to you."
"Well then," said Moshe, "It's not a problem, is it? It was under supervision."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

CST Report on Antisemitic Discourse in 2007

Just came across this and haven't yet read it, looks to be well-researched, which of course makes it all the more disturbing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Some call it a miracle

Encouraging CBN report on Israeli Messianic Jews, here

Monday, August 25, 2008

Kicking replacement theology into touch

You can listen to my recent sermon on Ephesians 3 here

Saturday, August 23, 2008

UCU circulates a link to David Duke's website

Here. Can anyone give me a good reason not to resign for UCU now?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How to demonise people who support Israel

Really great piece by Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Leadership Council here

Friday, August 01, 2008


This blog will now be resting for a few days. As ever, there's lots of good new stuff on the Engage website, well worth checking out.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

“See no evil?”: Israel, anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, and British evangelicals

My article in the most recent edition of the British Messianic Jewish Alliance's Chai magazine is available here

77% of Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel than in any other country in the world

Here. I don't suppose it's an article which the anti-Zionist left will be making too much of.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Just sickening

Israel Is 'Canceled' in BerlinFrom THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE, July 7, 2008

"Iranian calls for the destruction of Israel are almost routine these days. But for a former official of the Islamic Republic to call for the destruction of the Jewish state in the city where the Holocaust was planned adds a repugnant twist – especially as the German government sponsored the event that gave the man from Tehran a Western stage."

Read the rest of it Here

The club of tyranny

Melanie Phillips on the UN's shocking double standards, here

The double Nakba

Irwin Cotler on both 1948 refugee tragedies, here

Letter to Evangelicals Now on behalf of the BMJA

[In response to this review]


Many things could be said in response to Alec Motyer's review of Israel, God's Servant by David Torrance and George Taylor in July's EN. However we are particularly troubled by Dr Motyer's assertion that he "still cannot find any 'Jews' in the Old Testament". It is disturbing that a man of Dr Motyer's calibre can make such a statement. It seems to us, from the context of the whole review, that by 'Jews' Dr Motyer does not simply mean "rabbinic Judaism", but that he means "the Jewish nation" as a whole. If he does not find 'Jews' in the Old Testament, whom does he find?

It is a worrying development for Messianic Jews amongst many others to read such statements from a respected leading theologian. We know some will accuse us of being hysterical for bringing up the Holocaust; however the truth is that in Nazi Germany, it became common place for theologians to argue that the characters and writers of the Bible were not Jewish. For example, German Protestants established the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life, where Jesus himself was turned into an Aryan. A dejudaized hymnbook Grosser Gott Wir Loben Dich was published in 1940 and was commercially successful, followed by Die Botschaft Gottes, a dejudaized New Testament. 100,000 copies of each were published in the first edition. An ethnically-cleansed catechism, Deutsche mit Gott: Ein deutsches Glaubensbuch was also published.

We are sure that Dr Motyer's phrase does not spring from the same hateful motivation and we are not accusing him of antisemitism; it is nevertheless unfortunate. We have members of our Alliance who escaped Nazi Germany who therefore find such comments chilling and deeply offensive - as do we.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Stephen Sizer outdoes himself

Stephen Sizer is a radically anti-Zionist British evangelical, whom I have blogged about previously here, here, here and here. Follow those links and you should get a feel for Sizer's agenda and methodology. Even by his standards, though, the extract below, from an article on his website responding to this blog post by Irene Lancaster, takes some beating:

Regarding the fallacious assertion that Israel was attacked in 1967 – I would refer you to the confessions of Prime Minister Moshe Sharett (in his personal diary), General Mordicai Hod, Commander of the Israeli Air Force, General Haim Herzog, former head of Israeli Military Intelligence and Head of State, and Foreign Minister Abba Eban that Israel precipitated the 1967 war for their own purposes. Israeli’s survival was not at stake. Mordechai Ben-Tov, for example, admitted “The entire story of the danger of extermination was invented in every detail and exaggerated a posteriori, to justify the annexation of new Arab territory.” Similarly, even Menachim Begin admitted, “We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him (Egypt).” [my emphasis]
Yes, Sizer actually claims that Israel's existence was not threatened in the run-up to the 1967 war: a statement with which no serious historian would agree. Consider the following crucial bits of information from Michael Oren's book Six Days of War (Penguin, 2002):
The war decision of the Israeli cabinet, drafted by Dayan and passed by a 12-2 vote, was that
the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan are deployed for a multi-front attack that threatens Israel's existence. It is therefore decided to launch a military strike aimed at... preventing the impending assault. (pp157-8). Cf:-

p86: "It is now a question of our national survival" (Yitzhak Rabin)
p87: "The Arab states will interpret Israel's weakness as an excellent oppportunity to threaten her security and her very existence" (Aharaon Yariv)
p134 "The question isn't free passage but the existence of the people of Israel." (Ariel Sharon)
The same book also includes a photograph of Israelis digging trenches in the run up to the war. Presumably Sizer believes this was a cunning Zionist hoax to hoodwink the watching world.
No serious historian would claim that Israel's existence was not at stake in the run-up to the 1967 war. Sizer refers to alleged entries in the diary of Moshe Sharrett but, since Sharret died in 1965, these apparent confessions would seem to require an explanation beyond even Rev Sizer's powers of imagination. Regarding Mordechai Ben-Tov, Sizer omits to mention that he was a Knesset Member for Mapam, a miniscule Stalinist party controlled by the KGB. Ben-Tov was so slavishly loyal to Stalin that he had supported the Doctors Plot:-
"Bentov argued that revolution is cruel by nature, and therefore we must not rush to condemn events such as the infamous Doctors’ Plot, in which nine Russian Jewish doctors were arrested on false charges of plotting to murder top government officials." (See http://www.azure.org.il/magazine/magazine.asp?id=377)
As for the Begin quote, Sizer strangely omits Begin's next sentences: This was a war of self-defence in the noblest sense of the term. The Government of National Unity then established declared unanimously [sic]: we will take the initiative and attack the enemy, drive him back, and thus assure the security of Israel and the future of the nation.*
The selective quotation says a lot about Sizer's ethics and methodology. Why do so many people take him seriously?
[I should say that I sent this material by email to Sizer a few weeks ago. He responded but declined to comment on any of these points.]
* The quote comes from a 1982 Jerusalem Post article. Jerusalem Post's online archive only goes as far back as 1989 but I have a PDF copy of the relevant speech on my computer. If you would like to see it, let me have an email address and I'll send it to you.

Israel shows Britain the way?

It's not often that I come across anything of great interest in The Law Society Gazette (I know this may seem hard to believe), but this article by Joshua Rozenberg caught my attention. It seems that various English law lords and appeals judges have visited Israel's Supreme Court and have met Israeli judges on visits to London. Presumably, this is because English judges feel they might have something to learn from how the Israeli Supreme Court operates, and how it deals with claims brought by campaign groups and residents of the West Bank and Gaza. Something to chew on for those who would like to see a complete exclusion of Israelis from the cultural, academic and legal life of the planet.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Jewish stuff in this month's Evangelicals Now

Alec Motyer reviews Torrance and Taylor's Israel, God's Servant, here. I guess it was as positive a review the book was ever going to get in EN, which is, after all, supersessionist at heart.

There was also an artticle on the recent burning of New Testaments at Yehuda Or, but this article has not been reproduced on EN's website.