Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sermons everyone should listen to

Richard Gibson on "Romans from a Hebrew Perspective", here: it's fantastic!

Mike Moore on "How the West was won: the triumph of Palestinian propaganda", here: it's also fantastic!

The Longest Hatred 24: "The Livingstone Formulation"

[Taken from David Hirsh's piece here]

The Livingstone Formulation has become an absolutely standard response to a charge of antisemitism. It is a rhetorical device which enables the user to refuse to think about antisemitism. It is a mirror which bounces back an accusation, magnified, against anybody who makes it. It sends back a charge of dishonest Jewish conspiracy in answer to a concern about antisemitism.

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, wrote: ‘for far too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government'. The Livingstone Formulation does two things.

Firstly, it denies that there is a distinction between criticism of Israel and demonization of Israel. Criticism of Israeli human rights abuses is not only legitimate, it is entirely appropriate. Demonization, for example, which singles out Israel for unique loathing, or which claims that Israel is apartheid or Nazi or essentially racist, or which characterizes Israel as a child-killing state, or a state which is responsible for wars around the world, or a state which is central to global imperialism, is not the same thing as criticism of Israeli government policies.

Secondly, the Livingstone Formulation does not simply accuse anyone who raises the issue of contemporary antisemitism of being wrong, but it also accuses them of bad faith: ‘the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical...' [my italics]. Not an honest mistake then, but a secret, common plan to try to de-legitimize criticism with an instrumental use of the charge of antisemitism. Crying wolf. Playing the antisemitism card. The Livingstone Formulation is both a straw-man argument and a charge of ‘Zionist' conspiracy. It is itself an antisemitic claim. Its regular appearance is also, in itself, evidence that antisemitic ways of thinking are becoming unexceptional in contemporary mainstream discourse.

In February 2005, Ken Livingstone became embroiled in an apparently trivial late night argument with a reporter, Oliver Finegold, after a party at City Hall. Finegold asked him how the party was. Livingstone became angry because he felt Finegold was intruding. After a little banter to and fro, he asked Finegold whether he had been a ‘German war criminal' before becoming a reporter. Finegold replied that he hadn't, and that he was Jewish, and that he was offended by the suggestion. Livingstone went on to insist that Finegold was behaving just like a ‘German war criminal', that his paper the Evening Standard ‘was a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots' and that it has a record of supporting Fascism.2

What would Livingstone have said had he been speaking with a black journalist? ‘What did you do before, were you a plantation owner?' ‘No, I'm black, I wasn't a plantation owner, and I'm quite offended by that.' ‘Well you might be black but actually you're just like a plantation owner...'

Instead of apologizing for his mildly offensive behaviour and moving on, Livingstone chose over the next few days to treat the publication of this exchange as a political opportunity rather than a gaffe. He wrote an article criticizing Ariel Sharon in which he included the following formulation: ‘For far too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government, as I have been.'

The Livingstone Formulation alleges that Zionists cry ‘antisemitism' when people criticize Israel. In response to the Finegold incident, Livingstone cried ‘Israel' when being accused of antisemitism. His insults towards Finegold were connected to Israel or to its human rights abuses only inside his own mind.

Livingstone went on to normalize suicide bombing against Israeli civilians. He was to condemn the suicide attacks on the London transport system of 7 July 2007, but, far away, he found suicide attacks on the Israeli transport system to raise more complex issues. ‘Palestinians don't have jet fighters,' he said, ‘they only have their bodies to use as weapons. In that unfair balance, that's what people use.'

Livingstone does more than ‘criticize the policies of the Israeli government'. For decades, he has been part of a movement in the UK which sees Israel as a pariah state with a menacing and malign influence well beyond its borders. In the 1980s Livingstone was associated with the Workers Revolutionary Party, an extreme anti-Zionist group, and was the editor of one of its front newspapers, Labour Herald. As Mayor, Livingstone treats the antisemitic Muslim cleric Yusef al-Qaradawi as an honoured guest of the city, in spite of his repeated antisemitic statements (for example, Qaradawi praised Mel Gibson's movie ‘The Passion of the Christ' on the basis that it exposed "the Jews' crime of bringing Jesus to the crucifixion").

It is rare that Jewish communal or Israeli spokespeople make the evidently false claim that criticism of Israeli policies is necessarily antisemitic. Neither does anybody serious treat criticism as though it was demonization. The contention that criticism is denounced as antisemitic nearly always functions as a straw-man argument. The difficult arguments that some over-enthusiastic ‘critics' of Israel are reluctant to deal with are that criticism of Israel is often expressed using rhetoric or images which resonate with antisemitism; or that criticism often holds Israel to higher standards than other states, and for no morally or politically relevant reason; or that it often employs conspiracy theory; or that it uses demonizing analogies; or that it casts Jews as oppressors; or that criticism is made in such a way as to pick a fight with the vast majority of Jews; or that the word criticism is really being used to stand for discriminatory practices against Israelis or against Jews, such as ‘boycotts'. These much more serious and realistic charges are too often brushed off by blithely employing the Livingstone Formulation: ‘For far too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government.'

Monday, January 28, 2008

Some good news from Israel

The email below was sent to me by a friend.

Prayer Update – Jan 15, 2008
from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Shalom intercessors and friends!
We thank you for your partnership in the gospel through your prayers for us! God bless you! As you pray, "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Thes 5:23

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17: 22-23)

What God is doing!
Thank you with all our hearts for your prayers for the Chanukah Christmas party. God blessed us in many many ways during the throwing and planning of this party. One young woman was brought closer to the Lord. She has been studying and working for peace and reconciliation between Jews and Arabs in the secular realm for a long time and had grown disillusioned as a result. She said seeing what was happening at this party through Jesus Christ and hearing the people's testimonies and exhortations has restored her hope that reconciliation is possible but she said that the only way would be through Jesus. At the end of the party we broke into groups to pray for each other. During this prayer time she wept and said that God was convicting her of some areas in her life. Praise God for the work he is doing in her life and please be in prayer that the Lord would complete the work He has started in her and bring her into a relationship with Him! Also, more praise and thanksgiving to God for a joint meeting of Arab, Jewish and International students at Haifa University that was also a success! :) :)

Please pray :)
  • For several young women (in Hebrew U's international school) who we see that satan is working hard at distancing from God. Pray God will give us wisdom in how to encourage them stay close to the One who can truly meet their deepest needs.
  • For wisdom and open doors for Michele and Dana as they plan and prepare to start an International Students' Bible Rothberg (Hebrew U)..that God will draw the people and stir up in the a hunger and a thirst for the righteousness of the living God.
  • For the students from the universities in Jerusalem, Haifa, the North, Natanya, Tel Aviv and Beersheva who are organizing 2 day trips for themselves in February. The purpose of these trips is to bring believing students together for the strengthening of relationships and the building of vision as they enter the coming semester.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Durban II - Canada fights racism not Jews

I've pinched the piece below from Engage. I'm glad to see that Canada are taking a principled stand against the likely agenda of the UN's second world conference against racism, after the first conference in 2001 degenerated into a racist conference against Jews. (@ Rory Shiner - thanks for being a (rare) evangelical who takes antisemitism seriously - but it is inaccurate to argue that antisemitism re-emerged after 9/11 - it was alive and well beforehand. 9/11 in fact overshadowed the sickening antisemitism evident at Durban.) Sadly, but predictably, the British evangelical anti-Zionist Stephen Sizer approvingly cites the Durban 2001 conference in his writings, without any qualifying comment or context whatsoever.

The second UN World Conference Against Racism (Durban II), to take place in 2009, is currently in the planning stage. Despite being organised under the auspices of the reassuringly-titled UN Human Rights Council (which just kicked off the new year with another special session on Israel), the planning committee instils doubt - Iran somehow has a seat and Libya is Chair. Both are members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference which has been telling its members to suspend ties with Israel for several years. It was in this climate of heightening opposition to Israel that the NGO Forum at Durban I, which dragged itself to a close on September 8th 2001, nearly succeeded in writing racism against Jews out of its official anti-racist statement.

With these things in mind Canada has decided not to attend Durban II,
Khabrein reports:

Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity Jason Kenny Wednesday said Canada would have nothing to do with such a conference that last time ended up promoting racism and intolerance.

"We'll attend any conference that is opposed to racism and intolerance, not those that actually promote racism and intolerance," he told the Canadian press.
Calling the 2001 gathering "a circus of intolerance", Kenney said: "Our considered judgement, having participated in the preparatory meetings, was that we were set for a replay of Durban I. And Canada has no intention of lending its good name and resources to such a systematic promotion of hatred and bigotry."
Indeed, Durban I marks the intensification of anti-Israel activity in Britain. It was hijacked by activists who attempted to use the occupation of Palestinian land as a pretext for excluding antisemitism from recognition as a form of racism. They pressed for a statement that Israel was a 'racist apartheid' state while simultaneously references to antisemitism - anti-Jewish racism - were removed from the statement. Salon reported at the time that the anti-Israel activity was planned and concerted. Predictably, those activists attracted, or included, the kind of people who distribute leaflets saying that 'Hitler should have finished the job' and shout things like "Kill Jews".

The conference ran on for a day after it was scheduled to end and the statement was eventually amended after a majority voted to remove the references to Israel as racist and apartheid from the NGO statement. Self-styled anti-racists with phoney exceptionalist values consider this turn-around to have been the result of Zionist pressure. In fact it was due to the stand taken by appalled genuine anti-racists to preserve recognition that hatred of Jews exists as a form of racism which predates Israel, exists independently of Israel and cannot - classic bit of victim blame - be laid at the door of Israeli policy.

Israel has been called a racist state by the UN before, for 16 years in 1975. The General Assembly passed Resolution 3379 Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, sponsored by 25 states who stated that “the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regime in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure and being organically linked in their policy aimed at repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being” and “determin[ing] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. It was revoked in 1991 with miniscule motion 46/86.

Above all Zionism is a response by people of different ethnicities and religions to anti-Jewish racism. Defining Zionism as racism in a so-called anti-racist statement which simultaneously denies reference to antisemitism was ludicrous, appalling and impossible to misunderstand. Nothing has changed in the intervening period.

This is why Canada has made an early assessment that Durban II is probably not going to be worth attending. The question is whether anti-Israel activists are really prepared to squander an opportunity to unite member states in opposition to racism everywhere - Darfur, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Israel and many other countries where racism needs urgent attention - for the sake of trying to destroy the world's only Jewish country.

Background in the
Jerusalem Post; more from the Associated Press

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Mainline churches embrace Burge's false narrative"

CAMERA critique various apparent distortions and factual inaccuracies in Christian anti-Zionist Gary Burge's influential book Whose Land? Whose Promises? here. I hope CAMERA's piece gets a wide readership. It concludes: "Two important questions raised by Whose Land? Whose Promise? are whether Israelis are entitled to have people speak about their state in a fair and factual manner and whether or not Jews have the “right to be ordinary.” These questions are at the root of Christian discourse about the Arab-Israeli conflict."

Gaza - Occupied Territory?

This piece, focussing on how international NGOs apply a double standard to Israel, comes from today's Jerusalem Post.

Prisoners of Gaza By ERIK SCHECHTER

The IDF posts are gone. The settlements are gone. Hamas even declared Gaza liberated. Yet two-and-a-half years after the disengagement, at least one local human rights group still considers the Strip occupied. And, surprisingly, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International agree.

In a report entitled "Disengaged Occupiers," Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement writes: "Israel's withdrawal of settlements and its permanent military ground installations from the Gaza Strip did not end Israeli control of Gaza but rather changed the way in which such control is effectuated."

It all sounds so fascinating, so subversive. But what about that little document called the 1907 Hague Regulations?

Article 42 clearly states that territory is occupied when "under the authority of the hostile army." Now the lawyers may quibble over how far ahead of the invading troops the law of occupation extends. But, basically, it's boots in - military occupation; boots out - no military occupation.

To get around this, Gisha displays an impressive level of creativity. First, it argues that technological advances like drones, gunships and laser-guided missiles have shattered the old paradigm. Second, the group notes that the IDF still occupies the West Bank, and the Oslo Accords consider the territories one unit.

Besides, the issue is not troops but "effective control," adds Gisha. Israel may only have close-circuit cameras at the Rafah crossing, but we limit the entry of people and goods into Gaza. We also set the customs rates, verify Palestinian IDs, and withhold tax money. If Israel wants to bottle up the Strip for 148 days, it can - and it has.

If Gisha is right, then Gaza becomes our little bedraggled ward. We must let the Palestinians import and export goods, if not through Rafah, then through Israel. We must supply the Hamas government with electricity until it repairs the transformers destroyed in June 2006. We have to do all this, and more.

Of course, the alternative is to open Gaza to the world and watch the rockets, guns and bombs flood the Strip.

ADMITTEDLY, no one likes being called the O-word. That's why the UN and NATO frame their non-belligerent occupations as "peacekeeping missions." Still, there are good reasons why we ought to reject Gisha's notion of occupation: It is disconnected from reality, conceptually weak and only applied to Israel.

First, despite Gisha's lavish praise of hi-tech weapons, they do not keep public order, pick up the trash, or perform any other government task. Nor is our well-stocked army in any position to quickly reassert Israeli rule in Gaza. That's why, after 1,000 or so Palestinian rocket attacks, we have not reconquered the place.

That said, we do assert authority over taxes, customs and ID cards. And there is Rafah. We retain a voice over what goes on at the crossing, but our power is almost all on paper. It is the Egyptians who really control the border, and if they want to let Hamas smugglers into Gaza (as they did two weeks ago), they can.

A SECOND, equally crucial point raised by Gisha is the nature of the territories. True, the Oslo Accords did hold them to be one political entity, but since the Hamas takeover of the Strip in June 2007, they are no longer so. Thus, the idea that Israel can control Gaza City via Ramallah is untenable.

Ultimately, the NGO report comes off vague and arbitrary. Israel is guilty, of course, but we are not sure why. The group offers no formula for how much "indirect control" makes an occupation. Nor it does explain how our domination of Gazan airspace and waters differs from an ordinary blockade.

That others would adopt a similar approach to Gisha is all the more jarring given how Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International usually address conflicts around the globe. Indeed, most other military occupations ( i.e., foreign rule, troops and settlers) go unremarked upon by the human rights community.

Take the case of the Western Sahara. In October 1975, the International Court of Justice ruled that this Spanish colony had the right to self-determination. However, Spain had other plans. The outgoing colonial power cut a side deal with Morocco and Mauritania, and in April 1976, the two states annexed Western Sahara.

The hard-fighting Sahrawi rebels forced Mauritania to withdraw in 1979. But it was Morocco - not the local nationalist movement - that took control of the evacuated areas. Confronted with this new reality, the UN General Assembly issued two resolutions that recognized Western Sahara as under Moroccan occupation.

Curiously, none of this registers with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Both groups insist on calling Western Sahara a "disputed territory" or "Moroccan-administered" - anything but "occupied." This legal conservatism stands in stark contrast to the super-elastic category used for Gaza.

EXPLAINING the contradiction, Human Rights Watch legal adviser James Ross tells me that his group uses terms "widely accepted" by the international community. True, interested parties often shape this discourse, but not to worry: The law, not the label, is what counts. And human rights law is applied to Western Sahara.

However, Ross admits that the laws of occupation are not applied. So while human rights groups count our closed-circuit cameras at Rafah, they ignore 200,000 Moroccan settlers living in Western Sahara. We get slapped for not feeding Hamas-run Gaza, but Morocco can happily deplete Sahrawi fish stocks and phosphate mines.

Obviously, this myopic obsession with Gaza cannot continue. First, it chains Israel to a make-believe occupation. Second, it confirms the Palestinian conceit that they are victims of forces beyond their control. Third, it overlooks very real occupations across the globe. Finally, it does violence to very concept of equality before the law.

NOW, BEFORE you get out the pitchforks and torches, let me say a word about the human rights community. They are good people. But they are just people, and, like the rest of us, they too can make errors in judgment - sometimes very serious ones. We need to keep human rights groups on track, not tear them down.

Donors, sympathizers and due-paying members ought to petition their organizations to be more forthright in outing occupiers. Academics can likewise be recruited to the cause. After all, few scholars deny that Pakistan conquered a part of Kashmir, or that China has swamped Tibet with settlers.

Once human rights groups commit themselves to using a reasonable and consistent definition of occupation in their reports, it will be harder for states to play politics in international fora. Then, who knows? We might just end up with something that resembles international law.

The writer is a former military correspondent of The Jerusalem Post.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Here's to you Mr Robinson

No, not English and British Lions rugby legend Jason Robinson, but Australian theologian Donald Robinson, one of the theologians who has influenced me most over the last few years. He is one of a rare breed: a conservative evangelical theologian who does NOT subscribe to (what I consider to be) the unhelpful and unbiblical (but sadly prevailing) view that the church is the "New Israel". He has recently been honoured with a compilation of essays to accompany the publication of his Collected Works. My Aussie mate Rory Shiner, who put me on to Robinson a few years ago, gives details of the collection here.

Alternatively, you can download Robinson's BRILLIANT chapter on "Jew and Gentile in the New Testament" (in his book Faith's Framework) for free here.

Messianic Britain

[Adapted from Richard Gibson's recent article in the Messianic Times]

Messianic Britain

There has been a Messianic Jewish community in Britain for a very long time. In 1813, forty-one Jewish believers founded an association called Bnei Abraham and in 1866 the British Messianic Jewish Alliance was formed as the Hebrew Christian Alliance of Great Britain , well before the establishment of the International Alliance in 1925. The International Hebrew Christian Alliance – now the International Messianic Jewish Alliance – was also started in Britain and for most of its history had its offices in Ramsgate, Kent before moving to America in 1999.

The British Messianic Jewish Alliance (BMJA) is not only the largest Messianic organisation in Britain but is also the oldest national Messianic alliance anywhere in the world. As such, it represents by far most of the Messianic Jews in Britain. The BMJA has its own magazine called Chai and runs an annual residential conference for its members as well as a day conference in London. The management committee is democratically elected tri-annually by its Jewish members, while associate members, though not Jewish, are highly valued and welcome to participate fully in the life and testimony of the Alliance.

The BMJA is an umbrella organisation for all Messianic Jews living in Britain who are in agreement with the doctrinal basis of the Alliance. There are currently between twenty five to thirty active Messianic Jewish congregations in Britain. The British Messianic Jewish Alliance of Fellowships (BMJAF), an alliance of seventeen independent Messianic Fellowships and Congregations that have sprung up all over Britain, is associated to the BMJA. The Alliance of Fellowships is the largest affiliation of Messianic congregations and fellowships in Britain and the BMJA web site ( carries a list of associated fellowships as well as articles that have appeared in Chai. A major initiative of the BMJA and Christian Witness to Israel has been the establishment of Yahad, a national network of young British Messianic Jews.

There are currently 300, 000 Jewish people living in Britain and consequently things are on a much smaller scale than in the States and Israel. In 1995 an estimate put the numbers of Jewish believers in Yeshua in Britain at around three to five thousand. There are no official figures on the current number of Jewish believers in Yeshua in Britain. Taking into consideration all the anecdotal evidence from various ministries at work in Britain and the statistics I've gathered from the BMJA and BMJAF, It would be safe to say that there are more Jewish believers in Yeshua in Britain in 2007 than there were in 1995. There has been no serious research undertaken to find out the real figure so some estimate around five to seven thousand. However it must be noted that the majority of Jewish believers in Yeshua in Britain attend churches of all types without attending a Messianic Fellowship. A small percentage attends a Messianic Fellowship, congregation or Synagogue in addition to their local church. Those British Messianic Jews that only attend a Messianic Fellowship, congregation or Synagogue is so small it is not even a percentage! The relatively new, Union of British Messianic Jewish Congregations consisting of seven congregations, is closely linked to the American-based International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues and the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America. There are also a number of unaffiliated Messianic Fellowships but it is more often the case that when they are in a town with no Jewish population then there are no Messianic Jews in them.

The British Messianic movement stands as one of the potential bastions for the defence of the wider Jewish community against the rising tide of anti-Semitism, often dressed up as anti-Zionism. This new Anti-Semitism is manifested by a boycott-Israel fever that is currently sweeping British society including sad to say, many churches. The BMJA has been active in trying to combat anti-Semitism in churches.

The British Messianic movement also functions as a reminder that God has not finished with the Jewish people. However, the fact still remains that an estimated ninety percent of Jewish believers in Yeshua in Britain remain exclusively in churches and are unknown to the Messianic movement. Sadly, they also remain unknown both in the churches into which they melt and in the Jewish community that needs to hear a credible witness from Jewish believers in Yeshua.

Friday, January 11, 2008

How not to preach on Acts 4*

I recently heard an elder of a church refer to "the momentous ignorance of truth" of "the Jews" in Acts 4. He meant, of course, the "religious leaders". I do not recall him mentioning that the 5,000 who heard the message and believed (and that was only the men, verse 4) were Jewish, nor that the two men taking a courageous stand for the gospel before the Sanhedrin were Jewish.

There were 3 Jewish people in the congregation.

Clearly, Joe Weissman's article on anti-Jewish sentiment in British churches is on the mark.

* Or, for that matter, on any other passage.