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
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?