In this remarkable, 61 minute video, Pastor Chuck Baldwin is interviewed by Steven Ben-Nun of Israeli News Liveabout his journey out of a deep seated and three decades long belief that the modern state of Israel is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. What’s remarkable about this interview is that Steven Ben-Nun is a Messianic (Jewish) Christian who had been under the influence of Zionism, himself. The large majority of Messianic Christians are fervent Christian Zionists. We Hold These Truths has, also, interviewed Pastor Baldwin in our podcast, “Pastor Dr. Chuck Baldwin Rejects Christian Zionism.”
Militants in Gaza fired more than 250 rockets into southern Israel on Saturday, and Israel responded with airstrikes and artillery fire, ending weeks of relative calm and threatening efforts to forge a long-term truce.
Most readers do not read further than the headline and maybe the first paragraph. Their impression will understandably be that “militants in Gaza” started the fight and that the Zionists “responded”. But that is far from the truth.
[More from the Unholy Land…mw]
One has to read down to the fifteenth paragraph to learn that those ‘facts’ are probably false:
The Israeli military reported on Friday that two soldiers were lightly wounded in a shooting incident along its border with Gaza. In response, Israel struck sites belonging to the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, killing two fighters.Also on Friday, two Palestinian protesters were killed taking part in ongoing weekly demonstrations at the border fence with Israel, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
Note the sequencing. The exchange is again described as a “response” by Israel. The two murdered demonstrators, who were unarmed and posed no threat to Israel, are mentioned as an aside.
But it was their murder, by Israeli snipers, that actually started the escalating violence:
“It’s a reply to the Israeli targeting of peaceful civilians yesterday by Israeli snipers during the 58th Friday of Great March of Return,” said Basem Naim, a member of Hamas’s bureau for international relations, referring to the weekly protests staged in Gaza since last year. “Also, to the procrastination policies of the occupation toward lifting the siege on Gaza.”
A second story at Bezos’ blog, filed later, follows the same scheme though its first paragraph is slightly more neutral. It is headlined:
An escalation in fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza over the weekend also brought with it a growing death toll Sunday, with reports that six Palestinians, including a pregnant mother and a baby, had been killed by Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian enclave and one Israeli man killed as more than 450 rockets and projectiles were fired into southern Israel from Gaza.
In the following paragraphs there are eight statements attributed to the Israeli side and one from Palestinians. The Friday murder of two Palestinian civilians is only mentioned in paragraph sixteen.
The New York Times is equally partisan with the headline also falsely claiming that Israeli “responds”:
Palestinian militants launched about 250 rockets and mortars into southern Israel from Gaza on Saturday, and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes and tank fire against targets across the Palestinian territory, as tensions along the volatile border boiled over and a fragile cease-fire faltered again.
The piece also gives ample room to Israeli military claims. The murder of the two Palestinians on Friday, the immediate cause of the exchange, is mentioned as an aside in the fifteenth paragraph:
Saturday’s escalation in violence came a day after two Israeli soldiers were wounded by a Gaza sniper and four Palestinians were killed. Two were shot by Israeli forces during Friday’s weekly protest along the fence dividing the Palestinian coastal territory from Israel, according to Gaza health officials.
This fake reporting saying that Israel “responds” is nothing new. As Louis Allday wrote in 2011:
If one consults only mainstream media for information on the conflict in Palestine, what is immediately striking is that Israel appears to be in a permanent state of “retaliation” — a phrase which immediately confers at least a modicum of legitimacy or justification upon the act to which it refers. Israel is never presented as the aggressor and however much its actions are condemned — which they are by some mainstream sources — they are invariably portrayed as a reaction to some form of provocation. Conversely, missiles launched from the Gaza Strip or southern Lebanon are habitually portrayed as “attacks” — never “retaliations,” even if Israel has launched a devastating missile strike immediately prior to the event — as so often is the case.
The public is subliminally conditioned to understand that Israel is a permanent victim that on occasion is forced to lash out in response to the ostensibly irrational and unruly aggression of illegitimate non-state actors that encircle it.
This warped and cursory reporting by U.S. media of the conflicts launched by Israel is contrasted by reporting in Israeli itself. This Haaretz writeup of this weekend’s escalation, while also partisan, is way more informative than any reporting from the U.S. side. It explains the political background of the struggle:
The escalation between Israel and the Gaza factions over the weekend – more than 400 rockets fired at Israel, a broad bombing of Gaza by the air force, seven Palestinians killed and six Israelis wounded – reflects an attempt by Hamas to address its economic woes by putting military pressure on Israel at a sensitive time.
… To understand what’s happening, it’s crucial to revisit events from before the April 9 election. In recent months, Egyptian intelligence officials have been mediating between Israel and Hamas in an attempt to reach long-term agreements. The Palestinians would put a complete stop to airborne firebombs and rockets, while Israel would ease movement through border crossings, allow large sums of Qatari money into the Gaza Strip and take steps to accommodate large-scale, internationally-financed projects in Gaza to improve the crumbling infrastructure. At a later stage, talks over a prisoner swap would be renewed.Ahead of the election, and in light of the promises by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in the hopes of avoiding a conflict as Israelis voted, Hamas held its fire. But the payoff didn’t arrive at a pace that satisfied the Palestinians. Israel wasn’t quick to meet its commitments. The concessions at the border crossings were anything but swift, the number of trucks bringing goods into Gaza every day was modest, and efforts to increase the electricity supply hadn’t yet begun.
In this case it is undoubtedly the Palestinian side that is responding to Israeli violence. But even if Palestinians would fire missiles without an immediate cause it would be within the full rights of the Palestinian people. In its 1982 Resolution 37/43 the General Assembly of the United Nations reaffirmed:
the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle;
The UN GA resolution is standing international law. The Palestinian people have the right to resist against the occupation force.
In practice as well as legally Israel is a colonial entity that occupies Palestinian land, especially in Gaza and the West Bank. Any armed struggle by Palestinians against the occupation, provoked or not, is thus morally and legally justified.
But do not expect that any ‘western’ mainstream media will ever point that out.
Christians in the West need to cease giving uncritical, one-sided support to Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and instead engage with Christians in the Middle Eastern church who are working for peace and reconciliation.
That’s according to Rev Dr Stephen Sizer, an Anglican minister and founder of the UK-based Peacemaker Trust, a non-denominational Christian charity which works with churches in East Africa and the Middle East, particularly in areas where the church is marginalized or persecuted or where there are religious tensions, on projects based around evangelism, discipleship and issues of justice and peace.
Invited by various groups including the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network and Fighting Fathers Ministries, Rev Dr Sizer is spending a couple of weeks in Australia speaking at a series of events on a mission to “deconstruct” how the Bible has, in his words, been “misused” to justify what he describes as the “apartheid regime in Israel today” and how Christians can be involved in bringing peace to the region.
“[How] to be part of the solution rather than a problem in the Middle East, not siding with either the Israeli regime or the Palestinian Authority but identifying with the Christians in the Middle East who are working for peace and reconciliation,” explains Dr Sizer, who founded the trust a few years ago so he could work fulltime in peace-making work, having previously spent more than 35 years doing so part time while also serving as a parish priest in England.
His stance of not taking sides is one which runs contrary to that of the estimated 60 to 100 million Christians around the world – including many evangelicals in the US – who identify today as ‘Christian Zionists’.
That’s a term which Rev Dr Sizer says once simply meant giving support for the idea of a Jewish homeland and to those Jews who faced persecution during World War II, but has now moved “well beyond” that and come to mean giving “uncritical support” for the Israeli state – a position which results in some US churches, for example, giving unqualified support to controversial Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories as well as supporting US President Donald Trump’s decision late last year to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“These are all political ways in which Christians in America are living out their faith in a belief that God will bless them because they are, as they see it, blessing Israel,” he says.
Rev Dr Sizer has charted the history of Christian Zionism for his PhD (it’s also a subject he tackles in books, Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? And Zion’s Christian Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and the Church).
He says ideas surrounding Christian Zionism as it looks today first emerged in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries and were subsequently exported to the US where they were adopted by the likes of DL Moody and Cyrus Scofield (of the Scofield Reference Bible fame).
He adds that he doesn’t believe the central tenet of Christian Zionism as it is today – which centres on the concept that “God had two peoples – Israel and the church – and that they are separate and promises made in the Scriptures either apply to the church or to Israel”, an idea known in theological terms as ‘dispensationalism’ – fits with Scripture.
Rev Dr Sizer points out that in the Old Testament Book of Esther, for example, it speaks in chapter eight of the “many” people of other ethnicities who became Jews after the Persian King Xerxes issued a decree in support of them.
“What does that mean? It means that from the time of Esther on – 400 to 500 BC – a Jew was not necessarily someone who was descended from Abraham.”
He also points to Ezekial, chapter 47, where, in verses 21 to 23, God speaks of the distribution of land among the tribes of Israel: “You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe a foreigner resides, there you are to give them their inheritance,’ declares the Sovereign Lord.”
“You look at those three verses and it says the same thing three times in three verses – share the land with the foreigners,” says Rev Dr Sizer. “So if we’re looking for a solution today to the Middle East conflict, it is the one state solution. You share the land with those who live in the land, the foreigners as well as the native-born Israelites. God has to say it three times – why? Because they wouldn’t do it, they didn’t want to do it because they thought God had given them the land.”
Rev Dr Sizer rejects the idea that he is anti-Israel – saying he has always been opposed to racism and anti-Semitism – and says that he wants to see Israel “survive and prosper as a nation for its citizens, for those who choose to live there or who were born there”. “But that does include non-Jews,” he adds.
He says that he prays a solution to the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories can be reached without further bloodshed but he believes that such a solution will only came about when Israel either gives up the West Bank and allows “an independent, sovereign Palestinian state” or embraces a one state solution “whereby everyone within Israel and the Occupied Territories has equal rights and the right to vote, the right to education, healthcare and so on”.
“It’s either a one state or a two state – what we have at the moment is a no state solution and it’s one that the present Israeli Government is happy to perpetuate,” he says. “It wants the land without the people; it wants to allow the Palestinians to have autonomy but without having independent borders, without having a military, without having any sovereignty over their airspace, their water borders, their land borders. It is turning the Palestinians into the equivalent of a Bantustan in South Africa or Indian reservations in North America and that is not acceptable these days.”
Asked how Christians in countries like Australia can help in bringing about peace, Rev Dr Sizer says churches locally could consider partnering with churches in Israel-Palestine and other parts of the Middle East to help people gain a better understanding of the situation there as well as support the work of organizations like the Bethlehem Bible College, Holy Land Trust, and Musalaha.
And for those who want to get involved at a political level, he says, they could also support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to put pressure on Israel over Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories, considered illegal by most countries.
But the first port of call, Rev Dr Sizer says, is prayer.
“As Christians we start with prayer – pray for the peace of Jerusalem and that means pray for the people of Jerusalem…”
To see where Rev Dr Sizer is speaking during his Australian tour, head here.
Jamal Bishara, is a deeply respected, Southern Baptist pastor who disagrees with the predominant Christian Zionist, dispensational, theological tenets of the Southern Baptist Convention. Perhaps the most un-Christ like among those deeply held beliefs is the notion that modern-day Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. And, that saying or doing anything against Israel, constitutes a sin against God, and, will somehow, disrupt the end times scenario that Christian Zionists cling to, so dearly. In this article from the Baptist Press, the reactions of various Southern Baptists to the announcement by President Trump that the US Embassy in Israel will be moved to Jerusalem, are covered. It’s interesting to note that Pastor Jamal is a citizen of Israel and a Palestinian, but is referred to as an Arab Israeli. We have interviewed Pastor Jamal, see: “Palestinian Pastor Confronts his Fellow Southern Baptist Church Leaders.” Also, see: “Southern Baptists Reject Plea By Palestinian Pastor.” [Ed.-TEC]
We’ve known about Rich Siegel and his activism for Palestine for a number of years. What follows is a report he made to Palestine that surely qualifies as “Unheralded News!”.
Be sure to watch the 12 minute video (posted below) by Rich Siegel, performing his composition, “In Palestine.” [Ed.-TEC]
I’ve recently had an amazing experience! I did something that many Palestinians don’t get to do. I visited Palestine. Palestine is one of the few places that, as soon as you mention the name, it becomes controversial. Cuba is like that to an extent, but everyone agrees that Cuba exists, whereas with Palestine, there are actually those who claim it doesn’t exist. I proved them wrong. I went there! And when I went I found people who speak Arabic and who worship in mosques and in Christian churches, and smoke shisha and drink really strong coffee, and I’m pretty sure they were Palestinians. And I got to experience first hand the way they live. I got to see Jewish-only roads which are forbidden to them, (infrastructure allowed to one group, and forbidden to another group: the very definition of apartheid). I got to see an ugly wall snaking around the otherwise beautiful country-side, which is not on any border, and is only serving to steal land and cause lots of inconvenience. I got to see villages surrounded by illegal Jewish settlements, settlements that have plenty of water for swimming pools while Palestinians have to ration the limited water they get. I got to see the ruins of houses that were demolished, families given just an hour to get out. I got to see once thriving business districts made into ghost-towns due to inaccessibility caused by the wall. I got to see Bedouin villages that get no services at all because they are not “recognized”. I got to see things I did not expect to see, for example, an Arab family’s house in a “cage”, completely surrounded by a Jewish settlement and fenced in, only accessible by a driveway with a gate controlled by the settlement. Basically I got to see apartheid in action.
And I got to see these ugly big red road signs that Israel puts up, warning Israelis that they are in danger if they cross into an Arab area. But the funny thing was that when I, a Jew, went into these areas, I always got handshakes and hugs and hospitality. Great food, great music, great fun, warm hearts! Go figure! Anyway, I know it’s controversial, but when I was a kid the war in Vietnam was controversial and now, nobody’s ashamed at having opposed it. So I’m here to shout from the rooftops that I have seen Israeli apartheid up close and personal and I oppose it! And I also want to say that I want everybody to go to Palestine and see it. It’s beautiful, there is so much history, and the people, the food and the culture are lovely. And the awful situation needs to be witnessed. Anybody interested in going, just pop me an e mail back and I’ll help you make it happen.
I even had a little gig while I was there, at al-Jisser bar in Beit Sahour, a fun hang if you’re in the neighborhood. Don’t worry, Israel, I didn’t make any money. I played for beer and a T-shirt. But can you imagine this Jewish guy playing piano in a bar in Palestine, for an audience of Palestinians and internationals, including Jews, even drinking local Palestinian beer? How many assumptions and stereotypes get smashed in that picture?!
Rich Siegel is a very talented pianist and singer who journeyed from being an ardent Zionist, who even lived in Israel. Rich delved into the Zionist beliefs he held so dear and found that the “facts” he had learned were wanting. After a thorough investigation into the Israel/Palestine conflict, he became an activist for peace and justice for Palestians. In this remarkable, 12 minute video, Rich performs his haunting composition, “In Palestine,” talks about his journey out of Zionism, and, how he came to write the song. Rich performs in the New York City area. To find out where Rich is playing, check out his website.
Nablus, Palestine, will become Boulder’s eighth Sister City.
As Tuesday night’s meeting of Boulder’s City Council kicked off at 6 p.m., constituents spilled out of the chambers and into an overflow area in the lobby, where a crowd sat tensely, glued to the live TV proceedings. These people had come to either speak in support of or against Nablus, Palestine, becoming one of Boulder’s official Sister Cities, and they queued up for two minutes at the microphone during which they planned personal pleas and impassioned defenses.
The meeting was the culmination of a process set in motion over three years ago, when the Boulder Nablus Sister Cities Project (BNSCP), the organization behind the application to make Nablus a Sister City, first went in front of Council — and was rejected. In 2013, the Council worried the project was driving a wedge in the community, and it asked the BNSCP to continue its activities fostering personal connections via yoga, a pen-pal program, artist exchanges and the like, and come back with another application once it had attempted to heal the divide.
The BNSCP was prepared to return in April of this year, but fearing the same opposition, it asked council to send it and its opponents to a mediation process instead, so that both sides could attempt to work out differences and provide some sort of recommendation to council as to how to proceed. As we reported in October and in the lead-up to this meeting, though, the two sides were unable to come to a consensus as to whether Nablus should be an official Sister City. And so its final report represented a summary of its work, with concerns and possibilities highlighted. Both sides knew that they’d ultimately face each other before council again, and they’d discuss themes similar to that meeting three years ago — whether sistering with Nablus has an inherently political bent, even if the intent of Sister Cities relationships is to foster cultural exchange; whether the coupling provides the BNSCP with a license to tell a one-sided version of a complex global issue; and whether taking on Nablus as a Sister City would cause a devastating rift in the Boulder community.
Passionate defenders on both sides of the issue spoke at the hearing; Mayor Suzanne Jones noted as public comment kicked off that over sixty people had signed up. Opponents took issue with Nablus’s politics, the fact that Jewish people may feel unsafe visiting Nablus, and the creation of a city-sponsored outlet to present the story of Israeli Occupation in the West Bank without providing the rest of the conflict’s context. Several said they supported the outreach BNSCP did, but not the official stamp of approval. Supporters detailed their own experiences in Nablus, begged for inclusiveness on behalf of a marginalized Palestinian and Muslim community in America, and urged the council to uphold Boulder’s reputation for openness. They pointed to the organization’s statement of commitments, which expressly forbids the BNSCP from engaging in political advocacy or allowing others to do so via the organization.
Four hours later, the council voted 7-2 to approve Nablus as Boulder’s eighth official Sister City. “What we’re saying yes to tonight is the power of the Sister City relationship,” Jones said just before the council took it to a vote. “I want to say ‘yes’ to the power of relationships and power of what can be. This Sister City is going to be held to tough standards, but that’s the nature of what we’re getting into here.”
BNSCP executive director Essrea Cherin said before the meeting that should the project be approved, the organization will continue trying to reach out to people from the other side to heal the divide over the project. Council will review the partnership once a year to make sure it’s in line with its responsibilities. Meanwhile, the BNSCP will now operate under the official umbrella of the Sister Cities International organization, giving it access to resources and connections provided to official Sister Cities.
Millions of American Christians are unaware of the plight of the city of Bethlehem and its Palestinian inhabitants in the West Bank of Palestine. The Israeli built separation wall snakes its way around Bethlehem, even cutting off Palestinians from their own land and nearby Jerusalem. This story is courageously told by Palestinian filmmaker, Leila Sansour in her Open, Bethlehem documentary that is part of a campaign to educate her fellow Christians and the world about the stranglehold by Israel that is slowly causing Palestinian Christians to leave the Holy Land because of the hardships imposed by the military occupation.
To increase the awareness of what is happening to Bethlehem, a Bethlehem Passport is being issued by the OPEN, BETHLEHEM campaign in partnership with the Governorate of Bethlehem. So far, the passport has been granted to more than 500 people around the world, including church leaders and heads of states, such as Archbishop Rowan Williams, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Jimmy Carter. The passport states: “In that the bearer of this passport is a citizen of Bethlehem; that they recognize this ancient city provides a light to the world, and to all people who uphold the values of a just and open society; that they will remain a true friend to Bethlehem through its imprisonment, and that they will strive to keep the ideals of Bethlehem alive as long as the wall stands; we ask you to respect the bearer of the passport and to let them pass freely.” Showings of Open, Bethlehem are starting in the United States after a successful introduction in the UK. Check the website for a showing near you or to organize one in your town. Also, the complete documentary can be seen on line (Click Here). For more information on Liela Sansour’s campaign to bring down the wall around Bethlehem check out the Huffington Post UK article.