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Why 'Christian Hate?'? An introduction to the blog

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Christians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Read all my posts on this topic

Friday, May 26, 2006

Happy Birthday!

On Christian Hate?'s first birthday there is, after all, something to celebrate. I trust Anglicans for Israel will forgive me for pillaging their posting in its entirety:-

Church of Scotland rejects boycott

We are pleased to announce that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has accepted a motion which calls upon the Foreign Secretary to use her influence both as the representative of Her Majesty’s Government and in co-operation with her colleagues within the EU to encourage HAMAS to issue a statement accepting Israel’s right to exist.

But there’s more: the whole motion explicitly recognised Israel’s right to security, rejected a boycott and called for economic engagement with both sides.

We congratulate the General Assembly for having the courage to stand against the militants and, naturally, we recommend that Anglicans seek to emulate the good sense displayed by the Church of Scotland.

Hopefully the motion will have incorporated these six principles drawn up by the Kirk's Church and Society Council:-

  • The Church condemns unequivocally all acts of terrorism and violence, which are designed primarily to bring a civilian population into a state of fear.

  • The Church supports, without reservation, the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign nation with secure, internationally recognised, legal borders.

  • The Church supports the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and similarly to exist in a viable nation within secure, internationally recognised, legal borders.

  • The Church recognises the particular problems associated with the thrice Holy City of Jerusalem. In particular, recognising that much of Israel/Palestine has sites of special religious importance to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, a solution to the problems of the area cannot be achieved without consideration of the issues of access and security to the sites of Jerusalem being resolved satisfactorily for all concerned.

  • The Church condemns forcefully statements made by nations, organisations or individuals which are inconsistent with the above principles. Current examples of this are seen in the inflammatory and divisive statements made by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (denying the Holocaust and urging that Israel be driven into the sea).

  • Finally, the Church believes that the problems of the area are not easily solved, and urges nations and international agencies, notably HM Government, the EU and the United Nations, to work together to re-start negotiations. The problems in the Holy Lands are such that, if we hold back, are likely only to get worse.
I think I can happily endorse every word here. Note particularly the explicit and unequivocal condemnation of terrorism; the unreserved upholding of Israel's right to exist, coupled with forceful condemnation of those who call it into question; and (praise the Lord!) the recognition that 'the problems of the area are not easily solved'.

All this is particularly pleasing because a document presented to the 2004 General Assembly, and remarks made last year by the outgoing Moderator, David Lacy, were so grossly dismissive of the terrorist threat to Israel that they moved me to describe the Kirk as institutionally anti-Semitic. If it is guided in future by the principles listed above, this charge can safely be withdrawn.

What I hope this indicates is that the churches contain a majority of people of goodwill who, though they may be temporarily swayed by the one-sided advocacy of a minority of leftist activists if it goes unchallenged, are nevertheless open to a more balanced perspective. Let's hope that proves to be true of NATFHE as well.

Unhappy Birthday

Christian Aid claims to uphold Israel's right to exist. The declared aim of Hamas is to put an end to Israel's existence. Why, then, is Christian Aid effectively engaging in advocacy for Hamas?

'Christian Hate?' celebrates its first birthday today. Time for a big Thank You to everyone who has given me much-needed encouragement me by quoting, linking, commenting, mailing or just reading. Please don't ease up on the support, because sites like this one are, if anything, needed even more now than they were a year ago (though it's not all bad news - see the next post).

I started blogging to oppose the anti-Israel bias of Christian Aid. I've broadened my focus since then in response to developments such as the divestment campaign in the Anglican Communion, but Christian Aid gives as much cause for concern as ever. My question above is prompted by the 'Parliamentary briefing on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories' which the charity issued on 28 April.

First, under the rubric 'who runs the country?', a word on the fact that such a document exists at all. Christian Aid gets a hefty slice of its funding from the state, and here it is spending its cash on lobbying the legislators who are supposed to be elected to control the state. Is this not a case of the tail trying to wag the dog in a somewhat less than democratic way? The late, great Sir Humphrey Appleby would have appreciated the arrangement, though doubtless feeling that the truly classy mandarin does his or her own twisting of politicians' arms, rather than outsourcing the job to middlepersons as the DfID seem to be doing here.

That's just an aside, being in the nature of the funny old game called Politics - and not even I would suggest that CA made the rules. The content of the briefing is my main concern. Advocacy for Hamas: an overwrought exaggeration surely? Put it to Christian Aid and they will say that their advocacy is solely for ordinary Palestinians faced with poverty. But let's look at the devil in the details.

The anti-Israel spin is blatant from the first sentence onwards...

'Since the beginning of April 2006 more than 20 Palestinians have been killed, with an average of 150 Israeli shells falling on the Gaza Strip every day from the air, sea and land. On 17 April ten Israelis were killed by a suicide bomb in Tel Aviv.'

Israeli shells fall on Gaza, but no rockets launched from Gaza fall on Israeli villages. Fatality figures invite us to conclude that Israeli state violence is twice as bad as Palestinian terrorism, eliding any moral distinction between terrorist attacks whose aim is to kill civilians and military retaliations against the terrorist organizations, in which civilians are certainly killed far too often but are not the targets. Throughout the briefing Israel is reproached for anything it does to defend itself against terror (shelling, border closures, the separation barrier, denying funds to Hamas) as if this were always merely a pretext for heaping misery on the Palestinians. We get the usual glib formula:-

'While Israel has legitimate security fears, this does not justify its policy of collective punishment against people living in Gaza.'

And once again the question of how Israel should address its 'legitimate security fears' (in plain English, how it should go about protecting its citizens' lives from murderers) goes unanswered. Unless the following qualifies as an answer:-

'The Quartet powers, including the European Union, have rightly voiced their horror at the Tel Aviv bombing, as has Christian Aid. They correctly call upon the Palestinian Authority (PA) to do everything within its power to confront militant groups and bring about an end to such attacks.'

Some might feel the fact that a 'militant' (the word 'terrorist' is not part of CA's vocabulary) group is running the PA, and mobilizing its paramilitaries against the security forces, makes this rather less likely than it would otherwise be, but the briefing offers no assessment.

For good measure, we also get a straightforward lie:-

'During Israel’s elections, the country’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, spoke openly of both annexing the Jordan Valley and continuing Israel’s policy of acting unilaterally.'

Claims that Olmert talked about annexing the Jordan Valley abound on pro-Palestinian sites (also at the scrupulously unbiased BBC). Their basis is a TV interview which he gave on 7 February. But what did he actually say? MSNBC reports thus:-

'Olmert did not mention the string of small settlements in the Jordan valley. Instead, he said, “It is impossible to abandon control of the eastern border of Israel,” he said, without referring to Israeli sovereignty or the string of small settlements there.'

- and similarly, on 9 March this exchange occurred up in an interview he gave to the Israeli press:-

'And the Jordan Valley?

'"In any case, our security border will be along the Jordan. There are strategic considerations for this that we cannot relinquish."'

(via this by no means Israel-friendly site)

So Olmert considers that the border along the Jordan is strategically important for Israel's ability to defend itself (and who will say he is wrong?) and therefore wants to maintain military control there. But as regards annexing territory along the valley, here is how the Jerusalem Post commented on the second interview:-

'He pointedly did not sign off on remarks made Saturday night by Avi Dichter, No. 5 on Kadima's list, that the settlement blocs that Israel would retain also included the Jordan Valley, Ofra-Beit El, Karnei Shomron-Kedumim, and Kiryat Arba-Hebron.

'Olmert made clear that Dichter's remarks should not be seen on par with the broad guidelines that he himself set. "Dichter is perhaps a candidate to be in the next government, depending on how things develop, but he is not poised to be prime minister," Olmert said. '

- whilst an AP report says of the first interview:-

'he did not refer directly to Israel maintaining sovereignty or settlements there, leading some analysts to speculate that Olmert might consider making the valley a special security zone.'

CA is at liberty to think Olmert misguided in planning anything short of a full withdrawal, and equally to suspect him of having a hidden agenda. It does not have the right to represent him as having 'spoken openly' of annexing an area constituting a quarter of the West Bank, when this is simply untrue. If the claim was made in good faith based on sloppy research, I can only suggest CA tightens ups its act before it sends out any more parliamentary briefings.

So far, it's just the old story of anti-Israel bias. But something more is evident now that was less clear (at least to me) a year ago: to describe CA's bias as pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel in a broad sense is no longer adequate. Consider the views expressed here:-

'Meanwhile in Strasbourg, Mr Abbas said in an interview with AP that Hamas "can't survive" if it continues to ignore international demands that it refrain from violence and recognise Israel. "They should adapt to international standards, they should be part of the international community. Without that I don't think they can survive, I don't think they can deliver," he said. Mr Abbas added: "Whether it is reasonable to expect a change or not we have to give them a chance. They've been in office less than a month and a half. They should take their chance." '

Hamas is ignoring international standards and must adapt to them: clear demands from the PA President, which true friends of the Palestinians, committed to a two-state solution, should be able to endorse. They are not endorsed anywhere in CA's briefing. Instead, its central concern is that Hamas and its supporters should not suffer the consequences of failing to adapt which Mr Abbas predicts. For practical purposes, it is the international community which should adapt to Hamas. And this in spite of the fact that the demands addressed to Hamas - drop the violence and recognize Israel - correspond to CA's professed official position.

David Aaronovitch has written in the Times that 'the Palestine Liberation Organisation is no longer the organisation of choice for fashionable leftists, having been replaced by the Islamic Resistance, better known as Hamas'. The briefing reveals CA as dedicated followers of fashion. In a document which is replete with criticism of Israel, not a single word is critical of Hamas. In place of any demands addressed to Hamas, we find this piece of Hamas-friendly humbug:-

'[The suspension of funding for the PA] also sends out the message that democratic Palestinian elections are open only to political parties approved and sanctioned by the international community.'

It does nothing of the sort. The elections were obviously open to Hamas, and Palestinians exercised their right to vote for it. Now donor governments are exercising their right to decline to bankroll an organization whose policies and activities they consider fundamentally unacceptable. A vote for Hamas was a vote to do without the funding. CA effectively demands for the Palestinians the right to be both beggars and choosers, even when the choosing denies Israeli Jews the basic choice of living in their own state. Sorry, but that's not the way it works.

Imagine if a British general election brought the British National Party to power. The international community might well react in ways that severely dented British living standards. Would CA criticize the international community, or would they feel that the blame lay fairly and squarely with the racist extremists of the BNP and the people who voted for them?

The briefing makes much of the poverty resulting from the funding crisis, and that the situation is critical is clearly not in dispute. My problem is with the way it manipulates the poverty issue for purposes which are flagrantly political.

Here is the passage that really gives the game away:-

NGOs are not replacement service providers
Palestinian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are concerned that donor countries are attempting to use them as replacement service providers to the Palestinian population. In a statement they warned that: ‘Efforts by certain international bodies to use Palestinian NGOs to implement their political agendas and bypass the Palestinian Authority are rejected outright.’
They also rejected ‘attempts to influence the civil sector to assume a governmental apparatus role…’
Christian Aid does not believe that NGOs should act as a substitute for the PA, whether to provide social services, run government ministries and public systems or to pay civil servants’ wages. According to the fourth Geneva Convention the duty to meet the basic needs of those living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is that of the occupying power, namely the state of Israel.

Again, the demand is for beggars to be choosers. Palestinian NGOs are naturally entitled to reject the role of service providers (how far this rejection reflects the influence of Hamas within their ranks is another question). But then they are hardly in a position to complain if the governments offering to fund the services decide that if they can't give their cash away on their own terms they'd rather not do so at all. CA's only concern, one might think, should be that services should reach the poor people who need them, whatever the delivery mechanism. Think again! The passage quoted reveals a quite different, and eminently political, agenda: the imperative to shore up the authority of the Hamas-run PA.

There is a pragmatic case to be made that the Israelis should deal with Hamas in their own best interests, lest still worse organizations take its place. Jonathan Freedland has argued this in the Guardian. I'm not convinced. Apart from anything else it smacks altogether too much of 'we need to talk to Herr Hitler in case he loses out to somebody really unpleasant'. The immense boost which it would give to Hamas's prestige might or might not serve to reduce the appeal of Islamic Jihad and al Qaida. A more predictable consequence would, it seems to me, be the fatal undermining of Mahmoud Abbas. Realistically, there are no better Palestinian leaders than him waiting in the wings, and it would be folly to cast him adrift unless and until he becomes a spent force in any case.

Be that as it may, I believe it is a case that can be made in good faith. But it is a very different case from the claim that Israel is morally obliged to bankroll an organization committed to its destruction, and that the Palestinians are entitled to be insulated from the consequences of supporting such an organization. That is the claim advanced by CA's briefing, and it is absurd. Israel is entitled to safeguard its own existence no matter how many Palestinians vote against it.

In conclusion, here is another CA golden oldie:-

'In previous publications, Christian Aid has demonstrated how occupation is the underlying cause of Palestinian poverty.'

On one level, this is just crassly simplistic. The causes of Palestinian poverty are many and complex. Some reach back long before 1967, some have come into play much more recently. Some involve Israeli actions, some involve the actions of the Palestinians themselves, their leaders and their allies. Some very significant causes fall under the heading of the refusal of Palestinians to live at peace with their neighbours, and the election victory of Hamas now constitutes one of these.

But at a deeper level this assertion has implications that make it worse than crass and simplistic - implications that make Christian Aid undeserving of aid from Christians. At this point let us remind ourselves that Hamas upholds the authenticity of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Haven't the Jews been the 'underlying cause' often enough already?

Friday, May 19, 2006

The wandering Jew

'We don't need a Jewish state. There needs to be a Palestinian state. Jews can, and have, lived anywhere, so a Jewish state is not necessary.'

Errh, yes, and I believe they've done a bit of dying too at various places and times. Whereas Palestinians are presumably constitutionally incapable of living anywhere other than their own patch of earth.

The quote is from Mordechai Vanunu, who's been given a 'hero of our time' write-up in the New Statesman by the Guardian's Chris McGreal.

Says McGreal, he 'is still widely regarded as a traitor at home in Israel.' Can't for the life of me think why that might be.

Stephen Pollard has more.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Exposed at last

It's almost always nice to get comments. But now somebody's blown my cover...

u absolute twat. the New York Times and every other pro-Israeli paper give coverage to the terrorist activities of Israel on a daily basis. Someone needs to address the humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinians-it's not about hating Israel but about helping Palestinians. Israel need to stop their terrorism against the Palestinians first. what's all this crap about financially trying to strangle the DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED Hamas government? what we only like Democracy when it returns right wings dickheads like George Bush? and what exactly is Islamism? why are you making up ur own words to further negatively stereotype Islam? I believe you are actually an Israeli and not Christian at all. Why are you so ashamed of being Israeli u have to pretend to be Christian? You think we wont take you seriously otherwise? well we dont anyway u ignorant fool.

Oy, oy, oy! At least I don't look like one since I had the nose job, already...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Communication breakdown

Laugh or cry department. As readers of past posts will know, I'm not Christian Peacemaker Teams' number one fan. Even so, I was taken aback by this revelation of just how half-baked their operation is. An article in which Jim Loney, one of the four taken hostage in Iraq, talks about his experience (with admirable candour, let it be said) notes in passing:-

'They called themselves the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. None of them spoke English fluently, and none of the CPTers was adept in Arabic.'

It's not like it's some obscure central African dialect, is it? You can pick up a Teach Yourself Arabic course in any decent bookshop. Nevertheless, the four set out on their mission to bring peace to Iraq without having troubled to acquire a rudimentary ability to communicate with the natives.

Norman Kember got a standing ovation from the Baptist Assembly. Excuse me if I remain seated.

Warm hearts and hard heads

It's Christian Aid week. Edward Lucas, preaching at the Christian Aid Week service in Canterbury Cathedral and writing in today's Times, offers a bracing alternative take on CA and aid agency economics in general:-

Polite Christian society does not celebrate the wondrous wealth-creating processes of global capitalism. It winces at them. Worries about inequality (ultimately a secondary question to poverty) and, worse, a distaste for wealth, eclipse the extraordinary way in which the embrace of capitalism and global trade in India and China have lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty in the past two decades.

This anti-capitalist attitude is as absurd as a Christian distaste for the laws of physics. It also leads to a very damaging conflation of private generosity with public policy. The overwhelming lesson of five decades of Third World aid is that, paid from taxation, it takes money from poor people in rich countries and gives it to rich people in poor ones.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lost in Translation? (part 2)

It's turning into quite a little conspiracy theory, the notion that Middle Eastern Islamists are being traduced by translators.

Harry's Place brings us an argument about a remark by Ken Livingstone's mate Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Did he say, as per MEMRI's translation, 'The Jews throughout the world - despite their well-known stinginess, miserliness, and selfishness, and despite their worship of gold...' or did he merely say 'despite what is said about their stinginess, miserliness, selfishness and worship of gold...'?

I have as little Arabic as the HP crew, unfortunately. I do know that MEMRI, with its mission to wash the Middle East's dirty laundry where westerners can see it, is cordially loathed by western Islamists and their fellow travellers. So the desire of 'Islamophobia Watch' to discredit it is predictable. I'm also enough of a linguist to know that translation is not an exact science (if it was, computer translations wouldn't be so side-splittingly awful). Where language A forces a clear distinction, language B may allow ambiguity. I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case here. Maybe something like 'their reputation for stinginess etc.' would come close - leaving it open whether the reputation is deserved or undeserved.

What seems clear is that if Qaradawi had intended to be unambiguously understood as saying 'people say Jews are stingy, miserly, selfish gold-worshippers, but of course we all know that that's just an ignorant, offensive racist stereotype', it would have completely destroyed the point of his rhetorical comparison between tight-fisted Jews who nevertheless cough up for Israel and generous Muslims who don't do enough for the 'sacred cause' of the Palestinians. It's also fairly clear that Qaradawi is canny enough to ensure that when he tells a Middle Eastern audience what it wants to hear he doesn't quite commit himself to anything that his friends in the west won't be able to explain away.

Lost in Translation? (part 1)

A letter in Monday's Independent:-

What the Iranian President really said

'Sir: Anne Penketh repeats the assertion that Iranian President Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" (5 May). In fact, as there is no such figure of speech in Farsi, he cannot have done so. According to noted Middle East expert Dr Juan Cole, Ahmadinejad was quoting Ayatollah Khomeini, and Cole renders the quotation as "This regime of occupation in Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time".

'While Ahmadinejad is clearly no friend of Israel, or of Jews in general, what he actually said appears to be considerably more ambiguous than what he is reported as having said. Having had one war over the issue of non-existent weapons, it would surely be a mistake to rush into another based on a mistranslation.'

Very much the party line. Ahmadinejad is a reasonable man with whom we can do business. If there's an unhinged warmonger involved in the crisis, he's the one who sits in the Oval Office.

So it would have been a shame to spoil the effect by publishing this:-

Sir: It seems reasonable to assume that President Ahmadinejad employs competent linguists to translate his speeches for his own official website. A little time spent there will disabuse Chris Alleyne (letter, 8 May) of the idea that there is any ambiguity in his attitude towards Jews and Israel. The report of his speech to the 'World without Zionism' conference on 26 October last year quotes him as expressing 'his firm belief that the new wave of confrontations generated in Palestine and the growing turmoil in the Islamic world would in no time wipe Israel away.'

Yours faithfully...

(source of quote here)

It's worth reflecting for a moment on how a 'World without Zionism' (and not merely without the 'Zionist entity') might be brought into being.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A matter of opinion?

But the panel said the BBC should use "terrorism" to describe violence against civilians with the intention of causing terror for ideological objectives, "whether perpetrated by state or non-state agencies".

"It seems clear that placing a bomb on a bus used by civilians intending death or injury in supposed furtherance of a cause is a terrorist act and no other expression conveys so tersely and accurately the elements involved."

- the Beeb on the report its governors commissioned on its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That sounds good - but note the sting in the tail in the relevant recommendation from the report:-

b) the BBC is right to avoid terms which are a barrier to understanding, and should use words
which best express the desired meaning clearly and effectively. The term "terrorism" should
accordingly be used in respect of relevant events since it is the most accurate expression for
actions which involve violence against randomly selected civilians with the intention of causing
terror for ideological, including political or religious, objectives, whether perpetrated by state
or non-state agencies. While those immediately responsible for the actions might be described
as terrorists, the BBC is right to avoid so labelling organisations, except in attributed remarks;

I'm afraid that's the get-out which means that instead of reading this...

The PA has faced financial crisis since foreign aid was frozen after Hamas - responsible for terrorist attacks which have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians - won elections in January.

...we will go on reading this...

The PA has faced financial crisis since foreign aid was frozen after Hamas - regarded as a terrorist movement by the US and EU - won elections in January.