Category Archives: Middle East

Jerusalem: Eternal City of Faith

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, destroyed in the stroke of the pen any lingering illusions of a shared city, the two state solution or an independent sovereign Palestine. Jewish and Christian Zionists regard Jerusalem as the exclusive, undivided and eternal capital of the Jewish state, justifying the annexation, segregation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Following the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 and the capture of Jerusalem, in June 1971, a conference took place in  Jerusalem of over 1,200 evangelical leaders from 32 different countries. Welcomed by David Ben Gurion, the conference was billed as “the first conference of its kind since A.D. 59”. The capture of Jerusalem was portrayed as “confirmation that Jews and Israel still had a role to play in God’s ordering of history” and that the return of Jesus was imminent.[1]

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Statement by the Syrian Patriarchs in Damascus

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The Lord’s Prayer in Time of War

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Our Father, who art in heaven,
slow to anger, and of great mercy, lover of all peoples of the earth,

Hallowed be thy Name.
Remind us that “all the nations are as nothing before thee,”
their governments but a shadow of passing age;

Thy kingdom come on earth.
Grant to thy children throughout the world,
and especially to the leaders of the nations,
the gift of prayerful thought and thoughtful prayer;
that following the example of our Lord,
we may discern what is right, and do it;

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Help us to protect and to provide for all who are hungry and homeless,
especially those who are deprived of food and shelter,
family and friends, by the tragedy of war;

Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us for neglecting to “seek peace and pursue it,”
and finding ourselves in each new crisis,
more ready to make war than to make peace.
“We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves”;

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Let us not seek revenge, but reconciliation;
Let us not delight in victory, but in justice;
Let us not give ourselves up to pride, but to prayer;

Lead us not into temptation.
Be present to all thy children ravaged by war:
Be present to those who are killing and to those who are being killed;
Be present to the loved ones of those who are killing
and to the loved ones of those who are being killed;

Deliver us from evil.
Subdue our selfish desires to possess and to dominate,
and forbid us arrogance in victory;

For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

~ written by Wendy Lyons

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The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War: Avi Raz

13220864A SUMMARY by Colin Chapman

 This is a book which ought to be read widely as we remember in June 2017 the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War of 1967. If we wonder why Israel shows no sign of being willing to end its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Avi Raz, an Israeli Jewish journalist and historian, has collected convincing evidence from the period of twenty-one months between June 1967 and February 1969 to show that the vast majority of Israeli leaders never had any intention of withdrawing from the occupied territories.

 These are the main conclusions of the book together with quotations taken mainly from the Introduction and Conclusion:

‘Israel desired the land without its population.’

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The Australia Tour

Stephen Sizer Public events 2

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Blessed are the Peacemakers

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Christian Jihad: A Biblical Basis for Proactive Peacemaking

36358230131_5a101fa520_kThe term Jihad tends to be associated with Islam – indeed for some, the two words are synonymous. But the fact is violent extremism is found in all religions. I could easily quote Islamic or Jewish leaders who justify the use of violence in the name of God, but I will give you one example from a well-known Christian. Following the tragedy of 9/11 and destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York, multi-bestselling author and Christian journalist Anne Coulter, wrote,

“We don’t need long investigations of the forensic evidence to determine with scientific accuracy the person or persons who ordered this specific attack. We don’t need an “international coalition.” We don’t need a study on “terrorism.” … We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.  We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.”[1]

In my opinion, too many evangelical leaders have also been quick to endorse Mr Donald Trump’s threat to “totally destroy North Korea.” Thankfully, many Christians in the USA as well as Europe and Asia repudiate views such as these as a gross distortion of Christianity and grave insult to the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

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The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge by Ilan Pappe: A Summary by Colin Chapman

pappe-citadel_revise I bought this book in March 2014, soon after it was published, at the bookshop at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem. Although Verso have recently published it as a paperback, its title and length (313 pages) may not immediately appeal to many readers. I wanted therefore to write a fairly full summary of the book (not a review or a critique) because I believe it sheds so much light on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If ten pages are too long to read, just read this first page to get an idea of what the book is about!

This is how the blurb explains the title:

‘Since its foundation in 1948, Israel has drawn on Zionism, the movement behind its creation, to provide a sense of self and political direction. In this groundbreaking new work, Ilan Pappe looks at the continued role of Zionist ideology. The Idea of Israel considers the way Zionism operates outside of the government and military in areas such as the country’s education system, media, and cinema, and the uses that are made of the Holocaust in supporting the state’s ideological structure.

‘In particular, Pappe examines the way successive generations of historians have framed the 1948 conflict as a liberation campaign, creating a foundation myth that went unquestioned in Israeli society until the 1990s. Pappe himself was part of the post-Zionist movement that arose then. He was attacked and received death threats as he exposed the truth about how Palestinians have been treated and the gruesome structure that links the production of knowledge to the exercise of power. The Idea of Israel is a powerful and urgent intervention in the war of ideas concerning the past, and the future, of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.’

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Chosen? Reading the Bible amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Walter Brueggemann: A Review

066426154X-2In his short but passionate little book, Chosen? Walter Brueggemann addresses some of the important questions regarding God’s purposes for Israel and the Church. For example, are contemporary Israeli citizens the descendants of the Israelites in the Bible whom God called chosen? Was the promise of land to Abraham permanent and irrevocable? What about others living in the promised land? Who are the Zionists, and what do they believe? The subtitle of the book tells us where he intends to look for answers, “Reading the Bible amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” His publisher, Westminster John Knox, promises,

“The reader will get answers to their key questions about how to understand God’s promises to the biblical people often called Israel and the conflict between Israel and Palestine today.”

Chosen? comprises 59 pages of scripture commentary in four short chapters, a Q&A with the author, a glossary and 20-page study guide to facilitate group discussion around each of the chapters. The four chapters are:

  1. Reading the Bible amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
  2. God’s Chosen People, Claim and Problem
  3. Holy Land?
  4. Zionism and Israel

The book also contains very helpful guidelines for respectful dialogue first published by the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1992.  Significantly, the title includes a question mark.  I added a question mark to the titles of two of my own books: Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? and Zion’s Christian Soldiers? The Bible, Israel and the Church.[i]  Walter is recognising, as I did, that views differ on whether the Jews are God’s chosen people, even though, unlike me, he personally concludes that they are.

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The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Jonathan Schneer

8253107A Summary by Colin Chapman

The late Tony Judt described this book as ‘the best modern history of the Balfour Declaration,’ and Eugene Rogan of Oxford sees it as ‘the most original exposition of the Balfour Declaration to date.’ It deserves a wide circulation as we live through the centenary of the Balfour Declaration on 2 November, 2017. The author, Jonathan Schneer, is an American historian who specialises in modern British history and teaches at Georgia Tech’s School of History, Technology, and Society.

This is an attempt simply to summarise the contents of the book with a number of quotations. If it were a review, my only criticism of the book would be that, in concentrating so much on the politics behind the Declaration, there is no discussion of the religious beliefs of key players like Lord Balfour and David Lloyd George which made them so open to supporting Zionism.

The Balfour Declaration (BD) needs to be understood in the context of World War I

 By the time the BD was issued on 2 November 1917, Britain and Germany had been at war for over three years. Millions had been slaughtered in the trenches and neither side seemed to be winning. The Battle of the Somme had been fought between 1 July and 1 November, 1916, and Passchendale between July and November, 1917. The British government was seeking for ways to turn the tide in the war. Some in the cabinet believed that all their energies should be concentrated on the western front on the continent (‘the westerners’), while others believed that new initiatives in the Middle East could break the deadlock and give Britain the advantage (‘the easterners’). After the fall of the Asquith government in December 1916, Lloyd George, an easterner, became Prime Minister.

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