A Palestinian’s Plea to the British Prime Minister

A Palestinian’s Plea to the British Prime Minister

Palestinian theologian and pastor the Rev Alex Awad has been mentioned on this blog before.  I met him once a few years ago and he signed a book for me he had written that recounted the terrible events of the 1948 al-nakba through the lens of his own family…the book is a fantastic resource for a way in to understanding the Israeli-Palestinian ‘conflict’.

Alex has written an open letter to the British Prime Minister Theresa May and I am taking the liberty to post it here:

The Honorable Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:
 
I am a Palestinian who was born in Jerusalem in 1946 during the British Mandate over Palestine. During the first Arab-Israeli war in May 1948 I was two years old. My father, a civilian, was shot and killed in crossfire between the Zionist Haganah militias and the Jordanian army, leaving my mother to care for seven children. The oldest of my siblings was eleven and the youngest six months old. Soon after the death of my father, our neighborhood was taken over by the Israelis and we fled, becoming refugees. As I grew up, I began to ask questions about why my father was killed, what caused the Israel/Palestine conflict and what triggered all the suffering of millions of Palestinians and Jews in the last 100 years.
 
In time, I learned about the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate over Palestine. I discovered that in 1917, the British Foreign Secretary sent a letter, later called the Balfour Declaration, to Lord Rothschild and Zionist leaders, promising to support the creation of a homeland for the Jews in Palestine. After WWI, against the objections of my people, the British government colonized Palestine and made it possible for the Zionist movement to take over our homeland.
 
Your Honor, there is no way that your country can undo the tragic history of the last 100 years. All the wealth of Great Britain can’t compensate me and my fellow compatriots for the death, injury, loss of land and enormous suffering that came upon us and continue to bring pain to us due to the Balfour Declaration and other oppressive policies of your predecessors. I look back to the past only to remind you of the grave injustices that my people and I have endured, due partly to the United Kingdom’s past policies. I seek no apologies and no compensations. And as a Palestinian Christian, I offer you and the British people total pardon.
 
As I look to the future, I believe that your government can help to end to the Israel/Palestine conflict and bury the memory of the Balfour Declaration, and I call on you to have the courage and determination to do so.
 
Britain was among the first in creating this tragic conflict but shouldn’t be the last in taking positive steps to resolve it.
 
This year, which marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, your government can help Israelis and Palestinians begin to find the path to a just and genuine reconciliation.
Let 2017 be the year that Britain conducts its policy for Israel and Palestine independently of the influence and dictates of the United States.
 
A first step would be for Britain to recognize an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Once your government takes this courageous act, many reluctant European countries would be encouraged to follow suit. Already 138 countries including the Holy See recognize Palestinian statehood.
 
Your contribution to ending the Israel/Palestine conflict would not only save Israeli and Palestinian lives but could also usher in an era of peace and help to end bloody conflicts and acts of violence elsewhere in the Middle East and throughout the world.
 
Prime Minister, let Great Britain lead the way to peace under your brave and wise guidance.
 
Sincerely,
 
Rev. Dr. Alex Awad
Author, pastor, and retired missionary of the United Methodist Church
 
Alex Awad was born in Palestine and served there for decades as a missionary of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. Awad was the pastor of an international congregation at East Jerusalem Baptist Church, served as Professor, Dean of Students and Director of the Shepherd Society at Bethlehem Bible College, and is the author of two books: Palestinian Memories: The Story of a Palestinian Mother and Her People and Through the Eyes of the Victims: The Story of The Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Understanding a Mystery

Understanding a Mystery

Israel or Palestine – where is it heading?

A sermon by Richard Matcham based on Romans 11:25-36

“Lord I pray that the raw nerves and thin shells this topic will likely touch upon, will enlarge the capacity of us all to engage truthfully with the text and the world, and challenge us to be contentedly discontent with mystery, that we may be more loving to one another, and truly worship you in all your unsearchable and inscrutable ways.  Amen”

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone, on a topic that really interests you, and at the crucial point of insight, understanding and genuine learning, you hear the comment, “Ah, we can’t ever know that, it’s a mystery!”

We often deploy the “mystery card” because it seems to be a way of protecting our own limited understanding on a subject.

Take for example, the Trinity (you know what I mean)!

I’ve faced this situation quite a few times over the years, especially as a young Christian man in my mid-20’s, hungry to learn and know God.

“The Trinity,” we shout, “it’s a mystery.”  And with that mystical phrase, the conversation is closed, and genuine biblical understanding is shoved into the cul-de-sac of frustrated, genuine enquirers, where they stay until they learn to stop asking awkward questions!

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Chosen? Israel-Palestine and Theological Assumptions

Chosen? Israel-Palestine and Theological Assumptions

al_nakbaMay 15th is the commemoration of the Palestinian ‘Al-Nakba’ or Catastrophe that began (officially) in 1948, and in a perverse marriage of political and religious ideology, continues today!  This blog has several theological-historical accounts of this particular subject, and below is a book review by a respected New Testament theologian on a book by an esteemed Old Testament theologian.

Chosen? Reading the Bible amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

 

Today we are witnessing a sea change regarding evangelical attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In its cover story for its March 2015 issue, Sojourners Magazine illustrated this change with an article that went viral: “Pro-Israeli, Pro-Palestinian, and Pro-Jesus.” The article shows how many conservative North American evangelicals have always listened to and supported the Israeli narrative. But here’s the change: evangelicals are now discovering the Palestinian narrative. This has led them to go back to their Bibles and to rethink many theological first principles.

Chosen

This change has been quantified by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which has conducted regular interviews among evangelicals for years (see G. M. Burge, “Are Evangelicals Abandoning Israel?,” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 33.7 [October 2014]: 50–51; D. Brog, “The End of Evangelical Support for Israel,” Middle East Quarterly 21.2 [Spring 2014]; S. Bailey, “American Evangelicals’ Support For Israel Is Waning, Reports Say,” Huffington Post, April 9, 2014). The Pew Forum’s October 2010 survey conducted at the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa, made one thing clear: younger evangelicals who see social justice as an integral part of their discipleship now see the moral ambiguity of this conflict. While once evangelicals gave exclusive support to Israel, today that support is balanced in that younger evangelicals have sympathies with both sides in this struggle and are rejecting the unilateral commitments held by an older generation.

A number of authors and books have been contributing to these theological shifts. The esteemed OT scholar Walter Brueggemann has long had an interest in this conflict. His well-known book, The Land: Place as Gift, Promise and Challenge in Biblical Faith, 2nd ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002) is the premier study of “land” (as in Holy Land) in biblical theology. And it inevitably drew him into the question of modern claims to possess the Holy Land based on theological commitments. Now Brueggemann has supplied a brief and poignant guide for churches that want to discuss further. Chosen? is his unrelenting Amos-like appeal to Christians to rethink their theological assumptions when looking at the Middle East. This book joins a host of recent volumes that do the same thing, from popular-level works (e.g., R. Dalrymple, These Brothers of Mine: A Biblical Theology of Land and Family [Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2015]) to heftier theological works (e.g., O. Martin, Bound for the Promised Land, NSBT 34 [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015]), and my own Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010). In a word, evangelicals are revisiting this topic and asking if their views are contributing to or rather undermining the peace process.

Brueggemann’s offering is a short, fifty-page study of theological assumptions followed by a Q&A section. The book concludes with an outline complete with questions showing how the book can be used in a study session. In four chapters, he summarizes in easy-to-read style what he thinks are the four essential problems we face:

  1. Reading the Bible. Brueggemann challenges how we use the Scriptures and draw simplistic connections between ancient Israel and the modern Israeli state. His specialty is the OT Prophets, and at moments throughout the book, the thunder of Jeremiah or Elijah leaps from the page.
  2. Chosenness. Brueggemann wants us to rethink what election means and how it can be exploited. He warns against any position that produces a theological exceptionalism or privilege due to lineage claims or promises (whose ethical component has been ignored). Above all, he challenges the so-called “unconditional” nature of this status.
  3. Land. In a handful of pages, he summarizes his major academic theses: the land is a gift and living in it brings enormous moral duties. Moreover, in the New Testament, the land experiences a transformation of identity and purpose.
  4. Zionism. Here he describes what happens when misdirected theological commitments evolve into political ideology. He illustrates how this happened in biblical times and quickly shows how it is happening today.

This is a passionate book. And readers should be warned: it will upend many of the things we’ve heard in churches most of our lives. Some readers will cheer, some will despair, and others will reject his views out of hand. But perhaps that is why this specialist in the Prophets sounds like a prophet himself. He writes to discomfort the comfortable. And reactions both negative and positive are inevitable.

When a major scholar like Brueggemann writes from the heart—when he writes for the church and its disciples—we would all do well to pause and listen carefully. This is not an amateur we are reading. This is a man so thoroughly steeped in the Hebrew prophets that his heart beats with their rhythm. And he has thought long and hard—a career’s worth—on this utterly timely subject.

 

The Myth of the Myth of Palestine

Israel_Palestine_Flag[1]It is, if I may be frank, quite pathetic that the spurious charge of a myth should so perpetuate itself.  In fact, it is nothing other than Girardian scapegoating on an industrial scale.  If you can convince a person or group that another person or group is somehow less than deserving, less human, less, just less….less…..less….in whatever way is chosen, it stands to reason you can do anything to them.

ANYTHING!

The founder of the WZO (World Zionist Organisation in 1897), Theodore Herzl, had the primary objective of seeking a homeland.  The irony for this German Jew, was that he loved the German civilization, he didn’t even like the Hebrew religion, and nor did he consider himself scattered or disparate – he loved European culture, as did many of his bourgeois compatriots!  He was also a failed playwright, and even in writing his book Der Judenstat (An attempt at a modern solution to the Jewish question), his primary motivation was, as Goldberg percieves, to establish his credentials as the “sober, judicious Doctor of Law rather than the author of drawing room comedies.”

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Mission Impossible! a comment on the current escalation in Israel/Palestine violence

The following is a note by the President of Bethlehem Bible College, Jack Sara, on the current troubles engulfing the West Bank and Gaza.  It was published on the excellent ‘Come and See – a Christian web site from Nazareth‘.

This post is re-printed here with the personal permission of Jack, a faithful Christian, a fearless advocate of biblical truth and justice, a Palestinian, and a friend.  I will never forget our conversation over breakfast a couple of years ago!!

Mission Impossible! By Jack Sara

By: Bader Mansour

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Apartheid: any system or practice that separates people according to color, ethnicity, caste, etc.

tshirt“Jimmy Carter, the former president of the USA and member of the group of elders published a book called Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. This brought into the mainstream something that was known to people close to Palestine and Israel for a while. Palestinian Christians and Muslims are living as second class citizens under an apartheid regime. Here are some examples:

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