Monday
Jun252012

Kairos USA 'A Poison Pill' For Christian-Jewish Relations 

22 June 2012

From The Anti-Defamation League; Weblink

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called a new document produced by a group of American Christians that labels Israeli policies as inherently evil and excuses Palestinian violence, “a poison pill for Christian-Jewish relations.”

The document, “Call to Action:  U.S. Response to the Kairos Palestine Document: A Word of Confession and Faith from Christians in the United States” is part of an anti-Israel initiative put forward by a group of American Christian activists who promote boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and claim to speak for all American Christians.

 “This document is a deeply cynical and biased response to the already seriously flawed original Kairos document,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. 

“It amounts to a flagrantly one-sided, anti-Israel diatribe.  The U.S. proponents of Kairos are doing a monumental disservice to those truly interested in bringing peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and are offering a roadmap to disrupting years of progress in interfaith relations between Christians and Jews at the grassroots level in America.”

Kairos USA was issued earlier this week as an American Christian response supporting the original 2009 Kairos Palestine document.  The original was a toxic mix of bad history, politically motivated distortions and dangerous religious and theological attacks against Judaism and Israel.  It included the heinous charge that some of Israel’s actions toward the Palestinians are “a sin against God.” 

The authors of Kairos USA distort the history of the region, demonize Israel and reject Jewish historical and theological connection to the land, according to ADL. 

Kairos USA denies Jewish self-understanding, engages in the theological equivalent of denying the religious legitimacy of Judaism, falsely blames injustices against Palestinians for fueling the radicalization of Islam, and promotes the anti-Semitic canard of a powerful American Jewish and Christian lobby stifling debate over Israeli policies.

“We in the American Jewish community encourage healthy debate on issues surrounding the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but we reject one-sided demagoguery,” said Mr. Foxman.  “This document is antithetical to peacemaking and is potentially a poison pill for relations between Christians and Jews in communities across America.

“We call on all people of good will, religious and non-religious, to reject the blatantly biased Kairos USA and join with those in the Jewish-Christian interfaith community working towards a balanced and accurate understanding of the issues, and promoting positive alternatives for a secure and fair peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” said Foxman.

The Kairos USA Committee was composed by American Christians some of whom are well known as advocating anti-Israel positions cloaked in the rhetoric of peacemaking.  They are: Gary Burge, Wheaton College;  Pauline Coffman, Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA); Elizabeth W. Corrie, Candler School of Theology; Serge Duss, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding; Rev. Cotton Fite, Episcopal Peace Fellowship/Palestine Israel Network; Tom Getman, The Getman Group; Rev. Steven D. Martin, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good; Allison K. Schmitt, Kairos USA; Rick Ufford-Chase, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship; Rev. Donald Wagner, Friends of Sabeel North America; and Bishop Don Williams, United Church of Jesus Christ. 

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry. 

Friday
Jun152012

Palestinian Christians Concerned over Vatican Agreement with Israel

12 June 2012

From the WAFA Palestinian News Agency; Website

Palestinian Christians expressed concern over an agreement the Vatican plans to sign with Israel regarding church property in occupied East Jerusalem, the National Coalition of Christian Organizations said in a letter sent to the Papal office at the Vatican.

"We, representatives of the Christian-related organizations in Palestine, have learned of the possible agreement to be signed between the Holy See and the State of Israel with respect to legal and financial issues, following the Fundamental Agreement of 1993," said the letter dated June 10.

"We write you today with a serious concern regarding this prospect," added the letter.

The letter said that the Christian community in the Palestinian Territory was mainly concerned by the timing of the agreement and its political character.

"Israel is doing all in its capacity to exclusively control the occupied city of Jerusalem and jeopardize any possibility of a lasting peace settlement," said the letter.

It charged that Israel was building more illegal settlements around and within occupied East Jerusalem, demolishing Jerusalem houses, forcing the indigenous Palestinians out of the city through residency revocations and limitation on family unification, putting institutions at the mercy of its bureaucracy through granting privileges and taking taxes, closing Jerusalem to Christians from Bethlehem, Gaza, and other cities and Arab countries, systematically working to put all of Jerusalem under its full control and thus transforming the multi-religious, multi-cultural identity of this historic divine city into an exclusively Jewish city, an exclusive capital for Israel, and demanding recognition as a Jewish state as an instrument of legitimizing its exclusion of "the other."

The letter said that "at a time of such aggressive injustice and continuous loss, we fear that the agreement between the Holy See and Israel will be used as another pillar along the same path."

The Palestinian Christians said that "we see that this new agreement is not merely a fiscal or technical agreement. It has also a political character and it could have an impact on the alteration of the 'human and historic' status of the city."

"The point is: the agreement covers Israel (within the pre-1967 borders) and Arab East Jerusalem that is Occupied Territory, according to the international law and the constant standing position of the Holy See," explained the letter.

"If East Jerusalem goes unmentioned in the agreement, this will serve as an implicit acknowledgment of its annexation by Israel: a dangerous precedent that will be understood as a change in the constant position of the Holy See and would pose a serious setback with respect to political and human rights for all Palestinians, both Christians and non-Christians," said the letter.

The National Coalition of Christian Organizations, a coalition of around 40 groups, urged the authorities at the Vatican "to do your best to put on hold the coming agreement until its wording is clearly differentiating between Israel proper and occupied territories under Israeli administration and control such as and in particular East Jerusalem."

Wednesday
Jun132012

Yad Vashem hit with anti-Israel, anti-Semitic graffiti

11 June 2012

From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency; Website

Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic graffiti was spray-painted on the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

The slogans written in Hebrew, including “Hitler, thank you for the Holocaust,” “If Hitler did not exist, the Zionists would have invented him,” and “The war of the Zionist regime is not the war of the Jewish people,” were mostly found at the entrance to the museum and concentrated near the Warsaw Ghetto Square and the memorial to the deportees.

Police reportedly believe that haredi Jewish extremists, who are opposed to the state of Israel, believing that it should not be established until the arrival of the Messiah, are responsible for the crime, which occurred early Monday morning.

Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev, who is a Holocaust survivor, called the vandalism a “blatant act of hatred of Israel and Zionism,” and said that it “crosses a red line.” 

Thursday
May242012

Ultra-Orthodox, Arabs refuse to join equal draft law committee: the new law will replace the interim Tal Law, which grants draft deferrals to the ultra-Orthodox  

22 May 2012

From HaAretz; Weblink

By Ophir Bar-Zohar

There were no official ultra-Orthodox or Arab representatives present on Monday at the first meeting of the committee tasked with crafting a law governing the draft.

The new law will replace the interim Tal Law, which grants draft deferrals to the ultra-Orthodox. The High Court of Justice has found that law to be unconstitutional and ruled that it cannot be extended once it expires July 31.

Monday's meeting was a "historic moment as well as an opportunity to change the agenda in the State of Israel," said Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz.

The committee hearings will enable the recently expanded government to carry out the first clause of its coalition agreement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of the meeting.

"Two weeks ago we were in this hall, Shaul Mofaz and I, to announce the establishment of the broad-based unity government," he said. "The first clause in the unity deal was to bring about an alternative to the Tal Law."

But though the new law will primarily affect the ultra-Orthodox, by stating when and how Haredi men will be expected to join the army (Haredi women will continue to be exempt ), there are no official ultra-Orthodox representatives on the panel.

That's because the two Haredi parties, the Sephardi Shas party and the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism, have refused to send representatives; they don't want to be seen as cooperating with the government on an issue that their voters deeply oppose.

However, prominent lawyer Jacob Weinroth, who is serving on the committee, is widely considered to be the Haredi community's unofficial representative.

Similarly, Arab MKs and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee said they were not interested in joining the committee - although Netanyahu said one of the important elements of the panel's work is to include both Jews and Arabs without setting one group against the other. He also said it was important to implement any changes gradually.

According to a source with knowledge of the committee, Arab officials said any Arab who sits on the committee would be considered a kind of "Uncle Tom." The source said Arab officials plan to conduct an unofficial dialogue with the panel, and committee chairman MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima ) said he expects that an Arab member will eventually join the panel.

"Additional spots are reserved for an Arab representative and a woman from the field of economics," he said.

Two of the 10 members of the committee are female, a proportion that some said was too low, especially considering the potentially deleterious effects that an increased Haredi presence in the Israel Defense Forces could have on women.

"Drafting Haredim into the IDF has critical consequences for women's service in the army," said Gila Oshrat, who heads the Israel branch of the Women's International Zionist Organization. "A failure to develop a model for full equal opportunity and for preventing women's service from being curtailed will lead to severe discrimination against women in the army."

The IDF already accedes to ultra-Orthodox demands that Haredi units not interact with female soldiers, as other units often do, and some fear that a larger ultra-Orthodox presence in the army could keep women from doing more in the military or even from doing some of the jobs they already do.

The committee has begun its deliberations even though it expects to expand its membership because it is under a tight deadline, both because the Tal Law expires at the end of July and because that is when the Knesset's summer recess generally begins.

The panel is expected to complete its deliberations, which will take place three times a week, by June 28, and to finish drafting the alternative to the Tal Law by July 25.

Tuesday
May222012

Israeli foreign ministry slams UK supermarket’s settlement boycott as 'pretext to target everything Israeli'

21 May 2012

From the European Jewish Press; Weblink

By Shari Ryness

A Knesset committee is due to discuss the "anti-Israel climate in the UK" on Tuesday, after a leading British foot retailer announced a boycott of all suppliers sourcing goods from Israeli settlements.

Israel’s foreign ministry criticised last Sunday’s decision by the Co-Op, the fifth largest UK supermarket chain, to extend their existing boycott of goods made in settlements to include companies sourcing products from such disputed regions.

"They say they are targeting settlement products, but in fact they are targeting everything that is Israeli. The settlements are a pretext. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement boycotts everything that is Israeli," said foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

This latest boycott by the Co-Op largely relates to four Israeli companies. One of the companies concerned, Agrexo, allegedly also exports Palestinian produce from Gaza, which will apparently also be subject to the boycott, despite an official statement from the Co-operative Group that it would continue "to actively work to increase trade links with Palestinian businesses in the Occupied Territories."

This latest British boycott comes in the wake of reports earlier this month that respected Israel negotiation expert, Professor Moty Cristal, had his invitation to speak at a National Health Service (NHS) Trust event in Manchester withdrawn, due to pressure from one of the UK’s largest trade unions UNISON, which openly supports the boycott movement.

Israel’s Trade Union Histadrut is similarly subject to a boycott by UNISON and a campaign is underway to pressure thefellow British union Trade Unions Congress (TUC) to adopt the same strategy, despite the union’s close ties with Palestinian sister organisation the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) and the fact that it represents many thousands of Israeli Arab members.

Histadrut has been working with the PGFTU to advance the rights of Palestinian workers, yet despite UNISON’s claims to be guided in its boycott policy by this same organisation, their campaign regarding Histadrut remains in place.

Knesset Member Einat Wilf who called for the meeting by the sub-committee on ties with the Jewish World of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption & Diaspora Affairs Committee to discuss the alleged anti-Israel bias in the UK, claims that Britain is increasingly becoming the European centre for anti-Israel demonstration and that in chairing the debate, she aims to "address the challenges faced by the Jewish and pro-Israel community in Great Britain and the range of possible responses to these challenges."

The meeting will include representatives from British Jewish community bodies, including the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Jewish National Fund, World Jewish Congress and the Zionist Council in Israel.

In response to news of the boycott, Jon Benjamin, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, described the move as "naive and a retrograde step."

"This extension is significantly less than the full boycott of Israel sought by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign," he continued. "However, the Co-Op has not fully understood the Jewish community’s serious concerns with an ever-increasing slippery-slope boycott policy."

However, not all British organisations are keen to draw conclusions on the extent of anti-Israel feeling in the UK. Director of the British Council in Israel, Simon Kay, has described the kneejerk reaction to boycott instances as "disappointing."

In a recent article for Ynet news, Kay claimed:"Recent surveys show consistently that Britain is among the least anti-Semitic of countries. Anti-Semitic incidents and calls for boycott concern us...but these concerns must not be generalized into a judgement about the entire UK University and cultural scene."

He went on to admit "there are some problems but these are dwarfed by the demand we are witnessing for UK-Israel collaboration."

This is a sentiment that is, at least, publicly endorsed by the Co-Op, who claim they "continue to have supply agreements with some 20 Israeli suppliers that do not source from the settlements."

For Benjamin, these claims "that it may buy more produce from other Israeli companies in place of these four” have to be seen to be believed.

A spokesman for the British Israel Coalition Public Affairs Committee (BICPAC) has meanwhile called on the British Jewish community to respond in kind:

"We call on friends of Israel from all communities to respond by making clear where their loyalties lie, and choose to shop elsewhere until this ugly policy is cancelled. There are many shops in the UK which stock hundreds of Israeli goods. It is the duty of those who support a just and peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians to continue buying these goods in shops which do not deliberately target Jews and Israelis with boycotts."