Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Amiel’

Book on the Plight of the Embattled Christians of Palestine

April 13, 2019

Said K. Aburish, The Forgotten Faithful: The Christians of the Holy Land (London: Quartet 1993).

Aburish is a Palestinian, born in Bethany, and the author of several books about the Arabs and specifically the Palestinians and their persecution by the Israelis – A Brutal Friendship, Children of Bethany – The Story of a Palestinian Family and Cry Palestine: Inside the West Bank. In The Forgotten Faithful he tackles the problems of the Christians of Palestine, talking to journalists, church official, charity workers, educationalists, businessmen and finally of the leaders of the PLO, Hanan Ashrawi. Christians used to constitute ten per cent or so of the Palestinian population before the foundation of Israel. Now they’re down to one per cent. Much of this decline has been due to emigration, as educated, skilled Christians leave Israel to seek better opportunities elsewhere, and the indigenous Christian future in the Holy Land, the in which Christianity first arose, is uncertain.

Said states clearly the issues driving this decline early in his book – persecution by the Israelis, and particularly their attempt to wrest the lucrative tourism industry from them on the one hand, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism on the other. He writes

Twenty-five years of Israeli occupation have been disastrous for Palestinian Christians. In addition to the widely known closures of schools, imprisonment and torture of children, deportation of dissenters and activists, the expropriation of land owned by individuals and church-owned property, the Christians’ primary source of income, tourism and its subsidiary service businesses, have been the targets of special Israeli attempts to control them. In other words, when it comes to the Israeli occupation, the Christians have suffered more than their Muslim countrymen because they have more of what the Israelis want.

Furthermore, the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism is confronting the Christians with new problems against most of which they cannot protest without endangering the local social balance, indeed their Palestinian identity. Muslim fanatics have raise the Crescent on church towers, Christian cemeteries have been desecrated, the statues of the Virgin Mary destroyed and, for the first time ever, the Palestinian Christians are facing constraints on their way of life. In Gaza a Muslim fundamentalist stronghold, Christian women have to wear headscarves and long sleeves or face stoning, and Christian-owned shops have to close on the Muslim sabbath of Friday instead of on Sunday. 

These combined pressures come at a time of strain between the local Christian communities and both their local church leadership and the mainline churches of the West. The mainline churches in the West are accused of not doing enough to help them financially or drawing attention to their plight, for fear of appearing anti-Semitic and to a lesser degree anti-Muslim. The local church leaders are caught between their parishioners’ cry for help and the attitude of their mother churches and have been undermined by their identification with the latter. In addition to problems with the mainline churches, Christian evangelist groups from the United States, Holland and other countries support the State of Israel at the expense of local Christians. The evangelists accept the recreation of Israel as the prelude to the second coming to the extent of ignoring local Christian rights and feelings, a fact overlooked by Muslim zealots who blame the local Christians for not curbing their insensitive pro-Israeli co-religionists.

Two subsidiary problems contribute towards closing the ring of helplessness which is choking the local Christian communities of the Holy Land. The suffering inflicted on them by others and the direct and indirect results of the neglect of outside Christianity still haven’t induced their local church leaders to cooperate in establishing a common, protective Christian position. The traditional quarrel, alongside other disputes between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, continues and its stands in the way of creating a constructive Christian front. Furthermore, the Israelis make the appearance of favouring them against their Muslim nationals, a divide-and-rule policy which contributes towards inflaming the feelings of ignorant Muslims who do not understand the reasons behind the Israeli actions and use them to justify whatever anti-Christian feeling exists. (pp. 2-4).

The Palestinian Christian community has largely been middle class, assimilated and patriotic. They have provided the Palestinian people with a large number of businessmen and professionals, including a significant part of the membership and leadership of Palestinian nationalism and the PLO, as well as the civil rights lawyers working to defend the Palestinian people from persecution by the Israeli state and military. They have also been active establishing charities to provide for the Palestinians’ welfare. Said visits one, which specialises in rehabilitating and providing training for people physically injured and mentally traumatised by the Israeli armed forces. Visiting a Palestinian hospital, he also meets some of the victims of the IDF wounded and crippled by the IDF, including a young man shot by a member of the Special Forces simply for spraying anti-Israeli graffiti on a wall.

This isn’t an anti-Semitic book, as Aburish talks to sympathetic Israeli journalists and academics, but he describes very clearly the violence and bigotry that comes not just from the Israeli state and army, but also from Jewish religious fanatics. In the first chapter he describes a group of Israeli soldiers sneering at Christian Palestinians, and how he deliberated placed himself between a group of Jewish schoolboys and an elderly Ethiopian nun going through one district of Jerusalem. The boys had first started insulting her, and then began throwing stones at her and Aburish before the local, Jewish inhabitants rushed into the street to drive them away. The churches and monasteries in that part of town are close to an area of Jewish religious extremists. They’re not usually physically aggressive, but they make it very clear they don’t like Christians being there.

Nor is it anti-Muslim. The Christians community itself sees itself very firmly as part of the Palestinians. Many Christian men have adopted the name Muhammad in order to show that there is no difference between themselves as their Muslim fellow countrymen. And historically they have been fully accepted by the Muslim community. Aburish talks to the headman of a mixed Christian-Muslim village. The man is a Christian, and historically Christians have formed the headmen for the village. The Christians also point with pride to the fact that one of the generals of Saladin, the Muslim leader who conquered Palestine back from the Crusaders, was a Greek Orthodox Christian. Aburish is shocked by how extremely religious the Muslim community has become, with Friday services packed and one of his aunts traveling to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to pray. This, like the less obvious religious revival among the Christians, is ultimately due to Israeli pressure and the failure of secular Palestinian politicians. There is no truth in politics, so they seek it instead in Islam and the pages of Qu’ran. And behind this rise in Islamic intolerance are the Saudis. Aburish recommends better Muslim-Christian dialogue to tackle this growing intolerance.

Aburish hears from the Palestinians how their land is seized by the Israelis for the construction of new, Israeli settlements, how people are shot, beaten, injured and maimed, and the attempts to strangle Palestinians businesses. This includes legislation insisting that all tourist guides have to be Israeli – a blatant piece of racism intended to drive Christians out of the tourist business through denying them access to the many Christian shrines, churches and monuments that are at the heart of the industry. Christian charities and welfare services don’t discriminate between Christian and Muslim, but they are oversubscribed and underfunded. And the churches are more interested in defending their traditional institutional privileges than in helping their local flock. They look west, and are more interested in promoting and defending the churches’ response to the worlds’ problems as a whole, while the Palestinians are also being pulled east through their Arab identity. Senior Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox clergy are often foreigners, who cannot speak Arabic and may be to a greater or lesser extent indifferent to the needs and problems of their congregations. The Palestinian Christians are also hampered by the fact that they don’t want to acknowledge that they have specific problems as a minority within the wider Palestinian nation, partly for fear of further antagonising the Muslim majority.

Nevertheless, some Palestinian Christians choose to remain, stubbornly refusing to emigrate while they could get much better jobs elsewhere. And all over the world, expatriate Palestinian communities are proud of their origins and connection to the land. Aburish even talks to one optimistic Palestinian Christian businessman, who believes that Cyprus provides the model for a successful Palestine. There local people have built a thriving commercial economy without having the universities and educational institutions Palestine possesses. And some Palestinian Christians believe that the solutions to their crisis is for the community to reconnect with its oriental roots, reviving the traditional extensive Arab family structure, which has served Arabs so well in the past.

The book was published a quarter of a century ago, in 1993, and I’ve no doubt that things have changed since then. But not for the better. There have been recent magazine articles by National Geographic, among others, that report that the Palestinians are still suffering the same problem – caught between the hammer of the Israeli state and the anvil of Islamic fundamentalism. Christian Zionism, however, has become stronger and exerts a very powerful influence on American foreign policy through organisations like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. Netanyahu’s vile Likud is still in power, and Israeli politics has lurched even further to the right with the inclusion of Fascist parties like Otzma Yehudat – Jewish Power – in the wretched coalition. And some British churches maintain a very determined silence on the problems of the Palestinians. According to one anti-Zionist Jewish blog, the Methodist Church has passed regulations at its synod preventing it or its members officially criticising Israel. Because of the church’s leaders was friends with members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

I am very well aware of the long, shameful history of Christian anti-Semitism and how real, genuine Nazis have also criticised Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and claimed that they’re just anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to provoke further bigotry against the Jewish people. But Israel is oppressing the Christians of Palestine as well as the Muslims, but we in the West really don’t hear about it. And I’m not sure how many western Christians are really aware that there is a Christian community in Palestine, or how its members largely identify totally as Palestinians. Certainly Ted Cruz, the American politico, didn’t when he tried telling a Middle Eastern Christian group that they should support Israel. He was shocked and disgusted when they very firmly and obviously didn’t agree. He made the mistake of believing they had the same colonialist attitude of western right-wing Christians, while Middle Eastern Christians are very much the colonised and know it. Hence the fact that according to Aburish, many Palestinian Christians look for theological support to South American Liberation Theology and its Marxist critique of colonialism. And they also supported Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, as a secular Arab state that would allow them to maintain their religious identity and culture.

The book’s dated, and since it was written the Christian presence in the Holy Land has dwindled further. Aburish describes in strong terms what a catastrophe a Palestine without indigenous Christians would be. He writes

The growing prospect of a Holy Land Christianity reduced to stones, a museum or tourist faith without people, a Jerusalem without believers in Christ, is more serious than that of a Rome without a Pope or a Canterbury without an archbishop. It is tantamount to a criminal act which transcends a single church and strikes a blow at the foundations and the very idea of Christianity.

I thoroughly recommend this book to every western Christian reader interested in seeing an alternative view of the religious situation in Palestine, one of that contradicts the lies and demands of the right-wing press. Like an article by the Torygraph’s Barbara Amiel back in the 1990s, which quoted a Christian mayor as stating that the Christian community welcomed the Israeli occupation. His might, but as the book shows, most don’t. Or that scumbucket Katie Hopkins telling us that we should support Israel, because it represents Judaeo-Christian values and civilisation, a claim that would outrage many Jews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Israeli Lobbying Exposes, Time to Expose those Behind the Anti-Semitism Smears

January 18, 2017

Mike also put up another excellent piece today, pointing out that Al-Jazeera’s investigation into the nefarious attempts by the Israeli embassy to interfere with democracy in this country has resulted in this all starting to fall apart. The lobbyists thought that they could simply manipulate everything covertly from the shadows. Now they find instead that they’ve been pulled into the light. The Mondoweiss article Mike’s piece quotes and is based on states that the author found it clear that the purpose of Labour Friends of Israel was simply to smear Palestinians and their supporters with spurious charges of anti-Semitism. The programme showed a number of Zionist activists, including Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, Jennifer Gerber, the director of the Labour Friends of Israel, and Ella Rose all advising the pro-Israel wing to smear their opponents with this accusation, and stating that it is now the ‘dominant narrative’. And if their victims hit back, they respond by acting the victim, like Michael Foster, a Jewish donor, who started screaming that his accusers were acting like Nazi stormtroopers.

That’s a truly vile accusation, especially as many of the people smeared were Jewish, or of Jewish heritage, and so very likely had lost family members to the real Nazi stormtroopers. Quite apart from gentile Brits, whose parents and grandparents did their bit to keep Europe free from Hitler’s hordes.

Mike wonders if this conspiracy wouldn’t have been uncovered if he and others hadn’t objected and questioned the smearing of Jackie Walker, Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone. Mike says he was advised not too, as the people he was taking on were too powerful.

Mike makes it clear that now is the time to pull in and start questioning the very people behind these disgraceful smears and libels. Like John Mann, Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jackie Walker’s accusers in the Jewish Labour Movement and even in Momentum, as well as all the newspaper editors and proprietors, who thought fit to publicise the smears.

He concludes

The list of possible suspects gets ever-larger, and is likely to grow even further, if these people are contacted and questioned in a thorough manner.

The issues here are serious. We are being told that agents of a foreign country have infiltrated our institutions and undermined our foreign policy with false accusations against our politicians and political figures.

As the extract below shows, the trail leads back at least as far as Mark Regev – and he is Israel’s ambassador to the UK.

At the very least, this is a major diplomatic incident.

So why is the Conservative Government refusing to take the necessary investigative steps?

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/18/accusation-games-its-all-falling-apart-for-the-knee-jerk-anti-semitism-accusers/

Mike’s calling this nasty little piece of clandestine plotting a conspiracy – which is exactly what it is. There are dangers to doing so, as in the past when someone has discussed the pernicious influence of Zionist lobby, like the authors of the book of the same name did a few years ago in their treatment of the funding of US politicos by Zionist and pro-Israeli firms and individuals, they were accused of anti-Semitism. Their accusers stated that by claiming that there was covert influence – a conspiracy – they were repeating the stereotypical lies that Jews are engaged in monstrous conspiracies against gentiles, like the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In fact the authors weren’t. One of them was even Jewish. I’ve got a feeling it may well have been that long-term anti-Zionist dissident, Norman Finkelstein.

It was the same when it was revealed that Likud had laid out plans with the Republicans for the invasion of Iraq twenty years before 9/11 gave them the pretext that Saddam Hussein was conspiring with Osama bin Laden. As soon as that came out, the Republicans and the Israeli lobby starting shouting very loudly that this was ‘conspiracy theory’, and so anti-Semitic. They’ve had to stop, since it’s become very clear that this was one conspiracy that was absolutely true.

As many conspiracies are. Not the stupid, poisonous theories about the Jews being engaged in some vast, worldwide plot to destroy or enslave the White race. Or the same paranoia about Freemasons, reptoid aliens, or little Grey creatures from Zeta Reticuli.

The real conspiracies have been plots by the intelligence agencies or private interests to manipulate public opinion. Such as the CIA covertly funding arts and literature, setting up various front groups and campaigns, and infiltrating and manipulating the trade unions and internationalist Socialist movement as part of the campaign against Communism during the Cold War. Or the way the same intelligence agencies, government think tanks, and right-wing pressure groups and big business arranged coups against left-wing regimes around the world, and conspired to bring down left-wing leaders and movements at home. The parapolitics magazine, Lobster, has been documenting and discussing these ever since it was founded in the 1980s. As has Counterpunch, and Larry O’Hara’s Notes from the Borderland.

Mike also asks why Al-Jazeera had to investigate the connections between the Israelis, the Zionist lobby and the anti-Semitism smears. Why not, he asks, the Beeb, ITV, Channel 4 or the mainstream British print media?

Robin Ramsay, in one of his pieces in Lobster, remarked that the Beeb frequently ties itself in knots trying to claim that it isn’t biased towards Israel when it blatantly is. And some of that bias is very subtle indeed. For example, you may remember the Adam Curtis documentary a few years ago that took apart the Neocons. Curtis is a great film-maker, and I highly recommend his series The Century of the Self, The Power of Nightmares, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. His demolition of the Neoconservatives was effective and very welcome. But he omitted one fact. The Neoconservative programme was launched in the pages of an American Jewish magazine in the late ’60s explicitly as a way of drumming up public support for Israel.

Now I can appreciate why some people might be reluctant to include that fact for entirely decent reasons. Many people would be afraid to include it because it might be seized upon by real anti-Semites to provide a specious justification for their racist nonsense. But that doesn’t stop it being true that Neoconservatism has always been about promoting and defending Israel.

I also wonder if part of the silence from the mainstream media in this country is because so many of their management have links to Israel. Danny Cohen, who was a senior manager with the Beeb, emigrated to Israel a year or so ago, loudly declaring that this country, and Europe, was becoming unbearably anti-Semitic. Barbara Amiel, the wife of Conrad Black, the convicted fraudster who used to own the Torygraph, used to write for the Jerusalem Post, urging the Israeli political leaders to be even more right-wing than they already were. Though it also has to be said that Channel 4 has stood up to the Israelis. There was a nice exchange between Jon Snow and Mark Regev when the Israelis were pummeling Gaza three years ago, when Snow got fed up with Regev’s lies and told him that he was a liar.

My guess is that a large measure of the support the British mainstream media gives Israel may well be a hangover from the Cold War and British colonialism. The founders saw themselves as a western country, not part of the Middle East, and far superior to its indigenous peoples. There were accusations during the British mandate that the British government wanted to encourage Jewish colonisation in order to create a pro-British enclave within a potentially hostile indigenous population, like Protestant Belfast amongst the Nationalist, Roman Catholic parts of Ulster.

The country also became a vital part of the Global war against Communism. The surrounding Arab nationalist regimes, such as the Ba’ath regimes in Syria and Iraq, and Nasser’s Egypt, were Socialist, and pro-Communist, though their ruling parties weren’t Marxists. Israel, and the ghastly theocracies in the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the rest, provided extremely useful pro-western bulwarks against Communist influence in the region.

I also believe that American influence here has also been decisive. Since the Second World War, Britain has tried to maintain itself as a world power through supporting the Americans. This became particularly necessary after the Suez Crisis. Our attempt to take back the Suez Canal, which had been nationalised by Nasser, collapsed when the Americans said they weren’t going to support us. America has staunchly supported Israel, and so, I believe, Britain has fallen in line. And much of the EU’s support for Israel has also been dictated by the Americans.

And in this instance, the British establishment were also all too keen to promote any lie to smear Corbyn and his followers, because it fears the end of Neoliberalism. Hence the repeated lie that he’s a Trotskyite, and he and his followers are ‘far left’.

This has all come together so that the neoliberal political establishment and the mainstream media have been all too eager to promote the lies and smears that Momentum and the Labour left were anti-Semites.

Now, thanks to an Arab news broadcaster, this web of lies and smears has been exposed. It has also shown, through their silence, the complicity in these smears of the mainstream news outlets. It’s shown why we need alternative news sources like Al-Jazeera and RT, which is owned by the Russians, and other internet news shows like The Young Turks, Sam Seder’s Majority Report and Secular Talk. I don’t agree with the show’s anti-religious viewpoint, but on non-religious issues it provides a very good, left-wing analysis of news and events on the other side Pond.

It’s why the corporatist wing of the Democrats and the Beeb are all screaming about the threat of ‘fake news’.

Well, we’ve had ‘fake news’ for decades till we’re sick of it. And much of it comes from the mainstream news sources, including the Beeb, which haven’t been doing their job, and just fed us lie after lie after lie.

It’s time this stopped, and they were made accountable to the public they’ve kept ignorant and misinformed. They need to be questioned over this issue along with politicos like John Mann. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is just one, albeit very significant episode, in a long history of bias and lies.