Surely mockers surround me; my eyes must dwell on their hostility. Job 17 v2
The BUGB distributes this magazine free to all churches within the Baptist Union of Great Britain. Wildolive maintains that it is not ethically justifiable to disseminate such one sided, political views under the umbrella of the Baptist Union, since the Baptist principles insist on few doctrinal rules apart from Baptism by immersion and Freedom of belief. See also Stephen Sizer in the Baptist Times.
The magazine carried a major feature inside entitled, “Israel/Palestine” covering three of its eight pages. The Article features the following text below the montage of emotive photographs at the top of this page, about the Israeli Security Barrier.
The BUGB text is shown in black.
Even the Title, “Israel/Palestine is misleading, since Israel is a nation / state but Palestine is not. President George Bush would not be pushing for the creation of a state of Palestine if one already existed.
The little town of Bethlehem is a place that is neither still nor peaceful. It is caught up in the continuing cycle of violence and poverty that afflicts so much of the Middle East.
The “continuing cycle” phraseology is regularly used to equate Israel’s attempts to defend itself from terrorism with the terrorism itself, and the death of terrorists with the deaths of the women and children they target. The terrorism is not caused by Israel’s actions but by its very existence.
It is a living symbol of the division, conflict and despair that scar Israel and Palestine in particular.
The use of photographs of this wall clearly infers that the Israeli wall is to blame for the “division, conflict and despair.” Actually the pictures only show sections that are constructed as a concrete wall. Only 13% of the Barrier is in fact wall, and this has only been erected where there is a history of Palestinians firing on the Jewish homes.
(Israel’s security barrier is only one of around half a dozen walls in existence around the world. We built one in Belfast and the USA is building one now)
Not long ago most people living around Bethlehem were Christians; now the number has dwindled to 26% of the population. This is true but has no connection to the actions of Israel. No mention is made of the real cause – the Muslim violence and intimidation against the Christians that is causing so many of them to escape, largely to the USA. See article by Khaled Abu Tomeh.
The Christians tend to be better educated and wealthier than the Muslims, and better able to leave. Because of this intimidation, many Christians attempt to adopt a low profile and criticize Israel instead of their Muslim tormentors, in the hope they will not be targeted; a strategy that is clearly not working.
Check points and watch towers control access to the town with a wall twenty-four feet high making it a virtual prison for the Palestinians who live there. This has nothing to do with the exodus of Christians. (See above) The barrier is not there to keep the Palestinians in a “prison” but to control their access to Jewish areas. Before the barrier was built, Palestinian suicide terrorists regularly walked or drove the short distances to their targets.
The lack of visitors, due to the continuing conflict, leaves many families struggling to survive. The situation is not one of prevented access, but controlled access. This type of argument complains of the inconvenience checkpoints cause to the Arabs but expresses no concern about the loss of innocent Jewish lives to terrorist attacks. This argument also alludes to alleged prevention of access to medical treatment. These stories never mention the number of Jewish doctors who give free treatment to Palestinians or the dignity with which they are treated. Also, it would not be necessary for Palestinians to seek medical treatment in Israel if the aid money was spent on its Hospitals. (see below)
The social and economic pressures are immense, together with the struggle to keep hope and faith alive. The economic hardships are not the fault of Israel, but of the corruption endemic in the Palestinian administration. Palestinian areas receive more aid, per capita, than any other place on earth. Yet somehow the people see no benefit. Yasser Arafat had billions in Swiss bank accounts and his widow still lives in luxury in Paris. The situation has not significantly improved under new leadership.
It is inferred that the wall is causing hardship by preventing Palestinians making a living in Israel. How can a people seeking their own independent state depend on a neighbouring state for employment? The aid that should have been spent on infrastructure has been siphoned off by the Palestinian leaders.
Easter is approaching when we focus on events in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago when Christ suffered so we could have freedom from our sin. The Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) is fighting for freedom and justice in today's Israel/Palestine in a number of ways:
1 BUGB is an active member of the European Baptist Federation and Baptist World Alliance, both of which are deeply committed to supporting Baptist communities in the occupied territories. The term “occupied” is deeply political and misleading. The term is used by the Muslim organizations that have been working to destroy Israel by means of terror, warfare, politics, demographics, media manipulation or any other method. Those who doubt this should consult the PLO Charter, which still calls for the destruction of Israel in spite of agreements to amend it. The territories in question can only be regarded as “occupied” by Israel since 1967 if their occupation by Jordan in 1948 had been legitimate. Only two nations recognized Jordan’s invasion and annexation of the West Bank in 1948.
Not all Baptist communities in Bethlehem are anti-Israel; the pastor of the First Baptist Church, Niam Khoury is an outspoken defender of Israel’s right to exist and has had attempts made on his life because of his stand. Only those who support the Palestinian line get a hearing.
2 The Baptist Union's Faith and Unity Department has initiated the Just Life project with Christian Aid. Christian Aid is not an impartial, nor even conspicuously Christian, source of understanding of the situation Why do Baptists not read their Bibles to see what God says about bringing the Jews back to their land before Jesus returns?.
This provides Baptist churches with resources to pray and campaign for a better life for those in Israel/Palestine (and Sierra Leone-see back page). The Revd John Rackley is minister of Manvers Street Baptist Church in Bath which has signed up to Just Life. "Just Life has helped those people in my church who already had a concern about what is happening in the occupied territories to have a focus. We set up an email link within the church for those people and others who were interested. A group of us visited Israel/Palestine, both to think about the life of Jesus and also meet the experience of Christian Palestinians first-hand.
When you visit Israel and speak to those who live there, you will come home with an understanding that depends entirely who you spoke to. Some Palestinian Christians give the Muslim Arab, anti-Israel viewpoint, hoping to not cause trouble for themselves with the Muslim majority. Many have been brought up believing in Replacement theology and/or Liberation theology, and therefore have no sympathy for Israelis. The Bethlehem Bible College, that influences much Baptist perspective on the conflict holds this theology. Others, such as the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Bethlehem, believe that Israel is God’s prophetic fulfilment and should not be giving away any of its Bible territory.
Just Life helped me as the minister prepare for this visit."
3 In the Central Baptist Association (which is funded by Home Mission), eight Baptist churches have twinned with Arab Christian congregations in the Association of Baptist Churches (ABC) in Israel through the charity Baptist Twinning in Israel. The link is much appreciated says Philip Sa'ad, a senior pastor in ABC. "As a minority within a minority, we have sometimes felt neglected and forgotten, and it has hurt.
Your love and fellowship mean so much to us and we thank the Lord for the twinning relationship."
This Easter, let us seek peace with justice for Israel/Palestine, We can only seek justice between the Israelis and Palestinians if we understand the truth of their situation. As was stated earlier, Palestine is not a nation and, furthermore, the Palestinians are Arabs and never called themselves Palestinians until after 1967. There is no Palestinian language, culture or cuisine and no Arab or “Palestinian” ruler ever visited the area while it was under Muslim control. Incidentally, the claims sometimes made that Jesus was a Palestinian are nonsense because the word “Palestine” was not coined by the Romans until they destroyed the Jewish nation, levelled Jerusalem and banished the Jews – long after Jesus’ ascension. The land changed hands many times, but remained barren and almost uninhabited until the late nineteenth century.
and remember the Holy Land in our prayers. We must indeed be praying, but we must be praying according to the will and purpose of God and not according to the thinking of secular political activists and those who have turned their anti-Semitism into a respectable and PC hatred of Israel!.
How can we understand God’s will and purpose in the Middle East?
Sadly, a majority of Christians today see no validity in the State of Israel and view as cranks those who believe Israel to be part of the fulfilment of end times prophecy and a sign of the nearness of the return of Jesus as the Messiah. However, this was not always the situation in the evangelical church. Following the English revivals, the Wesleys firmly believed that Israel would be established and that the Jews would return before Jesus returned. These views were widely expressed in sermons and hymns. Many heroes of evangelical faith in Britain believed that Israel would be recreated according to Bible prophecy. Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached extensively on the subject, including his exposition on the dry bones prophecy of Ezekiel 37. Evangelical Christianity was so significantly represented in government that it influenced Britain’s foreign policy with the belief that Britain had not only a League of Nations mandate to create a Jewish state in Israel’s ancient homeland, but a mandate from God. Britain was believed to be a Cyrus nation. The outcome was the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
Britain saw its Mandate in Palestine ended with the birth of Israel in 1948, following a United Nations vote. But from then onwards successive governments rapidly pulled away from supporting Israel, in favour of courting the oil-rich Arab nations who are bound together in their desire to remove the Jewish state from their neighbourhood. At the same time, Britain’s church lost its prophetic vision and embraced leftist political viewpoints in place of Bible teaching. God has been calling his church back to prophetic belief through movie makers the Hatikvah Trust with their DVDs “The Destiny of Britain” and “The Forsaken Promise.” Another prophetic word, given through David Davies following public screenings of “the Forsaken Promise”, said that God has given Britain a last mandate. This should be causing us great concern.
We are starting to notice that David Pawson’s revelation about Britain being overcome by Islam is indeed coming to pass, yet there is still very little urgency in the church in Britain about getting on side with God.
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