Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bethlehem and bigotry

It is heartening to read in The Times this brief account by Michael Gove; and even more heartening is it that there are still some politicians of integrity, insight, discernment and courage:

There’s one invariable sign that Christmas is almost upon us – a story about how Bethlehem is suffering at the hands of wicked Israel.

It has become almost as much a feature of seasonal journalism as stories about how Nativity plays are being subverted and commentaries on how commercialism is snuffing out the true meaning of the festival.

This year we’ve already had our first exercise in demonising Israel for its treatment of Bethlehem with the graffiti artist Banksy enjoying extensive coverage for his trip to decorate the security barrier near the town with his work. The message of Banksy’s work and the coverage it has generated is the same: oppressive Israel has snuffed the life out of the town where the Prince of Peace was born. Herod’s spirit lives on, even as the spirit of Christmas is struggling to survive.

The truth is very different. The parlous position of Palestinian Christians, indeed the difficult position of most Christians across the Arab world, is a consequence not of Israeli aggression but of growing Islamist influence. Israel goes out of its way to honour sites and traditions sacred to other faiths while the radicals who are driving Palestinian politics seek to create an Islamist state in which other faiths, if they survive at all, do so with the explicit subject status of dhimmis.

But when it comes to Israel’s position in these matters it’s still a case of O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see them lie.

It is wholly consistent with this latest report received from Scottish Friends of Israel:

With the Christmas holiday fast approaching, the town of Bethlehem, the historic birthplace of Jesus, is facing a continuing exodus of its Christian residents as a result of growing persecution by radical Muslims.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), led by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, strongly condemns the oppression of Christians in Bethlehem by Islamic extremists, which has risen sharply since Israel turned over control of the town to the Palestinian Authority in 1995. At the time of Israel's withdrawal, Christians made up 62% of Bethlehem's population.

Today, that figure stands at approximately 15%, a historic all-time low.

The persecution of Christians by hard-line Islamists is common in Palestinian-controlled areas and indeed throughout the entire Middle East.

In Gaza, where 3,000 Christians live among 1.5 million Muslims, it is particularly violent and sometimes deadly. Just recently, Rami Khader Ayyad, owner of a Christian bookstore, was murdered by extremists. Following Hamas' violent take-over of Gaza in June 2007, numerous attacks against Christians were also reported, including the ransacking of a convent.

IFCJ has decided to highlight these human rights violations and call attention to the persecution of Christians occurring in these areas. In addition, the organization is providing funds for a special holiday program to feed underprivileged Christian Arabs in Bethlehem. The assistance is being extended through the First Baptist Church of Bethlehem, headed by Pastor Naim Khoury, and will help provide food aid to hundreds of Christians, many of whom have been harassed and threatened by Muslim radicals because of their faith. Pastor Khoury has survived three separate assassination attempts in recent years, while his church has reportedly been bombed by Islamic extremists fourteen times.

"The oppression of Christian Arabs by their Muslim brethren has caused thousands to flee Palestinian-controlled areas over the past decade. The US and the international community need to pressure the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to reverse this deplorable trend and ensure the safety and prosperity of its Christian population," said Rabbi Eckstein, IFCJ President and Founder. "Through this gift, IFCJ is providing material support to the needy and saying to Bethlehem's Christians that they are not forgotten - that both Jews and Christians stand with them in their time of need."

Founded in 1983, IFCJ has a dual mission to foster better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews and to build broad support for Israel and the Jewish people around the world. The Fellowship works to help Jews immigrate to Israel from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, Iran, Argentina, India and other troubled countries; fight poverty and aid victims of war and terrorism in Israel; and extend aid to poor elderly Jews and orphans in the former Soviet Union. For general information about the IFCJ, please visit


Anonymous nedsherry said...

It is heartening to read in The Times this brief account by Michael Gove; and even more heartening is it that there are still some politicians of integrity, insight, discernment and courage...

If the pro-homosexual neo-con Michael Gove really had integrity, insight, discernment and courage, he would call for an end to Muslim immigration into the UK. As it is, his "concern" for Christians serves an Israeli agenda. Dr Lancaster seems likely to pop up shortly to reinforce it.

15 December 2007 at 12:51  
Anonymous irenelancaster said...

Nedsherry, well done! Here I am popping up as usual like a bad penny!

Michael Gove is one of the most admirable politicians around and I included him among my list of 36 tsaddikim - wonderful people whose activities help to make the world a better place.

As it happens, I have blogged on this subject and you can link to my webpage here.

Meanwhile, unlike in Israel, Christmas decorations have been ordered to be removed from a Court in Brussels, in case they offend Muslims.

And Rowan Williams will be taking place in a conference which will be discussing incorporating Sharia Law into British law.

Now, that really is something to worry about, especially as the Lord Chief Justice will also be participating.

Personally, I think Israel has got it just right, with Christmas trees adorning the Middle East's biggest shopping mall, which happens to be here in Haifa, and also the foyer of one of Tel Aviv's main theatres.

And these are just places I have happened to visit in the last few weeks.

And no-one has batted an eyelid!!

A bit of Jewish law might just do the trick in Britain - you know with minority rights to worship embedded within that law.

Islam in English Law
A series of public discussions in the Temple Church, 2008. Organized by the Temple Church and the Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law (School of Oriental and African Studies)

Foundation Lecture: ‘Civil and Religious Law in England: A Religious Perspective’
A Lecture by The Most Rev. and Rt Hon. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams

Chairman: The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, The Rt Hon. The Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers.

Thursday 7 February, 6.00pm – 7.30pm, Temple Church

Admission free but must be pre-booked.
For further information and to book tickets contact Sarah Hibbin at or at:
School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

This series will be of immense value in the present social and political climate. It will provide an opportunity to discuss, honestly, openly and courteously, some of the most difficult legal, religious and ethical questions of our time.

The Temple Church was built in 1185 by the Knights Templar. The Templars were charged with the protection of pilgrims during the Crusades and were vital to the viability of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Church has since 1608 been run by the lawyers of Inner and Middle Temple. It is time for this Church, which has represented the gulf between Christendom and Islam, to become instead a bridge across that gulf.

English Law has been shaped in part by the principles and history of Christian culture, but owes no obedience to any revelation, scripture or doctrine ascribed to God. In current practice, English Law attends closely to the rights and freedoms of the individual and protects them against curtailment from the state or from corporate power.

It is the prime duty of all traditions of Shari’a Law to interpret and apply, loyally and obediently, the teachings imparted by Allah to the Prophet Mohammad. Shari’a law has tended to protect and strengthen the community in which it is intended that the individual can then live a devout, good and ordered life.

There can be no better place for the discussion of Islam in English Law than the Church run by the judges and barristers of Inner and Middle Temple in the heart of legal London.

These two systems of law differ in principle and in application. At times they have seemed to be in direct conflict. The European Court of Human Rights in 2001, in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights, declared that Shari’a law “clearly diverges from Convention values, particularly with regard to its criminal law and criminal procedure, its rules on the legal status of women and the way it intervenes in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts.”

In this series we will confront the vital questions to which these different systems give rise. Following the Archbishop’s Foundation Lecture in February 2008, we will roll out a series of public discussions in which we will hear both sides of this deeply contested debate.

Civil and Religious Law in England: A Religious Perspective – A Lecture by The Archbishop of Canterbury. Chair: The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

• DISCUSSION 1: Shari’a and Secular Democracy: Are current Traditions of Islamic Law compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights?

• DISCUSSION 2: Family Law, Minorities and legal Pluralism: Should English Law give more Recognition to Islamic Law?

• DISCUSSION 3: Human Rights in an Age of Terrorism: “The Rules of the Game have changed.” Have they?

• DISCUSSION 4: Free Speech or Incitement to Religious Hatred: Where should we draw the Line?

• DISCUSSION 5: Can Moral or Religious Obligation ever justify the use of Force inadmissible under Secular Law?

15 December 2007 at 16:14  
Anonymous baligha said...

Islam is growing, Christianity is shrinking and the Church of England is vanishing up its own gay-obsessed rear-orifice.

Sheikh Osama bin Laden has predicted the future: "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse. This is only one goal; those who want people to worship the Lord of the people, without following that doctrine, will be following the doctrine of Muhammad, peace be upon him"

Islam is the strong horse.

Christianity is the weak horse.

The Church of England is the pantomime horse with the legs all pulling in different directions.

Christianity's days are numbered in Britain as in Behlehem. Islam will dominate - there is no force on earth that can stop it!

15 December 2007 at 23:00  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

Except immigration restriction.

But I can't see that coming from an establishment that would rather train young men to drop fire on people in Iraq "to democratise Iraq and end the clash of civilisations" than adopt a discriminatory immigration policy. A discriminatory immigration policy would destroy the godless hordes naive day dreams of One Global United Humanity.

16 December 2007 at 01:43  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

Nedsherry, well done! Here I am popping up as usual like a bad penny!

Stop running yourself down, dear.

This is welcome:

Chief Rabbi: Britain is losing its identity

Britain is losing its identity because of over-zealous political correctness and a failure to deal with immigration, the Chief Rabbi has warned. Sir Jonathan Sacks said that the drive for a multi­cultural society had left Britain increasingly intolerant and that too many people were embarrassed about their history.

But he's at it himself in the same article:

While he likes the national anthem, the Chief Rabbi argued that it might be time to introduce something more "inclusive". He said: "We always sing God Save the Queen, but I don't think many other people do."

And remember who he thinks started it all:

Sacks said Britain's politics had been poisoned by the rise of identity politics, as minorities and aggrieved groups jockeyed first for rights, then for special treatment. The process, he said, began with Jews, before being taken up by blacks, women and gays. He said the effect had been inexorably divisive.

"A culture of victimhood sets group against group, each claiming that its
pain, injury, oppression, humiliation is greater than that of others," he

16 December 2007 at 11:11  
Blogger Jeremy Jacobs said...


excellent point raised by the Chief Rabbi. Britain needs to get its identity back.

17 December 2007 at 00:54  
Anonymous nedsherry said...


Not two excellent points?

Sacks said Britain's politics had been poisoned by the rise of identity politics, as minorities and aggrieved groups jockeyed first for rights, then for special treatment. The process, he said, began with Jews, before being taken up by blacks, women and gays. He said the effect had been inexorably divisive.

17 December 2007 at 12:50  

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