Monday, October 8, 2012

British Methodists: Palestine First, Germany Next? by Malcolm LoweJune 13, 2011 at 5:00 am

In 2010, the Methodist Church in Britain produced a report entitled "Justice for Palestine and Israel". The report was adopted as official Methodist policy. Consequently, British Methodists are now called upon to boycott certain Israeli products and support the pro-Palestinian initiatives of the World Council of Churches and Christian Aid.We have looked at this report, which relies heavily upon a purported history of Palestine in the twentieth century, supported by a bibliography that makes no pretense to impartiality. Anyone who has any genuine acquaintance of that history will be amazed at the continual misrepresentations. In particular, the report repeatedly uses statistics that will mislead an unknowing reader. The report is not the first example of this genre of semi-fact, but perhaps it is the greatest masterpiece to date.Some time ago, we reviewed a miniature product of the genre in our exposé of the Myth of Palestinian Christianity. To do the same for the Methodist report would require a substantial monograph, not a mere article. Moreover, the task would be a waste of time, since such a report can hardly have come from people who might be prepared to change their minds.But if the British Methodists ever show interest in salvaging their reputation, they should engage a respectable historian (say Benny Morris) to review the report and list its falsities. Moreover, they should pay that historian handsomely for the mental torture involved. Cheaper and more befitting a Christian institution would be to throw it officially into the waste-paper basket. If that sounds exaggerated, consider just a sample of the report's statements.Of the Arab revolt (1936-1939), the report says that it "was put down with brutal ferocity by British forces during which 5000 Palestinians were killed and 10,000 wounded". Not mentioned is that up to half of the fatalities were Arabs killed by other Arabs on various pretexts. This includes the fighting between the Husseini and Nashashibi clans, in which the Nashashibi leadership was largely wiped out. Jewish casualties are not mentioned at all.Similar omissions occur where the report mentions the first Palestinian intifada. It is described in this sentence: "This Intifada, which lasted from 1987 to 1991, was mainly associated with stone throwing and popular unrest within the Occupied territories, together with a corresponding firm response by Israeli forces."Not mentioned is that as many Arabs were killed by other Arabs as by Israelis, on various accusations of being collaborators and prostitutes, etc. The PLO and Hamas also ordered the resignation of the entire local Jordanian-created police, which Israel had left in place since 1967. As a result, crime multiplied without control and various Palestinian organizations could rob the population in the name of resistance. Those organizations also ordered endless strikes that deprived the middle classes of income. A lot more happened than mere stone throwing.The 1947 resolution of the United Nations General Assembly is described as a plan "to partition the territory, with 56% going to the third of the population who were Jewish." Sounds very unfair, if you do not know that 82% of the Jewish part was the Negev desert. Its then population, apart from Beersheba (6,490) and 510 in Jewish villages, consisted of uncounted Bedouin nomads. It was allocated to the Jews on the assumption that they alone might make it less of a desert, as indeed happened.The UN plan, continues the report, "ignited a civil war" in which "750,000 Palestinians" were "forced from their country." Here the report is guilty of the most elementary of mistakes, or rather deceptions: equating the total number of refugees with the number that left the area of the British Mandate. In fact, it is estimated that about a third went to the West Bank, a third went to the Gaza Strip and only a third actually went away "from their country" to Lebanon, Syria or Transjordan. Two-thirds, that is, of the Arab refugees were displaced not from Mandatory Palestine but merely within it. The Jordanians and Egyptians put them in refugee camps; the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, too, keep them in those same camps.Thus, adds the report, "Israel secured its independence on 78% of the territory, having expelled around 80% of the Arab population." Only it omits to note that 100% of the Jewish population was expelled from the areas that came under Jordanian and Egyptian rule. As for the 78%, three-fifths of it (4,700 out of 8,019 sq miles) was the Negev desert. Once again, the percentages mentioned by the report serve to deceive rather than to inform.The description of the origins of the Six Day War is even more laconic: "tensions culminated in the Six Day War in which Israel fought against Egypt, Jordan and Syria." In fact, the first belligerent act was committed by Egypt, when Nasser ordered a blockade of the Israeli port of Eilat and told the UN buffer force to leave the border between Egypt and Israel. It was also Jordan that initiated hostilities against Israel, not the reverse. So it was Egypt and Jordan who made war on Israel, who lost, and who thereby gave Israel control of the West Bank and Gaza. The Arab League, meeting in Khartoum on September 1, 1967, thereupon adopted its "Three 'No's": "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel."Thus the "Occupied Territories" were born in a war of Arab aggression, after which the Arabs refused to make peace because they refused to accept Israel in any form. That was the permanent reality in which Israel was left to decide alone what areas were necessary for its long-term security and began to settle them. Not that the Methodists would tell you.Of the origins of the PLO, the report merely declares: "In 1964, the Palestinians finally achieved an independent political voice, through the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization." No mention of the fact that the PLO adopted a charter calling for the destruction of the State of Israel by armed force, etc. This was before the Six Day War, when all that prevented the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza was Arab opposition.The opposition included the PLO itself, since thePLO charter of 1964 stated: "Article 24: This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area..." Israel alone must be the target. Only after the war, in 1968, did the PLO revised the charter to eliminate that restriction. Indeed, the Methodist report contains no explanation whatsoever of the Fatah and Hamas ideologies, nor of the constant incitement against Israel today in the Palestinian media and educational system.And so on and so on. Now, we are familiar with this sort of repetitive deception from banal Palestinian propaganda. But what is left of the reputation of a church that adopts such a strategy?So let us go on to a further example of the elementary statistical blunders: "There are currently around 125,000 Palestinian Christians in Israel/Palestine." Here they may be quoting a figure recently given by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics of 122,000 Arab Christians in Israel, including Jerusalem. But they forget that there are another 40,000 or so Arab Christians in the West Bank and a few in Gaza. Add to that some tens of thousands, at least, of non-Arab Christians in Israel.This invalidates the report's central claim that there are "declining numbers" of Christians in "Israel/Palestine." In fact, their numbers have slowly but steadily increased since 1948. It is simply their percentage in the total population that has decreased; for the details see my Myth of Palestinian Christianity. Thus the Methodist report not merely repeats the frequent confusion between absolute numbers and percentages, it sloppily fails to get the absolute number correct in the first place.Note that the great majority of the Arab Christians live in Israel. From there, during 1948-1967, the Jordanians rarely let them visit the holy places in Jerusalem. After 1967, they could go there whenever they wanted to. But what did the Six Day War mean for Christians, according to the Methodist report? "To Christians, the loss of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was of great significance."Think, Methodists, what you mean by that. Christians have "lost" the Holy Sepulchre, which is visited by thousands upon thousands of Christians every day? Well, the Holy Sepulchre is technically owned by the Muslim Waqf, while the local churches have to request the key from two Muslim families in order to open the door – and pay for the privilege. But in that sense the Holy Sepulchre was "lost" centuries ago. Some Christians might call it a demeaning and intolerable situation, but not our Methodists.As for the Muslims themselves, the report complains that "Muslims lost de facto control of their third holiest Mosque – the Al Aqsa Mosque – as well as the Dome of the Rock or Haram-al Sharif." Here the Methodists show that, without any examination of the facts, they are merely capable of making baseless pronouncements of politico-theological dogma.After the Six Day War, the Muslim Waqf was immediately permitted by Israel to retain its control of the Temple Mount, while Jews were forbidden to pray there. The problem is the very opposite: the State of Israel has been far too hesitant to exercise any authority there, despite grossly irresponsible activities of the Waqf. The Israeli police is satisfied if it can prevent rioting on the Temple Mount and the hurling of rocks from there on Jews down below at the Western Wall. And that is all.In particular, the Waqf has carried out unauthorized and unsupervised excavations in order to add a third mosque underground. This cultural vandalism also dangerously weakened the support walls of the Temple Mount. The excavated material was dumped outside in the Kidron valley, where the Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay belatedly rescued 400 lorry loads of it. He is supervising a multi-year project to sift through it all. Extremely valuable artefacts going back to the First Temple period have emerged.The Waqf cares nothing for this, since it claims that any talk of a Jewish temple there is a Zionist fabrication; this is a purely Muslim site. Such claims belie the New Testament along with the Old Testament, since Jesus and the apostles are often described as visiting the Temple. But the Methodists ignore those Muslim claims that their Bible is replete with lies.The report has a section bemoaning "The Plight of Palestinian Israelis." Among its complaints is that "despite being 20% of the population, only 3.5% of Israeli land is in Arab-Palestinian ownership." What it does not mention is that only about 7% of Israeli land altogether is in private ownership. This is yet another item of statistical trickery that features widely in Palestinian propaganda, but disgraces a church that employs it.The issue is rather who can live on state land. Alandmark decision of Israel's Supreme Court in 2000 cemented the principle that state land must be available to all citizens. The petitioners, the Kadaan family, moved into their newly-built house in Katzir in December 2010. This is an issue on which the last word has not been said, yet it has involved hypocrisy that was not limited to Jewish right-wingers.Nothing would rouse greater fury in the Israeli Arab sector than a concerted attempt by Jews to buy up houses in Arab villages. Last year, a Jew who bought a house in the Arab village of Ibillin was forced to leave within days after neighbours openly threatened to kill him. Here, by the way, is where the much celebrated Elias Chacour made his name. His intervention would have been appreciated.There is just one village in Galilee, Peki'in, where for centuries Jews lived alongside Druze and Christian Arabs. In recent years, however, Arab gangs harassed the Jewish families and all the last Jews were driven out in 2007 except for one lady who looks after the synagogue. Basically, it is impossible for Jews to live in an Arab village in Israel.In its call for boycotts of Israel, the report relies heavily upon the so-called Kairos Palestine Document, which it recommends to all Methodists as coming from "church leaders in Palestine." But apart from Bishop Munib Younan, who subsequently withdrew his signature, the listed authors of the document are a group of minor figures, dissidents and retirees. Note also that one of the authors, Rifat Odeh Kassis, has made it clear that the document does not claim that the Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem support boycotts.We have exposed the real agenda of the document elsewhere. It has also been severely criticised by a number of leading German theologians, including Rolf Schieder (Neukirchener Theologische Zeitschrift 25/2, 2010, pp. 191-194), Michael Volkmann (also in English) and Klaus Wengst (lecture in Bonn on May 13, 2011). Methodist theology must be at a low ebb in the UK if this sort of material is its staple.We shall omit the further litany of complaints against Israel (with a couple of token mentions of Palestinian terrorism). They use the familiar propaganda trick of describing incidents without any mention of context. Nor shall we review the long list of variously absurd demands made of Israel, nor the calls upon Methodists to act to enforce those demands. Thus the Methodists uphold "the rights of the refugees," that is, the "right" of the Palestinians to create an Arab majority in the State of Israel. As we said, the Methodists should pay someone to clean up the mess.What we can do, instead, is reveal a possible scoop. Some gullible Methodists, it is rumored, have begun to review all that they thought they knew about another aspect of twentieth-century history. What looks like an early draft of their conclusions follows. It will be seen how the one "history" has become a pattern for the other.Proposed Conference Report: Justice for Germany and BritainFollowing the adoption of the Methodist Conference Report on Justice for Palestine and Israel, we carefully studied the literature appended to the report. This led us to authors who alerted us to the problem of justice for Germany and Britain.Eventually, we were able to put together a team of experts on Occupied Germany. We urge Methodists to take their findings as seriously as that report on Occupied Palestine. What we have learnt contradicts all that we thought we knew. But, as the earlier report stressed, "Public awareness of what is actually happening in Israel/Palestine is largely lacking" and the same applies to Germany/Britain. Here, too, your local church can make a difference.During 1914-1918, the nationalistic government of France fought against Germany with the aim of acquiring the German provinces of Elsass and Lothringen. (Clarification: just as Israel insists on calling the West Bank "Judea and Samaria", the French call these "Alsace et Lorraine".) They persuaded the Russian and British monarchs to join this campaign, although neither had suffered any grievance at German hands.Germany held its own against France and Britain. It also enabled Russia to depose its tyrannical ruler and introduce democracy, whereupon Russia made peace. But the Western allies persuaded US President Woodrow Wilson to join the war, which is how Germany was defeated despite stubborn resistance. That the American people had been unwillingly dragged into this conflict was quickly shown: the US Senate rejected Wilson's scheme to give permanent status to the League of Nations that had subjugated Germany.Not only did France succeed in occupying Elsass and Lothringen; a large part of Germany territory was used to recreate the long-forgotten country of Poland. Germany was also ordered to pay money annually to the victors and forbidden to have an army.By the early 1930s, Germany was in grave economic troubles until the 1933 elections brought a little-known politician, Adolf Hitler, to power. Like his Palestinian contemporary, Haj Amin al-Husseini (an uncle of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat), Hitler realised that economic problems arise when industry and finance lie in the hands of people of foreign origin. He persuaded many of the foreigners to leave, even allowing them to take some of their capital with them. Germany's economy quickly improved. Hitler also pioneered the building of motorways and initiated a project to enable every German family to have a "Volkswagen" (people's car).Unfortunately, some of those non-Germans went to Palestine, where they played a major role in the Israeli occupation of that country (see the earlier report for details). Collaboration between Britain and those settlers in Palestine forced al-Husseini himself to become a refugee in Germany. Here he later provided advice for Hitler's attempts to encourage similar reforms among Germany's neighbours.Hitler quickly managed to persuade Germany's former enemies to restore parts of occupied German territory peacefully, such as the Saar and the Sudeten lands. But when he raised the issue of the artificial creation of Poland on German territory, Germany was subject to a second unprovoked attack by France and Britain. This, although Hitler had not even questioned France's illegal occupation of Elsass and Lothringen.Once again, Germany was able to hold off their attack, but again the aggressors succeeded in persuading Russia and the USA to join the war. This time the war ended with Germany under total occupation. More Germany territory was added to Poland, Germans were expelled and Polish settlers put in their place. Also East Prussia was given to Russia and subjected to the same mistreatment. The Sudeten lands were reoccupied and Germans expelled from there too.Having learnt this history, your report team decided to sponsor volunteers on the programme of the WCAC (World Committee of Aryan Christians) called EAPGB (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Germany and Britain). When our volunteers compared notes with people who had been on the WCC (World Council of Churches) programme EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel), they found a situation even worse than the misery of the Israeli occupation.In Bethlehem, the WCC's Ecumenical Accompaniers could still find a few Palestinian Christians. In Hebron there were at least some remaining Palestinian Muslims. The only Christian in Hebron, a Russian monk, has not been joined by his colleagues and will not be until Palestinian Christians are allowed back by the occupation authorities.But when our Ecumenical Accompaniers went to Breslau, Stettin and Danzig (which the Polish settlers have renamed Wroclaw, Szczecin and Gdansk), they could not find a single survivor of the native German population. In one sad case, a group of German visitors in traditional dress (brown shirts and short leather trousers) staged a peaceful protest by raising a German flag and singing a German folksong called "Horst-Wessel-Lied". They were brutally assaulted by the settlers, arrested by the occupation police and sent back to Western Germany under armed guard. Besides those cities, by the way, thousands of former German villages have vanished (far more than the vanished Arab villages in Israel).As for Russian-occupied Königsberg, the hometown of the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant, what happened to our Ecumenical Accompaniers in that city is too undignified to be described here. It makes even the Israeli occupation army look benign by comparison.Consequently, we have some recommendations for the next Methodist Conference. For one, we urge Methodists to join the EAPGB program. Please note that just as the EAPPI includes Ecumenical Accompaniers who encourage Israeli peace activists, so also you can join EAPGB and work in Britain itself with British peace activists who are seeking justice for Occupied Germany. Since Christian Aid, for operational reasons, is not active in Occupied Germany, we are looking for a replacement with WCAC help.Second, in those parts of Germany where the allied occupation has officially been withdrawn, on the model of the so-called Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, there are popular relief organizations called Landsmannschaften. These try to keep alive the memories of German refugees from the areas under continuing Polish, Russian and Czech occupation. Unlike the Palestinian refugees, all the German refugees were quickly resettled in new homes and many have since become economically well off. The result is that the Landsmannschaften have been languishing. Methodists can help to revive them by solidarity visits and church collections to replenish their funding.Third, we recommend a boycott of all British supermarkets that are not owned by Germans (please note that only two German-owned chains, Aldi and Lidl, have been allowed to operate in Britain). This corresponds to our awareness that some businesses in Israel are owned by Palestinians and must be seen as tacit exceptions to any boycott of Israel.The boycott of Britain should continue until the government of this country takes decisive steps to end the occupation of Germany. Here we should follow the example of Israelis who bravely boycott their own occupation of Palestine (on this, too, see the earlier report). It explains why we call this "Justice for Germany and Britain", because the British in their own way suffer from the occupation alongside the Germans.At present, we admit that this sounds a daunting task. But that is what the EAPPI scheme was thought to be at first, whereas now the sale of Israeli cosmetics in Britain has been partly stopped. For sure, in Ramallah the native Palestinians, who are not yet free from the occupation mentality, are still buying the same cosmetics in greater quantities.We are in the process of completing a recommended bibliography and a catalogue of the websites that seek to remedy the injustices done to Germany. In the meantime, see the organizations mentioned in the online encyclopaedia article on The Post-World War II Heritage of Adolf Hitler.– Your report team.

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