Saturday, 17 May 2008

Don't you feel safe?

There are probably few qualifications that one needs to be a cleaner at an airport. Willingness to work hard? Probably. Get dirty? Of course. Be trustworthy? Assuredly. Be a convicted hijacker who is currently out on bail on an assault charge?

Yet, surprisingly (or not) enough, Nazamuddin Mohammidy has been cheerily working away at Heathrow, complete with a pass for restricted areas. He came to this country to seek asylum from Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, getting away from the Taliban was a good idea. However, since then the Taliban has been overthrown. After billions of pounds and dollars being spent on it, Afghanistan is (in theory at least) under the control of a friendly government. Why would it not be safe for this man to return there? How many convictions does a foreign criminal need to stack up before they get deported? And how on earth could a HIJACKER get a job at a British AIRPORT?

You couldn't make it up...

Wendy Alexander accused of incest

According to Andrew Alexander of the Daily Mail, she is married to her own brother!

The quote in full: "The head of the Scottish Labour Party, Wendy Alexander, is married to Cabinet minister Douglas Alexander"

Ooh err, Matron!

Happy Birthday, Israel

May 2008 (the 14th, to be precise), is the 60th anniversary of the creation of the modern State of Israel. Let's start with the Declaration of Establishment:

WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People's Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People's Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called "Israel".

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.

WE APPEAL to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the comity of nations.

WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream - the redemption of Israel.
PLACING OUR TRUST IN THE "ROCK OF ISRAEL", WE AFFIX OUR SIGNATURES TO THIS PROCLAMATION AT THIS SESSION OF THE PROVISIONAL COUNCIL OF STATE, ON THE SOIL OF THE HOMELAND, IN THE CITY OF TEL-AVIV, ON THIS SABBATH EVE, THE 5TH DAY OF IYAR, 5708 (14TH MAY 1948).

David Ben-Gurion
Daniel Auster
Mordekhai Bentov
Yitzchak Ben Zvi
Eliyahu Berligne
Fritz Bernstein
Rabbi Wolf Gold
Meir Grabovsky
Yitzchak Gruenbaum
Dr. Abraham Granovsky
Eliyahu Dobkin
Meir Wilner-Kovner
Zerach Wahrhaftig
Herzl Vardi Rachel Cohen
Rabbi Kalman Kahana
Saadia Kobashi
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Levin
Meir David Loewenstein
Zvi Luria
Golda Myerson
Nachum Nir
Zvi Segal
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Hacohen Fishman David Zvi Pinkas
Aharon Zisling
Moshe Kolodny
Eliezer Kaplan
Abraham Katznelson
Felix Rosenblueth
David Remez
Berl Repetur
Mordekhai Shattner
Ben Zion Sternberg
Bekhor Shitreet
Moshe Shapira
Moshe Shertok


The following section is reproduced from www.anglicanfriendsofisrael.com, and is from a commemorative booklet which Anglican Friends of Israel have produced. As is often the case, I was alerted to this by the blog of an infinitely superior blogger to me, Archbishop Cranmer.

“I am delighted to have been asked to contribute a foreword to this pamphlet, written to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel, the Jewish State. There is a long and honourable history of Anglican involvement in the Zionist project. From the 17th to the 20th centuries, English advocates of the Jews' restoration in the Holy Land worked tirelessly to realise Jewish dreams – often, in more practical ways than by the Jews themselves. It became their mission to restore the land to its lawful owners, and thereby assist in fulfilling Biblical prophecy. The pamphlet, in its own sober and factual way, is but the most recent instance of this centuries-long endeavour. I welcome it.”

Anthony Julius
2 April 2008


Introduction

Israel celebrates its 60th Birthday in 2008. In May 1948, the tiny piece of land, focus of Jewish prayer and aspirations for over 3,000 years, was restored to them. To many, including Jews whose communities had lived continuously in the Holy Land, Israel’s rebirth was a joyous event. To some it represented a safe haven to be Jewish in a Jewish land without fear of persecution. To others, the sovereign hand of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob fulfilling promises from the Torah and the Prophets was clear to see. Much of the world rejoiced with them.

However, not everyone was pleased. Many Arabs, including those whose own nations were formed in the same period, call Israel’s national rebirth ‘The Naqba’ or ‘catastrophe’. The formation of a Jewish state in the region, they claimed, robbed
Palestinians of their land; the Jews were portrayed as interlopers. The region’s problems were – and are – blamed on Israel by many people. Criticism has gone beyond Israel’s actions. Even the legitimacy of Israel’s existence has been questioned.

Anglicans are engaged in the debate for Anglican Palestinians are caught up in the conflict. We at Anglican Friends of Israel recognize that Israel should not be immune from criticism; but we are dismayed that so much of it is rooted in error, misrepresentation and even racism. We hope this booklet will contribute to a fuller understanding of the foundation of modern Israel and dispel some of the hostile myths which have grown up around the events during and prior to May 1948.

What is Zionism?‘Zionism’ is the desire of the Jewish people for self-governance in the Holy Land. The term refers to Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the ‘mountain of God’. Zionists support Jewish rights to national self-determination and Statehood, just as, say, Poles or Pakistanis have.

What are Christian Zionists?
Christian Zionists insist that Jewish desire for self-determination is as legitimate as that of any other ethnic group. They recognise the restoration of the Jews to the land of Israel as a fulfilment of an overarching prophetic theme in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

They refute Replacement Theology which suggests that God has rejected the Jewish people and replaced them with the Church, believing that it contradicts both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. They affirm God’s love for Palestinians and often
support projects which benefit Palestinians by addressing educational or social needs, or work to bring a greater understanding between Jew and Arab.

Is Zionism racist?
The UN defines racism as ‘the belief in the genetic/inherent superiority of one group over others.’ Such vile notions are utterly different to the wholly legitimate desire for national renewal. To brand the Jewish desire for self-determination as distinctively racist – as some do – is in itself racist. Ironically, many who smear Zionism as racist are the shrillest in their insistence that Palestinians have an absolute right to the very same self-determination which they would deny to Jews.

Why create a Jewish state in the Middle East?
- Because this territory is central to Jewish religious and national identity – the place
where Jews are closest to God.
- Because this is the one piece of land historically promised to the Jewish people as recorded in Genesis.
- Because this is the only land where the Jewish nation has ever experienced self rule.

In contrast, there has never been an autonomous Palestinian state in the area. It was ruled by a succession of empires until the Ottoman Empire fell in 1917 and the League of Nations granted the British a Mandate in 1920.

Jews are indigenous to Israel
Israel’s critics claim that only Palestinians are indigenous to the Near East. This is patently false, as is the claim that Jews are a religious and not an ethnic, group.
Archaeology confirms the Bible record: Jews spoke and wrote Hebrew, and worshipped Israel’s God in what is now Israel at least 1,000 years before Jesus was born. Jews are the only people who have ever had an autonomous state on this tiny piece of land.

They governed themselves as a national entity, producing kings, visionary prophets and writers from whose pens flowed some of the most treasured writings in the history of the world.

Archaeological support for these claims includes:
- an ancient Hebrew alphabet, from 10th century BCE discovered at Tel Zayit in 2005;
- Israel is named in ancient Hebrew on the 9th Century BCE ‘Moabite Stone’;
- An inscription at Tel Dan dating from the time of King Ahab names the ‘House of
David’ and ‘Israel’.

Jews have inhabited the Holy Land continuously for 3000 years
Despite attempts by successive occupying powersto expel them, communities of Jews have lived in the Holy Land continuously since the time of Abraham until the present in, for example, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron. Jews returned to the Holy Land throughout the
Diaspora period, notably from Spain and other Mediterranean countries in the late 13th and 14th Century.

In Jerusalem Jews have been the largest ethnic group since the 1840s. During the Mandate many Jewish communities in Arab towns such as Nazareth and Gaza were forced out by Arab neighbours and their members joined kibbutzim or moved to predominantly Jewish towns. Since the Babylonian exile, the Jewish diaspora
has spread as far as South America, China and Australia. But Jewish ethnic identity, recognised by the countries in which they lived as minority communities, was based on Jewish affinity with the land of Israel and the Jews living there.

The League of Nations Mandate

At the 1920 San Remo conference, the League of Nations granted Britain a Mandate over
Palestine. It committed Britain to the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine west of the Jordan River. Recognition of ancient Jewish links with the land was foundational to the Mandate. A Palestinian state was to be established east of the Jordan River (present day Jordan). Jews could not settle or buy land there.

The Jewish homeland was stolen from Palestinians

This claim is false. In the early 19th century more than 10,000 Jews lived throughout what is today Israel. In 1880 Jews made up about 6% of Palestine’s population. The land was then a run-down colonial outpost of the Ottoman Empire. Jews purchased much land from Arab owners legally during the late 19th and early 20th century and by dint of huge effort, turned it from rocky hillsides and malarial swamps into productive and profitable land. By World War One, the Jewish population of Palestine was around 85,000 out of 700,000 (roughly 12%). It rapidly became the most dynamic economic centre in the Middle East attracting people from all over the region eager for a share in the growing prosperity of Palestine. In contrast, no independent Palestinian entity or identity has existed until the 20th Century.

The British Mandate

In the opinion of many observers, Britain failed to honour the Mandate to facilitate the creation of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. In the 30 years of British colonial rule, tensions between Arabs and Jews grew inexorably. In desperation at the rising levels of inter-communal violence, Britain handed the whole issue over to the UN.

The War of Independence 1948

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations voted to create an Arab and a Jewish State alongside each other in what is now Israel and the West Bank. It was accepted that Israel would have a sizeable Arab minority. The Jewish State was allotted 56% of Mandate Palestine, since the UN correctly predicted heavy Jewish immigration from Europe after the creation of the Jewish State. Perhaps they also guessed that large numbers of Jewish refugees from Arab nations would also need a home.

The Jewish Agency, led by David Ben Gurion, accepted the plan. Arab leaders rejected it, and Arab attacks on Jewish communities began at once. Britain announced that her troops would be withdrawn from Palestine on 15 May 1948. Aware that Arab countries had vowed to destroy any Jewish state, David Ben Gurion declared the independence of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, with borders as stipulated in the UN Partition Plan.

Significantly, the Declaration of Independence stated ‘We appeal ... to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions..’

Within days of the British withdrawal, 35,000 Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian and Egyptian troops (led by British officers) invaded Israel. Despite overwhelming odds, and the loss of 1% of the population of Israel, Israeli forces decisively defeated the Arab armies. Israel took territory beyond the UN allocated borders because their territory could not be defended against further Arab attacks.

Jews were preparing to attack Arabs prior to 1948

False. Jewish communities were routinely attacked by raiding parties from Arab villages. The Haganah – defence units of Jewish farmers – was formed to warn Jewish communities about planned Arab assaults and to afford some protection against them.
The attacks became more frequent after the UN Partition plan of November 1947: intelligence about proposed raids upon Jewish people and property had to become much more efficient – and it did.

Myth: Jews had a plan ‘D’ to expel all Arabs from Israel in 1948

This claim is false. As Professor Benny Morris wrote: ‘Plan Dalet (Plan D), of March 10th, 1948… was the master plan of the Haganah – the Jewish military force that became the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) – to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on
the emergent Jewish state.’

The presence of 147,000 Arabs in the new State of Israel after hostilities ceased shows that claims of a planned ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Arabs are absurd. In contrast no Jew was permitted to remain in territory occupied by Jordan after the 1948 war.

Jews drove Palestinians out of Israel in 1948.

Some 6-800,000 Palestinian Arabs were displaced as a result of the Arab war on Israel in 1948. Some were compelled to leave their homes by IDF forces. But many left voluntarily before the 1948 war because local and national leaders advised or compelled them to do so. Prof. Morris comments ‘… in dozens of localities around Palestine, Arab leaders advised or ordered the evacuation of women and children or whole communities, as occurred in Haifa in late April, 1948.’

Palestinians, who heeded this advice, could not return to their homes after the Arabs lost the war. Unsurprisingly, given repeated Arab threats to annihilate Israel, Israeli leaders feared an Arab ‘fifth column’. However, most Arabs who hadremained in Israel became Israeli citizens.

Jews were also expelled from their homes by Arab forces, for example from Gush Etzion and K’far Darom in Gaza, all built on land purchased legally. And of course Jews were expelled from the Old City of Jerusalem. In addition, 800,000 Jews were forced to abandon homes and businesses in Arab countries. They arrived in Israel with nothing.

These are the forgotten refugees of 1948. Both sides committed atrocities. Women and
children were murdered by Jewish fighters of the Stern gang and Irgun in the peaceful Arab village of Deir Yassin. Arab fighters took revenge by murdering Jewish women and children in K’far Etzion and members of a convoy taking medical supplies to Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital.

Is modern Israel is a western colonial project?

With 3000 years of continuous presence in the Holy Land, how can Jews be characterised as interlopers in the region? After World War II, Palestine was the only place that many European Jews, robbed of their homes and families, could go. A further 800,000 Jews from Arab countries fled or were expelled in pogroms and were absorbed into the Jewish state in the years following Israel’s Independence. Later, Jews from all over the world – Africa, India, China, the old USSR, as well as the USA and Europe, made aliyah to Israel.

Modern Israel combines the best ideals of the west – democracy, openness to debate and criticism as well as new ideas in technology and the arts. Such ideals are much needed in the region. Given the ferocity of comment in the Israeli press and the intensity of debate and moral self-criticism which so characterises discussion in Israel – so rare in public life today – the attacks on Israel are profoundly depressing and disturbing.

Conclusion

This May, while Israel and her friends celebrate her 60th anniversary, others will mourn the Palestinian ‘Naqba’. As they do so, they might reflect on the crucial contribution of Palestinian and Arab actions to the absence of their longed for state. Had they accepted the UN Partition plan and welcomed their Jewish neighbours into the tiny piece of land allotted to them, 60 years of bloodshed and misery could have been averted.

As Prof. Benny Morris wrote recently ‘In defiance of the will of the international community, as embodied in the UN General Assembly Resolution of November 29th, 1947 (No. 181), (Palestinian Arabs) launched hostilities against the Jewish community
in Palestine in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community. But they lost; and one of the results was the displacement
of 700,000 of them from their homes.’

God promised Abraham that his descendents would have a land, and would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. We at Anglican Friends of Israel believe that modern Israel is a fulfilment of that promise: we rejoice unashamedly at this, Israel’s 60th birthday, thanking the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for the restoration of the Jewish people to their land. And we pray for a just peace for all the people of the region, Jew and Arab – a peace which we believe that ultimately, only God himself can bring.

Tommy Burns RIP

It has taken me a couple of days to get around to writing this. When a death is reported in the media, we often here various levels of humbug and downright lies about what a wonderful person they were and how tragic it is that they were taken so young. The media will never say, "They were a bad bastard and good riddance to them".

However, in the case of Tommy Burns, all the tributes are justified. Throughout his time with Celtic, Kilmarnock and Scotland , Tommy Burns conducted himself with a dignity and humility that was motivated by his sincere Christian beliefs.

I remember him joining Killie when the club was in the Second Division - he made his debut on an infamous night at Methil against East Fife, when the team bus broke down and the match was eventually abandoned due to the sub-zero temperature. Very few players would have been willing to make such a step down in the world while they still had something left to offer on the pitch, as TB did. Billy McNeill admitted later that he would not have allowed TB to leave Celtic, had he realised how long TB would be able to maintain his level of performance.

Another memory from that season is of a match at Rugby Park against East Fife. A wee fat bloke had been given the task of marking TB and had made the mistake of taking a kick at him. TB took the pìss out of this guy, jogging with the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, with the lardbucket trailing in his wake.

Killie's record in derby matches against Ayr United was phenomenal with Tommy in the team. Having spent so many years playing in Old Firm matches for Celtic, TB knew how important it was to the fans to win a derby. As well as helping the team to win matches, TB bagged a few goals against Ayr, including two 35 yard screamers. Interviewed after one of them, TB admitted that he had not seen the ball hit the net, owing to his short-sightedness.

As manager, TB led Killie to the Scottish Premier Division (as it was then) and kept Killie there. One of the most momentous achievements was beating Rangers 2-1 at Ibrox early in the season; this being Killie's first league win there for 33 years and Ranger' first home defeat in a long, long time.

In that same season, Killie took Rangers to a replay in the Scottish Cup semi-final: Killie led by a Tom Black goal well into the second half until one of the most infamous moments in Scottish football history. A cross from the right, with Mark Hateley closing in from the far side looked a goal all the way. Hateley's header struck the crossbar, bounced down, struck Ray Montgomerie and was clutched by Bobby Geddes. Referee Les Mottram awarded a goal: Monty furiously denied that the ball had crossed the goal line. Technology eventually proved conclusively that Geoff Hurst's second goal in the 1966 World Cup Final never crossed the line: if Killie were important enough, I am 99% sure that it would also establish that Killie were robbed of a place in the Cup Final that season.

I felt as hurt and angry as any Killie fan when TB left to become manager of Celtic in 1994. I appreciate why he did it, though. He was a Celtic man through and through. TB claimed that he would not have left Killie for any club other than Celtic, and I believed him.

Not many footballers appear on Songs of Praise - TB did, though, when they were recording a show in Kilmarnock. His faith was genuine and this will have helped to sustain him during his battle with cancer, as well as providing the reassurance that death is not the end.

Tommy Burns 1956-2008, RIP.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Rangers' hooligans run amok in Manchester

Appalling scenes in Manchester last night as hordes of Rangers thugs ran riot, attacking police and trashing the city centre. All because their team had lost a football match? Even that is too simplistic. Quite simply, this really was a situation just waiting to happen. The trouble apparently began even before the match as morons got increasingly drunk and increasingly moronic.

Most tragic of all, an innocent Russian fan who had travelled to see his team has been stabbed and seriously injured. To be fair, Rangers in recent years have done a lot to tackle sectarianism. To be equally fair, Rangers had spent most of the previous century taking advantage of the social problems in the west of Scotland, eg through their policy of not employing Roman Catholics, to foster hatred and resentment in order to entice the dregs of society through the turnstyles. Do Rangers want the underclass of Scotland and Northern Ireland to stop buying replica shirts etc? Of course they don't. Like the Labour Party, Rangers is deeply ashamed of the sort of the people who made the institution what it is. Like the Labour Party, it still relies on them.

For years, Rangers and Celtic have aspired to join the Premier League in England. Some English commentators, who really don't know what they would be letting themselves in for, have been foolish enough to endorse this. Believe me, folks - you are better off without them.

Let's all laugh at Rangers

More than thirty years ago, a notable Scottish journalist called Ian Archer wrote in the Glasgow Herald, "This has to be said about Rangers... as a Scottish fooball club they are a permanent embarrassment and occasional disgrace. This country would be a better place if Rangers did not exist". Today, that statement is as true as it was then:

Never had so many Giros and Provident cheques been cashed in vain. Hordes of unwashed, unemployed and unemployable, racist thugs converging on Manchester; a team whose fans are easily identifiable by their trademark Nazi salute and their songs about killing Catholics, including their infamous Billy Boys chant which honours the 1930s gangster, fascist and KKK supporter Billy Fullerton.

Looking at the fans last night - whose team did you want to win? The sexy Russian babes or the fat, ugly unwashed Gers? As much a no-brainer as the average Neanderthal which constitutes a large proportion of Rangers' fan base. Anyone with a heart had to laugh out loud at the tears and emotion among the Rangers players at the end, as they slumped dejectedly to the turf looking as though their dog had died. Did they think they had got close to winning? In truth, they had been blown away by a far superior team. Beaten fair and square. Shake hands and move on, chaps.

I'm back

As Arnie might have said.