Posted by: Harold Knight | 03/04/2014

“. . . a deceitful political stunt. . . “

From Samia Khoury, a letter from  Naim Ateek of the Sabeel Center in Jerusalem.

New Israeli legislation:

The Lutherans of Jerusalem worship

The Lutherans of Jerusalem worship

On Monday, February 23, 2014, the Israeli Knesset enacted a new law that recognizes Muslim and Christian Arab communities as separate identities, giving them their own representation in an employment commission. The law passed by a margin of 31 to 6.

The new law passed by the Knesset favoring Christians is, to say the least, a deceitful political stunt by Likud-Beiteinu members aimed at sowing seeds of division among Christians and between Christians and Muslims.

For the last sixty-five years, the government of Israel has not shown favoritism or bias towards the Christian community of the land, so why now?

During the Nakba of 1948, the Christians, like the Muslims, were dispossessed by the Zionists and were forced out of their homeland. Furthermore, during the military rule imposed by Israel on all Palestinians who stayed inside the Israeli state (1948-1966), Israel did not show favoritism to Christians over Muslims. Both were discriminated against and both were treated as unwanted aliens in their own land. There is a plethora of documentation to substantiate the history of that period. The problem for Israel in those days was not the Palestinians’ religious affiliation but their Palestinian national identity.

I believe that the new law reflects the moral bankruptcy of the government of Israel. Indeed, it must be in trouble to allow itself to stoop so low as to blatantly use this tactic to attempt to win the support of some Christians abroad, and, at the same time, sow dissent among Christians and Muslims. It is the old adage of “divide and rule.” This law is sinister in that it exploits the sensitive tensions among the religious communities of the Middle East, especially in light of what has been happening in Egypt and now is happening in Syria.

I am certain that the Palestinian community is mature enough not to fall into such a despicable religious trap.

There is another dishonest and hidden angle to this law. Jewish religious tradition has always considered Christianity, not Islam, as the mortal enemy of Jews and Judaism. This is due to the fact that the Christian faith came out of the same foundation as the Jewish faith, namely, the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e. the Christian Old Testament. I still remember the Israeli religious establishment discouraging Jewish students from visiting Christian churches while encouraging them to visit Muslim mosques. The advisory pointed out that there was greater affinity between Judaism and Islam, while the gap was quite wide between Judaism and Christianity.

What has caused this sudden infatuation with Palestinian Christians to merit new legislation? Or is it just an ugly political stunt? What favors can the right-wing Israeli government give the Palestinian Arab Christians who are Israeli citizens? Will it restore their confiscated land to them? Will it grant them equality with their fellow Jewish citizens? Or are we witnessing another divisive Israeli ploy similar to when Israel set the Druze community apart from its Arab base?

It is worth mentioning that over sixty years ago, Israel managed to make the Druze religion a separate ethnic entity, thus separating them from

The Muslims of Jerusalem worship

The Muslims of Jerusalem worship

their Arab roots. Through this new legislation, Israel wants to make the Christian religion a separate ethnic identity in order to separate them from their Arab Palestinian roots. But in spite of what Israel has done to the Druze community, an increasing number of young Druze men have been resisting imposed Israeli military service.

Israel has been very shrewd in concocting devious ways and means to impose its will on the Palestinians and keep them weak and divided. It continues to connive ways to limit and even deprive them of their rights to the land so they will give up and leave.

I am certain that the Christian community in Israel will see through this new Israeli legislation, will expose its sinister nature, and reject it. It is my hope also that our people’s resilience and maturity will foil the Israeli government’s insidious objectives. This we can do through our unity and solidarity, as well as through our determination to continue to work for a just peace, inclusive democracy, and human dignity for all the people of our land.


Naim Ateek

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center


Is it bipolar? If it looks like a duck, and walks like. . . (you know).

Samir Awad, fatally shot on January 15, 2013

Samir Awad, fatally shot on January 15, 2013

A great mystery of US politics (and international affairs) is that Americans elect members of Congress who are pledged to “cut the budget” and stop growth of the Federal Government (often, they say, by eliminating “foreign aid”)—elect them at the same time they turn a blind eye to our country’s enormous yearly expenditure of aid to one of the world’s healthiest economies.

That the U.S. continues to give $3.1 billion annually to the state of Israel is akin to your continuing to give your son or daughter their weekly allowance when they have finished graduate school and are making more money at their entry-level job than you have ever made.

  • How many collapsing bridges in Texas could $3.1 billion a year fix?
  • How many children in Dallas County could be insured under the Affordable Care Act instead of billing upstanding citizens for their care at Parkland Hospital? All of them?

Steven Strauss of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government has written persuasively that our continuing financial support of Israel is exactly like taking funds from your limited checking account and giving them to your millionaire stock-broker son or daughter.  His essay begins,

It’s been over 15 years since PM Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress stating Israel’s goal of economic independence. In 1997, Israel received $3.1 billion in aid from the U.S. In 2012, Israel was still receiving $3.1 billion annually in U.S. aid. We haven’t made much progress towards PM Netanyahu’s goal. For Israel’s sake, as well as for America’s, it’s time to reduce U.S. annual aid to Israel — to 0 — over some reasonable adjustment period (perhaps 5 to 10 years), leaving open the possibility, of course, for emergency aid.

Palestinian priest Father Shomali (2R) leads an open air mass on April 6, 2012 after leading a procession through the Cremisan valley and near the surrounding settlements, with Palestinian Christians who didn’t get permits to go to Jerusalem to participate in the “Via Dolorosa” in Jerusalem.

Palestinian priest Father Shomali (2R) leads an open air mass on April 6, 2012 after leading a procession through the Cremisan valley and near the surrounding settlements, with Palestinian Christians who didn’t get permits to go to Jerusalem to participate in the “Via Dolorosa” in Jerusalem.

So, all you Tea Partiers and Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan, it’s time for you to demand that the US stop wasting $3.1 billion every year and either

  • reduce the deficit or
  • spend that money on fixing the (almost) devastated water supply in California.

(not aid to the state of Israel or the robber-baron owners of Sodastream or other grown-up companies that ought to be supporting themselves) FOR OUR MONEY:

Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity, said AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL IN A REPORT PUBLISHED TODAY.

The report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, describes mounting bloodshed and human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as a result of the Israeli forces’ use of unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force against Palestinians since January.

It is unnecessary for me to comment.

In the West Bank, the tragic consequences of Israel’s policy of suppressing Palestinian protest have become a familiar story:
Samir Awad, a 16-year-old boy from Bodrus, near Ramallah, was shot dead near his school in January 2013 while attempting to stage a protest with friends against Israel’s 800km-long fence/wall, which cuts through their village. Three bullets struck him in the back of the head, the leg, and shoulder as he fled Israeli soldiers who ambushed his group. Witnesses said the boy was directly targeted as he ran away.

Malik Murar, 16, Samir’s friend who witnessed his killing, told Amnesty International: “They shot him first in the leg, yet he managed to run away… how far can an injured child run? They could have easily arrested him… instead they shot him in the back with live ammunition.”

Amnesty International believes Samir’s killing may amount to extrajudicial execution or a wilful killing, which is considered a war crime under international law.

“It’s hard to believe that an unarmed child could be perceived as posing imminent danger to a well-equipped soldier. Israeli forces appear in this and other cases to have recklessly fired bullets at the slightest appearance of a threat,” said Philip Luther.

Under international law, the police and soldiers enforcing the law must always exercise restraint and never use arbitrary force. Security forces may only resort to the use of lethal force if there is an imminent risk to their lives or the lives of others. Israel has repeatedly refused to make public the rules and regulations governing the use of force by army and police in the OPT.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: At least two Palestinians have lost their lives in the occupied West Bank as Israeli soldiers open fire on anti-war Palestinian protesters.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: At least two Palestinians have lost their lives in the occupied West Bank as Israeli soldiers open fire on anti-war Palestinian protesters.


An open letter to my Christian friends,
Scott Lively: the American christianist face of Ugandan hatred

Scott Lively: the American christianist face of Ugandan hatred

Don’t those of you who are christians think it’s about time to take back the faith from “The Family” or “The Fellowship” or whatever name you know it by (if you don’t know about it, you should learn — follow the link in the last paragraph in this story). Those who are not christians ought to be concerned enough to want to push back against this Washington D.C. power-based organization.

You’ll think all sorts of bad things about me for this. Go ahead. I’m pissed off. I’m existentially offended. I’m frightened. If this is what “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. . .” and all that nonsense means, then stop the planet, I want to get off.
Your faggot friend (who would be, if he were a Ugandan, rotting in jail today thanks to American evangelical christianists),
If you think I’m just a crackpot, so be it.
You might, however, if you want to think instead of reacting read one or more of the following:
Posted by: Harold Knight | 01/26/2014

No permit for a grieving mother

No entry for a grieving mother

No entry for a grieving mother

(A difficult letter from Samia Khoury)

Dear Friends:

We were at a memorial service in Bethlehem yesterday for Khadder Tarazi, the nephew of my sister’s husband.  His death at the age of 46 was a shock not only to his family, his mother, wife, three children and five sisters, but to the  Gaza community and  the large circle of family and friends in Bethlehem and Ramallah and the Gulf area.  People die every day for some reason or another, and after forty six years under a military occupation we hear sad stories daily about killings and sick people dying in jail or at checkpoints.  But what touched me yesterday was the sad but dignified expression of the parents of Khader’s wife.  As soon as they heard the news they came rushing across the bridge  from Jordan to be with their daughter and her children.  But even in the midst of our grief Israel fails to show some humanity.  The father was allowed to go to Gaza for the funeral whereas the mother was not granted a permit. Why?  And what is the justification for such brutality?  There weren’t enough words to console them yesterday as they stood to shake hands with all those people who came to pay their respects and offer their condolences.    People in sorrow deserve an expression of humanity.  But I suppose that is too much to ask from a military who has kept the whole Gaza Strip under siege for the last seven years. 

Rafah in Gaza. American tax dollars at work.

Rafah in Gaza. American tax dollars at work.


Ironically the case of Khadder left two renowned Israeli hospitals in a puzzle.  When he got sick, presumably from some virus,  he was rushed to Shaare Zedek in Jerusalem where his kidneys started to fail and despite the dialysis his condition kept deteriorating very fast that the hospital decided to transfer him to Hadassah hospital where all his system eventually shut down and he passed away.  Here were doctors, Israelis as well as Palestinians, trying to save this young man’s life, while the military could not even show a sign of humanity by granting  a woman the privilege of being with her daughter  and grandchildren at  a time of grief.  Samia



This post is long and serious. I trust any American who wants to understand American foreign policy, especially relating to Israel, will find time to read it.

While this article concentrates on somewhat earlier times (the 1970s and 1980s), it discusses the influence of the dispensationalists on George W. Bush. Leadership for the religious/political ideas and influences of the fundamentalist Christian right has passed to John Hagee of San Antonio –but the thrust of their message and work has not changed. If anything, with Hagee’s Christians United for Israel they have become better organized and more vocal.

This article is specifically about the Left Behind novels, but it discusses the theological/political background of the novels which has not, of course, changed.

This excerpt begins on the sixth page of the article. I have removed footnotes because it was not possible to include the sources. Anyone who would like a copy of the entire article may comment here or message me, and I will send you a copy.

NOTE: changes in type face below indicate only problems with copying into WordPress and are not significant.

McAlister, Melani. “Prophecy, Politics, and the Popular: The Left Behind Series and Christian Fundamentalism’s New World Order.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 102:4 (Fall 2003): 773-798.

The Left Behind series is deeply embedded in a long-established tradition in fundamentalist thought that looks to the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation for information about the end times and the Second Coming of Christ. Fundamentalists generally regard the Bible as literal truth, but, in the face of the allusive and elusive texts of the prophecies, they must become hermeneutic experts, unpacking highly metaphorical passages for their predictive value. Drawing on the interpretations developed by John Darby in the nineteenth century and popularized in the 1909 Scofield Reference Bible, generations of fundamentalists have held that the Bible’s accuracy can be tested and confirmed by political developments, especially those concerning Israel. While the doctrinal specifics vary among different groups, all agree that in the Bible, one important signal of the approach of the Second Coming of Christ is the return of Jews to the Holy Land.

Then, according to prophecy, as the ‘‘end times’’ approach, an Antichrist will arise, claiming to bring peace. During the ‘‘tribulations’’ under the Antichrist, both Jews and Christian believers will be persecuted. (Various groups disagree about whether the Rapture of believers will happen before or after the Tribulation. The Left Behind novels are exemplars of the theory of ‘‘pre-Tribulation Rapture.’’ Pat Robertson is a well-known proponent of the belief that the Rapture will happen after the Tribulation.) All agree that as God shows his hand and the truth of the Christian Bible’s prophecies are revealed, there will be mass conversion of Jews to the recognition that Jesus is their Messiah. At the end of seven years, Israel, threatened by a confederacy of most of the nations of the world, will face down her enemies at a final, terrible battle of Armageddon, during which Christ himself will return to do battle for Israel. After Christ’s return, the millennial reign of one thousand years of peace begins.

Evangelical enthusiasm for prophecy study quickened after the founding of Israel in 1948, but it was mobilized to a near frenzy when, after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Israelis occupied all of Jerusalem, just in time for the revival of fundamentalism in the United States. For many, Israeli control of the Holy City was a crucial indication—perhaps the indication—that ‘‘this generation’’ will see the coming of Christ. In 1970, Hal Lindsey published The Late, Great Planet Earth, a popularization of fundamentalist doctrines of the end times that used accessible language and a pseudo-hip writing style to target worried baby boomers on the edge of the counterculture. It went on to become the best-selling nonfiction book of the 1970s.

Lindsey, like others before and after him, highlighted the political significance of his interpretations of biblical prophecy: the Middle East wars that had happened—and those that were coming—were predicted and explained in the Bible. Lindsey also aimed to bring the study of prophecy a new kind of panache: he wanted to reach audiences, particularly young audiences, who might be interested in politics first and convinced of Christian revelation as a result. At the same time, he also pushed hard against traditional fundamentalist opposition to ‘‘worldliness’’: Christians must begin to pay attention to politics, he argued, and in particular to foreign policy, because the Middle East, particularly the nation of Israel (and its allies and enemies) would be central to the greatest religious test of all time. In this context, political events become important because of how they fit into a biblical scheme, and interpreting that scheme is a complex and politically saturated process. Many mainline Protestant leaders have spoken out against end-times theology in general, and even evangelicals some- times have strong theological disagreements with an approach that focuses heavily on the possibility of an imminent Second Coming. Yet the appeal remains quite powerful. Left Behind uses images, character types, and even whole scenes from the subcultural industry of novels and movies that, since the early 1970s, have been making prophecy, the Rapture, and Armageddon staples of evangelical popular culture. As one scholar of evangelical- ism has pointed out, evangelical fascination with end-times theology can in part be explained by the fact that prophecy interpretation can be fun: when fundamentalists debate what the founding of the European Union signifies or how the oil crisis or Desert Storm fit into the prophetic scheme, both politics and religion get energized by their relationship to each other.

These general views about prophecy and politics were explicitly part of the fundamentalist Christian activism of the late 1970s, when evangelicals began making themselves felt as a political force. In 1978, Jerry Falwell told reporters, and later repeated in his preaching, that he believed that Christians must involve themselves politically in such a way as to guarantee that the United States would support Israel: ‘‘I believe that if we fail to protect Israel, we will cease to be important to God. . . . We can and must be involved in guiding America towards a biblical position regarding her stand on Israel.’’ When the Moral Majority was founded in 1979, one of its founding principles read, ‘‘We support the state of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere . . . ’’

The writers of the Left Behind novels hail from that earlier era, in the 1970s and 1980s, when fundamentalism’s political power was on the rise. LaHaye was active in the Moral Majority, and in 1987, was deposed as cochairman of Jack Kemp’s presidential campaign for having called Catholicism a ‘‘false religion’’ and for blaming Jewish suffering on the Jewish rejection of Jesus. Jenkins, who does all of the actual writing for the series, was a staff writer for the fundamentalist powerhouse, the Moody Bible Institute, as well as the collaborator on Billy Graham’s autobiography and ghostwriter for several sports autobiographies before he turned to the series. Although LaHaye has, until recently, enjoyed less visibility than television preachers like Falwell and Robertson, his intellectual and cultural influence has been tremendous. He is one of the founders of the Council for National Politics, the New Right network that has included among its members John Ashcroft, Pat Robertson, and Joseph Coors. He is also married to Beverly LaHaye, founder of the conservative Concerned Women for America, the antigay, antifeminist, antiabortion, and pro-creationist enterprise that currently claims to be ‘‘the largest public policy women’s organization’’ [still very much alive and influencing people—see their webpage] in the country. Even before the Left Behind series, LaHaye had published more than forty books on marriage and family, ‘‘sexual adjustment,’’ and, of course, biblical prophecy. Recently, Jerry Falwell established the Tim LaHaye School of Prophecy at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Given these credentials, it is perhaps not surprising that the other major response of secular commentators has been to see the novels as the vanguard for a revival of 1980s-style political fundamentalism. And at one level, this view is entirely justified. As Michelle Goldberg argued in an article on last year, it is surely significant that ‘‘the most popular fiction in the country creates a gripping narrative that pits American Christians against a conspiracy of Satan-worshipping, abortion-promoting, gun- controlling globalists—all of it revolving around the sovereignty of Israel.’’ And with Representative Dick Armey (R–Texas), Tom DeLay (R–Texas), [Note: both have lost their seats in Congress] and Jim Inhofe (R–Oklahoma) vying to become the most visible and hardline of Israel’s congressional supporters—in an MSNBC interview last year, Armey called for the transfer of the Palestinian population out of the West Bank, before offering a half-hearted retraction the next day; Inhofe said on the House floor that Israel should keep the West Bank ‘‘because God said so’’— the on-the-ground political power of Christian Zionism is undeniable. And grassroots churches are increasingly in the mix, raising money to fund Jewish immigrants to populate Israeli settlements, for example, or joining the estimated 16,000  congregations who participated in ‘‘Pray for Israel’’ day in October 2002.

When President Bush called for Sharon to withdraw Israel’s tanks from Palestinian territory in the spring of 2002, Falwell and others organized the religious right to send nearly 100,000 e-mails to the White House to protest the request. When the Christian Coalition held its Rally for Israel in October 2002, President Bush sent a videotaped message, while Tom DeLay and the mayor of Jerusalem both gave speeches. In fact, the enthusiastic embrace of Israeli ‘‘security’’ and Israeli settlements includes not only a strong push in Congress, but also a close alliance with the Israeli leader- ship—an alliance that goes back to Labor’s embrace of fundamentalism in the 1970s, when the Israeli government began courting evangelical leaders, in part by hosting Holy Land tours for well-known preachers (including Falwell, and Bailey Smith of the Southern Baptist Convention). Those connections only intensified under the right-wing Likud government elected in 1978 and they continue into the present. In January 2002, the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., held the first of a series of meetings with conservative Christian leaders and launched a drive to encourage Christian tourism to Israel; later in the year, Sharon spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of thousands of evangelicals in Jerusalem. Observers argue that these activities are making a real difference, not because of Bush’s evangelical belief (or his advisors’ Jewish ones), but  for  quite  pragmatic  political  reasons. While one theory argues  that  President  Bush  is  aiming  to  secure  the  position  of Jeb Bush in Florida, where his strong support for Israel is also winning him increasing support from Jewish voters, this is only a small part of the story. Many Congressional Republicans have few Jewish constituents but a large number of conservative Christian ones, and their support has been instrumental in pushing Congress to more hawkish positions. As one commentator in the Jerusalem Post put it, ‘‘The US is Israel’s best friend largely because the American Christian community wills it to be so.’’

To the degree that critics of the Christian right see these actions as only as a revitalizing version of Reagan-era Christian activism, however, they are likely to miss the important ways in which the political culture of fundamentalism is changing—maintaining deeply conservative views on Israel and U.S. foreign policy generally, but revamping its cultural politics. In the Left Behind novels, we see not only what one reviewer has called the ‘‘conspiratorial balderdash’’ of fundamentalist political ideology, but also a significant outward reach, in terms of both style and content. The Left Behind novels claim to be about the future—‘‘Prophecy is history written in advance,’’ LaHaye once said—but they are also very much about the present, and a new kind of fundamentalist self-fashioning that self-consciously reaches out to the larger world, in part to evangelize that world, certainly, but also in part to construct a complex set of connections to it. As evangelical performance, these novels struggle to enact modernity, and to establish both for their protagonists and implicitly for their readers the kind of broad cultural reach that might authorize fundamentalist mappings of American global politics.

Posted by: Harold Knight | 01/18/2014

A Haven for Palestinian children in Jerusalem

Children of Rawdat El-Zuhur School

Children of Rawdat El-Zuhur School


Rawdat El-Zuhur is a non-governmental non-profit women’s organization that supervises Rawdat El-Zuhur elementary school and kindergarten in East Jerusalem, which serves mainly the lower income community.


The following is a letter received today from Samia Khoury who was for many years the chair of the organization that runs Rawdat El-Zuhur School in Jerusalem. I have never used this blog to appeal for contributions for any cause. Today I dispense with that tradition.

Please read Samia’s letter and join me in supporting Rawdat El-Zuhur School in Jerusalem. Information about donations is at the end of Samia’s letter. Thank you. Harold Knight

Computer class

Computer class


Dear Friends:  I am writing this urgent appeal with a cringe in my heart worrying about the future of  Rawdat El-Zuhur School.   Many of you will remember how often I spoke about the school as  I served as president of the society that runs the school for seventeen years until I retired in 2004.  But my commitment to the school never waivered because Rawdat El-Zuhur was established by a visionary woman with  a specific mission  in 1952.  More now than ever, Rawdat El-Zuhur  continues to have a purpose especially  with the ongoing onslaught on Jerusalem.

One of our visitors described it once as an oasis in the midst of the violence and injustice of  the occupation.  Another friend of the school wrote at one time to say:  “When I get  pessimistic and worried about the condition of Palestine and Jerusalem Palestinians, I find thinking of Rawdat El-Zuhur is a message of the strong heartbeat  still continuing there. Life will continue and flourish for you all in your homeland.  It is sustained not by might , not by power, but by spirit – and you are the keepers and nourishers of that spirit. Our graduates all over the country are a living testimony of that spirit.

Rawdat El Zuhur organization was established in 1952 in response to pressing needs within the Jerusalem Community to work with unprivileged and destitute  women and girls, who were literally begging on the streets to earn a living.  Elizabeth Nasir, a social worker at the time was committed to provide shelter and basic skills for those young girls to help them earn a decent living

The work of the organization was developed in 1967 to address an urgent need for schools following the occupation of Jerusalem.  An elementary school, KG through 6th grade, developed to cater for children (girls and boys) who came from low-income families.  Our mission was to provide for those children  quality education that focuses on good citizenship within an atmosphere of love and safety.

The school was able to draw the attention and support of some donor organizations and friends from inside and outside the country, who helped in the establishment of an endowment in recognition of the founder of Rawdat El Zuhur, the late Elizabeth Nasir.  A sponsorship program was established and a big part of it was adopted by BibleLands until the past two years, when they decided to gradually stop their funds and direct them to organizations affiliated with local churches.  The funds from the endowment were set as a compensation fund for teachers, and part of the interest was used to cover the deficit.  We used those funds to bridge the gap arising from the difference of fees paid and  the actual cost of running the school.  However, due to the global financial crisis, interest as well as donations were diminishing that we were forced to draw from the principal investment to cover our yearly deficit.  The pressure being exerted on the Palestinian Authority as well as the international NGO’s not to include Jerusalem in their aid programs has been a great concern.

Rawdat El Zuhur is facing a very serious financial situation that is threatening its existence.  Although our students are from a low-income community,  they deserve to have  quality education that will pave the present for a better and hopeful future.

The yearly school budget is in the range of $550,000-570,000.  The cost for maintaining a child is in the range of $2500.  We would greatly appreciate it if you could make a donation either towards the general budget or towards the sponsorship program to cover the cost of a child  or part of it.  No matter how small or large your donation is, it will help fill the pot and assure us that someone out there cares for those children. We know some of you have already made  a gift for this year, and for that we are very thankful.  Of course you can always make your gift in honor of somebody or in memory of a dear person.

Donations with tax exemption in the USA can be sent through  the Global Ministries.  Please make your check  to WIDER CHURCH MINISTRIES with a cover letter to the attention of Dr. Peter Makari at the address below, indicating that the contribution is for Rawdat El-Zuhur. 876530520Reflections_COVER_FINAL_WEB

Dr. Peter E. Makari, Executive, Middle East and Europe Global Ministries of
the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

700 Prospect Ave., #718, Cleveland, Ohio 44115 USA

With warm greetings, and thank you for your kind consideration.
Samia Khoury


Samia’s book, Reflections from Palestine, is available from Rimal Books,

This posting presents information about the plan for Texas A&M University essentially to take over a struggling Arab university in Nazareth, the city in Israel with the largest Christian and Arab population. The plan was fostered by Texas Governor Perry and Chancellor John Sharp, with the help of John Hagee, the Fundamentalist “Dispensationalist” preacher from San Antonio. Hagee’s role is explained in the article by Thomas Cook below.

Hagee’s continuing role as the project moves forward is unclear. However, Steve Moore, Texas A&M Vice Chancellor of Marketing & Communications, in an email dated January 8, 2014, stated, “. . . this effort will be funded entirely through private donations.” He has not responded to questions about who will spearhead the drive for donations.

Hirak, the Center for the Advancement of Higher Education in Arab Society has attempted for about ten years to establish a Palestinian university in Nazareth but has been unable to receive funding or recognition from the government of Israel. Leaders of Hirak wrote a background study of the difficulties in attempting to provide higher education for Palestinians in Israel. The Study.

The following are sources of information about the Texas A&M plan (which is all but accomplished). SECTIONS I. and III. are the most important.

I.           Excerpts from an Email from the North Texas Boycott, Divest and Sanction of Israel Campaign.

Palestine solidarity activists are campaigning against plans by Texas A&M University to take over a college in Nazareth, the city in present-day Israel with the highest number of Palestinian citizens.

“We find it impossible to support an A&M branch in Israel,” Jala Naguib, an Aggies for Palestine spokesperson, told The Electronic Intifada by email. Aggies for Palestine is a Texas A&M student human rights group.

“I believe it is a poor precedent to set in continuing to support a nation that has repeatedly violated human rights and has repeatedly pursued a policy of apartheid towards the Palestinian people,” Naguib added.

Texas A&M, the sixth largest university in the United States, intends to raise $70 million to assume control of the Nazareth Academic Institute.

Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp announced the plans to establish an international “peace campus” while meeting with with Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem in October (“Rick Perry to announce Texas A&M campus in Nazareth,” The Daily Beast, 22 October 2013).

John Hagee, a right-wing Christian Zionist pastor leading the lobby group Christians United for Israel, is also involved in the project. . . .

II.       From, the online edition of Haaretz Newspaper in Israel:

Texas A&M University to establish new campus in Nazareth
U.S. University will take over operations of the Nazareth Academic Institute, which has not received state funding since its establishment in 2010.

By Yarden Skop  | Oct. 22, 2013 | 9:31 PM

Texas A&M will sign an agreement on Wednesday to open a branch in Nazareth, making it the first American university to decide to set up a campus in Israel.

The agreement was announced Tuesday by the President’s Residence, the Education Ministry and the Council for Higher Education. President Shimon Peres will preside over Wednesday’s signing ceremony, which will be attended by Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp.

The new campus in Nazareth is meant to provide an alternative for the many Arab Israelis who currently attend college abroad. Essentially, Texas A&M will take over the city’s existing college, the Nazareth Academic Institute, which was established in 2010 specifically to serve the Arab population. Having suffered from many problems in its effort to function as an independent institution – above all, a lack of state financing . . . (the Haaretz account continues below)


III.          Thomas Cook, the internationally known journalist explains the appalling development in his blog. This is the single most thorough source of information on this topic. Notice especially the section of the article regarding the role of John Hagee in this plan.


      IV.             Several accounts from various news sources:·   


·        The official announcement from Texas A&M University:
NEWS RELEASE,  Oct. 23, 2013

       From the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

·        Background political information from the Dallas Morning News about Rick Perry’s involvement is here.

·        More background information from the Dallas Morning News about the Texas/Israel connection is here.

·        San Antonio weighs in.

·        The Austin Statesman account is here.

       Another article in detail about the situation from AlterNet.

In John Hagee’s own words:

V.               Conclusion of Haaretz article:

. . . . – NAI welcomed the prestigious American university’s entry into the picture, hoping it will finally provide a proper institute of higher education for the Arab population.

“We hoped and wanted to be an Israeli academic institution in every respect, not a branch [of a foreign university,]” said NAI’s dean of students, Soher Bsharat. “But when we didn’t find a budgeting solution, and ran into many problems, we saw that cooperation with Texas, which is a respected university, was a solution.”

Texas A&M has promised to raise $70 million to build its Nazareth campus, which will be known as Texas A&M Peace University, as well as additional millions for an endowment to finance its operations. Classes will be taught in English by lecturers from Texas A&M. The university will be open to both Jewish and Arab students.

Sharp, the Texas A&M chancellor, was a driving force behind the decision to open a campus in Israel. “I wanted a presence in Israel,” he said, in an interview with the New York Times. “I have felt a kinship with Israel.”

To pursue his goal, Sharp, a longtime supporter of Jewish and Israeli causes, sought help from Pastor John C. Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel. Hagee helped him make contact with officials in Israel.

But locating the branch in Nazareth was Peres’ idea, according to the president’s advisor on social issues, Yosef Angel. The university, he said, “wanted to open a branch in Israel and was looking for a suitable place to establish it. They consulted us, and we advised them to look into Nazareth. They visited and fell in love with the place.”

NAI currently offers degrees in two subjects – chemistry and communications. It has 120 students, 90 percent of them women.

But it has never received any state funding, despite repeated requests, and despite an OECD recommendation that Israel should fund the college. NAI’s president, Prof. George Kanaza, told Haaretz three years ago that the Council for Higher Education even conditioned the institution’s accreditation on a promise not to apply for state funding. “Apparently, the CHE hoped we would expire from lack of funds,” he told Haaretz at the time.

The CHE’s argument for refusing to fund the college was that Israel already has plenty of colleges and doesn’t need another state-funded institution. Since then, however, the government has approved upgrading the college in Ariel to a university, while NAI remains unfunded, despite the dire need for more academic institutions serving the Arab public.

Recently, the CHE’s Planning and Budgeting Committee delayed approval approval of a new campus for NAI, even though the college had already obtained a plot of land from the Israel Lands Administration and the Nazareth municipality, as well as a pledged donation to finance construction. The latter came from Palestinian millionaire Munib al-Masri.

(A communication from Samia Khoury today. I urge you to follow the links and pictures I have provided as you consider Samia’s observations. -H. Knight)

December 29, 2013

Dear All:

A lot of speculation has been going around about the possibility of a third Intifada (uprising.) People living under so much oppression and stress, are bound to rise up. It is a natural and spontaneous reaction as we experienced it in the first and second Intifada.  Although the situation nowadays is much worse with the new realities that continue to be created on the ground during the last forty six years, the general mood is not the same. The frustration is mounting and the spirit of solidarity is no more there as it was in the first intifada. Over and above, the split between Fateh and Hamas has certainly exacerbated that frustration and feeling of hopelessness. Although people want to keep hoping that this nightmare is bound to disappear, I think they have lost faith in their leaders, in the Arab countries, their own ability to stand up against such brutality and of course they have no more faith in their partners and brokers for peace.

Palestinian Super Star, Mohammed Assaf

Palestinian Super Star, Mohammed Assaf

Other than the fact that the civil society has waged a non-violent resistance campaign including the BDS (Boycott, divestment and sanctions) there is a Palestinian Authority that has signed agreements with Israel and is committed to abide by them despite the fact that Israel is not keeping its part of those agreements. One of those agreements is regarding security which to many Palestinians seems as if the Palestinian Authority has been commissioned to control the security in the Palestinian Territories on behalf of the Israeli occupation forces. So an uprising could be disastrous if both the Israeli and Palestinian security forces would join efforts to suppress it. We have already seen the brutal reaction of the Palestinian Security Forces to some of the Palestinian demonstrations whether in Ramallah or in Gaza. The failure of the Arab Spring in the neighboring countries would be another reason to think twice before waging another Intifada, because we have no backing, and the loss of life under these circumstances would simply be worthless. Although usually there are no calculations ahead of time in a spontaneous Intifada, I have a feeling that due to the general mood and the prevailing situation, people are weighing the odds.

Seattle BDS rally

Seattle BDS rally

Ironically, Israel is provoking the Palestinians so that they would initiate an uprising, and then Israel can claim that the Palestinians do not want peace. Mr. Netanyahu already criticized Mohammad Assaf, the popular Palestinian Arab Idol for singing longingly about Palestinian cities that are now part of Israel. He wrote to Mr. Kerry saying that incitement and peace cannot coexist. The recent killings in Qalqiliya and Jenin, and the raid on Gaza that killed a little child are all provocative actions that are not justified. It seems to me that when Israel “lost two wars” an expression Uri Avnery used to refer to the war against Syria and the new agreement with Iran, Israel was bound to resort to an alternative action to divert the attention from its lack of commitment to ending the occupation or forging peace with the Palestinians.

However now that the year 2014 has been proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as the International year of solidarity with the Palestinian people, we already saw the Israeli rage about the resolution of the American Studies Association to join the BDS campaign almost at the same time when the Dutch giant Water company Vitens severed ties with Israel’s National Water Company. So with all those developments how can we lose hope especially after we watched the unveiling of an eight-meter-high replica of the Israeli-built concrete wall that surrounds the city of Bethlehem in front of St. James’ Church in Central London? The director of this innovative project, and certainly the Rector of the church are to be commended on their courage. It takes courage to expose the truth, and unfortunately not all our churches have had that much courage. But there is always a time to start. So let us hope that there will be a concerted effort to proclaim 2014 not only a year of solidarity, but a year of action to redress the grave injustice that has been inflicted upon the Palestinian people for more than six decades.  Only then we will be spared the consequences of a third Intifada and it is only when justice is restored that the whole region will live in peace and security. With best wishes for a peaceful New Year.

Samia Khoury



Reaching eight meters into the air, the enormous Wall around Qalqiliya (pop. 50,000) is protected by a razor wire fence and sniper towers every 300 metres. It has all the trappings of a maximum security prison; a single gate regulates exit and entry into the city, manned by an Israeli guard or locked altogether. The wall has annexed more than 50% of the West Bank to Israel, and the Palestinians live in three  walled enclaves, disconnected from one another, with movement at the whim of the Israeli army.


From Ann Hafften
(read Ann’s blog:  A Texas Lutheran’s Voice for Peace)

27 November 2013|

For immediate release

 Samia Khoury’s book, `Reflections from Palestine’ is launched at Sabeel anniversary

Jerusalem – The twenty-fifth anniversary of Palestinian liberation theology was the setting for the launch of Reflections from Palestine – A Journey of Hope, a memoir by Samia Nasir Khoury. The celebration in Jericho was part of the Sabeel International Conference.

About 350 people from Jerusalem and the West Bank, Nazareth and the Galilee area of Israel, and 15 other countries took part in the celebration. Khoury was a founding member of Sabeel, the ecumenical liberation theology center in Jerusalem.

Reflections from Palestine tells the story of life under Israeli occupation. It is a story that Khoury¸ who celebrated her 80th birthday on the day of the book launch, has told for many years.

The book opens at the outset of 1967 “Six-Day” war” and describes the relentless series of “temporary measures” that became the binding, suffocating reality of occupation leading up to and following the Oslo Accords.

Khoury explains the wide-ranging social and political problems facing Palestinians under occupation through the sweet and sorrowful experiences of family and community life.  

The Rev. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, said Khoury “makes her reader live with her the anxiety of a mother and grandmother, yet she never sounds bitter and never loses hope because she strongly believes in the justice of the cause of her people, the Palestinians.” 

Khoury is a founding member of the Board of Trustees of Birzeit University in the West Bank. She was for many years a leader in the East Jerusalem YWCA. Khoury wrote for more than five years for The Witness magazine, a publication of the Episcopal Church Publishing Company.

Reflections from Palestine – A Journey of Hope is published by Rimal Publications.

Reflections from Palestine – A Journey of Hope, by Samia Nasir Khoury, is available from Rimal Publications for $20.

Jerusalem home demolition, 2010: the Nakba continues

Israeli home demolition in Jerusalem, 2010: the Nakba continues

From Samia Khoury in Jerusalem:
(Hyperlinks—please follow—and photos added)

A basic human right?

A basic human right?

 November 29, 1947, the day of the grave injustice of partitioning Palestine, has been marked by the UN as the day of Solidarity with the Palestinians. Next year has just been named as a year of solidarity with the Palestinians. We are indeed grateful for the UN for naming not only a day but a whole year of solidarity with the Palestinians, sixty five years after the Nakba – the dispossession of the Palestinians. With the ongoing dispossession of the Palestinians after the occupation of the rest of Palestine in 1967, and the conditions of the Palestinian refugees in the neighboring countries, we hope that the United Nations will translate its solidarity into action and grant us our inalienable rights as a reality on the ground.

View from the Cremisan Winery, 2010

View from the Cremisan Winery, 2010

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