Is it the End of the World?

Is it the End of the World?

Fighting BDS

posted by jfletcher

For some time, Israel’s enemies have been cultivating relationships in a seemingly benign environment: America’s religious community. In particular, BDS (Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions) efforts have continued apace within mainline communities (Presbyterian Church-USA; United Methodist Church; etc.).

BDS proponents want to punish companies that do business with Israeli companies in the West Bank.

In particular, a strong effort by fair-minded Presbyterians has been successful in not only blocking BDS gains within the denomination, but in offering sensible counter-proposals.

According to an article by Maxine Dovere, in Algemeiner (“What Really Happened With the Presbyterian Church (USA) BDS Motion?”):

“At its 2012 GA, the PC-USA resolved to promote positive investment in the Middle East. The Church membership voted decidedly in favor of The Positive Investment resolution, passing it by a solid margin, 369-290, thus promising financial support for projects that include collaboration among Christians, Jews and Muslims. The Church voted to foster and help develop viable Palestinian infrastructure projects, for job creation and to encourage economic development.”

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The Presbyterians defeated the BDS motion at the 220th General Assembly. That type of momentum has blunted the strenuous efforts of BDS proponents, such as Anna Baltzer.

Into this fray—and the wider BDS campaign—steps a tremendous resource for fair-minded religious folks…of any stripe.

HonestReporting, a group specializing in monitoring media bias, is front-and-center in efforts to pull the mask off the BDS agenda. Alex Margolin, social media editor for HonestReporting (www.honestreporting.com) is blunt in describing the real agenda of the BDS movement:

“BDS is a comprehensive, international strategy that seeks to present Israel as a pariah state analogous to Apartheid South Africa. Designed to isolate Israel politically, economically, militarily, academically and culturally, many of its member organizations aim to delegitimize the Two-State Solution and promote one state for both people, effectively replacing Israel with an Arab-majority state in all the territories of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. BDS has become the central organizing principle around which almost all anti-Israel activity now revolves.”
Strong charges, but obvious to anyone who uses objectivity in sorting-0ut truth from fiction.
Indeed, BDS proponents continually seek to demonize Israel, and yet seem unaware that their efforts actually harm the livelihoods of many Palestinians who rely on work in the West Bank to feed their families.
I’ve met with many Palestinians who (off-the-record, for fear of retribution from the PA) say clearly that life that involves some measure of interaction with Israel is much preferred to the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, or Hamas. Israel provides jobs, medical care, and housing (among other benefits) for Palestinians who otherwise would be in dire straits—such as their brethren in Gaza and elsewhere.
Sadly, not only church activists but media celebrities employ BDS to castigate Israel. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters comes to mind.
“BDS activists use the media to get their point across to the public,” says Margolin. “They target well-known celebrities because they know they will get media coverage for it. That gives them a platform to promote their hostile views about Israel. Ultimately, they’re looking to destroy Israel as a Jewish state.”

Margolin elaborates on HonestReporting’s efforts to oppose BDS:

“We are trying to inform people about the real goals of BDS – that it’s not about “ending the occupation,” as some media claim. It is about ending Israel as a Jewish State.”

If you are at least curious about HonestReporting’s claim, check out the myriad resources available on the group’s website. HR’s Facebook page, “Fighting BDS,” is a fast-growing site that is informing many about the unjust nature of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions crowd.

In a world where competing ideas clamor for audiences, this is one that readers would do well to check out.

The Great(?) Debate

posted by jfletcher

I don’t know that it was the end of the creationist movement—I’ll be accused of hysterics on that one by my own kind—but if I’m being fair and objective, Bill Nye more than held his own in his debate with Ken Ham at the latter’s Creation Museum in Kentucky tonight.

 

 

 (Full disclosure: I served as editor at Master Books for a decade—the publisher for Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis.)

 

 

 I’ll write more about this later, but the debate just concluded and color me surprised. It should be stated at the outset that, not only do I agree with Ham’s view—I’m a young-earth creationist—but he made several wonderful points and presented the Gospel very clearly to no doubt a broad audience. Ham has been doing this for 30 years and has delivered tonight’s presentation thousands of times. He’s good at it.

 

 

 But Bill Nye “Science Guy” more than held his own. What do I mean, exactly?

 

 

 Well, first, it’s very simple: two men were presenting their worldviews. That’s it. Nye does not believe the Bible describes the origins of Earth and the universe. Ham of course does.

 

 

 Yet Nye was very good. The fact that I believe he is wrong in his overall view of origins is beside the point. On points, I wouldn’t disagree with anyone who says he won. Winsome, witty, and in command of his own presentation, Nye referred to his debate opponent as “Mr. Ham,” while Ham addressed him as “Bill.” Each I think was trying to play to his own audience, but I can’t help thinking Ham came off as a fundamentalist ideologue. Nye was successful in marginalizing Ham by referring several times to the “outside,” in other words, the “real world of science” outside the walls of AiG’s behemoth museum.

 

 

 I felt the key blows (which rained down again and again in the form of a challenging question) came when Nye would virtually demand that Ham give examples of “predictions” from his worldview. Nye said repeatedly that his brand of science can make predictions based on data and evidence. For example, one can study plate tectonics and issue analysis on where and when earthquake might occur.

A sign at the Creation Museum.

A sign at the Creation Museum.

 

 

 In response…well, Ham never really responded to this aggressive challenge. The fact that Nye kept assaulting is debate opponent with it proved he realized he was winning on points, at least.

 

 

 Here’s why Ham’s non-replies left me stunned: why in the world did he not invoke the Bible’s bulletproof predictive prophecy? A few times he quickly alluded to “prophecy,” but his voice even trailed-off when he did. His heart wasn’t in that line of thinking. It was stupefying.

 

 

 Why in the wide, wide world of sports did he not simply look at Nye and cite a few of the hundreds of prophecies concerning the return of the Jews to their ancestral land, after a long exodus? Or any number of other stunning prophecies?

 

 

 I know why. Answers in Genesis sticks to origins issues, and they do it very well. In their defense of the Bible, however, they do not invoke predictive prophecy. That is their right.

 

 

 The tragedy is, Ken Ham didn’t dust-off this apologetic when he needed it most. I suspect most creationists will laud Ken Ham for his performance. Yet I watched the same debate, and it was painful.

 

 

 Like most debates, each side will declare victory.

 

 

 But tonight, there was only one Science Guy.

 

 

 

Warrior

posted by jfletcher

The Warrior is about to go to his fathers.

If press reports are accurate, 85-year-old Israeli legend Ariel Sharon is near death. In a coma for almost eight years, “Arik” is slipping from life. Not wanting to falsely anticipate his demise (we still remember the early Titanic headlines: “All Saved!”), I do want to offer a tribute to the titanic personality.

Sharon with his troops in Beirut, 1983.

Sharon with his troops in Beirut, 1983.

A sabra, a native Israeli, Sharon was born 20 years before the state was established, and his first love was probably always the land. The earth. A farmer/soldier, he retired to his ranch in the Negev in 1973, but was called back to active duty during the nearly apocalyptic Yom Kippur War, launched October 6, 1973, by the Syrians and Egyptians. The surprise attack was devastating to Israel, and it was Sharon’s daring plan to cross the Suez Canal that saved the day. Encircling Egypt’s vaunted Third Army, he was prepared to destroy it when international diplomacy hammered-out a cease-fire. Sharon’s tanks were an hour from Cairo. In the north, the IDF had overcome gruesome conditions to push back the Syrians, and they were were within an hour of Damascus.

Sharon held most of the top military and political positions in Israel, and his 2006 stroke ended his premiership. He was always controversial—hated by the left, which saw him as a butcher. Late in his life, the right hated him for withdrawing from Gaza.

An Israeli diplomat friend of mine, long retired, had an interesting perspective a few years ago when I asked him about Sharon’s later, controversial decisions.

“Listen,” he began quietly, “In 1973, he [Sharon] gave us our nation and our life.”

In other words, criticize him if you wish, but the old lion had fulfilled his God-given duty on a momentous stage in history.

I met Sharon once, at his office in Tel Aviv. He wasn’t tall, and not as fearsome as I thought he’d be—although his handshake was crushing. Frankly, though, he was still intimidating. A nice interview, he talked easily of politics, culture, farming, his own career. But it was a jolting digression midway through the discussion that I carry with me.

Coming off a lengthy discussion of peace prospects with the Palestinians, Sharon abruptly shifted gears.

“Do you know what our problem is in this country? He looked at me, a lifetime of wisdom in his eyes.

“It is that we do not teach enough Bible to our children.”

Well. Here was the old man, an almost mythical fighter and commander, a wily politician…and he was signaling that he knew where Israel’s strength came from. It was similar to a statement he made in his autobiography, Warrior, in which he acknowledged, “Something keeps this nation.”

Some recent reports indicate that Sharon’s doctors have detected brain activity. There is speculation that he can hear. If so, I must wonder: as he nears the end, what occupies his thoughts? Is it his boyhood days, wandering the land? Or might it be the sounds and sights of the Battle of Latrun, during the War of Independence? The Suez Crossing? His two wives, both of whom preceded him in death? His son, Gur, whose tragic death at a young age diminished the Six Day War victory for his father?

No one knows, of course. But I hope he knows and feels that many of us remember him fondly.

Forever.

JFK in Palestine

posted by jfletcher

Four pages, typewritten. Analytical. Discerning of a situation so complex, not much has changed in 75 years.

John F. Kennedy in Palestine.

On the eve of World War II, the future president visited the tortured little region on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean and, just before leaving for Bucharest on the next leg of his journey, penned some thoughts to a father obsessed with every move of his sons. Assessing the volatile situation between Jews and Arabs, against the backdrop of the British Mandate, young Kennedy offered a clear description of what he’d seen, and it served as a first look; 12 years later he would go again, this time with brother Bobby.

The once-obscure letter—now housed at the John F. Kennedy Library—was found after an inquiry, by the late president’s personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, in 1965. In the single-spaced document, Kennedy begins with a somewhat cryptic greeting to his father, former ambassador Joe Kennedy:

“Dear Dad:

“I thought I would write you my impressions on Palestine while they were still fresh in my mind, though you undoubtedly, if I know the Jews, know the ‘whole’ story. It is worth while looking at it in its entirety.”

One can see, from reading the cool reporting style, Kennedy indeed would have made a fine journalist. He often told reporters this was his career of choice, before family destiny pushed him to the pinnacle of power.
Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 3.36.11 PM

Offering a fairly balanced view of the claims of both the Jews and the Arabs for statehood in Palestine, Kennedy left no doubt that he thought the Jews would far out-class the Arabs in terms of agricultural production and industry. Yet he allowed that the Arabs also had legitimate rights in the land. He also noted that the notorious British “White Paper,” limiting Jewish immigration when European Jewry was almost literally being pushed into hell, “just won’t work.”

Kennedy also noted that the Grand Mufti, then in exile in Syria, wanted to return to Palestine but was prevented from doing so. Of course, we now know that dark page from history was close to being read; Husseini’s infamous visit to see Hitler—when both discussed a solution to the “Jewish problem”—came only a few years before Israel was established.

Speaking of Israel’s independence in 1948, it is also worth noting Kennedy’s return trip, in 1951. A very smart investment by their father saw the brothers tour the globe, picking up valuable insights that would serve them well a mere decade later. Although their father was a notorious anti-Semite, the younger Kennedys expressed admiration for the fledgling Jewish state. In a compilation of JFK’s speeches and papers, A Strategy of Peace, published in the pivotal year of 1960, he noted what some have described as heartfelt impressions of Israel:

“Israel is the bright light now shining in the Middle East. We, and ultimately Israel’s neighbors, have much to learn from this center of democratic illumination, of unprecedented economic development, of human pioneering and intelligence and perseverance.

“In 1939 I first saw Palestine, then an unhappy land under alien rule, and to a large extent then a barren land. In the words of Israel Zangwill: ‘The land without a people waited for the people without a land.’ In 1951, I traveled again to the land by the River Jordan, to see firsthand the new State of Israel. The transformation that had taken place was hard to believe.

“For in those twelve years, a nation had been born, a desert had been reclaimed, and the most tragic victims of World War II—the survivors of the concentration camps and the ghettos—had found a home.

“The survival and success of Israel and its peaceful acceptance by the other nations of the Middle East is essential.”

Robert Kennedy had similar good things to say about Israel, and one wonders how the two would have handled America’s role in the Six Day War. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, told the Israelis—then confronted by an existential threat in the form of Egypt and her allies—to essentially stand-down, as America would take care of things for her.

Bobby Kennedy in front of the King David Hotel, Jerusalem.

Bobby Kennedy in front of the King David Hotel, Jerusalem.

History didn’t play out that way, we now know. In the glimmer offered by the letters and speeches of the thoughtful young man, and later president, we see a true spirit of friendship between America and Israel.

John F. Kennedy saw Israel through a glass, darkly, but one with a ray of light at the end.

The admiration was mutual.

Previous Posts

Fighting BDS
For some time, Israel’s enemies have been cultivating relationships in a seemingly benign environment: America’s religious community. In particular, BDS (Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions) efforts have continued apace within mainline communities (Presbyterian Church-USA; United Methodist Church; etc.

posted 2:30:21pm Mar. 05, 2014 | read full post »

The Great(?) Debate
I don’t know that it was the end of the creationist movement—I’ll be accused of hysterics on that one by my own kind—but if I’m being fair and objective, Bill Nye more than held his own in his debate with Ken Ham at the latter’s Creation Museum in Kentucky tonight.      (

posted 10:40:50pm Feb. 04, 2014 | read full post »

Warrior
The Warrior is about to go to his fathers. If press reports are accurate, 85-year-old Israeli legend Ariel Sharon is near death. In a coma for almost eight years, “Arik” is slipping from life. Not wanting to falsely anticipate his demise (we still remember the early Titanic headlines: “Al

posted 6:44:29pm Jan. 01, 2014 | read full post »

JFK in Palestine
Four pages, typewritten. Analytical. Discerning of a situation so complex, not much has changed in 75 years. John F. Kennedy in Palestine. On the eve of World War II, the future president visited the tortured little region on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean and, just before leaving

posted 10:56:00pm Nov. 21, 2013 | read full post »

Donald Miller's Blood Libel—One Year Later
It's his baby. And it's a year old. Popular evangelical author ("Blue Like Jazz") Donald Miller, one year ago today, wrote at his Storylineblog that the Israel Defense Forces murders innocent Palestinians. In a blog post titled, ironically, "The Painful Truth About the Situation in Israel," Mi

posted 3:10:25pm Nov. 19, 2013 | read full post »


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