Christians in T-Shirts Raise Missionary Fears in Israel

With Israel poised to invade Gaza, a group of Christians seeks a bit of the action:

Strumming guitars and banging bongos, Christian pilgrims journeyed to Israel’s dusty border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday to offer support to Israeli troops participating in the military action.

About 25 people, wearing white T-shirts that said “Your God is my God,” waved Israeli flags and sang religious songs.

…The group had planned to visit Israel long before this week’s invasion. But after the military operation was launched, the pilgrims decided to show their support. Members came from the U.S., Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Sweden, France and Germany.

A “pilgrim” from Finland is interviewed, but the actual identity of the group is not given. It seems, though, that their trip to Gaza comes just after a less successful incursion into the ultra-Orthodox district of Jerusalem known as Mea Shearim:

Details of the incident are sketchy. It began shortly after 10 AM, when a group of tourists, apparently from Germany, walked into the religious neighborhood of Meah She’arim wearing orange shirts, emblazoned with the missionary slogan ‘Your G-d is my god, Your people is my people.” Some eyewitnesses reported seeing a missionary emblem on the back of the shirts.

A group of religious youths and men very quickly surrounded the group and started yelling at them to get out of the neighborhood. It was not clear whether the hareidim pushed them before or after an orange-shirted man kicked one of the hareidim.

An ultra-Orthodox protest followed.

Arutz-7 has received anecdotal evidence of increased missionary activity in downtown Jerusalem. Jerusalem-area tour guide Yoni Berg told Arutz-7,

“I’m in downtown fairly frequently, and I have seen them of late. Friends of mine who work there have also noted them. They wear shirts with the words ‘Your G-d is my god, Your people is my people’, and they pass out pamphlets that have Jewish themes but are designed to lead the misinformed to believe in Jesus.”

An article published on the website of the Caspari Center offers some further clues:

Yaakov Damkani…teaches his Christian helpers first to thank Israelis for the Bible, for God, for the New Testament, for the Messiah…They wear T-shirts quoting Ruth’s Amekh ami ve’elohaikh elohai (“Your people is my people and your God is my God”).

A second essay explains that

Yaakov Damkani, the son of traditional Persian Jewish immigrants, has been among the most aggressive and persistent Israeli evangelists. Yaakov has been a leader for the past decade in outdoor evangelism on Israeli city streets and parks and beaches, outside festivals of rock music, theatres and at major public events. In recent years he has extended his outreach to Goa in India where masses of young Israelis have been backpacking after military service in the heavy atmosphere of the contemporary drug culture…Damkani maintains a center in Jaffa from which, with the help of foreign volunteers and some locals, he continues his bold evangelistic sorties.

Of course, it could be that the group spotted in Mea Sherim and Gaza just so happen to have the same t-shirts as Damkani’s foreign volunteer helpers. However, Damkani’s website has Swedish, Finnish, and German translations.

UPDATE: Shades of Rashomon – Ha’aretz carries a report on the Mea Shearim incident in which some crucial details are different:

A group of 50 pro-Israel Christian tourists came under attack Wednesday from some 100 residents of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She’arim in Jerusalem.

The tourists arrived at Mea She’arim wearing orange T-shirts with the words “Love your neighbor as yourself” printed across them.

Name variations: Jacob Damkani, Yakov Damkani

Rabbis Ask Bush to Oppose Olmert

Once again, WorldNetDaily‘s Aaron Klein acts as messenger boy for the Israeli religious right:

KIBBUTZ NAHAL OZ, Israel – A group of prominent rabbis is calling on President Bush to refuse political and financial support for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to evacuate most of Judea and Samaria, stating the withdrawal is against U.S. interests, and that it violates basic tenets of Jewish law.

…”There is a clear definitive ruling in the Jewish Code of Law ‘Orach Chaim’ Chapter 329 which rules that it is strictly forbidden to give up even one inch of a Jewish border town to foreigners because it will lead to bloodshed. How much more so regarding retreating from holy land that enemies bent on your destruction have already stated will be used to launch attacks against Jews,” states the letter to Bush.

The grouping is known as the “Rabbinical Congress for Peace”, and Klein tells us that

…Congress members include some of the most esteemed Orthodox rabbis in the Jewish world.

Curiously, however, he doesn’t provide any of the “esteemed” names – despite having quoted the “congress” before (square brackets in original):

“Katrina is a consequence of the destruction of [Gaza’s] Gush Katif [slate of Jewish communities] with America’s urging and encouragement,” Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Lewin, executive director of the Rabbinic Congress for Peace, told WND. “The U.S. should have discouraged Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from implementing the Gaza evacuation rather than pushing for it and pressuring Israel into concessions.”

I blogged on this theological trend, and the people behind the RCP, here. In particular, I noted the claim by the RCP’s deputy chairman, an illegal settler named Rabbi David Drukman, that Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza “should recognize their place”.

But what of the “Orach Chaim”? Here’s the relevant passage (square brackets in source):

When a city close to the border [is approached by a foreign power], then, even if [they state that] they come only for the purpose of [taking] straw and stubble, we desecrate the Shabbat [and wage battle against] them. For [if we do not prevent their coming] they may conquer the city, and from there the [rest of the] land will be easy for them to conquer.

However, not all Jewish interpreters are convinced that this is a “clear definitive ruling” on why Israel must continue its military occupation of the West Bank:

The “ruling” is based on the words of the Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chaim 329,6, which are themselves based on the Talmudic passage in Tr. Eruvin 45a. The passage deals with a case of Gentiles who are attacking Jewish towns. The Talmud determines that in the case of a border town, it is permitted to desecrate the Sabbath in order to defend it, even if they are coming merely to steal “hay and straw;” for we fear that otherwise they will capture the town, from where it will be easy for them to then capture the rest of the Land…This passage does not deal with the return of territories, but rather with a dispensation to violate the Sabbath even in the face of doubtful future endangement [sic] to life…The above has nothing whatsoever to do with the return of territories for the sake of peace.

This reading appears on the website of a “religious Zionist peace organization” opposed to “fundamentalist and extremist political arguments”. It’s based in Jerusalem, but is apparently not the kind of outfit to interest WorldNetDaily‘s “Jerusalem correspondent”.

(Klein’s continued puffing of the Israeli religious right has been covered by me several times in the past – see here, here, and here. Terry Krepel has also written a general survey of Klein’s journalism at ConWebWatch

Controversial Korean Faith Healer to Appear in Madison Square Garden

South Korean evangelist and faith healer Lee Jae Rock is preparing to hold a “healing crusade” in New York. As ever, ASSIST Ministries reports:

The “New York 2006” healing crusade will take place in the historic Madison Square Garden on July 27, 28 and 29.

…Like at all of his crusades, Dr. Lee will pray for the sick who attend the meetings. Before each service, a medical table will be set up for people who are sick to go and be diagnosed by Korean and American doctors and nurses and then, after being prayed for, if they believe they are healed, they will return back so that the medics can check out whether the healing had taken place from a medical perspective.

How exactly doctors will be able to make medically-valid diagnoses from a swift once-over at a “medical table” is not explained. However, one New York senator is not bothered by such a detail. ASSIST’s Dan Wooding spoke to Johnny Kim, who liases with mere mortals on behalf of Lee (link added):

…Kim added that New York State Senator, the Rev. Dr. Ruben Diaz, who was born in Puerto Rico, has encouraged local pastors to attend the crusade in Madison Square Garden and bring along their congregations.

Diaz himself is a pastor with the Church of God.

Lee has been making dramatic claims about his supposed ability to heal the sick for several years. Back in 2003 I tipped off James Randi about a particularly dubious photo of someone who had apparently been “healed” at a healing crusade in Russia. At the time (see my later blog entry here), ASSIST also promised that a Russian academic was preparing a report that would prove Lee’s abilities; when I contacted Wooding about this some months later, he referred me back to Kim, who did not respond. I then gently suggested to Wooding (some of whose work I find quite useful) that he might like to take a more sceptical view; I then received a brief notice that I had been removed from ASSIST’s mailing list (which was odd, given that I wasn’t on it).

Earlier this month, Lee’s church produced a press release announcing that

Medical Doctors Present Scientific Evidence Of Divine Healing At Conference In The Philippines

Apparently

…real medical data backing the claims were presented by physicians on maladies such as gastric cancer, quadriplegia, intracerebral hemorrhage, severe disability, thoracic tumor, Celiac disease, infertility, facial burns, tennis elbow tendonitis, liver cirrhosis, and other incurable diseases.

Lee’s church also runs a website with the purported “evidence”.

Lee Jae-Rock has featured on this blog several times in the past. His theology is somewhat eccentric, and includes details about blood transfusions and UFOs. He has been marginalised by other Christian groups in South Korea, and he once attempted to prevent a critical TV documentary from being aired by having his church members invade the studio (the documentary can be seen here). He also claims to have photos of strange phenomena that prove his supernatural powers; I placed one of these on my blog here. There are various Christian websites which critique Lee and have some interesting information, such as this one.

Name variations: Jaerock Lee, Lee Jae-rok

Neo-Pentecostal Pastor Convicted of Paying Workers £1.36 per hour, Faking Documents

NOTE: A statement from Van Rooyen below makes a strong case that this is one those instances where someone acting in good faith got into a hole thanks to other parties and found themselves being chewed up by the machinery of the law – which is far from being the same thing as being “brought to justice”.

A brief report on Premier:

A South African pastor has been jailed for bringing illegal immigrants to the UK and paying them a minimum wage.

Pieter Van Rooyen from Life Church on the Isle of Man brought them over on false documents and made them work for one pound thirty six pence an hour.

He has been sentenced to six months.

The Times gave a fuller account a few days ago; the jail sentence is in fact suspended:

Van Rooyen appeared in court alongside Jacobus Frederick Visser, 43, a fellow South African and an illegal immigrant. They each admitted facilitating a breach of the Immigration Act by providing travel, false documents, accommodation and subsistence for the men.

The pastor made contact with Visser, who owns a building firm in South Africa, last August. Visser gave Van Rooyen a price for the job of renovating that the home the pastor shares with his [family].

The court was told that Van Rooyen gave a bogus invitation which suggested that the men were to take part in a business course. On the strength of the invitation the men were allowed to enter the country via Gatwick in September, before travelling on to the Isle of Man.

Once the men arrived, they were put to work under conditions that the Times likened to slavery.

The Times also notes that Van Rooyen has a background in banking. One website describes him as “Head of Banking at Barclays International”; more properly, this should have been head of “Barclays Private Clients International Limited”. In this capacity, he stated in April that

“As the number of people of other nationalities working in the UK increases, offshore mortgages are becoming increasingly popular…”

Not at wages of £1.36 an hour, I think. The website of Life Church Isle of Man gives further details about him (links added):

Pieter is the founder of Life Church ­ Isle of Man and is an Alumni of the School of Life and Ministry (SLM) where he attended Bible School, specialising in Pastoral Services. His first passion is to see lost souls saved and to disciple people to see Christ Jesus manifested in them. He also has a calling for sharing Kingdom principles with business people.

He is a member of the International Christian Chamber of Commerce and lectures at the SLM Business School in Kent. Pieter is a vastly experienced International Financial Consultant, Private Banker and offshore specialist.

He is an experienced facilitator, skilled negotiator, mentor and coach. He is a member of the of the International Coaching Federation in the USA. He has worked in the Far East, the Middle East, South Africa and the United Kingdom. He has been the chairman and served on the boards of several international financial institutions and is currently a executive director of a large international private clients bank.

Some of those financial links are explained in a separate profile at Mentors and Business Coaches International (which clearly dates from before his move to the Isle of Man):

Pieter is a vastly experienced International Financial Consultant, Private Banker and Offshore Tax-Havens specialist and has 12 years experience in advising High Net Worth Clients. He is also an experienced facilitator, skilled negotiator, mentor and coach. He also has experience in management buy-outs, take-overs and acquisitions. Pieter has wide industry knowledge with a track record of developing and implementing strategies and systems for small, medium and large companies. He has been an Executive Director on the boards of Inter-Alliance International (listed on the FTSE in London), Premier Global Alliance and served as Chairman on the board of Premier Advisory Services (an Isle of Man, Trust Company). He is a Regional Director of the International Christian Chamber of Commerce in the UK and lectures at the SLM Business School in Folkestone. He has worked in the Far East, the Middle East, and South Africa and is now based in Kent in the United Kingdom.

Van Rooyen’s church, and the School of Life and Ministry, are both part of Christ for the World, neo-Pentecostal ministry run by Robert Maasbach and his wife Virginia out of Folkestone, on the southeast coast of the UK. Robert is actually part of a Pentecostal dynasty: his late father Johan Maasbach ran the John Maasbach World Mission (which used to own a property in Windsor, NY that was eventually purchased by Randall Terry); one brother, David Maasbach, is an evangelist in Holland, while another relative, John Maasbach, is associated with Bishop Michael Reid of the Peniel Church in Essex (which I blogged on here). The Maasbachs emphasise miracle healings in their ministries, and Robert claims that he was cured of a broken neck. Some websites also suggest that Robert teaches the Gospel of Prosperity, although that is not clear from his own website.

UPDATE (1 June 2012): A long statement from Van Rooyen was posted as comment; I have decided to move the text up into the main text:

So here are the true and accurate facts and response to all previous speculations, false media disinformation reports and sensation seekers:

Without Prejudice:

My Family and I move to the United Kingdom ten years ago (2001). I studied business in South Africa up to Masters Degree level. With my qualifications, board appointment to a UK plc and many years of international financial experience I was granted a ‘highly skilled migrant’ visa. In 2004 my family and I got permanent residence (indefinite leave to remain) in the UK. I the same year I had a unusual dream in which I saw a cobra snake with a radio in its mouth. My pastor (Robert Maasbach) interpreted the dream as that ‘the media would try to destroy me’. I sadly ignored the warning as I had no idea what he was talking about.

Shortly after the dream and a lengthy fast I was head hunted and became a senior executive for one of the world’s largest private banks on the Isle of Man (IOM). Within months I was elected to the international board. The IOM is the ‘offshore capital of the world’ and many international banks have their international head office there to benefit from corporate tax benefits for the banking group. I received a second warning when the Holy Spirit woke me up at night and told me to read Isaiah 43: 2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”

My family remained in Kent for the duration of the academic school year. Our Kent home was placed on the market and I commuted weekly to the IOM where we bought a family home, requiring major renovations. There were negative employment on the island and we were devastated to learn that local building contractors were booked up to two years ahead. Being desperate to have my family with me and made a judgment error. I accepted the quote of the foreign building contractor who approached me, quoting a good competitive price on the project (£55,000 for labor only. It later equated to £15 per person per hour worked on site).

The builder later requested ‘a letter of invitation’ for him and his own employees, which I naively conceded to. It later became evident that the contractor never applied for working visas pertaining to his own workforce, nor did he pass on the fair labor wages I paid him. I could never foresee the outcome of this liaison…

I was content; excelling in my high profile position, while my social worker wife and I planted and pastored a local church. The church grew rapidly to the second most attend church in the Isle of Man. We held several crusades and saw many miracles. We dealt with drug addicts and took some into our home; many were rehabilitated and restored. What we didn’t realized was that a fierce battle in the spiritual realm was created. According to the Bible we cannot serve God and Mammon (the love for and the control of the Babylonian money system). As an executive of the bank and being a pastor I was doing just that.

One day during a board meeting in London, I was astounded when informed that the builders were arrested and detained for lack of working permits. A few days afterwards came my unexpected arrest and an exhausting twelve-hour long interrogation, after which I was released on bail. My employers did not take kindly to the nerve wracking five months investigation which followed and I was suspended. To my shock and dismay the building contractor turned “Queen’s witness”, aiming to testify against me in order to mitigate his own situation.

With many qualms but acting with legal council’s advice, I resigned my executive position in order to plead guilty on the ‘minor statutory charge’ only; that of “providing the builders with a ‘a letter of invitation’, which enabled the work force to enter the UK, temporarily”. Council reasoned that this move would take the prosecution by surprise and disarm the contractor’s allegations. I was hereby expected merely to be fined a maximum of £5000.

These tactics proved successful in stopping the prosecution from bringing false charges of illegal trafficking and slave wages in a possibly lengthy High Court case. The matter however fueled sensation and a planned disinformation campaign throughout the media, who had a field time playing up this ‘huge story’ taking place in a very small community in a horrendous manner. The truth was pulled out of proportion while the public lapped up every juicy morsel of disinformation, speculating our deportation wildly. My dream about the cobra snake became a reality.

Life became almost unbearable. Not only did the media falsely accused me with alien trafficking, but having my career in tatters, my wife was unfairly suspended from her professional job and photo’s of my under aged children were placed in the international press. Many ‘friends’ abandoned us. I felt utterly abused and deserted. My sentencing was postponed several times, while the contractor and builders were deported.

The Holy Spirit led me to do another complete food fast. Before a Sunday morning church service a young pastor came to me and and told me that he asked the Lord to send two angels to come and release me from the burden. I was amazed to say the least. Unbeknown to me, a man I never heard of from Brisbane, Australia, was woken by the Holy Spirit and prompt that he needed to go to the IOM. He did not know why, but after prayer and confirmation from a pastor family member obeyed the Holy Spirit. Buying two plane tickets for himself and his son, they amazingly arrived on my doorstep through a series of events. The man introduced himself as Peter West and his son as Paul. They related the the Holy Spirit’s strange urge to come to the IOM. The visitors told us they were not ‘angels’ but that God had send them with a message. My wife and I just dissolved into tears and poured out our agony. They ensured us that they did not know of our plight; once again repeating the words that “everything will be okay” and departed for Brisbane after three days.

The media demanded our deportation but the High Bailiff turned the prosecution’s requests down and I faced the unthinkable when I was unexpectedly sentenced to three months imprisonment in the oldest working prison in Europe, with no sanitation or fresh water in my cell. I felt the Holy Spirit asking me to do a forty day total food fast to which I obeyed. I completed the fast without the knowledge of the prison authorities.

While my wife’s mum was critically ill abroad, she received hate mail and calls; had to deal with all the financial pressures as well as coping with the press. We still had two massive mortgages and no income. The house in Kent was not yet sold. The bank called up our mortgage and demanded full and instant repayment of a six figure sum although they had illegally frozen all our banking accounts and withheld a large severance settlement. Our family was shattered and had to ‘dig deep’ not to throw in the towel but kept encouraged against all logic by the Australians message that: “that everything will be okay”.

I was released after forty-three days of ‘hell’. The bank pressured us to sell the IOM property for several hundred thousand pounds below their own valuation whilst we fell behind with our mortgage payments for the first time. Eight weeks after their first visit, the Australians unexpectedly came visiting again for the weekend, not being aware of neither sentence nor imprisonment. When they learned the facts, they came to the rescue; immediately canceling their scheduled flights back to Australia.

We were divinely led to an atheist Advocate, Paul Beckett who is on record that he is willing to confirm any fact and outcome pertaining to this case. He then informed us that in his opinion I became the subject of a planned conspiracy by the ‘Manx Mafia’. They controlled all money decisions on the island for hundreds of years and he felt my high personal profile and my church’s popularity threatened them.

The Australians then instructed advocate Paul Beckett to apply for an interdict against the bank who illegally froze my accounts. They furthermore offered to pay our mortgage up to date, plus one year’s mortgage in advance, allowing us to complete the renovations on the house! The advocate wanted to know why complete strangers were willing to part with so much money to complete strangers. Peter West simply replied: “God told us to do it. We need no contracts or any interest to be repaid. God is our witness and He will reward us for our obedience.” The atheist advocate was stunned and stormed out of the office. Within days our mortgage, overdraft and loans was paid. Under legal pressure, the bank released the freeze off all our accounts, as well as my severance payment. The atheist advocate was so moved by what God did for us that he repented his own sins and gave his heart to the Lord Jesus.

One year later I was still unemployed. Renovations on the IOM house were completed but it didn’t sell. Pressure was mounting once more since mortgage payments became due again. Again the Australians came forward with another year’s mortgage payments. Meanwhile the ‘credit crunch’ hit all property markets; yet the Australian’s kept our mortgage fully paid till the property eventually sold in April 2009 for a profit when the market was at its lowest in the biggest recession of a decade.

In total the Australians already visited us nine times in five years and parted with over a quarter of a million pounds, for which no agreement was signed or interest charged, …thus “everything became okay” during a really desperate situation. I indeed passed through the water and it did not overflow me. I walked through the fire, but I didn’t got burned nor scorched by the flame. Perhaps there is no greater truth than “with men this is impossible, but all things are possible with God!”

In 2007 I moved back to the UK. I was never deported as speculated, never charged for illegal trafficking and or paying slave wages as misinformed by the media. I only pleaded guilty for naively giving the building contractor a ‘letter of invitation’ that he abused to mislead customs control on arrival. The building contractor was deported with his workforce. The church we have planted is still in existence on the Isle of Man and is still growing. My family are now all UK nationals with dual citizenship. I am a successful author, ordained itinerant minister, business consultant, mentor and coach, Kingdom economist and international public speaker. God was right: “Everything has become OK!” Every bit of the glory belongs to the Lord Jesus!

These are the true facts and can be verified by Advocate Paul Beckett from Mannin Chambers on the Isle of Man. I now regular share this amazing story of God’s grace and power all over the world to His glory. The detailed story was published in 2010 under the title: “Business Unusual – Banking on God” – ISBN number 9780620439152. It can be ordered from http://www.businessunusual.org/store or from http://www.amazon.co.uk. You can also listen to my true testimony by clicking on the link:http://www.businessunusual.org/about/pieter-van-rooyen/testimony/

All rights reserved. This blog, ‘Business Unusual- Banking on God’, ISBN 978-1-4500-5782-0, photo’s or parts thereof may not be reproduced or published in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means- electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise- without prior written permission of the publisher and author, except as provided by European Union and or United Kingdom copyright laws. Copyright 2010© by Pieter van Rooyen

Zion Oil Update

Yet again, Zion Oil and Gas makes it into the news. BusinessWeek reports:

John Brown, a born-again Christian who believes the Bible will guide him to oil and gas in Israel, is planning to test the faith of investors in the U.S. in the next few weeks. The Texas-based novice oilman who founded Zion Oil & Gas is aiming to raise between $2.45 million and $14 million in an initial public offering, tentatively slated for July, to fund drilling at a kibbutz northeast of Tel Aviv. God, Brown says, “has promised in the Bible to bless Israel with one of the world’s largest oil and gas fields.”

This is a bit slow off the mark; the annoncement was made back in January, and I blogged it at the time. Brown believes that a passage in the Book of Deuternomy that mentions Asher dipping his foot in oil in fact refers to a hidden deposit of petroleum (Biblical hermeneutics is not his strong suit), and that a “stranger” mentioned in the Book of Kings is reference to himself (square brackets from Zion Oil’s website):

…Moreover concerning a stranger [John Brown], that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country [U.S.A.] for thy name’s sake: (for they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm); when he shall come and pray towards this house; hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to ALL that the stranger calleth to thee for [Oil for Israel]: that all the people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name.” (I Kings 8:41-43).

One well has already been drilled, with underwhelming results. BusinessWeek again:

Last spring, the team found luminescence in some of the rock they had fetched, suggesting it contained hydrogen and carbon—though that could amount to either natural gas or just tar. Still, they also saw gas bubbling up as they drilled. “Our sense is that the hydrocarbon is oil and gas,” says [CEO Eugene] Soltero. “We don’t know how much and whether or not we can produce it economically.”

That cost $8.8 million, apparently. BusinessWeek also notes a previous effort by Brown to raise funds:

He tried to raise money in an IPO two years ago, but couldn’t collect the $6.5 million required by the American Stock Exchange. He scrapped the deal and returned most of the $3.7 million he collected from hundreds of investors.

The details of this fiasco are included in certain documents posted on the Zion Oil website, which I blogged on last year. The problem was that one of Zion Oil’s major shareholders at that time was a man named Ralph DeVore, a cousin of Hal Lindsey and a director of Hal Lindsey Ministries. Lindsey used his status as supposed “prophecy expert” to promote the share option in his WorldNetDaily column (failing to mention that a relative stood to gain), but this was insufficient. Brown complained that DeVore had agreed to organise a number of meetings to promote Zion Oil, but he had failed to do so. DeVore’s bizarre response to suggest that the real reason why the IPO had failed was because Zion Oil was supposed to be an evangelical company, yet it had a number of Jews on its board. DeVore claimed to have received a personal message from Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, that this amounted to religious syncretism and rebellion towards God.

Brown is not the only evangelical to devote his resources to finding oil in Israel; before him, there was James Spillman and Hayseed Stephens. I covered both of these characters in a blog entry here.

jesusgas

(Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog. Image via Jesus’ General)

Palestinian Christian Decline: Whose Fault?

On June 8, US Reps Michael McCaul and Joe Crowley published a draft resolution on the subject of Palestinian Christians, beginning with a dramatic headline:

Help Save the Oldest Christian Community in the World

Co-sponsor a resolution recognizing the plight of Palestinian Christians

Dear Colleague:

It’s time for Congress, the President and the international community to address the systematic destruction of the oldest Christian community in the world. Since the Palestinian Authority gained control over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the political, social and economic status of the Christian community has declined precipitously. This has led to mass migration of Palestinian Christians out of territories under Palestinian Authority control. In addition, Christian holy sites and cemeteries have suffered repeated desecration with little response from the police.

…If we do not act now Christians around the world risk losing control of and access to the most ancient and holy sites in Christendom. Please join us in cosponsoring this resolution and working to save the Palestinian Christian community from devastation…

No actual details or references are given, but the authors are drawing on the recent report compiled by Justus Weiner, which I discussed in depth here. Weiner’s report raised serious issues that ought not to be dismissed out of hand, although his well-known biases and past journalistic excesses undermine his credibility.  McCaul and Crowley follow Weiner’s lead in attributing Palestinian Christian problems solely to increased Islamism in Palestinian society, while totally ignoring complaints by Palestinian Christian leaders against the Israeli occupation. In fact, this perspective actively seeks to discredit these leaders, who have received sympathetic hearings in a number of mainline churches. Most aggressive in this campaign in the USA is perhaps Mark Tooley, the ex-CIA employee now based at the Institute of Religion and Democracy. Tooley self-righteously castigates Palestinian clergy for making political statements critical of Israel instead of attending to spiritual matters – although he has no problem with Christian Zionists who provide crucial and uncritical backing for the most reactionary elements of Israeli society.

However, this Weiner/Tooley version of events has itself been challenged. The Forward notes a report by members of Rep Henry Hyde’s staff at the House International Relations Committee that describes

…sections of the [separation] barrier being built on Palestinian Christian land, the inability of Palestinian Christians to access their places of worship because of Israeli travel restrictions, and the Israeli government’s backing of aggressive attempts by militant Jewish settlers to move into the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and into other predominantly Christian parts of Jerusalem.

I have not been able to find the actual report, but details of it got picked up by Robert Novak and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Novak also did his own research, and highlighted how Israeli settlements have pressuried Palestinian Christians living in the village of Aboud (as I blogged here), and said that besides the Italian Franciscan guardian of the Holy Places, he “could not find another Catholic layman or prelate who complained of anti-Christian bias by Muslims”.

Further criticisms have come in the wake of the proposed resolution, and Forward gives voice to some of the sceptics (link added):

Daphne Tsimhoni, a professor at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and a leading scholar on Christian minorities in the Middle East, told the Forward that almost all the bill’s assertions are either exaggerations, misrepresentations or sheer fabrications.

…”This, to me, is like trying to drown a fish in water,” said Afif Safieh, who heads the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission to Washington. Safieh, a Roman Catholic with scores of relatives in the West Bank, said that the incidents of which he is aware are ones that can be attributed to “lawlessness from which the entire population suffers.” He added that the PLO always has been “extremely open-minded and fair toward the Christian community.”

Christians, he said, are overrepresented in the Palestinian political system and in the P.A.’s bureaucracy. He added that, despite his political differences with the ruling militant Hamas organization, he must admit that the Islamist movement has not taken any steps to discriminate against Christians and has not imposed Islamic law.

Al-Jazeerah, meanwhile, notes that a certain Dale Crowley was fired from a Christian radio station recently for publicly blaming Israel for Palestinian Christian woes. That firing may have been unfair, but it was no great loss: the fundamentalist Rev Crowley keeps company with unsavoury characters connected with the far-right Liberty Lobby and its Spotlight magazine. For many years Dale Crowley worked with Haviv Schieber, a former ultra-right Zionist who rejected Israel because of its supposed socialism (Public Eye has more).

More helpfully, al-Jazeerah also draws attention to the response of the Palestian Christian organisation Open Bethlehem to the resolution:

In response to Texas congressman Michael McCaul’s resolution on the plight of Palestinian Christians, Open Bethlehem’s chief executive Leila Sansour, a Christian from Bethlehem, has sent a letter to congress expressing her community’s shock at the gross misrepresentation of the real threat facing Christians of the Holy Land and has urged congress to pay heed to the real threat to the oldest Christian community in the world.

…By perpetuating the misconception that it is their Muslim neighbors and the Palestinian Authority who are creating this crisis, rather than policies imposed by the Israeli government, congressman McCaul is further entrenching the problems facing the Christian community rather than helping to address them…

Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church USA has decided to rescind its 2004 decision to divest selectively from certain multinational corporations operating in Israel. Instead, the PCUSA has expressed regret for the “hurt and misunderstanding among many members of the Jewish community” which their policy allegedly caused. No doubt any “hurt and misunderstanding” felt by Palestinian Christians who thought they could rely on their US co-religionists to hold firm will pass unremarked.

UPDATE: The draft resolution has been “quietly withdrawn”. See here.

Neo-Cons and Christian Zionists Target South Africa

The Jerusalem Post reports:

CAPE TOWN – Reaching out to Christian supporters of Israel in Africa, a group of conservative Israeli thinkers and the interim head of the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus will take part in the first Jerusalem Summit Africa in Cape Town on Monday, in an effort to garner support for Israel at a time of increasing Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Israel sentiment in the continent.

The meeting is being organised by Bridges for Peace and the International Christian Embassy, two prominent Israel-based Christian Zionist outfits. The executive director of the Jerusalem Summit explains the rationale:

“South Africa is a crucial state for the entire continent and is similar to a swing-state in the US because whatever direction South Africa takes will be taken by the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa as well,” said Dmitry Radyshevsky…

He noted that South African anti-Zionism was not rooted in nationalism and religion but was a remnant of the Soviet era, and the country’s long ties with the Soviet-era bloc.

This is doubtless a reference to Ronnie Kasrils, the prominent Communist South African politician and Jewish anti-Zionist. Of course, best not mention Israel’s ties with apartheid-era South Africa – which saw the Nazi sympathiser John Vorster being feted by Menachim Begin, Israeli officers acting as consultants during the South African invasion in Angola, and armoured cars for police use in the townships being manufacured on a kibbutz, among much else.

…”South Africans need to be informed that the story of the blacks and the story of the Palestinians are totally different, and that the accusations against Israel of racism, colonialism, and apartheid are a big fraud, and are outrageous lies which are reminiscent of Nazi-era propaganda,” he said.

So: if you have critical thoughts about Israel, it’s because you’re either a Communist or a Nazi.

Jerusalem Summit has been featured on this blog before, where I noted its neo-con character. Its first session was in 2003, and featured “Richard Perle, Senator Sam Brownback, Congressman Eliot Engel, Prof. Daniel Pipes, Amb. Alan Keyes, Cal Thomas, Benjamin Netanyahu and Uzi Landau.” It believes that “the entire Palestinian narrative must be discredited and de-legitimized as a historical hoax”, and it wants to organise financial inducements to persuade Palestinians to relocate to other countries. Radyshevsky is a former head of the Michael Cherney Foundation, and Cherney is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Jerusalem Summit (Cherney has been accused of links with the Russian mafia, which his supporters strenuously deny). Radyshevsky is also on the advisory board of the American Center for Democracy, alongside Richard Pearle.

(Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog)

Promise Keepers Founder: Unconverted Jews will be “Toast”

From the LA Times:

…Bill McCartney, a former University of Colorado football coach and co-founder of the evangelical Promise Keepers movement for men, which became huge in the 1990s, has had a devil of a time getting his own apocalyptic campaign off the ground.

It’s called The Road to Jerusalem, and its mission is to convert Jews to Christianity — while there is still time.

“Our whole purpose is to hasten the end times,” he said. “The Bible says Jews will be brought to jealousy when they see Christians and Jewish believers together as one — they’ll want to be a part of that. That’s going to signal Jesus’ return.

Jews and others who don’t accept Jesus, he added matter-of-factly, “are toast.”

Well, that’s traditional Christian exclusivity for you. I discussed this in relation to Jews recently, as it happens.

(Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog)

Agape Ponders “Ex-Gay” Therapist; Ignores Alleged Link with Polish Far-Right

Agape Press discusses controversy around “sexual orientation therapist” Richard Cohen:

Christian psychotherapist Richard Cohen, board president of the ex-homosexual education and outreach organization known as Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), is addressing criticism leveled against certain therapy techniques he uses on clients with homosexual desires.

…Cohen’s methods have raised some questions, however; and he has lately taken sharp criticism over a May 23 appearance on Cable News Network (CNN), in which he demonstrated a technique that involves cuddling a male client in his lap. Another of the unusual therapy techniques depicted involved a client hitting a pillow with a tennis racket while shouting the name of a parent or other individual who elicits painful childhood memories.

…Psychologist Dr. Warren Throckmorton, director of college counseling at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, maintains a blog on sexual identity change therapy and related information for interested individuals. He is not a reparative therapist, but he claims Cohen’s techniques as demonstrated on CNN are bizarre and are not based on solid research…One problem with reparative or change therapy practices, Throckmorton explains, is that “there are very few guidelines for therapists working in this area.” He says he hopes to address that issue with guidelines he has written recently in cooperation with Dr. Mark Yarhouse of Regent University.

Of less controversy, apparently, are Cohen’s alleged links with the far-right League of Polish Families, a detail which Agape declines to mention. I covered this connection a year ago, drawing on a report from Tomek Kitlinski and Pawel Leszkowicz:

“The reason I ask for ten million dollars is because we need to create social organizations to help homosexuals to change. If you want to push legislation, somebody introduce a bill for the healing of homosexuality. That should really screw up homosexual activists.” Richard Cohen called Polish Parliament to reject the bill legalizing same-sex unions. In a country of twenty per cent unemployment and new poverty, Cohen pleaded for ten million dollars to fight homosexuality.

The Promotion of Homosexuality in Social Life and Its Effects for the Human Person, Family and Culture” was the title of Cohen’s presentation in Polish Parliament where he was invited by the League of Polish Families that promotes heterosexism and xenophobia. The leader of the League of Polish Families, Roman Giertych (b. 1971) wants to change the penal code. He introduced a bill to the speaker of parliament to penalize (fine or even imprisonment) those who publically [sic] promote the change of the traditional definition of marriage as union between man and woman.

Cohen reportedly went on to speak on Radio Maryja:

Cohen accused gays of a world conspiracy, likened it to Communism, and exhorted: “I challenge you, Poland, to be a world leader in solving homosexuality!”

Radio Maryja and the League of Polish Families are also notorious for their anti-semitism (see here and here), but that apparently didn’t bother Cohen any more than Cohen bothered them. Indeed, Polish media linked Cohen’s conversion to heterosexuality with his rejection of Judaism:

…Poland’s most influential mass circulation newspaper, Gazeta Ryborcza, posted the Catholic Press Agency story on Cohen’s visit, without commentary: “Richard Cohen himself experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation. The decisive moment was, as he indicated, his meeting of Christ. Cohen who had professed Judaism became a Christian.”

Egypt Bans Da Vinci Code; MP Cites “Zionist” Origins

Ever wondered where the ideas in the Da Vinci Code come from? Egyptian MP Georgette Sobhi gives one view:

Georgette Sobhi, a Coptic member [of Parliament], held up a copy of the book and the Arabic translation and said it contained material which was seriously offensive.

“It’s based on Zionist myths, and it contains insults towards Christ, and it insults the Christian religion and Islam,” she said.

Sobhi was speaking in a parliamentary debate about the book and the film, during which the government declared that both would be banned:

To applause from members of parliament, minister [of culture] Farouk Hosni said: “We ban any book that insults any religion … We will confiscate this book.”

That would be the same Egypt which recently ran an epic TV mini-series based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (I noted the same hypocrisy in the case of Lebanon a while ago), and the same Farouk Hosni who in 1998 brought Roger Garaudy to the Cairo Book Fair:

…And Garaudy did not disappoint his hosts. “Under France’s freedom of speech, you can attack President Jacques Chirac or even the Pope. But when you criticize Israel you are lost,” Garaudy told a seminar organised by Egypt’s Ministry of Culture. “This is because media in the West is 95 percent controlled by the Zionists.”

But while Hosni likes to make a stand against French Holocaust denial laws, in his own country he appears zealous enough in his role of censor. In 2000, after being put under pressure by Islamists, he banned a Syrian novel entitled A Banquet of Seaweed on the grounds that it was “disparaging religion”, and in 2001 Al-Ahram reported that

Last week the secular-Islamist debate reached a new pinnacle when Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni appeared on television to confirm and justify the banning of three recent publications of the General Organisation for Cultural Palaces (GOCP) said to contain explicitly pornographic passages.

The GOCP is a state-owned publishing house. Hosni defended the state suppressions in terms strongly reminiscent of Mervyn Griffith-Jones at the Lady Chatterley trial:

…The question, to him, concerned neither religion nor politics but simply common decency. “I dare any of the editors,” Hosni challenged, “who support the publication of these novels to give them to their wives.”

But what of Sobhi’s theory of “Zionists” being behind the Da Vinci Code? The novel features a secret “Order” named the “Priory of Sion”, and (as Mark Sanborne points out at World War 4 Report) Brown’s source The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail suggests that the Protocols was actually the secret blueprint for this (non-Jewish) group. Possibly some garbled version of all this has reached Sobhi; in 2003 Matrix Reloaded was accused by local Islamists of “promoting Zionism” – one assumes because it features a city called Zion (the film was eventually banned for being “violent” and containing “religious themes”). On the other hand, though, she may just simply be a conspiracy-minded anti-Semite. Either way, one is not impressed.

Meanwhile, Russian theologian Andrey Kurayev has an alternative theory about the story’s origins and current promotion:

The development around the novel can be described as nothing else than another volley fired in ages-old cold war between the Masons and the Catholic Church. It was a real Masonic structure acting in our world that revealed itself in the advertising campaign around Mr. Brown’s book.

I am not one of those who maintain that all that happens around us is linked with the Masons, but I believe it idiotism to ignore the presence of these closed elite structures in the fabric of society beginning from the 18th century to this day. There are open Masonic editions in which they commend themselves and there are openly existing recruit club such as Rotary Club and Lyons Club.

And now we see the ways in which one of the Masonic main goals is realized, and they do not conceal it.

(Hat tip: Paleojudaica)