Christian Zionist Counter-Protest at Israeli Embassy in London

Press photographer Peter Marshall has a set of photos of

a large and noisy protest on the third anniversary of the Israeli attack on Gaza called for an end of the ongoing violence against Palestinians and the siege on Gaza. UK. 27th December 2011.

The protest took place opposite the Israeli embassy in London, and a few of the photos (here,  here, and here) show a small nearby counter-protest. The distinctive figure of Jonathan Hoffman of the Zionist Federation can be seen at the front, but the Christian Zionist group Mordecai Voice appears to have been prominently involved – although not named, the same distinctive Israeli and British flags with religious messages stenciled on were used at a rally the group organised in July. According to Marshall:

The smaller group of protesters waving Israeli flags on the opposite side of the road from the main protest stated that Hamas is committed to the destruction of the state of Israel and the killing of the Jews. They also accused the Palestine Solidarity Committed of refusing to support the peace process over Israel.

The Christian Zionist banners, however, focused primarily on the supernatural significance of the conflict: one banner reads “G-d A-Mighty Gave the LAND of ISRAEL to the JEWS”, another announces that “Israel Your G-D is Coming”, and a third describes Israel as the Apple of God’s eye (a particular Mordecai Voice slogan).

One of the photos also catches a glimpse of someone at the back of the counter-protest wearing a Jewish Task Force jacket – the JTF is so extreme that earlier this year the English Defence League baulked at the idea of an alliance, for reasons I discussed here. Of course, the presence of a JTF activist at a public event does not in itself mean that other participants either agree with the JTF or even know anything about it.

Mordecai Voice is a project of Pastor Tim Gutmann, who is with the Derbyshire-based Junction 28 Church; this is an Assemblies of God congregation. According to the Mordecai Voice website, the group is planning a “UK Night to honour Israel”, citing Pastor John Hagee by name as the “American equivalent”. Hagee’s religious views are apocalyptic and include “New World Order” conspiracy theories.

Robert Spencer Attacks Critic of Claim that Texas Shootings were “Honour Killing”

Charles Johnson:

The so-called “counter-jihad” bloggers are covering themselves in glory again, slobbering and ranting and trying to take advantage of a terrible crime to advance their un-American agenda.

…This time they’ve seized on a story about a man in Texas who killed six members of his own family on Christmas morning while dressed in a Santa suit, then committed suicide. The man’s wife had left him, his home had been foreclosed upon, his business was failing, and he had filed for bankruptcy; with anyone else, these things would be considered strong motives for committing this massacre.

But because the man’s name was Aziz Yazdanpanah, and he was apparently unhappy about who his daughter was dating, these bloggers have decided it had to be an “Islamic honor killing.” And now they’re letting their bigotry run free again.

Robert Spencer responds:

@jihadwatchRS …Off your meds again, eh, Charles?

@Lizardoid …Must be all the Butterball shariah turkey I ate for Christmas.

@jihadwatchRS …Wow! Deceptively mislabeled food makes you carry water for a mass murderer & his ideology! #Usefulidiot

@jihadwatchRS …The guy murdered his whole family. You are making excuses for him. Who is paying you?

The full exchange (including bonus abusive contributions from Pamela Geller) can be seen here.

Johnson pointed out problems with the honour killing motive in Texas – according to Spencer, this means that Johnson supports the killer’s “ideology” , that he is “making excuses” for the killer, and that he must be doing so for money. Further comment on that is superfluous.

Of course, the above doesn’t tell us anything new about Spencer and how he operates, although it is a particularly egregious example of why this man should not be taken seriously by anyone who is concerned about honour killings or any other matter of public concern. It’s remarkable that a public figure like John Bolton would debase himself by endorsing Spencer’s work.

In April, Spencer and his allies will be holding yet another conflab. According to the promotional blurb:

The prominent human rights organization American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), its Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) program and the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force (VAST) will be hosting the first-ever human rights conference dedicated to exposing the plight of women under Islamic law in Dearborn, Michigan on the anniversary of the honor murder of Jessica Mokdad: the Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference.

…The confirmed list of speakers includes ex-Muslim human rights activist Nonie Darwish; Sudanese ex-slave and freedom fighter Simon Deng; and James Lafferty of the Virginia Anti-Sharia Taskforce (VAST), co-host of the Conference. Also speaking will be David Wood of Acts 17 Apologetics, a Christian group that is suing the city of Dearborn for covering up Islamic honor killings performed in the area – that cover-up, and the resulting suit, will also be a focus of the Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference.

In other words, a conference on ” the plight of women under Islamic law in Dearborn” will include only one speaker local to the area, and he’s a evangelist who is focused on the need for Muslims to convert to Christianity. Familiar anti-Islam polemicists will be there, but no-one who has any professional expertise or personal experience of honour killings in the USA. Spencer’s exchange with Johnson shows us what level of discussion to expect.

Last year, Geller and Spencer trumpeted their commitment to providing “safe houses” for those at risk from honour killings – a fairly useless website was created, but there’s no evidence that anyone has since benefited from any practical assistance.

Nick Broomfield and Sarah Palin’s Religion

Nick Broomfield’s documentary Sarah Palin – You Betcha! has just been broadcast on British television. The film includes some discussion of Palin’s religious background.

Near the start of the programme, Palin’s parents explain to Broomfield that the family had left Roman Catholicism and been re-baptised into the Assemblies of God while Sarah was a child. The reason they did this is not given (and Broomfield doesn’t ask), although it seems likely that social pressure played a role: in Alexandria, Egypt, a former classmate named Yvonne Bashelier claimed that Palin and her friends have a “spiritual bond” through the Assemblies of God:

To go against Sarah would be to go against your church, whether you agree with her or not, and going against your church and your community is a pretty powerful thing… 

As for non-evangelicals:

A lot of it was unspoken pressure. You just got left out of the group. People wouldn’t speak to you, Sarah would encourage other people not to talk to you.

This sets the tone for a brief overview of evangelical beliefs that follows: Bashelier recalls being warned by Palin about how non-believers would “burn in hell”; Phil Munger recounts that Palin had “disclosed” to him that she was a Young Earth Creationist; and Howard Bess – a local retired Baptist pastor who has clashed with Palin – warned that Palin’s religion is that of “apocalyptic  Christians” and that she would have “no bad conscience about triggering a nuclear war”. Palin’s beliefs are also illustrated by the famous footage of her being prayed over by Pastor Thomas Muthee (although not named) and some generic fundamentalist videos (sources are not given).

Broomfield goes on to explain how Palin’s beliefs and church association allegedly played out in her political life:

Sarah supported evangelical groups who disapproved of books on homosexuality being available at the  library. While members of the church burnt and destroyed the books, Sarah tried to have them removed.

This is illustrated by some (again unsourced) footage of an unidentified man burning some unidentifiable books as part of a bonfire, and I found this section of the film troubling. Claims from 2008 that Palin had attempted to have certain books banned failed to withstand scrutiny, and the accusation that members of her church burnt the titles she sought to have removed is, I believe, a new one. Certainly, there have been documented cases of Assemblies of God churches holding book burnings from time to time elsewhere in the USA, but it’s not a common practice and Broomfield fails to show clearly that the same thing happened in Wasilla.

The suspicion that there is some sloppy conflation going on is heightened soon after, when general conservative Christian hostility to homosexuality is illustrated by stock footage of an anti-gay protest by the Westboro Baptist Church. Westboro’s “God Hates Fags” banners have nothing to do with religion in Alaska, yet Broomfield allows images of Westboro Baptist signs to fade into an image of Palin holding a gun. Broomfield speaks to gay activists in Wasilla who have undoubtedly suffered from religiously-inspired homophobic abuse, but the imagery here is simply misleading.

Later in the programme, Broomfield trails Palin to a “Women of Joy” Christian women’s conference in Oklahoma, and the camera captures another speaker at the event railing against abortion and homosexuality. For some unaccountable reason, this section also includes Broomfield indulging in a witless stunt involving a megaphone.

Police Confirm Breivik Visited Liberia in 2002

From mass-murderer Anders Breivik’s “manifesto“:

I had the privilege of meeting one of the greatest living war heroes of Europe at the time, a Serbian crusader and war hero who had killed many Muslims in battle. Due to EU persecution for alleged crimes against Muslims he was living at one point in Liberia. I visited him in Monrovia once, just before the founding session in London, 2002.

As has been widely discussed, Breivik claims to have been part of a wider anti-Islam “resistance” movement, and to have had a “mentor” in the UK using the name “Richard the Lionhearted”.

I’ve treated these stories sceptically, but the the NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) has now reported that, according to police, Breivik’s passport shows that he did indeed visit Liberia for a week in April 2002, and left via the Ivory Coast. The NRK notes that Serbian mercenaries were present in Liberia in 2002; it’s also worth noting that weapons were being smuggled from Serbia to Liberia during this period.

Of course, the fact that Breivik may have met some troubling individuals in Liberia ten years ago is still a long way from showing that his massacre was some sort of conspiracy. However, the presence of a 23-year-old Norwegian civilian in the middle of an African civil war is an odd enough story in itself – and suggests that there are people out there who could fill in some gaps about Breivik’s past.

Hallelujah Chorus

“Nigeria’s Wealthiest Preacher” Bishop David Oyedepo Slaps Girl in Church

As is being widely reported, Bishop David Oyedepo has come under fire after a video was posted to YouTube showing him slapping a young girl across the face during a public “deliverance” service at his Faith Tabernacle mega-church in Ota, a suburb in Lagos.

The video shows the young girl telling Oyedepo that she was a “witch for Jesus”, and this – along with the fact that she’s a young girl unlikely to respond in kind – was what provoked Oyedepo to violence. It’s not clear what she meant by her self-identification: perhaps she’s a member of some syncretic religious group (unlikely), or perhaps she’s developed her own ideas based on the cultural mix around her. However, it’s also  possible that she’s simply someone who was accused of being a witch and was acting out the role expected of her – I’ve noted other incidents of this. A follow-up video shows Oyedepo boasting that the girl had later come to him to ask for his forgiveness for being a witch.

Oyedepo’s behaviour is particularly troubling given the context of on-going violence against children accused of witchcraft in Nigeria and elsewhere and his status within African Neo-Pentecostalism. Oyedepo is not just another successful evangelist: according to Forbes he is “Nigeria’s wealthiest preacher”, and he enjoys international connections. In particular, he is close to Kenneth Copeland, who is a major player in the US Christian Right; Copeland has spoken at Oyedepo’s church, and Oyedepo has addressed Kenneth Copeland Ministries in the USA. According to Copeland’s newsletter,

In 2008, David Oyedepo was an honored speaker at KCM’s Ministers’ Conference. “I give glory to God for Kenneth and Gloria Copeland,” Oyedepo says. “The revelation through their books taught me how to walk in kingdom prosperity, and now countless thousands are walking in that revelation as well.”

Oyedepo also attends events in London (where his son has a franchise church) – about a year ago, I saw an advert for him on the side of a taxi passing along Aldwych.

PTL: The Looming Tower

From the Charlotte Business Journal, September 2008:

Plans to rebuild the long-vacant hotel tower that was the centerpiece of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s failed Heritage USA have moved beyond a hope and a prayer.

One of Charlotte’s largest general contractors is on the job, heading a $40 million redevelopment of the building for MorningStar Fellowship Church. The 21-story structure is getting new life as an age-restricted condo building that will cater to Christians.

The massive renovation, headed by Choate Construction Co., is expected to start in January. The tower could have its first residents by mid-2010, says Patrick Selvey, MorningStar construction manager.

From WBTV, December 2011:

FORT MILL, SC (WBTV) – It’s been standing in Fort Mill for 20 years falling apart since the downfall of the Jim Bakker.  Morning star ministries bought the old PTL tower eight years ago with the promise to fix it up into retirement community. 

Money and legal battles have clouded the future of what neighbors call an eye sore.

However those same residents around the tower say they may found a loop hole in the system, and filed a petition on a little known county ordinance hoping the law will finally get something done.

…The county ordnance was written in 2002.  Morning Star took over the building in 2004 with plans to repair it and sell the apartments.  So since the building is technically a dwelling it falls under the regulations of the ordinance.

The ordinance goes on to state if the owner can’t repair the property the county can take over and demolish it.

Morning Star’s leader Rick Joyner explained the reason for the continuing delays back in March 2010:

Joyner acknowledges construction hasn’t started. The credit crisis has trimmed the number of banks interested in financing the deal to four from the original 14, he says.

This raises a particular difficulty: Joyner has for a long time claimed to have received messages from God warning of the imminent economic collapse of the USA, with the populace reduced to bartering for survival. Joyner’s original plan back in 2004, when he bought 52 acres from developer Earl Coulston, was “to try to hire a movie production company to demolish” the building, but it seems that he quickly decided that it would be better instead to restore the tower. This was during the height of the property bubble, so why didn’t God warn Joyner about the financing problems he would face? And to what extent does Joyner’s current business plan take account of economic armageddon being around the corner?

Although the tower remains dilapidated, Joyner has restored part of Jim Bakker’s former property, creating the Heritage Grand Hotel. The hotel has been the venue for at least one event held by the Order of Saint John (or “The Knights of Malta: The Ecumenical Order”). This is the chivalric order of which Joyner is “Deputy Member of the Supreme Council” and Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin is the “Grand Chancellor”.

(H/T: Right Wing Watch)

A Universal Peace Federation Pundit on Press TV and Russia Today

From the website of Russia Today, 13 December:

With international rhetoric hardening against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, peace activist Dr Maher Salloum tells RT the West is not really seeking a dialogue with the Syrian regime.

…The world community is not doing enough to ensure a dialogue between Damascus and its opponents, believes Dr Maher Salloum, the ambassador for the Universal Peace Federation.

It seems that the West has been concentrating on the position that there can be no dialogue with such a president as Bashar Assad. I believe there is still a gap between the Syrian regime and its opponents within and outside the country,” he told RT.

A comment below the story makes a pertinent point:

I am very interested in Maher Salloum’s full qualifications. I am sure he is qualified but the only qualification presented here is that he is an Ambassador of the Universal Peace Federation.(UPF)

… If, as the report reflects, Maher Salloum’s primary qualification is the blessing of Sun Myung Moon as representative of the UPF, the viewers and readers should be told what the UPF is.

Indeed. The UPF is a subject I’ve blogged on a number of times, both here and on my spin-off blog (see link at top of page)

Salloum has also made a number of appearances on Iran’s Press TV, which on several occasions has noted his “Ambassador for Peace” title. Press TV has also described him variously as “Professor of International Relations from the Lebanese International University” and as a “Political Analyst”; however, according to his Facebook page (as Mack Salloum) he’s recently become Associate Professor of Marketing and Management at the Islamic University of Lebanon.

Salloum is strong advocate of the Palestinian cause, and he regards US actions in the Middle East as being at the behest of Israel:

Because of the results of the invasions and the attacks by the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and all the areas they have been involved in as an international army right now. I mean the Israeli army has been given weapons and intelligence support technically, militarily, financially, and this has been used as an American intellectual property. It has been used against the Lebanese and other Arabs such as the Palestinians and even the Iraqis. So the real goal here is to disrupt the Arab world through the US administration whether it is Obama or anyone else. But the real message is to benefit Israel’s interests in the area. 

The real enemy of the Arab world is Israel. It is not the US. The US is acting as a tool in order to deliver the message by Israel. 

That doesn’t seem quite on-message with the UPF’s “Middle East Peace Initiative“.

Christmas Charity Appeal

As we approach the festive season, it is in the spirit of Christmas that we remember those less fortunate than ourselves. This year, I would like to highlight the plight of families in the UK who don’t have enough to eat.

Nadine Dorries MP has the distressing and poignant details:

“I was with an MP the other day, and his wife rang him. She was at the supermarket checkout and her debit card had been refused. They had no money in their account. He was just distraught, and all because he’s too scared to claim travel expenses, scared of what the local paper will write if he does. People are starving, poor things.”

Sometimes I despair for our society: care assistants in need of medical treatment are allowed off work despite being able to use Twitter, yet genuine public servants go hungry, despite what Edwina Currie might have to say on the subject.

Fortunately, Dorries’ own “local paper” fully understands that investigating MPs’ expenses is a form of stalking and to be deplored, and this means that she herself is able to be an activist for reform. She led the way in July 2010, when her copy of the expenses guidelines for MPs “accidentally” fell from her office window onto a nearby roof – she posted a photo of this on her blog, as a rebuke to busy-body officials and ungrateful elements of the general public.

Sweden Democrats and Kent Ekeroth Distance Themselves from Alan Lake

A couple of Swedish-language reports show attempts by the Sweden Democrat (SD) Party and by Kent Ekeroth to distance themselves from Alan Lake, the former English Defence League activist; meanings can be gleaned from Google Translate (slightly tidied-up as used here).

On Wednesday, a documentary strand on STV called Uppdrag Granskning had a general overview of the EDL in the context of “counterjihad” activism and the Utøya massacre, including an interview with Lake (from 36:23). Lake’s “chickens come home roost” statement was put to him; he admitted this sounded like a “justification”, but insisted that this had not been his intent – it was supposed to be a “statement of causality”.

In the same programme, the SD’s Mattias Karlsson described statements made by Lake as “very unpleasant. And it’s so far from what we as a party stands for as you can get” (1).

Regarding a meeting in Malmo in 2009 which involved Lake and the SD’s Kent Ekeroth, Karlsson stressed that:

What I want to emphasize is that we as a party never sent out Ekeroth on official mission to participate in these meetings and we have not funded them. (2)

Expo, meanwhile, is sceptical of this, noting that the SD newspaper had published a report in which the meeting was described as having been organised by the party and as having been a success. Further:

Ekeroth did not want to answer more questions but said he would not have invited the Lake if he had known what statements he would make in the future. (3)

***

(1) From the documentary website: “Det är väldigt obehagligt. Och det är ju så långt ifrån vad vi som parti står för som man kan komma.”

(2) As transcribed by Expo: “Det jag vill poängtera är att vi som parti aldrig skickat ut Ekeroth på officiella uppdrag att delta på de här mötena och vi har inte finansierat dem. Det är något som han gjort på eget bevåg.”

(3) “Ekeroth vill inte svara på fler frågor men säger att han inte hade bjudit in Lake om han hade känt till vilka uttalanden han skulle göra i framtiden.”