Church leaders back new critique of 'Israeli apartheid'

By staff writers
June 21, 2009

In January 2009, people around the world watched in horror as the Israeli army pounded the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

Now, a new book backed by a range of Christian leaders, academics and human rights activists, argues that the problems of occupation and violence in the region are deep rooted in “the essence of Zionism and Israeli policies in Palestine”.

Journalist and commentator Ben White's powerfully-argued new book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide was published on 17 June 2009 by Pluto Press, with a major launch near Parliament in London.

Its arguments pitch right into the debate created by the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's recent call for the recognition of Israel as an explicitly Jewish state - a demand which critics say enshrines racial privilege as the state's defining characteristic.

With a foreword by Professor John Dugard, South African ex-UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (2001-2008) and endorsements from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, politicians, academics, activists, and church ministers, White's book has been hailed by supporters - including Israeli academics and a Conservative MP - as “groundbreaking”, “essential reading” and "bound to result in heated discussion".

Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think tank Ekklesia, which advocates a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians and also promotes nonviolent methods for tackling conflict, commented: "Ben White has a passionate commitment to justice and to facing difficult facts. This book is likely to produce strong reactions but it will also hopefully provoke real thought.”

The launch event for the new book tool place at Portcullis House, Westminster, during a meeting chaired by Brian Iddon MP and organised by the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU).

The Nobel Peace Prize winner and anti-apartheid activist, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has called White's book “a highly commendable effort to throw light on a fraught subject”, while Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappe has praised it as an “excellent guide” to the subject.

The Rev Stephen Sizer, an evangelical Anglican cleric who has written extensive critiques of 'Christian Zionism' says that White “helps us see much more clearly both what is happening in Israel/Palestine but also what we must do about it”.

Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide distils the work of academics and experts into a single readable introduction, say its publishers.

Ben White, himself an active Christian, though writing from a broad humanitarion perspective, begins by explaining the origins of Zionist theory and colonization. He details what happened in 1948 during the creation of Israel as Palestinians were killed, driven from their homes and deprived of their land and livelihoods.

White also examines current examples of what he calls "Israeli apartheid" - a term also used by ex-US President Jimmy Carter and others, including dissident Jewish campaigners, to draw attention to the uncomfortable factual parallels between the constitution of the Israeli state and what happened under 'separate development' in South Africa.

The author has extensive on-the-ground experience in the region. His book also includes short testimonies by Palestinians who describe how Israeli policies affect their daily lives.

A large number of Christian authors and academics have endorsed Israeli Apartheid, including the Rev Alex Awad, professor at Bethlehem Bible College and pastor of East Jerusalem Baptist Church; Dr Gary M. Burge, Wheaton College & Graduate School, author of Whose Land? Whose Promise? (2003), ecumenist Dr Kevin Bray from Canberra, Australia; and Garth Hewitt, Canon of St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem.

More information here:

Also on Ekklesia - an excerpt from the book: 'Wiping Palestine from the map' -

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