I'm still rolling on the floor laughing my socks off at a report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
What's the joke? Well, it’s no joke really. The USCIRF has just released its 2013 Annual Report on the world’s worst violators of religious freedom. And… you simply won't believe this… it doesn’t even mention the worst offender of all, Israel.
Truly. It's like Israel doesn't exist…
I am regularly bombarded with reports of Israel's religious persecution of Christians and their Muslim brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. This week included an account http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=592219 of how Israel continues to cause "countless difficulties" for Palestinian Christians and Muslims trying to reach their holy sites. "It is not only that Israel has isolated our occupied capital from the rest of our country — forcing our people to apply for special military permits to access their families and holy places for religious occasions — but even Palestinians from Jerusalem were beaten when trying to reach the Church of the Holy Sepulchre," said Hanna Amireh, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and Head of the Presidential Committee on Church Affairs.
The Israeli forces turned a religious occasion into a battle camp scenario, she said. "What was witnessed in Jerusalem was an attempt to cancel a tradition of 700 years. The Israeli government is doing everything possible in order to achieve its goal of changing Jerusalem's landscape, by building more settlements, demolishing more Palestinian homes, revoking more IDs and by attempting to prevent the normal celebration of Christian and Muslim religious events."
This week also saw Jewish settlers storming the Aqsa mosque. The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation accused Israel of pursuing a systematic policy of aggression against holy places in occupied Jerusalem.
I have spent time with priests and members of their congregation in Occupied Palestine and it’s true that Israel is conducting a religious war. If you don’t believe me, go see for yourselves – but not by Israeli bus-tour, obviously.
Imagine the fuss if we road-blocked Jews from their synagogues in Golders Green, Hendon and Finchley.
The USCIRF report was sent to the President on 30 April with a covering letter hammering home the Commissioners' recommendation that the Secretary of State re-designate eight countries as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, "for egregious violations of religious freedom". These are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.
The Commissioners also recommend that seven additional countries be designated as CPCs: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
Israel is not even on the list of countries looked at, while the Commission’s press release emphasises how US foreign policy recognizes the critical role religious freedom plays in nations and prioritizes accordingly. “Religious freedom is both a pivotal human right under international law and a key factor that helps determine whether a nation experiences stability or chaos.”
The letter is signed in all seriousness by USCIRF’s chairperson Katrina Lantos Swett. The report she presided over has allowed Fox News http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/05/07/report-finds-iran-worst-violator-religious-freedom/ to point the finger at Iran, not Israel, and to give poor old Ahmadinejad another verbal blasting. "Religious freedom,” says Fox, “is in short supply in the Middle East, according to the bipartisan US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has issued a report finding Iran chief among the nations where spiritual beliefs can bring prison sentences or worse."
An article http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=124980 by Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett herself, called 'US Promotion of International Religious Freedom', explains that USCIRF was created in 1998 by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) to be “an independent watchdog of US government activity that identifies violations of religious freedom and develops policy solutions to advance religious freedom for everyone everywhere. USCIRF is separate and distinct from the State Department…
"Through our work, we have observed how governments engage in or allow at least three kinds of violations: state hostility toward religion, state sponsorship of extremist religious ideology, and state failure to prevent and punish religious freedom violations.
“Through state hostility, individuals or groups are persecuted on account of their beliefs. State sponsorship involves governments promoting including exporting violent and extremist religious ideas that include calls to violate the religious freedom and sometimes even the right to life of others. State failure refers to governments abandoning their duty to protect those whom others are targeting due to their beliefs, creating a climate of impunity in which religious dissenters are threatened, intimidated, or even murdered.
"In response to such violations, IRFA requires the President, who has delegated this authority to the Secretary of State, to designate as ‘countries of particular concern’, or CPCs, those governments that have engaged in or tolerated ‘particularly severe’ religious freedom violations.”
The IRFA defines “particularly severe” violations as ones that are “systematic, ongoing, and egregious”, including acts such as torture, prolonged detention without charges, disappearances, or “other flagrant denials of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons”. All these are an everyday fact of life to non-Jews living under the Zionist-Israeli jackboot in the Holy Land.
And after a country is designated a CPC, the President is required by law to take specific actions to encourage reform.
So now we begin to see why Israel is omitted. Mustn’t upset the Zionists’ racist programme steal and ethnically cleanse the Holy Land, must we? The irony seems totally lost on Lantos Swett and her colleagues.
Another reason is the appointment of Elliott Abrams, a Zionist hardliner, to the Commission. American readers will know all about Abrams, but for the benefit of fellow Brits and others these extracts from http://www.ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/nc-feith.html may help…
"In 1992 Abrams helped form the Committee for U.S. Interests in the Middle East, which was actually a committee to ensure that U.S. policy was aligned with the Likud Party in Israel. Other members included Perle, Feith, Gaffney, and John Lehman, among dozens of other neoconservatives and pro-Israel hawks. The committee spoke out against what it perceived as a dangerous distancing between the Bush Senior administration and Israel seen in the administration's pressure for Israel to pull out of some occupied territories and halt its campaign to expand settlements in these zones.
"Abrams has long voiced his strong support for Likud positions on the Oslo peace process and 'land for peace' negotiations.
"As Abrams, who has argued against Jews dating or attending elementary schools with non-Jews, put it in his book Faith or Fear: How Jews Can Survive in a Christian America: 'Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart—except in Israel—from the rest of the population' (Free Press, 1997). Judaism, according to Abrams, demands 'apartness' — not in the sense of confining oneself to a physical ghetto, but all necessary measures should be taken to prevent 'prolonged and intimate exposure to non-Jewish culture'. Abrams takes care to insist that his positions imply no 'disloyalty' to the United States, but at the same times insists that Jews must be loyal to Israel because they 'are in a permanent covenant with God and with the land of Israel and its people. Their commitment will not weaken if the Israeli government pursues unpopular policies.'
That's a frightening message for America and indeed Britain, where the Jewish influence continues apace.
The article continues: "Abrams was indicted by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for giving false testimony before Congress in 1987 about his role in illicitly raising money for the Nicaraguan Contras. He pleaded guilty to two lesser offences of withholding information to Congress in order to avoid a trial and a possible jail term.”
Nice chap to have aboard, then. Abrams' fellow Commissioners are…
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett (Chair)
Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon and Rev. William J. Shaw (vice-Chairs)
Hon. Sam Gejdenson
Dr. Robert P. George
Dr. Azizah Y. al-Hibri
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser
Ambassador Suzan D. Johnson Cook
Why haven’t they examined the problem in their own country before condemning others?
I’m talking, of course, about the scourge of Christian Zionism which is rife in the US and is allowed to permeate and bully Congress, influence US foreign policy and thus encourage and fund the Zionist thugs of the Jewish State in their project to oust Christians and Muslims from Palestine and annex their lands.
Doesn’t this fall under “exporting violent and extremist religious ideas”, which Lantos Swett talks about?
American journalist and fearless champion of the truth, Grace Halsell, explained Christian Zionism’s message: “Simply stated it is this: Every act taken by Israel is orchestrated by God, and should be condoned, supported, and even praised by the rest of us. Never mind what Israel does, say the Christian Zionists. God wants this to happen…”
The problem, she said, was their belief system. “They believe that what Israel wants is what God wants. Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable to give the green light to whatever it is Israel wants and then conceal this from the American people. Anything, including lies, theft, even murder, is justified as long as Israel wants it.”
The credit for much of the world’s misery must go to Cyrus Scofield, who was commissioned by the Oxford University Press to re-write the King James Bible by inserting Zionist-friendly notes with the aim of changing the Christian view of Zionism and creating a pro-Zionist sub-culture within Christianity. Between them they distorted the Biblical message and produced a propaganda classic, the Scofield Reference Bible, which has oozed its nonsense for 100 years.
I commend to Lantos Swett and her fellow Commissioners ‘The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism’, a statement by the Latin Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches in Jerusalem http://imeu.net/news/article003122.shtml. They are in the front line. They know the score. Here are the key passages…
We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.
We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.
We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from the ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!
America, heal thyself first.
Stuart Littlewood is a writer-photographer in the UK. His articles are published widely on the web. He is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.