2 Shrines


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2 Shrines

  1. 1. A Tale of two Shrines With very different endings
  2. 2. Not far from these gates, there is a shrine in an idyllic, tranquil setting. It is beautifully landscaped and caringly tended, a jewel set among gardens.
  3. 3. Nearby, a cool fountain dances in sunlight…
  4. 4. The shrine - just out of sight - is not in Athens, not even in Greece. In these gardens by the sea, other buildings tell their own stories of harmony and peace.
  5. 5. This is the shrine. By day and night it stands as a shining symbol of tolerance and love.
  6. 6. Despite appearances, this is neither Greece nor Italy. This is Mount Carmel. The town below is the port of Haifa. The shrine is in Israel. This is the country many people love to hate. This is the only country in the Middle East where this shrine is safe from attack and destruction.
  7. 7. A TALE OF TWO SHRINES We often hear it said that Israel is a ‘fascist, apartheid state’, a cross between Germany in the 1930s and 1940s and South Africa between 1948 and 1994. Is this true? Have the Jews who sought refuge in their ancient homeland really become the Nazis who persecuted them? Have the longest victims of racism really become racists? To help you decide, here are some important images. First of all, we have to travel to the city of Shiraz in Iran….
  8. 8. Shiraz, Iran - the home of the rose and the nightingale This was the holiest room in what was once the most sacred site for Iran’s largest religious minority, the Baha’is. Situated in Shiraz, the house belonged to the Bab, the first of the two Baha’i prophets. The gold-domed shrine in Israel is where his remains are buried.
  9. 9. The same room from outside. This was one of the four holy places to which Baha’is are expected to make pilgrimage. But let’s see another photograph of the house, taken about one year after this . . .
  10. 10. Here is the same house in 1979 a few months after the Iranian revolution. No more roses and nightingales. Pious Revolutionary Guards are tearing a precious treasure apart…
  11. 11. This was not done by an enraged mob. This was an organized, officially sanctioned effort to destroy the soul of a religious community. That effort still continues.
  12. 12. They tore it apart systematically until nothing was left…
  13. 13. … nothing but a demolition site, ready to build on….
  14. 14. This is what the regime built: not a school, not a hospital, not a museum. A mosque. The message is clear. Baha’is have no rights in an Islamic theocracy. This is how the Iranian regime treats its religious minorities. No Baha’i has ever attacked a Muslim shrine.
  15. 15. In the ‘fascist’ state of Israel, however, the shrine of the Bab is not just tolerated. It is given pride of place among the gardens, terraces, and buildings of the international Baha’i centre. Why would ‘Nazi’ Jews even care about the Baha’is, much less award them such prominence and protection? If the Israelis really are as odious as they are painted, why are they behaving so differently from the Iranians ? If they are modern-day Nazis, where are the bulldozers?
  16. 16. The Shrine of the Bab stands at the centre of some of the most beautiful gardens on the Mediterranean coast. The gardens are open to everyone - tourist, pilgrim, Christian, Jew and Muslim. The Baha’i concept of religious tolerance is well suited to Israel, which guarantees freedom of worship to everyone.
  17. 17. A different logic applies here. In every other country of the Middle East, Baha’is are banned or persecuted. They cannot attend school, get married, hold passports, publish or distribute their scriptures, seek converts, or worship in public. It is only here in Israel that anyone shows them respect. Israel’s Jews remember what it is to have their holy places smashed to rubble.
  18. 18. The Baha’i national centre, Tehran, 1955. Workmen are destroying the dome. They are led by a popular preacher, Mulla Falsafi, the army Chief of Staff, and the Military Governor of Tehran. A cold, deliberate hatred is at work. The only time the Baha’is have known a measure of safety in Iran has been when clerical influence has been weakened.
  19. 19. Such vast effort, all in the name of hatred..
  20. 20. Germany, 10 November 1938. Kristallnacht. A synagogue is in flames. German and Iranian fascism have one thing in common: hatred.
  21. 21. This was another Baha’i sacred place, this time in Tehran. This was done in 2004. It was reduced to rubble. The wreckers were not vandals or developers. This was done by the Iranian government to show the Baha’is how much they hate them, and to show the rest of the world how little they care for human rights.
  22. 22. Just before the Iranian regime destroyed the house in Tehran, it did this. This was another Baha’i shrine, a house built over the grave of one of their early saints. This is Babol. This is Iran. This is the country that wants to wipe Israel off the map.
  23. 23. This is a recent photo of the Baha’i graveyard in Yazd, a small town in the centre of the Iranian desert, where many Baha’is have been martyred down the years. Everything has been destroyed. It is not the only Baha’i graveyard to have suffered this fate. The regime that did this is the one currently building nuclear facilities ‘for peaceful purposes’. They say that their purposes are peaceful. But this is what they do to their own citizens. Would you believe them?
  24. 24. Here are ten Baha’i women hanged by the caring state of Iran in 1983. The youngest was seventeen. Their crime? Teaching Sunday School. This is not the ‘fascist regime’ of Israel. This is the fascist regime of Iran, a country that still kills its own citizens for the flimsiest of reasons. Iran created Hizbullah. Today, it finances and arms Hizbullah. Hizbullah’s aim is the final destruction of Israel. That is racism. That is fascism. ‘We are all Hizbullah now’ ? Really ?
  25. 25. By now, you will have noticed a pattern. Fascist intolerance expressed in violence on the one hand, and a tolerance so complete it has few parallels in the world. A fascist state on the one hand, a modern democracy on the other. Dogged hatred on the one hand - a hand held out in peace on the other.
  26. 26. Perhaps it’s time to go back to Israel, that most hated of countries, a country condemned for its ‘human rights abuses’, a country vilified while real abusers of human rights look on and sneer. Here are more photographs of Baha’i holy places. After that, we’ll take a look at some other religions.
  27. 27. Across the bay from Haifa, this is the holiest Baha’i site in the world, the Shrine of Baha’ Allah. This is the ‘Nazi’ state of Israel. This is how Israeli ‘fascists’ treat minorities. In Iran or Saudi Arabia, this would be rubble. In Iran or Saudi Arabia, its custodians would be in prison. Or worse.
  28. 28. Back in Haifa, these are monuments to two Baha’i saints, set in the lush Baha’i gardens on Mount Carmel. In 2006, Hizbullah rockets landed not far from these gardens. But ‘we’re all Hizbullah now’, aren’t we?
  29. 29. Still on Mount Carmel, this is the seat of the Baha’i international body, the Universal House of Justice. You’d think the Israeli authorities cared for it as if it was their own. The Israeli ‘fascists’ aren’t very good at intolerance after all, are they? Maybe they could take lessons from Iran or Hizbullah and have this demolished. What do you think? If you are a liberal person, surely you believe in human rights and tolerance. It’s not a hard choice to make. Go with your instincts. Israel is not an enemy of freedom.
  30. 30. Or a wrecker of other people’s hopes and aspirations.
  31. 31. The Baha’i world centre in Haifa is large and growing. Look at the following photographs and ask why a ‘Nazi, apartheid state’ is clearly so ineffective at wiping out the sacred sites of an anti-fascist, anti-racist religion. The Iranians or Hamas or Hizbullah would do a much better job, don’t you think?
  32. 32. The panorama below moves across Carmel from east to west, with the sea to the north. The first building is the Baha’i international missionary centre, next is the seat of their supreme body, then a centre for the study of scripture, then (just visible) their international archives, and finally, the golden dome of the shrine of the Bab, around which the main gardens and monuments cluster.
  33. 33. The international Baha’i archives and the shrine of the Bab.
  34. 34. This is what Mount Carmel looks like from downtown Haifa. Nineteen terraces run from the bottom to the top. The Israeli government goes well beyond just guaranteeing the Baha’is their human rights. It lets them proclaim their existence far and wide. It is one of the most visited tourist sites in Israel.
  35. 35. Places like this can only survive in a democracy. A real democracy, not a sham under a theocracy like Iran or a terrorist regime like that of Hamas. Israel is a real democracy, the only working example in the Middle East.
  36. 36. This resting place of a Baha’i saint would be banned or destroyed in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Turkey, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq… …in any Muslim country.
  37. 37. Islamic states pay lip service to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially when it comes to freedom of religion. Israel takes its obligations seriously. Are all those people who condemn Israel as a ‘Nazi state’ quite sure they have the right country?
  38. 38. ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’ The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 18.
  39. 39. The Baha’is believe in world peace and international brotherhood. They believe in harmony between religions. In the countries just mentioned, those are only reasons to condemn them. What is remotely ‘fascist’ or ‘racist’ about a country that protects people with such beliefs and holds such beliefs itself?
  40. 40. The Baha’is number some 5-6 million members round the world. All races, all nationalities, all former religious backgrounds. Why would a nation of ‘fascists’ encourage them ?
  41. 41. And why would the Baha’is, facing persecution elsewhere, seek to build and expand their holiest shrines and their world centre in the middle of a state with supposedly ‘the worst human rights record in the world’? Unless, perhaps, Israel doesn’t have the worst human rights record. Unless, perhaps, it has one of the best…
  42. 42. Could it be because Israel is not a ‘fascist, apartheid state’ at all? Could it be because the Baha’is are safer in Israel than almost anywhere else in the world? And it’s not just the Baha’is…
  43. 43. But it’s not just the Baha’is… Israel is home to many races and many religions
  44. 44. Israel is a place of refuge for one of the most varied religious populations in the world. There are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, Baha’is, Ahmadi Muslims, and small communities of Hindus, Buddhists, and others. No-one is molested. No-one is persecuted. Like the Baha’is, the Ahmadis are safer in Israel than at home in Pakistan, the Christians safer than anywhere else in the Middle East.
  45. 45. From its inception in 1948, Israel has taken full responsibility for the protection of the holy places of all its communities.
  46. 46. Article 1 of Israel’s 1967 Protection of Holy Places Law. ‘The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places.’
  47. 47. 2004. A mob of Albanian Muslims destroyed a cathedral in Prizren, Kosovo. Rioters attacked Our Lady of Ljeviska, the Church of the Holy Salvation, church of St. George (the city's largest church), the St. George Runjevac, a chapel of St. Nicholas, the Monastery of The Holy Archangels, as well as Prizren's Seminary. All the residences of the local priests were damaged by Albanian rioters during the unrest.
  48. 48. 2006: Following remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI, a firebomb was thrown at this Anglican church in Nablus. Palestinians carrying guns, firebombs and lighter fluid attacked four churches in the West Bank town of Nablus, while gunmen opened fire at a fifth in Gaza. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
  49. 49. An Assyrian church in Iraq after an attack by al-Qaeda.
  50. 50. A Chaldean monastery in Baghdad after an attack by Muslim extremists.
  51. 51. Sang Timur Church in Indonesia, one of many attacked by radical Muslims
  52. 52. A woman passes a Christian church in Nigeria after one of hundreds of attacks by Muslim radicals.
  53. 53. Here are two churches in Pakistan, where Christian places of worship are often the object of attacks by mobs.
  54. 54. This is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, in the year 2000. Two hundred Palestinians, including many gunmen, fleeing Israeli troops, took over the church and 30 priests inside. A siege followed, lasting 38 days. Rather than destroy the church, the Israelis negotiated and the siege ended peacefully.
  55. 55. A Greek Orthodox church in Nablus after a firebombing in 2006. Under the control of the Palestine Authority, there has been what amounts to an ethnic cleansing of Christians from Gaza and the West Bank. Bethlehem, which was 80% Christian before 1995, is now 20%. In Israel, the Christian population has increased by four times since 1948. Israelis are accused of being fascists who engage in ethnic cleansing. These facts speak for themselves.
  56. 56. This is the Church of the Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, near the spot on which Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. In Israel, churches are treated with respect.
  57. 57. The 12th century church of Emmas des Croiss forms part of a community of French Benedictines. Both church and community are protected under Israeli law.
  58. 58. This is the Dormition Monastery on Mount Zion, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, the Jewish holy city. It is one of many Christian buildings in and around the city.
  59. 59. This is the Catholico Ceiling in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, another site made safe under the Israeli Protection of Holy Places Law.
  60. 60. This is the Church of all Nations on the Mount of Olives, just outside Jerusalem. The ‘idolatrous’ images on the façade would be destroyed under shari‘a law if Jerusalem came under Islamic rule.
  61. 61. The golden domes of the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Jerusalem.
  62. 62. Inside the Church of the Visitation, Ein Kerem. More painted images. A blasphemy to Muslims and Jews alike. But this is Israel, where all religions enjoy full tolerance.
  63. 63. Since the 1920s, the Wahhabis, a puritan sect of Islam that controls Saudi Arabia, have been demolishing Islamic holy sites throughout the kingdom. This is to prevent anyone turning graves or historic buildings into places for pilgrimage or worship. They have destroyed Shi’i, Sufi, and Sunni shrines. 95% of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina have been razed to the ground This is the Jannat al-Mu’alla where many of Muhammad’s family are buried. This is the same cemetery today
  64. 64. This is one of the holiest Shi’i shrines in the world. It holds the remains of Imam Hasan al-’Askari, father of the Imam Mahdi, the awaited saviour. It was bombed by Sunni insurgents in February 2006. This was not done by Israelis. This was not done by Jews, ‘fascist’ or otherwise. This was done by Muslims.
  65. 65. These are the ruins of a Sunni mosque in Baghdad, bombed by Shi’ites in retaliation for the destruction of a Shi’i mosque some days earlier.
  66. 66. When the Israelis abandoned Gaza in 2005, they left much behind, including several synagogues. This is what the Palestinians did with the synagogues.
  67. 67. An abandoned synagogue in Beirut, that once had a thriving Jewish community.
  68. 68. The scene outside the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aires, after a bombing attack backed by Iran. 85 died. 300 were injured. No-one has ever been charged with the crime.
  69. 69. The synagogue at Djerba, Tunisia after Islamists exploded a truck of cooking gas next to it in 2002.
  70. 70. ‘We are all Hizbullah’ in action. Garnethill Synagogue, Glasgow, Scotland. This was an anti-Semitic attack, not a political statement about Israel and Zionism. It is, after all, outside a Jewish place of worship. Funny how they get mixed up, isn’t it?
  71. 71. For centuries, Joseph’s tomb in Schechem (Nablus) has been venerated by Jewish pilgrims. In 2000, Israel handed it and other sites to the care of the Palestinian Authority. This is what happened to it. A entire chapter of the Qur’an is devoted to Joseph, who is a sacred figure for Muslims. If you want to know why Israel doesn’t just hand over everything to the Palestinians, this is your answer.
  72. 72. This is the Neve Shalom Synagogue, Istanbul, shortly after a terrorist attack in 1986. It has been attacked twice since then, in 1992 and 2003. Turkey is an avowedly secularist state, but there is massive support for Islamist parties.
  73. 73. This is the 18th-century al-Jazzar Mosque in Acre. It is safe under Israeli custodianship, like all other mosques in Israel.
  74. 74. This is the Mahmudiyya Mosque in Jaffa. Just an ordinary mosque in an ordinary quarter in an Israeli town. Unless terrorists attack it, it is not at any risk of harm. Under the Israeli government it stands unmolested.
  75. 75. A mosque outside Tel Aviv. In Saudi Arabia, churches and synagogues are banned, while Sufi and Shi‘i shrines are deemed heretical and have been demolished. Nobody takes to the streets to protest about the way the Saudi regimes treats non-Muslims and non-Wahhabi Muslims. But they march to condemn Israel, a country that protects Muslims and their holy places. Isn’t there some sort of contradiction here?
  76. 76. During the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, heavy fighting took place around the Lebanese town of Maroun al-Ra’s. This mosque was right in the firing line, overlooking the Israeli border. As you can see, Israeli artillery took great care not to damage a sacred place. Is this the ‘Nazi’ state at work ? Imagine the SS carefully preserving a synagogue during fighting.
  77. 77. The Dome of the Rock, a major Muslim sacred site sits atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, on the site of the first and second Jewish temples. Some Jewish extremists have threatened to demolish it in order to build a third temple. The Israeli authorities will have nothing of that, and have handed everything on the Temple Mount to the Islamic authorities. A very odd way for ‘fascists’ to behave.
  78. 78. The Israelis have also granted the Islamic waqf authority in Jerusalem control of the al-Aqsa Mosque, the oldest in the city. No non-Muslims are permitted to enter.
  79. 79. Israel is vigilant. Not just for its own holy places, but for all in its keeping.
  80. 80. Jerusalem
  81. 81. Jerusalem
  82. 82. Jerusalem
  83. 83. Jerusalem
  84. 84. Jerusalem
  85. 85. THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. From the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.
  86. 86. There comes a moment for all of us when, whatever our prejudices, we have to examine them. Socrates said ‘an unexamined life is not worth living’. When the evidence is so great we can no longer argue against it, it’s time to take stock. It’s very easy to level accusations of ‘a fascist state’, ‘a Nazi state’, or ‘an apartheid state’ without ever setting that against reality. The slides you have seen and others you are about to see show vividly how, whatever its faults, Israel can hardly be accused of religious intolerance or discrimination. If you can accept that, then you need to re-focus. Does it seem logical to you that, if the Israelis were ‘Nazis’, they would protect Arab mosques? Or that they would repay centuries of Christian persecution of Jews by placing Christian places of worship under state protection? Or that they would incur the wrath of the Iranian regime by harbouring the Baha’i world centre?
  87. 87. It’s not too late to take a second look at Israel
  88. 88. In the Muslim world, tolerance for other religions has only ever been partial. Today, it is almost non-existent. The results are visible everywhere from North Africa to Indonesia. Examine the Saudi Arabia picture carefully Indonesia Indonesia Saudi Arabia Pakistan
  89. 89. Everywhere, we have become accustomed to the sight of radical Muslims marching, demonstrating, protesting, burning, destroying, suicide bombing, car bombing, and threatening more violence to come.
  90. 90. Yet not once have we seen anyone take to the streets about that. Political activists committed to humanitarian issues have never once protested the slaughter carried out by al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hizbollah, or any other Islamist movement. They have not once expressed offense at the burning of churches, synagogues and Hindu temples, the slaughter of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Baha’is and others in Nigeria, Sudan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, and the West Bank. Are Muslims the world’s only victims?
  91. 91. Somehow, the only cause anyone will march about is one that includes hatred of Israel. It seems that a state that does its best for inter-religious harmony is the proper target for today’s politically correct marcher. Ignore jihadist Islam and the death and destruction it brings. Why not? And while you’re at it, why not call Jews kikes? Why would anyone think you were an anti-Semite?
  92. 92. In the eyes of many, freedom is a dangerous concept, and Israel, a land of true freedoms, is the greatest threat to world peace. By comparison, Alice in Wonderland is sanity itself.
  93. 93. But in the end we all have to make decisions. Moral decisions. Decisions for ourselves and for the rest of humanity. We can choose to call an ethical, tolerant democracy a fascist state. We can choose to identify with a brutal terrorist group and march in its support. We can choose to turn a blind eye to those who carried out the murders on 9/11 or in Madrid or Bali or London. We can shake hands with despots and theocrats who bulldoze shrines. Or we can make the moral choice.
  94. 94. We can choose to turn our backs on those who are hanged, beheaded, tortured, or burned to death simply because they are unbelievers or homosexuals or young women with boyfriends or something else that radical Muslim states and organizations don’t approve of. We can stare into the face of horror and remain silent. Iran, 2005. Two teenage boys go to the gallows for the crime of being gay. They met a slow death by strangulation. How many of you marched in protest?
  95. 95. This is a public square in Saudi Arabia, after Friday prayers. Executions here are barbaric, and the judicial system seriously defective. Sometimes people protest. But never in large numbers. They prefer to save their wrath for Israel, where there is no capital punishment.
  96. 96. This is Iran. This woman has been found guilty of adultery and is buried in preparation for stoning. Stonings often take several hours. Is this the merciful face of Islam ? This is not Israel, the supposedly ‘Nazi state’.
  97. 97. This is the Nazi Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Final Solution. He was hanged in Israel in 1961. Israeli has never hanged anyone else before or since. Not even terrorists. Not even multiple killers. Think hard about this. What fascist state, what apartheid regime has ever banned capital punishment?
  98. 98. Here are three articles from the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They seem entirely reasonable. They bear no resemblance to reality.  20. All citizens of the country, both men and women, equally enjoy the protection of the law and enjoy all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in conformity with Islamic criteria.  23. The investigation of individuals' beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.  39. All affronts to the dignity and repute of persons arrested, detained, imprisoned, or banished in accordance with the law, whatever form they may take, are forbidden and liable to punishment.
  99. 99. Here are some samples of the reality…
  100. 100. Here is an extract from one of the Basic Laws of the State of Israel 1. The purpose of this Basic Law is to protect human dignity and liberty, in order to establish in a Basic Law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. 2. There shall be no violation of the life, body or dignity of any person as such. 3. There shall be no violation of the property of a person. 4. All persons are entitled to protection of their life, body and dignity. 5. There shall be no deprivation or restriction of the liberty of a person by imprisonment, arrest, extradition or otherwise.
  101. 101. This is part of the reality… Ethiopian Jews, Israeli Citizens
  102. 102. And this…. An Arab woman casts her vote in Israel
  103. 103. And this… Jewish and Arab students graduate together at Hebrew University
  104. 104. And this Israeli women in Tel Aviv
  105. 105. And this… More Israeli women, on national service
  106. 106. And this…. But there are other realities all Israelis have to face… A Gay Pride march in Jerusalem
  107. 107. From article 15 of the Hamas Covenant… ‘The day that enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In the face of the Jews’ usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.’
  108. 108. Members of Hamas’s military wing, the Kata’ib al-Qassam, on parade.
  109. 109. Article 21 of the PLO Charter… The Arab Palestinian people, expressing themselves by the armed Palestinian revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine and reject all proposals aiming at the liquidation of the Palestinian problem, or its internationalization.’
  110. 110. Members of the Palestinian security forces using a familiar salute…
  111. 111. From the 1985 ‘Open Letter’ (al-Risala al-maftuha) of Hizbullah… Our primary assumption in our fight against Israel states that the Zionist entity is aggressive from its inception, and built on lands wrested from their owners, at the expense of the rights of the Muslim people. Therefore our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated.
  112. 112. Here are Hizbullah fighters using the sieg-heil salute. Yet ‘lovers of peace’ have the gall to call Israelis ‘Nazis’. A profound evil has re-entered our lives. And many of us, through laziness and ignorance, are taking the wrong side. Israelis are fighting the Nazis. The men in these pictures are the new SS. They have sworn to fight until every Jew is dead. What does it take to convince you that Israel is not a ‘Nazi state’ ?
  113. 113. Why do we have such short memories? There are many alive today who remember World War II and the Holocaust and the Nazis. We said it would never happen again. Yet many young people today have no problem in calling Israel a ‘Nazi state’ and identifying themselves with modern-day fascists such as Hizbullah and Hamas.
  114. 114. Members of the Mahdi Army (Jaysh al-Mahdi), an Iraqi Shi’ite militia trained by the Lebanese Hizbullah. They kill Sunni Muslims and British troops in Basra. But no-one takes to the streets. Are these really our latter-day heroes?
  115. 115. Isn’t it time to take moral stock of ourselves? We can start by considering the following: Israel is a haven for people of all religions, for Arab women threatened with ‘honour’ killings, for gay Arabs, for Ethiopians, for refugees from Darfur, for Russian Christians and for Jews from all round the world. It is a refuge from persecution. How can such a country be described as an ‘apartheid state’? Survivors of the death camps head for the Promised Land Years later, an Ethiopian refugee starts a new life
  116. 116. ‘You love life and we love death’ (al-Qaeda, 2004). The enemies of Israel, like the Nazis before them, have chosen a cult of death as a way of life, and are passing it on to their children. This is blatant child abuse. Not once have the Western media publicized it. Not once has anyone taken to the streets to protest it.
  117. 117. Israel was built as a refuge for the survivors of the greatest crime in history. It remains a refuge to the present day. It is a living contradiction of the Holocaust, not a replica. Israeli troops do not give the Nazi salute or goosestep when they march. Yet every day its enemies try to destroy it.
  118. 118. In Europe, in countries whose citizens should know better, the streets are full of men and women baying in support of terrorist movements. These are movements which would give neither quarter nor refuge to Jews, Christians, Druze, Baha’is, Ahmadis, Hindus, homosexuals, agnostics, atheists, secularists, reformists, or intellectuals. Most of the marchers, in other words.
  119. 119. When you say you are all Hizbullah, what do you mean? Is it your plan to kill Israeli civilians? Because this is what Hizbullah rockets do. This is murder. This is what you are signing up for. Perhaps you think there are no innocent Israeli civilians, just as the Nazis thought there were no innocent Jews. If it’s wrong to bomb a bus in London, it’s wrong to bomb a bus in Haifa. London Haifa
  120. 120. Perhaps it’s time to think twice about Israel. Could the Israelis be the good guys after all… ? A teacher and child at an Israeli AIDS project in Malawi
  121. 121. Israeli eye surgeons help South Sudanese refugees in Kenya, one of several such projects Israel makes happen…
  122. 122. A workshop on learning disabilities, Sri Lanka. Run by Israel’s Mount Carmel International Training Centre… Under the Nazis, people with disabilities were experimented on and gassed.
  123. 123. An Israeli aid worker works with traumatized children in Sri Lanka after the tsunami. Israeli aid agencies provide help to people round the world without discrimination. Their work seldom hits the headlines. But it makes a huge difference for all who need it.
  124. 124. Do candles in Israeli churches flicker against the dying of the light? The Christian population of Israel has grown steadily since 1948. The Russian Church, Jerusalem
  125. 125. This is not Gaza, where Christians have been forced to convert to Islam. This is not the West Bank, where Christians have been driven out en masse. This is not Bethlehem, where Christians have been barred from the Church of the Nativity at Christmas. This is Jerusalem. This is Israel. Where Christians pray in freedom. The Russian Church, Jerusalem
  126. 126. This is the cupola of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Beneath it stands the rock on which Abraham planned to sacrifice his son, where Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending. Here, the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the First Temple. From here, Muhammad made his ascent to heaven. It forms part of the Temple Mount. It is one of the holiest places on earth. Jerusalem passed into Israeli hands in 1967. Since then, no harm has come to the rock or the mosque. But no Jews are allowed to enter.
  127. 127. Four religions consider Israel to be their Holy Land. Prophets have walked and preached here, the scriptures of three faiths have been written here, the land is drenched with the blood of martyrs and the tears of saints. But for one people above all others, Israel is their original and final home. The Jews have not taken custodianship of the Holy Land lightly, and they do not administer it through fear. What is the problem with that?
  128. 128. Almost 2000 years ago, the Romans destroyed the Second Jewish Temple. Today, the Romans have gone and now Jews pray beside the Western Wall.
  129. 129. Today, for the first time in almost 2000 years, the Jews have a state. A refuge from persecution. A tiny strip of land to call their own. You have a choice: You can join those who want to destroy that state and all the holy places it protects. You can join with religious fanatics, Nazi sympathizers, anti- Semites and racists. Or you can stand up for justice and human rights, and recognize Israel for what it is: an imperfect progressive democracy that stands head and shoulders above most countries when it comes to human rights and a love for peace. The choice is yours.
  130. 130. About the Author This presentation was devised and written by a former Lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies at a UK University. He has several degrees, including a PhD in Persian. He has published extensively on Islamic topics, contributing to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Islam in the Modern World, the Encyclopaedia Iranica and the Penguin Handbook of Religions. Acknowledgements  Photos of Baha’i buildings and gardens in Haifa, all copyright Marco Abrar  - www.Baha’iPictures.com.  Sepia photographs of places and people in Israel, all courtesy of Jimmy Sng, Singapore - www.pbase.com/offspring/israel.  Photos of Russian Church interior, Shmuel Halevi - www.pbase.com/acumedico .  Photo of Dome of the Rock cupola, Damon Lynch.  Photo of al-Aqsa, Lane Green  If a copyright notice has been inadvertently omitted, please contact: viewpoint99@btinternet.com