On 11 May 2017, under the auspices of Dialogue4Peace, I, together with Egyptian Copt, Nadia Ghali, were the main speakers at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre in a debate with Bishop Browning and his colleague, Saudi-Palestinian, Yousef Alreemawi. The subject was ‘Israel/ Palestine: Social Justice.’
Bishop Browning heads the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network and is a committed Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) supporter. Alreemawi runs the English language Palestine Remembered program on radio 3CR which disseminates anti-Israel propaganda.
In my opening speech, I challenged Bishop Browning to condemn the Palestinian leadership for abusing their children by inciting them to murder Jews, and using schools and places of worship to store weapons, as well as to condemn them for their treatment of minorities, such as gays.
Furthermore I asked him to condemn the honour killings of women, the destruction of Jewish holy places and the murder of rabbis at prayer.
I was disappointed that he declined to do so. He also declined to rebuff the brazen lies of Alreemawi who maintained, with a straight face, that it was the Mossad that killed the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Bishop Browning also declined to condemn the recent treatment of an Israeli backpacker in Cairns, refused service in a shop because she was Israeli.
As one who purports to promote social justice, Bishop Browning does the reverse — by cherry picking, ignoring, denying and distorting basic well known facts.
He decries the arrest of Palestinian children for ‘only throwing stones against tanks’ but ignored multiple opportunities to refute Palestinian atrocities when challenged to do so. There was no condemnation of the maiming and killing of Israelis by stone throwers as with the death of 3-year old Adele Bitton. There was the same non-committal attitude with regards to 3-month old Hadass Fogel, whose throat was slit in her cot which was subsequently celebrated by the Palestine leadership. Bishop Browning said that as a Christian he ‘could not support violence’. Sadly he could never get himself to explicitly condemn it.
Bishop Browning and Alreemawi repeated the absurd claim that religion had nothing to do with the conflict, but could not explain why the Palestinian Authority (PA) President Abbas said that Jews with ‘their filthy feet would not be allowed on to the Temple Mount’ or that Jews would not be allowed to reside in a future Palestine or that the Hamas Charter speaks of killing Jews wherever they are found.
Nadia Ghali also gave a compelling account of the oppression, assaults and murder suffered by her Christian Coptic community. No strong condemnations here either despite the obvious religious nature of the attacks.
Yet, Bishop Browning proudly said, without batting an eyelid, that he was asked to bless the Palestinian Parliament, knowing the Palestinian leader Abbas is into his 12th year of a 4-year term and laughing all the way to the bank. Billions of dollars—the biggest aid program in history – have disappeared. Nor would he condemn the journalists and opposition activists languishing in jail for criticising this dictatorship.
Blessing this murderous kleptocracy is surely a huge moral failure.
Bishop Browning no doubt really believes his misleading assertions in the name of social justice to which he subscribes.
Bishop Browning was aggrieved by my speech because I presented facts that seriously contradict his views. Facts inconveniently get in the way of his agenda.
It would be helpful for him to develop a thorough understanding of Jewish and Israeli/Palestinian history in all its historical, religious, legal and moral facets, rather than one-eyed populist views.
This also would require examination of how Church founder Augustine’s concept of Jews as ‘eternal witness’ to wander unloved and homeless, shaped his mindset and that of European and Christian culture. Israel’s existence surely contradicts Augustine’s dictum.
Is spreading Christ’s love selective?
Bishop Browning supports the aboriginal rights of indigenous Australians and the rights of black South Africans but seems to have difficulty about another indigenous people, the Jews, in their ancient homeland.
Declining to repudiate UNESCO resolutions that attempt to steal the identity and 3,000-year old history of the Jewish people in Jerusalem (and hence, Christians also) was disappointing and incomprehensible.
Despite the Israel-hating Nakba rituals, Bishop Browning would do well to acknowledge that Israel is G-d’s Gift as prophesied in the Bible and recently confirmed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Contrary to his ludicrous assertion that Israel is not a democracy, Israel, warts and all, is a light in the barbaric Middle East and the world, through innovative technologies and humanitarian aid, including to Syria its enemy. Thousands of Syrians have and are being lovingly treated in Israeli hospitals.
In contrast, Bishop Browning supports a Palestinian leadership whose actions initiated the humiliating checkpoints in the world’s airports, where toothpaste tubes are confiscated and where passengers have to remove their shoes, belts and jackets and walk through security gates holding up their pants and belongings.
Bishop Browning only sees the life-saving 27 Israeli checkpoints in Judea/Samaria where anything goes, like stabbing or smuggling explosives in medications.
Browning calling me xenophobic and Alreemawi calling me a PEP (progressive except for Palestinians) do not help their cause. Indeed they diminish it.
If Bishop Browning does need to boycott, divest and sanction, he should focus on the Palestinian leadership for its abuse of its children, inciting terror, using aid to pay terrorists, ethnic cleansing of Jews and destruction of historical Jewish sites, theft, the treatment of women and gays, an unelected leadership and more.
Bishop Browning’s anger is misguided and misdirected.
One of the Ten Commandments is ‘Thou shalt not steal’. This also applies to the truth.
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