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Monthly Archives: August 2009

Saturday blog news

The new template I tried here first is now across all my WordPress blogs except my student one, which you normally don’t see.

Stats to amaze myself with

  • Late in the week before last (probably) the Sitemeter count went over the 375,000 visitors. That of course is measuring all the Floating Life and “Ninglun” sites back to 7 July 2001. There have been over 2,000 visits in the past week.
  • Since 1 December 2007 Floating Life (this blog) has had 132,025 page reads, according to WordPress.
  • English/ESL continues to rock. It is already way over last month’s total, thanks no doubt to Trial HSCs in NSW: 12,184 views so far this month compared with the July total of 10,859. The best ever was March 2009 with 14,857 views.
  • More modestly, Floating Life has had 4,445 views so far this month compared with the July total of 6,352. It isn’t true that 2,445 of this month’s views are by Kevin from Louisiana. 😉
  • The top recent posts on Floating Life in the past seven days have been:
 
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Posted by on August 22, 2009 in blogging, site news, site stats

 

Spring is closer…

In Bourke Street Surry Hills around noon today.

CIMG3255

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2009 in photography, Surry Hills

 

A week for mixed messages from China

… or “We’ll decide who comes into this country” – John Howard.

So we’ve had a record deal with the Chinese on the one hand for natural gas into the future, and a rather heavy diplomatic cooling on the other. What’s new?

The Opposition did their best to behave like an Opposition on issues they fundamentally agree with the government on. Clarke and Dawe captured that beautifully on The 7.30 Report last night.

KERRY O’BRIEN, PRESENTER: Time now for John Clarke, Bryan Dawe and Joe Hockey, giving credit where it’s due.
BRYAN DAWE: Joe Hockey, thanks for your time.
JOHN CLARKE: It’s very good to be with you Bryan and good evening.
BRYAN DAWE: You’re pleased at the announcement of this big new gas deal off the West Australian Coast, weren’t you?
JOHN CLARKE: Yeah I’m delighted, Bryan I’m always very keen on anything that goes to the benefit of Australia and Australians, I don’t apologise for that Bryan, neither do I resile from it. I don’t apologise for that at all.
BRYAN DAWE: This is the biggest business deal in Australian history?
JOHN CLARKE: It is, it’s great for the West Bryan, It’s great for business and it’s great for Australia.
BRYAN DAWE: Also, you said it was organised by the Howard Government?…

The Chinese have been particularly miffed by our giving a visa allowing what they see as a “Muslim terrorist” and “splittist” into the country. As The People’s Daily reports:

001aa018f68c0bf5897031 China canceled plans for Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei to visit Australia earlier this month, reportedly due to Canberra granting a visa to Rebiya Kadeer, the mastermind of the July 5 Urumqi riot.

The decision was the latest sign that ties between the two countries are strained.

"Australia very much regrets that China decided to take that response," Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told Parliament yesterday.

China’s Foreign Ministry yesterday refused to comment.

Kadeer, who lives in exile in the US, was allowed to visit Australia, despite strong protests from Beijing…

Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull accused Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat to Beijing, of bringing bilateral relations to "the lowest ebb that they have been for many, many years".

"He obviously has no leverage with China left at all," Turnbull said.

Chen Fengying, an expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said it was "natural" for China to have made the move because it was dissatisfied with Australia granting Kadeer a visa…

On Rebiya Kadeer see Amnesty International.

Since the late 1980s, Chinese government policies and other factors have generated growing ethnic discontent in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. In the past few years, thousands of people there have been the victims of gross human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, unfair political trials, torture, and summary executions. These violations, suffered primarily by members of the Uighur ethnic group, occur amidst growing ethnic unrest fueled by unemployment, discrimination and restrictions on religious and cultural freedoms. The situation has led some people living in the XUAR to favor independence from China.

Crackdowns in the region intensified after September 11, 2001, with authorities designating supporters of independence as “separatists” and “terrorists.” Uighurs, most of whom are Muslim, have been the main targets in the region of the Chinese authorities. Authorities have closed down mosques, detained Islamic clergy, and severely curtailed freedom of expression and association.

 

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More on safer computing

It would appear to be like “safe sex” – not 100% reliable, but far better than nothing if you have good condoms.

Yahoo7 drew attention this afternoon to the top 100 infected sites based on number of threats detected by Norton Safe Web as of August 2009. They only offer the top 30 on that page, and so far as I can tell I have never been to any of them.

Why I have so interested in such things lately you may see from Multicultural Surry Hills, and How to Kill a Toshiba and Watching TV again: Jack Mundey; scary computer stuff.

What firewall do you use? Have a look at Proactive Security Challenge and look for yours in the list. You may get a shock. The ACER I am now using since the Toshiba was eaten by malware now has Outpost Firewall Free 2009 in place of the Windows one. The ACER also came packaged with McAfee Internet Security 2009 which according to the Proactive Challenge has a security rating of 2/10 and scored 12%!

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2009 in awful warnings, computers, web stuff, www

 

Framing discussion of Indigenous issues in Australia

Some have a problem with the word “indigenous” – I don’t. To me it is clear that a rabbit, though the current rabbits are “native”, is not indigenous; a kangaroo is. Similarly except for a small part of my DNA inheritance I am a native of Australia but not indigenous. The word “native” derives from Latin “natus” = “born [in]”.

Another framing issue for me is this. In the Gospel of John there is a very theological statement attributed to Jesus: “before Abraham was, I Am.” Now consider our Australian Aboriginal people: before Abraham was, they were – and had been for some 35,000 years. Reflect on that. This is not to deny that there is a complex story behind these first settlers, when they came, whether there were several waves of incomers, and so on. Anthropologists and archaeologists are still working on that.

The ever forthright Patrick Dodson has an opinion piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Patrick Dodson is himself a substantial figure in the story of Indigenous policy and politics in the past twenty or thirty years. Referring to framing theory himself, Dodson writes:

…Progress was made in this endeavour during the early years of the decade of reconciliation but at the final hurdle the nation turned its back on reconciling its past.

Instead, a new Australian story has been forged. The persistent inequity and deprivation of the colonised exist in a historical vacuum.

Community dysfunction is now understood as the fault of the colonised and their persistent cultural practices, rather than as a result of violent dispossession, brutal colonisation and authoritarian state intervention.

The nation has been told that indigenous disadvantage is also the result of four decades of failed government policies designed and perpetrated by progressive liberalism and romantics who believe in the integrity of indigenous culture and its place in modern Australia.

And those who have dared to tell the story of dispossession, exclusion and injustice – now apparently dated and short-lived in the manufacture of Australian history with its accompanying policy prescriptions for restitution and national reconciliation – are condemned for entrenching victimhood and dependence.

The relationship between indigenous people and the nation state is framed by two opposing forces. On the one hand there is an aggressive polemic, often masquerading as scholarship, which portrays traditional culture and the structures that protect and support Aboriginal society as reasons for chronic disadvantage and impediments to closing the gap.

On the other hand, there is the reality of contemporary indigenous nations throughout Australia whose people want liberation from material deprivation, sickness and social disorder, but at the same time to defend what is most important to them – their culture and identity.

Our inability to reconcile or mediate these two opposing views reduces debate in indigenous affairs to a scramble for the moral high ground, leaving most of the population confused and disengaged. As a result, we are a nation trapped by our history and paralysed by our failure to imagine any relationship with first peoples other than assimilation, whatever its guise…

Look, I do go along with this up to a point – and that point is that Dodson is also being driven by an urge to dichotomise. I suspect – and I offer the thought tentatively – that we need to see these stories as aspects of current and past reality, not as opposing forces, even if admitting the tension between them. I can’t help feeling that driving a wedge between so they are seen as in conflict rather than in tension is likely to lead to some unfortunate decisions affecting the desired outcome – a better position over-all for Indigenous Australians.

Dodson goes on to commend Australian Dialogue and his own work as founding director of the Indigenous Policy and Dialogue Research Unit at the University of NSW. I am sure both are and will be valuable to us all.

 

Another Internet-related entry

Two interesting sites to “waste” time on…

1. Thousands of video lectures from the world’s top scholars may be found on Academic Earth. Don’t think I’ll bother with Linear Algebra personally, but there are some great options in English, History, Philosophy, Political Science and Religion from places like Yale, Harvard and MIT.

2. If I hadn’t been such a duffer in Maths and had the kind of mind needed to cope with the minutiae of Science I may have fulfilled my childhood fantasy of going to university and becoming a zoologist. Failing that, I can marvel at Encyclopedia of Life and learn about – eventually – every living thing on the planet. It is a work in progress.

Facebook

We and they are still getting used to the possibilities and pitfalls of Facebook and similar things. Today Five users sue Facebook for being too social a network.

A lawsuit filed Monday in a southern California court accuses Facebook of being a data-mining operation that does not deliver on promises to give users strict control of data uploaded to profile pages. Facebook has dismissed the lawsuit as being without merit and promised a legal battle. The suit asks for unspecified cash damages.

One of the parties to the suit is a woman who joinedFacebook in an early phase when membership was limited to the college crowd. Then-Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg foundedFacebook in 2004 as a way for college friends to remain connected as their lives grew apart. The suit accuses Facebook of betraying the woman by evolving into an open social network that now claims more than 250 million members worldwide.

Other plaintiffs named in the suit are identified as a photographer and an actress who contend Facebook is wrongly sharing pictures posted on their profile pages.

The remaining plaintiffs are young boys that the suit charges should not have been permitted by Facebook to join or post images or comments…

— AFP

How do you monitor your Facebook, if you have one? What level of privacy do you choose? Apparently Facebook is going to further refine the possibilities there.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2009 in amazing, web stuff, www

 

Watching TV again: Jack Mundey; scary computer stuff

1. The good Communist

Back in Cold War days Prime Minister Robert Menzies attempted to ban the Communist Party of Australia. The Australian people rejected the idea – not that the Communists were not subjected to zealous monitoring by intelligence agencies. That went on into much more recent times, and no doubt people on the extremes both of left and right still attract attention. I remember when my Wollongong friend The Red Dragon (cordon bleu cook extraordinaire and avid Bridge player) rang me in the early 1980s to warn me that now she was General Secretary or some such of the Illawarra Branch of the party her phone was tapped. She knew this because one night there was a click on her phone and a voice cut in saying “You take this Bill, I have to go and have a leak.” Since her phone mostly was used for social – not socialist – purposes such as Bridge and recipes, she subsequently used to apologise to the tappers from time to time for boring them so much.)  Unfortunately during the Dragon’s term of office the Communist Party of Australia dissolved itself.

All that aside, Australia’s favourite Communist no doubt has been Jack Mundey – and perhaps poet Dame Mary Gilmore. Last night Talking Heads had a good interview with Mundey.

PETER THOMPSON: Jack, you’ve never been just a hardliner. You’ve always been…
JACK MUNDEY: Intelligent. My interest has always been organisation for the cause that I’m fighting, and I’ve just stuck to that.
PETER THOMPSON: Australia is pretty much a paradise, though it’s far from being the sort of workers’ paradise you had in mind.
JACK MUNDEY: I don’t know about paradise, but I hope that the future for humanity is all the things that I expect it to be.

Not a dogmatist in other words.

2. Scary computer stuff

Four Corners last night was really quite scary, especially after my recent sad experience of malware eating my Toshiba – and that Malware disabled the antivirus and deleted all the restore points before itself as well as disabling the USB ports and the CD/DVD.

r417180_1978514

…Authorities are now working hard to keep up with the crooks. They are having trouble though. Crooks working from countries in Eastern Europe are hard to catch. Home-grown criminals are easier to bring down, but police reveal the legal system doesn’t treat cyber-theft with the seriousness it deserves. One young man stole more than 50,000 credit cards card details but received a suspended one year sentence, $2,000 good behaviour bond and court costs of $150.

Adding to the problem, most computer users don’t realise how vulnerable they are. Four Corners took an e-security expert to an ordinary city street and asked him to assess computer security. Using a basic wireless interceptor our expert found he could tap into up to 20 per cent of wireless computer networks, potentially accessing bank accounts and other personal information. Even those systems that had been encrypted took just 10 minutes to crack. No wonder police are warning we are right to have"Fear in the Fast Lane".

Whether this story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald is entirely true or not – and it may well be – it certainly highlights another concern.

AUSTRALIA’S diplomats have been warned about a fake email amid concerns it could be part of a cyber espionage attempt, possibly originating from China.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed yesterday staff had been briefed about a suspicious email sent to several staff last month. The source of the email is under investigation by the department’s communications experts. ASIO and the AFP would not comment yesterday on whether they were also investigating the email.

A report in the Canberra Times said the email was suspected to have originated from China and was headed ”Australia-China Free Trade Agreement Negotiations Update”. It reportedly targeted officials who work on China-related matters.

A spokeswoman for the department would not say whether the email was believed to have come from China.

”It is not Government practice to comment on intelligence issues,” she said.

Update

Prompted by Major Geeks I downloaded and installed a-squared Free 4.5. Yes, I have lots of other “condoms” on, including Malware Bytes, Windows Defender, Avast!, Spyware Doctor and Threatfire, but on its first test run at on demand scanning a-squared found two major threats that had thus far escaped detection: Backdoor:Win32/VB.IK and TrojanDownloader:Win32/Banload.IK! Both are rated severe threats by Microsoft.

 

Two worth watching on ABC1

I have been enjoying Sunday nights on ABC with Stephen Fry in America at 7.30.

I have often felt a hot flare of shame inside me when I listen to my fellow Britons casually jeering at the perceived depth of American ignorance, American crassness, American isolationism, American materialism, American lack of irony and American vulgarity. Aside from the sheer rudeness of such open and unapologetic mockery, it seems to me to reveal very little about America and a great deal about the rather feeble need of some Britons to feel superior. All right, they seem to be saying, we no longer have an Empire, power, prestige or respect in the world, but we do have ‘taste’ and ’subtlety’ and ‘broad general knowledge’, unlike those poor Yanks.

What silly, self-deluding rubbish! What dreadfully small-minded stupidity! Such Britons hug themselves with the thought that they are more cosmopolitan and sophisticated than Americans because they think they know more about geography and world culture, as if firstly being cosmopolitan and sophisticated can be scored in a quiz and as if secondly (and much more importantly) being cosmopolitan and sophisticated is in any way desirable or admirable to begin with. Sophistication is not a moral quality, nor is it a criterion by which one would choose one’s friends. Why do we like people? Because they are knowledgeable, cosmopolitan and sophisticated? No, because they are charming, kind, considerate, exciting to be with, amusing … there is a long list, but knowing what the capital of Kazakhstan is will not be on it.

The truth is, we are offended by the clear fact that so many Americans know and care so very little about us. How dare they not know who our Prime Minister is, or be so indifferent as to believe that Wales is an island off the coast of Scotland? We are quite literally not on the map as far as they are concerned and that hurts. They can get along without us, it seems, a lot better than we can get along without them and how can that not be galling to our pride? Thus we (or some of us) react with the superiority and conceit characteristic of people who have been made to feel deeply inferior.

So I wanted to make an American series which was not about how amusingly unironic and ignorant Americans are, nor about religious nuts and gun-toting militiamen, but one which tried to penetrate everyday American life at many levels and across the whole United States. What sort of a design should such a series have? What sort of a structure and itinerary? It is a big country the United States…

Very informative and entertaining.

Then on Friday nights is a new (to us) crime series: George Gently. Set in 1964 – a time that to me seems not all that long ago! – the first episode features great acting, well-delineated characters and a good plot line. I look forward to making this a regular date.

I have added video on both to the Vodpod – see the end of the side-bar.

 
 

Sunday Floating Life photo 28 — warm

In celebration of signs of spring this weekend, back to when it was last really warm – March 2009.

011march 003y

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2009 in Sunday photo, Surry Hills

 

Sunday is music day 23: Indonesia

Enjoy.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2009 in Asian, Indonesia, South-East Asia, Sunday music

 

What recent posts have been attracting attention?

… for good and ill, I should add! 😉

On this blog in the past seven days the recent posts most visited individually have been:

Except for the last one, there is a bit of a theme going there. The comments have sometimes been agreeable, but many show just how difficult balanced, rather than partisan, discussion is about these matters.

The English/ESL blog has been spectacular in the past week, but then it is Trial HSC season. On Sunday 9 August there were 1,119 views, and on Monday 10 August 929.

Neil’s Sydney Photo Blog has scored well in the past week, but nothing like English/ESL! It is up 48% on the previous week at the moment. Glebe: my home 1987-1988 was the most popular individually viewed photo, but only six views! There is quite a long list of photos people have looked at in the last week though.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2009 in site news, site stats

 

Some reading matter for you

1. South Sydney Herald

The August issue has been out for a week or so. I have been slack about uploading you copy, but it is a good issue. As usual there are plenty of articles that transcend the parochial, but the parochial may also be interesting. Inner Sydney/Redfern is an interesting place.

August 09 SSH — PDF

2. More from Colin Chapman.

I gave Chapman’s Whose Holy City? the thumbs up in Is objectivity about Israel and Palestine possible? Today I give you a couple of substitutes for those without access to the book.

A Biblical Perspective on Israel/Palestine from the Arizona publication EMEU goes into some depth about a more balanced evangelical perspective on the matter. It is for the theologically inclined, more so than the book. EMEU is Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding – and further from John Hagee and company it can hardly be, but it is an evangelical Christian site, remember.

‘Islamic Terrorism’ and the Palestine-Israel Conflict: Christian Response is a special issue of Encounters, a Christian mission e-zine from the USA. Not by Chapman is an article I strongly recommend as it is not too far removed from my own thoughts on the subject: Muslims – Friends or Enemies. (Dr Jonathan Ingleby, 1548 words) – a PDF file. I have added here the abridged version of Chapman’s ‘Islamic Terrorism’:  How should Christians & the West respond?

Chapman PDF

 

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Two works of fiction from my August reading

star304 star304star304 star30a1 1. Tom Coffey, Blood Alley (The Toby Press 2008)

Blood Alley seeks to recreate post-war New York. It does so very successfully, the plot ultimately concerned with underworld and high capitalist shenanigans around the creation of the New York UN headquarters. The political incorrectnesses of the time on race and other matters are faithfully recreated, but there is a fairly subtle moral compass for the 21st century at work in the tone too, without losing the authenticity and, um, colour.

I really enjoyed this one.

Chapter One

The dead girl lay beneath me.  The pale yellow streetlamps shed just enough light to let me see her feet and legs clearly.  Black heels and flesh-colored stockings faded into a dark form that curled into a fetal position.  I wanted to look away, but I was here to observe.  I blew on my fingers to warm them and began to take notes.

Finkel turned on his flashlight.

“This is aces,” he said.

She had sustained two bullet wounds, one in her forehead and the other in her midsection.  Purplish bruises circled her neck.  She wore a dark blue dress and a sleek, unbuttoned overcoat that I guessed was cashmere.

An open handbag lay a few feet from her body.  Almost comically, her hat had remained on her head.

It was the middle of November in 1946.  The war had been over for more than a year.  With rationing at an end, people were buying whatever they could afford, although I suspected I was looking at a Manhattan society girl who was never denied anything.

She appeared to be in her twenties.  The hair I could see was red, with permed curls that fell to her shoulders.  Her features were pretty but too thin, as if she ate only half a meal a day.  Her eyes were hazel and had the troubled glaze of a tortured soul who was, at last, at peace.

A smooth line of blood tracked down the alley toward the street.  I wondered if I had stepped in it.

Finkel said he needed stuff from his car.  This was gonna make a swell pitcher.  He gave me his flashlight and told me not to move anything until he came back.  Then he hurried away, threading through stacks of wooden crates stacked ten feet over his head…

See also the author’s blog.

star304star304star304star304 2. Iain Banks, Dead Air (Little, Brown 2002)

As Callum Graham says in the review linked at the title:

…The plot seems to move, not because of, but in spite of global terrorism. Iain Banks looks more at the effects, such as the media’s caginess to deal with the issues of reporting the events on radio, the effects on the public and the general climate of Britain after the events, without getting wrapped up in the hysteria of it. Perhaps this is because, like many of Iain Banks previous characters, Ken is originally from Scotland and sees himself more as an outsider looking in.

By noting these little changes which appear to have happened to England over night Iain Banks captures perfectly a snap shot of every day Britain. He also creates a picture of the British relationship with America. If the planes had been flown into the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia would we have given it as much media coverage?

However, it is not just the above which makes Dead Air irrevocably the here and now of the 21st century. It is the way that Ken as a broadcaster lives and works. Iain Banks successfully contextualises our time period through the voice of Ken on his radio shows. This is done with mentions of the IRA threat from the 70’s to the 90’s, commenting on the now familiar removal of bins from train stations. Ken’s radio tirades also cover the Israeli/Palestine conflict which although has been going on for centuries is just as relevant now as it has ever been. He even comments on his scepticism of those who are against the EU, or as he calls them ‘Europhobes’, and the infringement of CCTV into personal freedoms; all very current issues today…

Stephen Poole in The Guardian was less impressed:

… Dead Air is narrated by Kenneth Nott, a shock-jock on commercial radio who takes a swollen pride in his contrarian opinions. We first meet him at a drug-fuelled loft party in the East End of London, where everyone, for some reason, starts chucking fruit and furniture off the balcony. Ken’s girlfriend, Jo, does PR for a snotty young British indie band called Addicta; he is also sleeping with a woman called Celia (or "Ceel"), who happens to be married to a dangerous gangster.

You probably wouldn’t like to meet Ken. He is one of those annoying, professionally opinionated people who are never off duty. Large portions of the novel are dedicated to expounding his reactions to the latest topics of media discussion, whether he is on air or just chatting in a pub: gun control ("Guns for nutters only; makes sense"), American imperialism, CCTV cameras, Euroscepticism, the death of Diana ("put on a fucking seatbelt"), all get extended libertarian rants. It is a tribute to Banks’s chatty prose skill that these discussions are largely entertaining, if superficially argued.

After hundreds of pages of colourfully diversionary drinking, shagging and talking, Banks eventually remembers that he needs a plot, and so Ken does something unutterably stupid with a mobile phone..

I didn’t fret about the apparent lack of plot in those pages – even if Poole is exaggerating, I feel. I was caught up in the voice, which is brilliantly created; you don’t have to like Kenneth Nott after all. And he is saved by his self-deprecation.

A quote:

… Maybe, even, some tiny little strand of [religious belief], like, for example, the Wee Frees, who are part of the Presbyterian movement in Scotland, which is itself part of the Protestant franchise, which is part of the Christian faith, which is part of the Abrahamic belief-set, which is one of the monotheistic religions … maybe they and only they – all few thousand of them –  are absolutely bang on the money in what they believe and how they worship, and everybody else has been wrong-diddly-wrong-wrong all these centuries. Or maybe the One True Way has only ever been revealed to a one-man cult within the outer fringes of Guatemalan Highland Sufism, reformed. All I can say is, I’ve tried to prepare myself for being wrong, for waking up after I’ve died and finding out that – uh-oh – my atheism was actually, like, a Really Big Mistake.

… If people want to respect their environment by believing that the fish they eat might have been an ancestor, or learn to lower the toilet seats because their chi is leaking out, I’m happy to accept and even honour the results even if I think the root of their behaviour is basically barmy. I can live with that and with them. I hope they can live with me…

 

Is objectivity about Israel and Palestine possible?

One does despair. The nearest I have read to an objective account is an ageing book called The Palestine-Israeli Conflict by Dan Cohn-Sherbok and Dawoud El-Alami (Oxford, Oneworld 2001) – and that achieves “objectivity” by placing side by side a Jew and a Palestinian with space at the end for “addresses in reply”.  It seems you can buy a used copy from Amazon for one cent!

So I was surprised to find an evangelical writer – albeit what I would call an “informed evangelical” – veering very close to objectivity on the question of who “owns” Jerusalem. While the opening chapters of Whose Holy City? (Lion 2004) treat the accounts of Genesis through to Judges less critically than I would – for example I don’t believe the stories of Abraham, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, are strictly in the realm of history – or no more or less so than tales of the Trojan War, Colin Chapman becomes a very reliable guide to what happened from the reign of Constantine to close to the present day. He does concede that the Book of Daniel was written some four centuries after its apparent date, and further that it is reading against the grain to use it as any kind of road-map of the future.

A former Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, Chapman well understands the claims of all parties to the “Holy City”. His solution is, unfortunately, not one the current Israeli government is likely to countenance.

One very useful contribution Chapman makes – just one of many – is to unmask the currently fashionable “rapture/Christian Zionist theology” as, well, heterodox in the extreme, a Johnny-come-lately in Christian history and, frankly, a parodic interpretation of the Bible. On that see too this page of quotes and reviews of another book, Stephen Sizer, Christian Zionism, Inter-Varsity Press (an evangelical publisher) 2004. I haven’t read it.

Related too is the Joint declaration by Christian Leaders on Israel’s 60th Anniversary, signed by, among many others, our own Tim Costello.

We, the undersigned, church leaders and representatives of our different denominations and organisations, join together on the 60th anniversary of the Israeli state to offer a contribution to that which makes for peace.

We recognise that today, millions of Israelis and Jews around the world will joyfully mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel (Yom Ha’atzmaut). For many, this landmark powerfully symbolises the Jewish people’s ability to defy the power of hatred so destructively embodied in the Nazi Holocaust. Additionally, it is an opportunity to celebrate the wealth of cultural, economic and scientific achievements of Israeli society, in all its vitality and diversity.

We also recognise that this same day, millions of Palestinians living inside Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the worldwide diaspora, will mourn 60 years since over 700,000 of them were uprooted from their homes and forbidden from returning, while more than 400 villages were destroyed (al-Nakba). For them, this day is not just about the remembrance of a past catastrophic dispossession, dispersal, and loss; it is also a reminder that their struggle for self-determination and restitution is ongoing.

To hold both of these responses together in balanced tension is not easy. But it is vital if a peaceful way forward is to be forged, and is central to the Biblical call to “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14). We acknowledge with sorrow that for the last 60 years, while extending empathy and support to the Israeli narrative of independence and struggle, many of us in the church worldwide have denied the same solidarity to the Palestinians, deaf to their cries of pain and distress.

To acknowledge and respect these dual histories is not, by itself, sufficient, but does offer a paradigm for building a peaceful future. Many lives have been lost, and there has been much suffering. The weak are exploited by the strong, while fear and bitterness stunt the imagination and cripple the capacity for forgiveness.

We therefore urge all those working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine to consider that any lasting solution must be built on the foundation of justice, which is rooted in the very character of God. After all, it is justice that “will produce lasting peace and security” (Isaiah 32:17). Let us commit ourselves in prophetic word and practical deed to a courageous settlement whose details will honour both peoples’ shared love for the land, and protect the individual and collective rights of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land.

See also Changing Sides in the Middle East: Zionist and Palestinian Exchange Opinions about Jerusalem.