The Word:  “Then Haman said to King Xerxes, "There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king's laws; it is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business."  So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. (Esther 3:8-11)

Then Mordecai send back his answer to Esther... “Do not think to yourself that you shall escape in the king`s house, more than all the Jews. For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but you and your father`s house will perish: and who knows whether you haven`t come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4: 13,14)

*      Pointers for prayer:  In two weeks’ time, we will be starting the festival of Purim once again. Purim 2017 begins in the evening of Saturday, March 11 and ends in the evening of Sunday, March 12.  Purim is the most festive of Jewish holidays, a time of prizes, costumes and treats. It commemorates a major victory over oppression and is recounted in the story of Esther.  As we approach these festive days may we pray that Israel would know God’s protection over them once again.  As this report was being put together, news was breaking that an Arab-Israeli citizen who was planning a major Tel Aviv bus terrorist attack on behalf of ISIS had been arrested by Israeli security.  Over this festive and joyous time may we rejoice in our King of Kings that He has preserved and blessed the nation of Israel, but may this also be a time of breakthrough when we see curses turned to blessings.

*      Please pray for Nikki Haley, the new United States Ambassador to the United Nations.  She might not be a Jewish Esther, but she has certainly stood up for the nation of Israel after emerging from her first Security Council monthly meeting devoted to the Middle East. Pray that she will make a mighty difference in the United Nations.

*      Please also pray for the Arab world. While tens of millions of Arabs have been suffering for decades from brutal oppression from their own Arab leaders, and many have been tortured and imprisoned and women humiliated and dissidents killed, the world has become obsessed with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as if the Arab Palestinians (who have rejected one peace offer after another) were the only victims in the Middle East (See CFI’s open letter to the Iona Community).  Please cry out for the Arab people struggling under the heavy restraints of Islamic oppression.  Pray that they may find freedom in following the Lord God.

Today’s Esther?    The holiday of Purim, which begins on the evening of Saturday, March 11, 2017 commemorates the survival of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from the threat of annihilation at the hand of the powerful and evil ‘political leader’ Haman.  According to the Scriptures, Haman plotted to kill the Jews on the 13th of Adar (the month of Adar starts this year on February 27), but his plan was foiled and he ended up being hung from the gallows. And so, instead of being murdered, the Jews actually celebrated their freedom and victory the following day, the 14th of Adar.  Today’s countries that include the ancient land of Persia are not only Iran but also the Persian empire which ruled central Asia including: Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, parts of Pakistan, India, Iraq, Northern Saudi Arabia and more.  To celebrate this joyous holiday, the Book of Esther is read, which tells the whole story of the events relating to the holiday. 

As mentioned, according to the book of Esther, the Persian Haman planned genocide against the Jews.  This is a story that has been repeated throughout the centuries again and again. Where the Persian Haman failed, Iranian sponsored Hamas would love to fulfil Haman’s plans today.  Where Hitler’s Nazi party failed in the 1940s, any of the other Islamic terrorist groups such as Hezbollah or Isis would love to succeed.  However one organisation which might not seem an obvious threat to the Jewish nation appears to be the United Nations.  Speaking on this threat, one ‘member’ of the U.N. stated last year, “Israel has suffered from bias and even discrimination at the United Nations.”  But can you guess who stated this? It was none other than the U.N.’s highest official, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Jerusalem in August 2016. Back at headquarters a week later, Ban Ki-moon withdrew the substance of the comment without denying he had made it. The retraction was less surprising than the original assertion, which was remarkable because of the identity of the speaker.   

Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “When people criticise Zionists, they mean Jews.”  This appears to be true; in fact we could take it a step further today.  When people criticise the Jews without any substantial meaning, they are not only being anti-Semitic, but anti-Israel. In our world of cultural relativism, calling someone anti-Semitic is usually dismissed as outside the bounds of acceptable behaviour. The usual retort is that legitimate criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism.  At the U.N., it goes much further. Israel is a nation designated for ‘special treatment’; much like South Africa was years ago. Critics use the template of apartheid South Africa for the Jewish state. Because apartheid is beyond the pale of civilised norms, they argue, Israel deserves special treatment. This allows the U.N. to bypass any legitimate defence of Israel and Zionism. No one can defend apartheid, so it must be destroyed.  And with so much criticism against the Jewish State of Israel by the U.N., and even blatant resolutions passed by UNESCO to erase Jewish history as in the Temple Mount and Western Wall etc., we need to pray that changes will be seen and honest upright politicians would intervene.  Well… have our prayers been partially answered?  Enter Nikki Haley.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Nikki Haley is a modern day ‘Queen Esther’, but she is certainly a breath of fresh air.  Nikki Haley is the United States Ambassador to the United Nations appointed by President Donald Trump. She was governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017, and was the first female and Indian-American to serve in this office.  Nikki Haley was born on January 20, 1972 in South Carolina, to Sikh immigrants. The Republican entered politics at a young age, and served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for several years before becoming governor of the state. In 2016, president-elect Donald Trump picked Haley to become the United States ambassador to the United Nations, and she was confirmed for the position in January 2017.  

And so, Nikki Haley had just come from the regular monthly Security Council on Middle East issues and stated, “it was a bit strange.” The Security Council, she said, is [quote] “supposed to discuss how to maintain international peace and security. But the meeting was not about Hezbollah’s illegal build-up of rockets in Lebanon, it was not about the money and weapons Iran provides to terrorists, it was not how we defeat ISIS, it was not how we hold Bashar al-Assad accountable for the slaughter of thousands of civilians.  No,” she said, “instead, the meeting focused on criticizing Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East”. The Ambassador went on to state, “I am new around here, but I understand that’s how the Council has operated month after month for decades. I am here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to underscore to the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. I am here to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias.”

Nikki Haley went on to say, “Incredibly, the U.N. department of political affairs has an entire division devoted entirely to Palestinian affairs. Imagine that. There is no division devoted to illegal missile launches from North Korea. There is no division devoted to the world’s number one state sponsor of terror, Iran. The prejudiced approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues does the peace process no favours, and it bears no relationship to the reality of the world around us. The double standards are breath-taking.”  The ambassador then went on to criticise the UN for how it dismisses terrorism against Israel and she also spoke of many of the positives Israel bring to the world.  Nikki Haley also warned that it is “the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias that is long overdue for change,” and said America will not hesitate to speak out in defence of its friend in Israel.  The 4 minute 17 second video of this speech is well worth watching and can be found on YouTube here:

In the Purim story, laying the scene at Susa, a residential city of the Persian kings, the book of Esther narrates that Haman, the vizier and favourite of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I; reigned 486–465 BC), was determined that the Jews living in the Persian Empire were to be slain. Esther, a beautiful Jewish woman whom the King had chosen as queen, was the Lord’s chosen to bring redemption at this moment in Jewish history.  It all sounds like a Hollywood blockbuster, only this is a remarkable true story ~ sadly one that has been repeated on many occasions by evil men attempting to rid the world of God's people and nation ~ Israel.  The end result is that Haman spitefully tried, and failed, to destroy all Jews within the kingdom.  As we read the story however, Mordecai speaks a message to Esther that we could and should take on board today… “Think not that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Well, could it be that the LORD has raised up Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations for such a time as this? 

Ignoring legal historical documents?    Towards the end of January 2017, many supporters of Israel were active at the Westminster Lobby Day for Israel 2017, encouraging politicians to back a ‘Pledge for Peace,’ consisting of three principles that would ‘better facilitate positive, pragmatic and pro-active engagement in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’.  The three principles of the pledge were: 1) Direct Negotiations, 2) Dialogue Not Boycotts, and 3) Support Coexistence.  The Zionist Federation stated, “Endorsing the principles would be an opportunity for politicians to display a balanced and realistic approach to the conflict.” On the afternoon we heard many politicians from various parties sharing their support for Israel.  Even the Prime Minister Theresa May, a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, has spoken out regarding her support for Israel.  And yet at Parliament, a week last Thursday, MPs unanimously passed a motion to condemn Israeli “settlement” buildings.  By this action, are the UK government along with the United Nations ignoring legal historical documents?

In the light of the fact that 2017 is the 100th year of the Balfour Declaration; the fact that we also have the San Remo agreement; along with the Court of Appeal of Versailles who ruled that ‘West Bank settlements’ and occupation of Judea and Samaria by Israel is unequivocally legal under international law (Click here to read), how is it that not one MP is bringing these legal documents to the attention of the house?   The vote by UK MPs against Israel was unanimous and also included support for the UN Security Council Resolution 2334 which called on the Israeli government to halt all planned “settlement” activity.

As British MPs debated Israeli settlements or rather housing projects as the main barrier to peace, Israel was once again rocked by terrorism; a Palestinian terrorist shot and stabbed six Israeli civilians before being arrested in Petah Tikva. Despite terrorism (a legitimate barrier to peace) being mentioned in the debate, it was Israeli “settlements” that took centre stage and Israel shouldered the majority of the blame for the ongoing conflict.  Is this really acceptable?  To see the other side of the picture from what the political world are demanding, view an Honest Reporting video here: 

If we really want to facilitate positive, pragmatic and pro-active engagement in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict then surely we should start with the facts and the historical documents in countering bias and misinformation about the Arab-Israel conflict.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it is impossible to understand the complex legal implications of the Arab-Israel conflict without an acquaintance with the basics of context of the 1920 San Remo Resolution. Both the San Remo Resolution and the Balfour Declaration charged Britain with the duty to facilitate Jewish immigration and settlement by Jews in the territory which then included Transjordan, which had already been adopted by the other Allied Powers. Furthermore, as the San Remo resolution has never been abrogated (repealed, revoked) it was and continues to be legally binding between the several parties who signed it. It is therefore obvious that the legitimacy of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the Jewish state of Israel all derive from the same international agreement at San Remo. So if the British Members of Parliament, along with the United Nations are reneging on their part to Israel, then they must do likewise to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.    It is also worth pointing out that one of the so-called ‘settlements’ is actually the city of Ma'ale Adumim, located along Highway 1, which connects it to Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area.  This so-called ‘settlement’ has hundreds of homes, medical centres, 21 schools, 80 kindergartens, and shopping centres. 

Confusion over House of Commons UNESCO exhibition     There was further confusion this week on where the UK Government stood regarding Israel by reports in the that the UK Parliament is to host an exhibition on the Jews’ 3,500-year-old ties to the Holy Land.  According to a report in the, the House of Commons will run a UNESCO exhibition looking at “Jewish links to the land of Israel ahead of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.”  The travelling exhibit, created by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, is called: ‘People, Book, Land: The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land.’  It has already toured Paris, New York, Israel, India, the Vatican and several smaller European states, such as Montenegro and Albania.  The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, is the exhibition’s patron, but the creator was the late Hebrew University Professor Robert Wistrich, the award-winning author and former chair of Jewish Studies at University College London.

So… the House of Commons will run a UNESCO exhibition looking at “Jewish links to the land of Israel?” But hang on, isn’t this the same United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) who voted to approve a resolution tabled by no other than Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, declaring that the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City has no historic ties to Judaism?  Isn’t this the same people who state that other areas such as Rachael’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarch’s in Hebron are also ‘irrelevant to Jewish history’?  Indeed it is.  In fact, UNESCO originally cancelled the exhibition about the Jewish people’s connection to the Land of Israel just before its scheduled opening in 2014. The cancellation followed Arab pressure.  However, following this, the situation did improve slightly as the exhibition opened at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.  Naturally things had changed – including the name.  Gone was the word “Israel”.  This was deleted from the exhibition’s title and replaced by “Holy Land.”  The exhibition that was initially called “The 3,500 year relationship of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel” is now entitled “The 3,500 year relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land.”  But by erasing the word ‘Israel’, one might as well also erase the word ‘Jew or Jewish.’  For where does the term Jew come from?  It comes from Judah!  Where is Judah?  Oh yes… Judea - the area UNESCO insist on calling ‘The West Bank’. 

CFI’s Open letter to the Iona Community    Earlier this year the Iona Community released its ‘Position Statement on Israel/Palestine’ which can be read by clicking here.   I personally have been to the Scottish island of Iona as it was always a desire of mine having heard of the history of the gospel arriving there.  It’s a beautiful peaceful island.  As we crossed the short stretch of water to the island, dolphins were leaping out of the sea.  The sand is beautifully white and it was a place I had always hoped to go to for a retreat – at least that’s what I thought until I learned of the Iona Community.  How sad this alleged ‘Christian’ community takes this strong stance of being so opposed to the Jewish nation of Israel.   

The following is an Open Letter by Christian Friends of Israel UK, written in response to the position statement of the Iona Community.  Simply click here to read it:

David Soakell  

(CFI Church Liaison Officer (UK) & WoZ News Report Correspondent)

Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Christian Friends of Israel UK & Jerusalem, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, & Israel National Radio