A disturbing new development. Even the Christian Zionists are worried!

The following article is copied from Thursday's London Times

In the article, the details describe a proposed Israeli law would make possession of the New Testament against Israeli law.

The United States vilifies religious intolerance in Iran and elsewhere, but when an erstwhile ally proposes the same type of law, we passively accept violation of basic human rights.

Sent by Wael M. Ahmed University of Kentucky Phone:(606)273-3122 E-mail: wmahme00@pop.uky.edu World Wide Web Page: http://sac.uky.edu/~wmahme00/

Proposed Israeli Act 'will outlaw New Testament'

FROM CHRISTOPHER WALKER

IN JERUSALEM CHRISTIANS are up in arms about a proposed Israeli law that they fear could be interpreted as making possession of the New Testament a criminal offence punishable by a year in jail.

The proposed legislation takes the form of a far-reaching extension of statutes against missionary activity. The proposal has recently passed its first Knesset reading and is now before the Law Committee of the 120-seat parliament.

Clarence Wagner, a prominent Jerusalem-based Christian and member of the religious group Bridges for Peace, said: "There has been a preliminary reading on a law which makes it illegal to have literature which can be considered missionary. Just having a New Testament in my home can be construed in certain quarters as being missionary. I see these kind of laws as a great threat to the Jewish State and to democracy."

An English translation of the draconian proposed law states: "Whoever possesses contrary to the law, or prints or copies or distributes or shares or imports tracts, or advertises things in which there is an inducement for religious conversion is liable for one-year imprisonment." The amendment adds: "Any tract or advertisement in which there is inducement to religious conversion will be confiscated."

The new law is much tougher than the existing anti-missionary legislation which is opposed to "any missionary seduction to convert religion", especially that involving minors and offering financial inducements to Jewish adults to convert.

Jan Willem Van der Hoewen, the spokesman for the pro-Israel International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, told The Jerusalem Report: "Churches around the world have fasted and prayed against this law." He expressed concern that it could diminish broad support for Israel among evangelical Christians.

Christians are hoping to whip up parliamentary opposition against the further readings necessary to transform the Bill into law. Christian leaders are well aware, however, that religious Jews won large numbers of votes in last year's election and, with 23 seats in the Knesset, could make or break any feasible coalition led by a secular party. The Bill's sponsors, Moshe Gafni, of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party, and Nissim Zvili, of the main opposition Labour Party, claim that they are responding to a Christian missionary campaign last year, when hundreds of thousands of Jews received proselytising material in the post.

Mr Zvili, a close ally of Shimon Peres, the defeated Labour leader, denied that his sponsorship of the Bill had anything to do with Labour attempts to woo religious parties away from the ruling right-wing coalition. He claimed that the proposed Bill was aimed at enabling Israel to act against "an organised campaign by missionary movements, funded by international organisations, to bring about mass conversion of Jews".

Mr Van der Hoewen was scathing about Mr Zvili's role in promoting the attempted clampdown. "From a member of a party that believes in an open, pluralistic society, this is almost unforgivable," Mr Van der Hoewen said. Baruch Maoz, the head of the Grace and Truth Christian Congregation, a Tel Aviv-based Messianic Jewish group, claimed that the Bill "criminalises basic human rights. It limits the freedom of people to tell about their beliefs."

In an interview with The Jerusalem Report, Mr Zvili pledged that the version of the Bill which finally emerges from the Law Committee to complete its Knesset passage would be much "gentler" than that passed during the first reading. He said: "No one will be barred from possessing the New Testament. If the law violates the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, I will not support it." Mr Gafni sounded a different note: "The Jewish nation suffered enough through its history as a result of attempts to convert it," he said. "What is freedom of speech compared > with this?"