Sabeel Ecumenical Liberal Theology Center states that its mission is to support the “oppressed” Palestinians of the “indigenous Church,” but it is a main artery of anti-Israel propaganda that feeds Christian Churches globally.
Based in Jerusalem, the influential Sabeel Center describes its mandate as “working for justice, peace and reconciliation in Palestine-Israel.” But on closer examination, the reverse is true. Its founder, Naim Ateek, regularly invokes scripture in rancorous propaganda against Israel. He once said in an Easter message:
“In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.”
Sabeel has asserted a biblical right to “Palestine” where no such history exists, and states that “for many years the Palestinians rejected the establishment of the state of Israel because it was founded on the denial and violation of Palestinian rights.” Sabeel therefore adopts what it refers to as a “nonviolent approach towards a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.” In other words, Sabeel means to single out Israel and delegitimize it, while making this process appear to be a peaceful attempt to resolve the conflict. Sabeel calls boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) against Israel “a moral obligation,” as well as an “opportunity” that is “accelerating.”
Some brief facts:
i) Israel is a tiny state surrounded by enemies that seek its destruction. The PA, Hamas and Fatah charters call for the obliteration of Israel.
ii) When Israel was founded in 1948, it was immediately targeted for destruction and attacked by Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Transjordan, prompting Israel to fight for its small piece of its biblical homeland and to set up security positions to assure its very survival. A virtual repeat happened in 1967 where Israel was again forced to defend itself from obliteration.
iii) The Palestinians are mistreated by the PA and used as human shields by Hamas while they are permitted to work in Israel and enjoy full human rights.
iv) PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas declared about a future Palestinian state: “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands”; while Israel allows Arabs/Muslims full human rights and to serve in the Knesset.
v) Palestinians imprisoned in Israel for specifically committing security and terror-related offenses are paid a monthly salary from a PA prisoners budget reported to be $5 million annually, and in part comes from the donations of Western countries. In addition, Palestinian prisoners who were convicted of killing Israelis and then released as a good will gesture by Israel were given at least $50,000 each by the PA, plus a “comfortable” monthly salary. The PA even sponsors a summer camp for children that is named after terrorists.
Despite ignoring these facts, Sabeel’s founder, Naim Ateek, also preaches that the Holocaust has been used and manipulated to support unjust Israeli policies against Palestinians. Yet Ateek’s silence about the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem’s role in the Holocaust is highly revealing, and any reasonable person should ask the questions: does Ateek not know history? Or is he deliberately covering it up?
The Grand Mufti — Haj Amin al-Husseini — worked closely with and had influence over Hitler and the Nazi machine. He helped the Nazis wipe out the Jews, and that mission continued on through the formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasser Arafat. The PLO’s original manifesto cited the “liquidation of Israel” as its purpose. Arafat was a nephew of the Grand Mufti and learned much under his tutelage; Arafat’s birthname was name was Abd al-Rahman abd al-Bauf Arafat al-Qud al-Husseini.
Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu wrongly compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the apartheid regime in South Africa, an impossibility according to the definition of apartheid. In 2002 Tutu agreed to serve as Sabeel’s international patron and to “assist the Palestinian Christian organization in its outreach and development work with Christian Churches around the world.” Sabeel also declares that Jesus (Yeshua) was Palestinian, but as scripture teaches, Yeshua was from the house of David; even the Koran recognizes his Jewishness.
For the cause of justice, peace and reconciliation, Christian churches need to begin with the truth that Israel is not a human rights abuser. It is the PA, PLO and many Muslim countries that seek the destruction of Israel. Many of those states also violently persecute Christians and murder and oppress their co-religionists. More than 10 million Muslims have been murdered by fellow Muslims in sectarian wars since the year of Israel’s founding.
It is vital that Christians accept the truth of history and unite in refuting the dangerous messages being spread against the truth, against scripture and against Israel. Friends of Sabeel Conferences take place several times annually in major North American cities; at each one, further calls for BDS are sounded. It is imperative that Christians of all denominations recognize that the Sabeel agenda is a dangerous one.
Christine Williams is Public Affairs/Media Consultant, ICEJ Canada