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The radicals behind the Anglican Church
Jerusalem Post ^ | Feb. 26, 2006 | SARAH MANDEL

Posted on 02/26/2006 6:12:25 AM PST by SJackson

Last week, British chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks came out strongly against the Church of England for its vote for "morally responsible investment" (MRI) in Israel (a.k.a. divestment). In response church leaders stated that the vote was merely advisory. The archbishop of Canterbury, who heads the Anglican Church and supported the measure, claimed it was not a vote for divestment and that he remained committed to "a continued personal engagement with the Jewish communities in Israel and in the United Kingdom."

If there is a lesson from this debacle, it is that attention must be paid to Palestinian NGOs, rather than assuming that such groups are too blatantly biased to influence mainstream institutions.

The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, for example, spearheaded the international campaign for divestment. This group claims to pursue "a spirituality based on justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation." But it is, in fact, an extremist Palestinian organization that pays lip service to a two-state solution while promoting the "right of return" for all Palestinians, which is a euphemism for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

Led by Naim Ateek, Sabeel brands Israel as "an apartheid state." His 2001 Easter message continued with the language of demonization, such as decrying the "Israeli government crucifixion system... operating daily."

Sabeel's activities are a clear example of the "Durban Strategy," a campaign to undermine and delegitimize the State of Israel by falsely comparing it with apartheid South Africa and pursuing boycotts and divestment as a response. This process began at the Durban World Conference against Racism in 2001, where NGOs adopted a declaration condemning Israel's "racist crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing [and] acts of genocide."

The Durban strategy turns the concept of morally responsible investment, or at least how that concept is billed to many well-meaning people, on its head. Rather than constructively opposing particular government policies, while condemning terrorism and recognizing the right of self-defense against it, these groups are promoting a wholesale rejection of the legitimacy of the State of Israel itself.

SO HOW does an obscure and extreme NGO like Sabeel get the ear of the Church of England? It turns out that Bishop John Gladwin, who is a member of the Church Synod that voted for MRI, is a patron of Sabeel UK and also chair of the Board of Trustees of Christian Aid. Christian Aid is a major British charity, and as its head, Gladwin is well placed to influence the wider church on questions regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict. Gladwin is one of the few bishops who has vocally defended the Synod vote despite Archbishop Rowan Williams's public backtracking.

The church's resolution urged its members to visit "recent house demolitions" and educate themselves about the situation through first-hand experience. No doubt Gladwin or Ateek will be happy to arrange a tour with the Israel Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD), a partner and ally of both Sabeel and Christian Aid.

This EU-funded NGO focuses primarily on political and ideological denunciations of Israel, including active promotion of "apartheid" rhetoric and justification of terrorism. Like Sabeel, it is driven by a radical anti-Israel ideology that exploits humanitarian and human rights claims to pursue these goals. The "evidence" that the leaders of both NGOs present entirely erases the context of conflict, incitement and terrorism. ICAHD's international reputation has been significantly enhanced by its association with Christian Aid's youth Web site,, which publicizes and endorses its campaigns.

This demonstrates the power of the NGO network. Unchecked and unaccountable, some NGOs profess humanitarian goals while their actions contribute to conflict rather than peace. In a similar manner, Palestinian NGOs and their allies were able to get a small group of officials of the British Association of University Teachers to adopt a short-lived boycott of Israeli universities. In that case, the wider AUT membership quickly recognized that claims presented in support of this campaign constituted gross distortions, and revoked the resolutions. Such moral clarity still evades the church, however.

At a time of growing anti-Semitism in Europe, and the election of a Hamas leadership committed to Israel's destruction, it would be nice to believe that the Church of England did not mean to subscribe to the rejectionist beliefs of Sabeel and others when it passed its resolution. However, it has raised the profile and international status of Sabeel, as the leader of the MRI campaign; and promoted the Durban strategy to undermine Israel's legitimacy. If we are going to question why the big fish continue to rally against Israel, we should start by looking at the small ones.

The writer is associate editor of NGO Monitor, at

KEYWORDS: anglicans; coe; europeanchristians; radicalleft

Based in Jerusalem, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center is an NGO, founded in 1989 and directed by Naim Ateek, former Canon of St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem. Sabeel describes itself as "an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians," which "hopes to connect the true meaning of Christian faith with the daily lives of all those who suffer under occupation, violence, discrimination, and human rights violations" and "encourages Christians from around the world to work for justice and to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people." Reliable funding information is unavailable, but support is apparently provided by church-based groups in North America and Europe, including the Mennonite Central Committee.

Reflecting its mission statement, Sabeel is active in promoting an extreme anti-Israel agenda in Protestant churches in both North America and Europe. Sabeel's efforts have promoted the campaign to isolate and delegitimize Israel through the divestment campaign, which has recently been adopted by the World Council of Churches, the Anglican Church in Britain, the Presbyterian Church, and others. Many of these Church statements reflect and quote from Sabeel's publications. Rev. John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford and Chair of Christian Aid's Board of Trustees is a patron of Sabeel's UK branch. Paul Dean, another member of Christian Aid's Executive Committee, also participates in Sabeel's activities. In addition, Afif Safieh, the PLO representative in London, is a major supporter of Sabeel and its ideology.

As noted in a detailed study by Robert Everett and Dexter Van Zile, and cited in their Jerusalem Post article of July 10, 2005 "Reawakening the teachings of contempt," Sabeel is a major factor in extremist Christian anti-Israel activism. Sabeel's statements consistently highlight Palestinian suffering and place blame on Israel, while ignoring such issues as corruption within the Palestinian Authority, violence perpetrated against Israelis and Palestinians alike by armed Palestinian militias, and attacks against Christian Arabs.

Naim Ateek's extreme positions are stated in a number of publications, such as Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation (New York: Orbis 1989) and Suicide Bombers, A Palestinian Christian Perspective (Cornerstone 2002). In the latter, Ateek uses the rhetoric of demonization, claiming that "Israel is creating Bantustans (homelands, reservations) for the Palestinians and an Israeli form of apartheid that is much worse than what was practiced in South Africa," and that "the occupation…continues to be the root cause of the violence and terror."

Ateek employs classical antisemitic theological themes, as reflected in the 2001 Sabeel "Easter message": "it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. […] The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily." In similar messages, such as a February 2001 sermon, Ateek accuses Israel of killing Jesus (the Palestinians) as infant, prophet and messiah: "Israel has placed a large boulder, a big stone that has metaphorically shut off the Palestinians in a tomb. It is similar to the stone placed on the entrance of Jesus' tomb…"

While Ateek often rejects Israel's legitimacy, he acknowledges its "need" to exist, stating that "the elimination of Israel would mean greater injustice to millions of innocent people who know no home except Israel." (Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation, p164.)

On this basis, Ateek supports a "one-state solution" to the Arab-Israeli conflict, demanding that Israel dismantle itself as a Jewish state. "I still believe that this solution is feasible, " he says. "It is the best and easiest to implement. […However,] Israel insists above all on being a Jewish state. As part of a democratic, binational Palestine, the Jews would eventually become a minority in the country." (Justice, p166) This theme, which is thinly disguised example of policide -- the call for the elimination of the State of Israel -- is echoed by several Protestant leaders active in the divestment campaign. For example, Victor Makari, a leader of the Presbyterian Church (USA), told the Jerusalem Report on Sept. 6, 2004 that "his preferred solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a 'shared democratic state' -- a solution he later admits is a non-starter because of Israeli concerns that the one-state solution is tantamount to demographic suicide." This and other examples of direct repetition of Ateek's rhetoric reflect his role in propelling the church-based anti-Israel divestment campaign in America.

Nevertheless, Ateek has been able to garner considerable international support for his activities. In 2002, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Laureate, signed on informally as an international patron for Sabeel, in order to "assist the Palestinian Christian organization in its outreach and development work with Christian Churches around the world." Likewise, Ateek himself has been referred to as "Palestine's Desmond Tutu" in Sojourners magazine, the publication of a self-described "social justice" Christian ministry.

Ateek's influence has been further amplified in the U.S. and Canada by the Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) network of chapters that disseminate Ateek's rhetoric. It is also assisted by a broader and looser network of supporters in mainstream Protestant churches across America, who in turn reach the broader public audience through their own considerable individual and collective influence.

The result, as is now clear, is displayed in the divestment campaign, which is the latest form of political warfare against Israel and the Jewish people, and as far removed as possible from the claimed ecumenical objective.

This profile is reprinted, with permission, from the
NGO Monitor.

Overview of Sabeel
By Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East
October 2005

A Primer on Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
By Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East
October 2005

Radicalized Palestinian Christian Group Pushes Protestant Churches Toward Divestment
By Anti-Defamation League
August 23, 2005

Racist Road Show
By Alyssa A. Lappen
October 12, 2005

Discredited Christian Theology and the New anti-Semitism
By Michael C. Kotzin
September 9, 2005

Sabeel's Ecumenical Facade
NGO Monitor
July 10, 2005

Sabeel No Friend of Peace
By Dexter Van Zile
October 2005

Chicago Tribune Public Editor Lauds Sabeel
October 25, 2005

The Sabeel Center: A Driving Force of Divestment
By Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East
October 2005

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center: An ADL Backgrounder
By Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East October 2005

Token Perspective Not Real Dialogue
By Gerald L. Sorokin and Jeffrey R. Portman
October 2005

Repudiate SABEEL's Messages of Intolerance and Hate
By Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East
October 2005

A Call for Morally Responsible Investment: CRP's Footnoted Version
By Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East
October 2005

Analysis of SABEEL Document for "Morally Responsible Investment"
By Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East
October 2005

Why Is SABEEL Silent about Persecution of Christians in the Palestinian Authority?
By Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East
October 2005

A Primer on Divestment in Mainline Churches
By Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East
October 2005

NGOs Continue to Push Divestment/Boycott Campaigns
By NGO Monitor
January 17, 2006

1 posted on 02/26/2006 6:12:26 AM PST by SJackson
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As a Palestinian NGO, I suppose they could distribute aid for the US.

2 posted on 02/26/2006 6:13:42 AM PST by SJackson (There is but one language which can be held to these people, and this is terror, William Eaton)
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To: SJackson
A disgrace for the Church of England.

Sadly, NGO is a TLA (Three Letter Acronym) that went undefined.
3 posted on 02/26/2006 6:23:16 AM PST by libertylover (Bush spied. Terrorists died.)
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To: SJackson

There is a complex dynamic lying behind this sort of thing. I have seen some antisemitism in a couple of Catholic magazines in the past, resulting from the representations of Christian Palestinians in the Holy Land that the Jews were persecuting them. In those cases, I have written protesting letters to the editors, and I think they probably got other letters, because they moderated their positions. But the issue of Jewish persecution of Christian Palestinians keeps cropping back up, in part because there is regretably some substance to it. Since the Anglican Church is more deeply infected by leftist ideology than the Catholic Church, the problem is much worse there.

Another problem is that a lot of Christian Palestinians--Suha Arafat is a Christian Palestinian, for instance--are also radicals. They have long been persecuted by the Muslim Palestinians and perhaps suffer from dhimmitude or the Oslo Syndrome. Nevertheless, bad relations with the Christian Palestinians is partly the doing of Jewish liberals, I'm afraid. The Labour Government generally gave the Christian Palestinians the back of its hand. They favored Muslim Palestinians over Christian Palestinians, and seemed willing, even eager, to see the Christian Palestinians driven out. Allowing a huge Mosque to go forward right next to the Church of The Nativity was a typical example of this Labour government foolishness.

Likud was less anti-Christian, yet it took some time after Sharon took power before they put a halt to that mischievous mosque-building process. And it looks as if Israel as a whole is currently moving left again.

I guess what I'm saying is that, yes, the primary mischief is being done by the Palestinians. But the Jewish left is not helping. It's another instance of the suicidal impulses of the Jewish left. It would clearly be constructive for them to work with the Palestinian Christians as far as they could, but instead they seem to have imbibed the anti-Christian animus of the left, contrary to their own self-interest. So plausible charges can be made that Palestinian Christians are being mistreated by the Israeli government.

The reason behind the anti-semitism in those journals I spoke of is that the Israeli government has persistently acted against the interests of the Christian Palestinians. The Labour did so regularly; Likud did sporadically. Perhaps they made the calculation that there are many more Palestinian Muslims, so it's more important to placate the Muslims than the Christians. In any case, it's not hard for mischief makers in the Mainline Churches to make a plausible case that Christians are being persecuted by Jews in Israel. The fact that some of the Palestinian Christians are, in fact, also leftists and radicals doesn't help untangle the situation.

I raise this issue not to assign blame to Israel but to suggest that something needs to be fixed here. Somehow, religious Jews have to persuade their leftist secular cousins that by abusing Christians they are not acting in their own self-interest or the interests of their fellow Jews. To some extent that case has been made with outsiders like Pat Robertson. The liberal Jews may privately despise Robertson, but at least they recognize that he is a useful ally. Maybe they need to recognize that Christian Palestinians are worth cultivating as future allies, too, although that won't be nearly as easy. At least they need to start treating them with justice.

4 posted on 02/26/2006 6:41:57 AM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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5 posted on 02/26/2006 2:43:43 PM PST by sionnsar (†† | Libs: Celebrate MY diversity! | Iran Azadi 2006 | Is it March yet?)
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