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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A new dynamic?

Anti-Israel rhetoric of Sabeel questioned by some Jewish peace activists

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center has proven particularly adept at enlisting American and Israeli Jews in its campaign to demonize Israel. ...There are signs, however, that some Jewish peace activists are starting to wonder about [Sabeel's] agenda and rhetoric.

For example, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a long time critic of Israel who spoke at Old South Church in Boston on October 28, 2008, after the church hosted a controversial Sabeel event in its building. During his presentation, Rabbi Waskow challenged Sabeel’s support for the Palestinian right of return, which he explained would undermine Israel’s existence as a Jewish State – which, in other venues, Rev. Dr. Ateek has refused to accept.

Whether Sabeel understands it or not, that attacks the sense of Israelis and Jews elsewhere in the world of what it means to have a two-state solution altogether. As people have said, “What’s the point of having two Palestinian states alongside each other?

So, if there is to be a state which in fact has a special relationship to Jewish history and to the Jewish people and to an attempt to generate out of Jewish values what statehood means then it isn’t going to be a state flooded with and whose majority ends up being people who don’t share those values.

Rabbi Waskow then challenged Sabeel’s use of deicide imagery and called on Christians to do the same.

Then there's another aspect of Sabeel's view of the world which I think is even more scary to many, many, many Jews and that is something I understand very well coming out of a Christian view of liberation theology. I have both taught and met with and so on leaders of Christian liberation theology in Latin America and when Latin American Christian liberation theologians and folks appeal to the history of what became Christianity under the thumb of the Roman empire and talk about the crucifixion of Jesus by the roman empire ... and from their view point of course the resurrection of the Christ as teaching of what it means to transcend imperial power, in the Latin American context it's clear that the empire you're talking about is America and it makes sense.

I understand that to Sabeel to talk about the crucifixion of Jesus seems on the surface like that’s the same thing, but when you are doing it in the context of a Jewish state, when you're doing it in the context of 2000 years of Jewish suffering from the Christian dogma of deicide that the Jews killed God and the violence that has been visited on the Jewish community by people upholding that theology, to hear that strikes a nerve that has 2000 years of pain behind it and that has to be heard.

The pain has to be heard. And if Jews can't explain it to Sabeel because it will look like and maybe it is self-defensive for me even to say it, then I think that Christians have to try to say it that there needs to be in that situation there needs to be a different metaphor a different language a different way of drawing on Christian liberation theology.