Background

  • Sabeel describes itself as “an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians,” which “encourages Christians from around the world to work for justice and to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
  • Donors in 2010: ICCO, Kairos, Kerk in Actie Global, General Board of Global Ministries NY, Mennonite Central Committee, Svenska Mission Kyrkan, Presbyterian Church of Canada, United Church of Canada, United Church of Christ. See NGO Monitor website for more funding details.
  • Sabeel is active in anti-Israel political campaigns, including church divestment campaigns
  • Supports “one state solution,” meaning the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.
  • Director Naim Ateek employs themes and imagery that are antisemitic according to the European Union Working Definition of Antisemitism.
  • Ateek uses this offensive rhetoric particularly in sermons promoting his “Palestinian Liberation Theology.”
  • Refers to Israeli “apartheid that is much worse than what was practiced in South Africa.”

Sabeel and Liberation Theology

  • Sabeel claims that Palestinians represent a modern-day version of Jesus’ suffering, using “liberation theology,” supercessionist rhetoric and the concept of deicide to demonize Israel. According to the European Union, this is seen as a modern, politicized version of historical theological antisemitism.[1]
  • As we approach Holy Week and Easter, the suffering of Jesus Christ at the hands of evil political and religious powers two thousand years ago, is lived out again in Palestine…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…” [sic]
  • Criticizes Christian Zionism as “a prime example of the misuse of the Bible to promote violence, racism and injustice,” based on “mistaken premises” which are “not authentic to the Bible.”

Political vision without Israel

  • Under the heading “The Vision for the Future” Sabeel announces on its website: “Indeed, the ideal and best solution has always been to envisage ultimately a bi-national state in Palestine-Israel…[…]…One state for two nations and three religions.”
  • Sabeel advocates the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees, implying the end of a Jewish majority in Israel. Sabeel’s Principles for a Just Peace state that “The right of return to Palestinian refugees must be guaranteed according to international law.”
  • Sabeel published an article on its website in November 2010 which states; “But Israelis might also consider an alternative, one with roots in history and recently developed by Jewish, American and Palestinian intellectuals: a one-state solution.”

Naim Ateek’s inflammatory rhetoric

  • Naim Ateek is the former Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.
  • Ateek has allegedly stated that “if the Jewish people had a right to a homeland it should be in Germany, not Palestine.”
  • In his book, Justice and Only Justice, Ateek writes, “It has taken me years to accept the establishment of the State of Israel and its need – although not its right – to exist.”
  • In a February 27, 2011 speech during a Sabeel conference in Bethlehem: “The establishment of Israel was a relapse to the most primitive concepts of an exclusive, tribal God.”
  • Blames Israel for suicide bombers: “It was in the crucible of the occupation that they were shaped and formed. And if Israel labels them as terrorists, they are, after all the product of its own making.”

Endnotes:

[1]  “Using the symbols and images associated with classical anti-Semitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis” is seen by the European Union as a way in which “antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel.”