Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
|Founded||1989, based in Jerusalem, Israel|
|In their own words||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.”|
- In 2020, total income was NIS 1 million; total expenses were NIS 980,768.
- Donors include: Diakonia (Sweden), Mennonite Central Committee (U.S. and Canada), Church of Scotland, Pontifical Mission for Palestine (Vatican), Kerk in Actie, Bread for the World-EED, and Friends of Sabeel chapters in North America, UK, Norway, and elsewhere. (See table below for further funding information.)
- According to annual reports, donations from foreign countries comprised 51% of total donations in 2017-2019.
- In 2016-2018, Sabeel received SEK 1.2 million from Diakonia for “Promoting Democracy among Christians… by Empowering the Palestinian Christians to Advocate for Policy/Structural Changes that Would Contribute for an End to the Israeli Occupation and for the Establishment of an Independent Democratic Palestinian State.”’
- Sabeel has “international chapters supporting the work of Sabeel.” These chapters include North America, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, and France.
- Sabeel Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) is a member of the steering committee that organizes the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) in Sweden.
- EAPPI consistently demonizes Israel, making accusations of “apartheid,” “war crimes,” and “Bantustans”; calls the security barrier, which has saved countless lives from suicide bombings, “evil.”
- Applying “liberation theology,” claims that Palestinians represent a modern-day version of Jesus’ suffering. This includes deicide imagery, and supercessionist rhetoric used to demonize Israel and Judaism.
- Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, frequently employs antisemitic themes and imagery. In 2011, he declared that “The establishment of Israel was a relapse to the most primitive concepts of an exclusive, tribal God.” In 2001, he further maintained: “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 Golgatha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull” (emphasis added).
- Sabeel’s 2016 Christmas Message, written by Naim Ateek, makes numerous comparisons between the historical times in which Jesus lived and current times in order to demonize Israel:
- “The Caesars and emperors always pass laws that disrupt and even ruin people’s lives… In the conflict over Palestine, not only Zionist leaders and Israeli officials took decisions that negatively affected our Palestinian people, even more drastically, western Christian leaders destroyed Palestine and its people through their outrageous and immoral resolutions such as the Balfour Declaration, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, and the unjust 1947 Partition Plan, to name only a few.”
- “Seemingly powerful Kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers feel threatened by the nonviolent acts of the humble and meek whose only weapons are truth and justice…It can lead them to violent and cruel action against others. They can go to extremes in order to do away with the threats. This is the way King Herod behaved…Israel’s intelligence agency, assassinated many Palestinians because it perceived them as threats. This is the way of empire. This is the way people of power behave. They do not see human beings, families and children, they only see obstacles that need to be eliminated.”
- Supports a “one state solution,” meaning the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. Its “Vision for the Future” states: “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” (emphasis added).
- Sabeel leads “Witness Visits” to Israel and the West Bank to “Experience the realities of the Palestinian community living under Israeli Occupation: the Wall, settlements, checkpoints, confiscated land and demolished homes, refugee camps, and environmental degradation.” The trip aims to “motivate participants to become agents of change when they return home.”
- Friends of Sabeel North America supports the Deadly Exchange campaign led by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) that aims to “end police exchange programs between the US and Israel.” JVP claims that American Jewish organizations and programs are to blame for police violence against minorities in America. The campaign also invoked antisemitic tropes.
- The initial “Deadly Exchange” video labeled AIPAC, ADL, Birthright and other Jewish organizations as being responsible for these exchanges, and urged viewers to “Hold accountable the Jewish institutions who run and fund the deadly exchange.”
- In September 2021, Sabeel held a conference titled “A Christian Response to Israeli Apartheid.” The conference featured a session on the “biblical response to apartheid, and how do we raise this complicated issue in our churches.”
- Sabeel is part of a network of NGOs that promote artificial and manufactured definitions of apartheid to extend the ongoing campaigns that seek to delegitimize and demonize Israel. (Read NGO Monitor’s Policy Paper “False Knowledge as Power: Deconstructing Definitions of Apartheid that Delegitimise the Jewish State”)
- In May 2021, Friends of Sabeel North America organized marches across North America to “stand with the Palestinian resistance to Israeli apartheid, demand an end to U.S. aid to Israel and call for support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”
- On April 21, 2021, a coalition of American NGOs, including Friends of Sabeel North America, launched a campaign titled “End Medical Apartheid from the US to Palestine: a call to action.”
- In April 2021, Friends of Sabeel North America welcomed the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch a formal investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel in the “State of Palestine.” According to Sabeel, “This is a long-awaited and a critically important step towards ensuring the rule of law and ending impunity, while ensuring accountability for Israel’s crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.”
- In October 2018, Sabeel launched “Kumi Now,” a “world-wide initiative” aimed at “rais[ing] awareness about specific issues in Israel-Palestine, provide information about a specific issue of injustice through the stories of those effected, and promote a creative nonviolent advocacy action.”
- The project highlights different organizations working in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, many of which support BDS and have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization designated as such by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel, including Addameer, Al-Haq, Al Mezan, Adalah, BADIL, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Ma’an Development Center, Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC), and Zochrot.
- In August 2018, Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, released a statement about the Israel Nation State Law saying that it “validates its [Israel’s] apartheid status,” and called for people to “study its racist implications and to resist it through all available nonviolent means.”
- In June 2018, Friends of Sabeel – UK hosted a conference titled “The Continuing Nakba.” The conference featured Daphna Baram, Director of ICAHD-UK, who spoke about “how severe the policies have become to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem of its Palestinian populations.” At the conference, Ateek spoke of the “individual duty to stand-up and do what we can, calling on us to act on Boycotts, Sanctions and Divestments as well as to engage in Morally Responsible Investment.”
- In November 2017, Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) was a signatory on a call to support “A World Without Walls,” drawing comparisons between “Israel’s apartheid wall on Palestinian land to the US wall of Shame on indigenous land at the border with Mexico.”
- In October 2017, FOSNA co-sponsored the “World Without Walls” delegation featuring “grassroots leaders from and working with communities impacted by the US/Mexico border.” The delegation aimed to allow participants to “meet, learn from, and share with Palestinians resisting Israel’s apartheid wall in order to build together toward a world without walls.”
- In March 2017, Sabeel held its tenth international conference in Jerusalem to mark “100 years since the Balfour Declaration; 70 years since the UN Partition Plan; 50 years since the occupation of the state of Palestine: the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip; 30 years since the beginning of the first intifada, and 10 years since the beginning of political divisions among our Palestinian people.”
- The description of the event states that “God expects us to practice justice and liberation for all the oppressed people among us, and especially for the Palestinians.” Sabeel calls on “both local and international communities” to “join together, recommit ourselves, and exert the needed pressure on the international arena to end the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israel, to establish justice on the basis of international law, and to proclaim liberation for all our peoples.”
- On June 5, 2017, Sabeel released a statement titled “Half a Century of Occupation- Now What?” In it, Sabeel claimed that “these 50 years were only the second stage of the Nakba,” which began in 1948. Israel is compared to “a bulldozer plowing through Palestine” and “a famished tiger.” Sabeel also calls for BDS campaigns against Israel by declaring that “Nonviolence can take many forms such as political and economic pressure, because Israel will not end the occupation until it becomes costly. Today it is profitable.”
- In a 2013-2015 project description from Sweden, Sabeel claimed that Israel is “routinely committing violations of the Geneva Conventions, a set of principles instituted after World War II to ensure that civilians would ‘never again’ suffer as they had under Nazi occupation. Israel is one of the leading violators of these conventions today.”
- FOSNA co-sponsored Bassem Tamimi’s 2015 speaking tour around the US. Following the event, the Superintendent of the school district denounced remarks made by Tamimi to a class of third graders as “inflammatory.” Tamimi has, in addition to inciting violence, expressed support for antisemitic sentiments including the claim that Israelis detain Palestinian children to harvest their organs and that the Zionists control the media.
- In March 2016, the U.S. government cancelled Tamimi’s visa for lying on his application form, specifically for “failure to disclose prior arrest and conviction.”
- Throughout the 2014 Gaza conflict, Sabeel regularly blamed Israel for the barrage of rockets that were being launched by Hamas into Israel. Naim Ateek stated, “the message of the rockets addresses the core issues and the root causes of the problem- STOP THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION AND FREE PALESTINE.” In numerous Facebook posts, Sabeel consistently referred to the “occupation of Palestine” as the most significant of the “root causes of the problem.”
- Hosted a March 2014 conference in California. Topics included: “The South African anti-apartheid movement and the Palestinian struggle”; “Strategies for boycott and divestment campaign”; and “Palestine and the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Conference speakers included Omar Barghouti, co-founder of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), who is active in promoting BDS and compares Israeli efforts to contain terrorism to the antisemitic polices of Nazi Germany.
- The Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) website featured a January 15, 2014 press release on “Zionism Unsettled,” an “educational resource” of the Presbyterian Church that claimed that Zionism is a “false theology” and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is driven by “pathology inherent in Zionism,” and describes the effort to establish a Jewish state as “a struggle for colonial and racist supremacist privilege.”
- The booklet contains a chapter by Sabeel founder Naim Ateek, who writes, “Zionism commits theological injustice by its appeal to God, history, and race.” Moreover, Ateek adds that Zionist claims are partially based on “the erroneous claim that all Jews are racial descendants of the Israelites of biblical times” (pg. 57- booklet on file with NGO Monitor).
- Active in anti-Israel BDS campaigns, including church divestment campaigns.
- Has created a series of posters advocating for BDS, an arms embargo against Israel, and “Demanding U.S. Sanctions on Israel.”
- Friends of Sabeel – North America is involved in the campaign, “Stolen Homes,” which called for Airbnb to “stop listing vacation rentals in Israeli settlements, all of which were built on stolen Palestinian land and deemed illegal under international law.”
- Friends of Sabeel- North America has participated in campaigns against Hewlett Packard (HP) and G4S.
- In September 2015, various branches of Sabeel signed a letter to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urging the UN to terminate its contracts with international security company G4S, as the company is “complicit with Israel’s human rights violations.”
- In July 2021, Friends of Sabeel North America sponsored a march calling to “End US Aid to Israel!” and “End the Apartheid State of Israel!”
- In June 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protests, Friends of Sabeel North America signed a letter to congress calling to “divest from militarism and policing, from the US to Palestine.” According to the letter, “Just as we join in the demand for our tax dollars to be divested from brutal police violence and a repressive military response to protesters asserting that #BlackLivesMatter, we call for an end to U.S.-funded violence abroad.”
- In November 2020, Friends of Sabeel – UK signed a petition to boycott French insurance company AXA due to its supposed “investment in Israeli apartheid.”
- In September 2020, Friends of Sabeel – UK called for the UN General Assembly to “Launch international investigations into Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole, as well as associated State and individual criminal responsibility,” to “Ban arms trade and military-security cooperation with Israel,” and “Prohibit all trade with illegal Israeli settlements and ensure that companies refrain from and terminate business activities with Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.”
- In June 2018, Friends of Sabeel – UK launched a campaign titled “Morally Responsible Investment” providing suggestions for divestment from Israel and calling for UK churches to “implement morally responsible investment policies to ensure that companies that they procure from and invest in do not profit from, or advance the occupation.”
- In April 2018, during the violence on the Gaza border, Canadian Friends of Sabeel was a signatory on a call to the Government of Canada demanding “the imposition of appropriate economic sanctions by the Canadian government and UN on those parties who are complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights.”
- In June 2017, Sabeel was a signatory to an “Open Letter” from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine to the World Council of Churches that accuses Israel of “Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression.” The letter calls upon the WCC to “recognize Israel as an apartheid state,” and “unequivocally condemn the Balfour declaration as unjust, and that you demand from the UK that it asks forgiveness from the Palestinian people and compensates for the losses.” The letter also defends “our right and duty to resist the occupation creatively and nonviolently,” through “economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation…in response to Israel’s war on BDS. We ask that you intensity those measures.”
- Hosted an April 2016 conference in California, designed to educate on how to end “suffering and denial of basic human rights through nonviolent actions of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.” Conference speakers included Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and leader of the BDS movement; Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian and BDS activist; and Mark Braverman, executive director of KAIROS USA.
- On November 2, 2013, FOSNA sent letters to the CEOs of 14 major companies, urging them to boycott SodaStream products.
No Way to Treat a Child
- Since 2015, Friends of Sabeel North America is a “National campaign partner” for the campaign “No Way to Treat a Child,” a vehicle for exploiting children for political warfare against Israel. The campaign was initiated by PFLP-linked Defense for Children International- Palestine and BDS organizer American Friends Service Committee. A February 20, 2017, exposé in the Jerusalem Post revealed the central claims of this campaign to be false.
- The groups call upon the United States government to pressure Israel to end “abuse of Palestinian children,” and encourage supporters to write members of congress on behalf of their cause. The campaign claims that a letter addressed to then President Obama calling for the establishment of a Special Envoy for Palestinian Children, initiated by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and signed by 20 US congressmen, was a “direct response” to demands made by its supporters.
- In October 2017, Canadian Friends of Sabeel joined the No Way to Treat a Child campaign and called for people to sign a petition to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland to “prioritize human rights of Palestinian children and hold Israeli authorities accountable for widespread and systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian child detainees.”
- FOSNA co-sponsored a hearing in Congress on June 8, 2017 on “how persistent human rights violations, systematic impunity, discrimination and a hyper-militarized environment affect the lives of the Palestinian children growing up under a military occupation with no end in sight.” Speakers included Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch, Brad Parker of Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), and Nadia Ben-Youssef of Adalah.
Officials and Staff
- Naim Ateek
- Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, was one of the signatories of the Kairos Palestine document, which advocates for boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) and denies the Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel.
- The document also characterizes terrorist acts of “armed resistance” as “Palestinian legal resistance”
- In an address titled “The Challenge of Jubilee,” Naim Ateek claimed that “The last fifty years have brought untold suffering upon our Palestinian people.” The message goes on to call for the removal “of all checkpoints and the tearing down of the apartheid wall.”
- Ateek has allegedly stated that “if the Jewish people had a right to a homeland it should be in Germany, not Palestine.”
- In May 2018, during the violence on the Gaza border, Ateek stated that “Israel is looking for someone who will adopt their methods and if they don’t accept, they will be assassinated or sidelined.”
- In a February 27, 2011 speech during a Sabeel conference in Bethlehem, Ateek stated that “The establishment of Israel was a relapse to the most primitive concepts of an exclusive, tribal God.”
- Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, was one of the signatories of the Kairos Palestine document, which advocates for boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) and denies the Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel.
- Jonathan Kuttab
- Kuttab serves as the Execute Director of FOSNA and is also a co-founder of Al-Haq and Nonviolence International.
- Kuttab has advocated for a “one-state solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which seeks to eliminate Jewish self-determination. According to Kuttab, “Zionism will ultimately need to redefine its goals and aspirations, this time without ignoring or seeking to dispossess the indigenous Palestinian population.”
- On May 1, 2017, Kuttab accused Israel of “Imposing excessive punishment on the population, as well as collective retribution against the families and communities of the perpetrators have also failed to do anything other than increase the level of hatred and bitterness and determination to resist.”
- In September 2015, Kuttab participated in a conference titled “Waging Peace: Doing Justice Through BDS,” speaking about “Why should BDS be considered a strategy for doing justice in the Holy Land?” He will share BDS history, principles, variety, effectiveness, its use in the occupied territories, and as a strategy being used by churches, and peace/justice organizations.”
- In April 2012, was a signatory on a statement to General Conference 2012 delegates for support on divesting from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola as they “help the Israeli military maintain a stifling system of checkpoints and separation walls aimed at expanding illegal Jewish-only settlements on land taken from Palestinians. For Christians to profit from investing in companies that are causing direct harm to civilians—Christians and Muslims alike—is morally wrong.”
- Michael Lynk
- UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk was listed as a Friends of Sabeel North America’s “Patrons and Advisory Board” (2009-2016).
- In his March 2018 report to the UN Human Rights Council, Lynk utilized classic antisemitic rhetoric of greed in his description of Israel and its behaviors, referring to Israel’s “rapacious decisions” and its “avaricious occupation.” Both these terms refer to “greed” for “wealth” and “material gain” and evoke the classic antisemitic trope of describing Jews as “greedy.”
- Lynk labeled WCLAC fieldworker Manal Tamimi as a “human rights defender.” Tamimi frequently utilizes antisemitic and violent rhetoric and imagery on social media (see appendix III). In August 2015, Tamimi tweeted, “I do hate Israel, i (sic) wish a thrid Intefada (sic) coming soon and people rais (sic) up and kills all these zionist settlers everywhere.” Following a complaint filed by NGO Monitor, the UN removed Tamimi from the report.
- In 2008 (updated in 2011), Lynk signed the “Faculty for Palestine” “Open Letter to university community regarding Palestinian Rights and Canadian Universities,” supporting the “freedom to use the term ‘apartheid’ to identify and debate certain policies associated with the state of Israel and the freedom to support, facilitate and participate freely in activities under the rubric of ‘Israel apartheid week.”
- Leila Abdelrazaq
- Abdelrazaq, Communications Coordinator for Friends of Sabeel North America, served “on the National SJP Ad-Hoc Steering Committee.”
- Abdelrazaq has supported Rasmea Odeh, a PFLP operative convicted for immigration fraud after concealing her role in two terrorist bombings in Israel, referring to her as “one of my personal sheroes (sic).”
- In 2013, Abdelrazaq designed a comic pamphlet for “educating the general public about the boycott Israel campaign.”
- Mark Braverman
- Braverman, a member of the Advisory Board of Friends of Sabeel – North America, is the Program Director for Kairos USA and was a board member of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions USA (ICAHD- USA).
- Braverman has compared the Nazi Holocaust to the State of Israel, called Zionism a threat to Jewish identity and has “criticized the exploitation of Christian feelings of complicity in and guilt for the Holocaust to promote Zionism.”
- Repeatedly refers to Judaism as “tribal,” “isolationist,” and “exceptionalist” and to contemporary Jews as “paranoid.”
- While speaking at a Sabeel conference, Braverman “claimed that Zionism is killing the soul of the Jewish people and that ‘some day we will be on our knees in contrition.’”
- Advocates supercessionism: “Christianity came to take Judaism, what was wonderful and revolutionary about Judaism – you know monotheism, one God, ethical monotheism – pull it out of its tribal framework and make it universal. It’s obvious, that is where Judaism was supposed to go… the Jews said ‘thanks very much, we’re going to stay with what we have, we’re the Chosen People, we’re the Elect, thank you, thank you.’” (Statement at 2014 Friends of Sabeel-North America Workshop: Toward a Post-Nakba Theology: The Urgent Role for Faith Communities to Bring About Peace Based on Justice). Click here to read quotes from Braverman’s speech at the workshop.
- Friends of Sabeel-North America is a member of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR).
- Accuses Israel of maintaining a “matrix of control” over the Palestinian population and enacting “laws that discriminate against [Palestinians], much as Black Americans had been treated during the Jim Crow era.”
- In May 2017, USCPR published “50 Years of Israeli Military Occupation – FAQs” accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid” and stating that “Even though the United States has consistently opposed Israel’s building of settlements for the past fifty years…the United States has worked to ensure that the international community does not impose sanctions on Israel for its continued illegal colonization of Palestinian land.”
2017-2020 Funding to Sabeel (amounts in NIS)
Data based on Sabeel’s Annual Reports
|United Church of Canada||37,164||39,356||54,535||85,391|
|Mennonite Central Committee||50,269||1,000||54,804||53,301|
|Church of Scotland||23,201|
|Church of Sweden||74,468||44,380|
|Friends of Sabeel – North America||122,970||193,271||239,697||263,045|
|Friends of Sabeel - UK||24,368||43,617||16,560|
|Friends of Sabeel - Netherlands||9,975||12,078||8,020|
|Friends of Sabeel - Canada||7,108|
|Friends of Sabeel -France||2,608||1,960|
|Friends of Sabeel - Norway||16,560||19,050||14,060||10,383|
|Pontifical Mission for Palestine||33,445||35,050||77,864||53,301|
|Kerk in Actie||133,000||136,500||105,000||206,810|
|Bread for the World - EED||95,473||101,915||205,739||96,456|
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