Sabeel and the Joint Advocacy Initiative of theYMCA East Jerusalem and YWCA of Palestine will launch the World Council of Churches’ "global advocacy week concerning the situation in Palestine and Israel." The Conference (12-19 March 2006) program is endorsed by a number of NGOs including Caritas Jerusalem and EAPPI, and includes "solidarity visits with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron," a "settlement tour with ICAHD" and an opportunity to "witnes[s] the destruction in Jenin Refugee Camp".
The campaign publicity flyer reflects the extreme political agenda of the conference. It includes two pictures of the " Nativity Church under attack", one with an Israeli tank in the foreground and the other with the church partly concealed by smoke. The flyer "appeals to the World’s church leaders to pray and act to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians as a consequence of the extremely harsh measures and policies imposed by the Israeli occupying forces" and "urges all national leaders to take action and pressure Israel to abide by international humanitarian law." There is no mention of terrorism.
Sabeel is also sponsoring a conference in Pittsburgh on February 24th and 25th 2006. Entitled, "Towards a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel," co-sponsors include ICAHD-USA and the Middle East Peace Forum. Among the speakers are Naim Ateek (head of Sabeel) and Jeff Halper of ICAHD.
Sabeel and its connections with the UCC have recently been criticized in a letter sent to the President of the United Church of Christ by Dexter Van Zile, Christian Outreach Director of David Project Center for Jewish Leadership, Boston, Massachusetts .
"At this point, I feel compelled along with many others to ask that you rethink your unqualified support for Naim Ateek, founder and director of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. His repeated use of deicide imagery is clearly intended to evoke feelings of contempt for Israel as a Jewish state. It is not, as he and his defenders assert, merely an attempt to portray Palestinian suffering in the "Language of the Cross." It is important to note these statements were offered at the height of the Second Intifada, which killed thousands of Israelis and Palestinians. The use of this imagery did not calm the flames of hostility and fear, but fueled them…
It should be noted that Ateek has, on numerous occasions, stated that he does not acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state in the Middle East and has even repeated the canard that Israel should have been created in Europe. Sadly, on this score, Ateek’s words have been echoed by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who you laudably condemned for calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. This echo should be cause for concern amongst those who would defend Ateek and the group he leads as peacemakers."