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Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center


Country/TerritoryPalestinian Authority
Founded1989, based in Jerusalem, Israel
In their own wordsAn “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.”


  • According to information submitted to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, Sabeel’s 2013 total income was NIS 2.6 million (latest available, accessed November 1, 2016).
  • Sabeel is based in Israel and is registered with the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits. As such, it is mandated to report foreign government financing to Israel’s Registrar of Non-Profits. However, Sabeel does not appear in the Registrar’s foreign funding database, reflecting a lack of financial transparency and accountability.
  • Sabeel no longer publishes detailed financial information. 2014/2015 donors include: Kerk in Actie (Netherlands); Diakonia (Sweden); Mennonite Central Committee (U.S. and Canada); Church of Scotland; Presbyterian Church USA; Norwegian Church Aid; and Friends of Sabeel chapters in North America, UK, Norway, among others.


  • Supports the “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).
  • 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.
  • In March 2017, Sabeel will hold 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 claims 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 an address entitled “The Challenge of Jubilee,” Naim Ateek, Chair of the Board of Sabeel, 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.”
  • 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.”
  • In a 2013-2015 project description, Sabeel claims 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.”
  • Sabeel’s 2015 annual Christmas message contained numerous statements demonizing Israel, including the claim that the “illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories continues unabated; the Israeli lust for land and settlement building is unrelenting; and the monopolizing and Judaizing of Jerusalem continues unchecked.” (emphasis added)
  • 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 claims that Zionism is a “false theology” and is aimed at promoting the upcoming anti-Israel divestment resolution that will be presented at the Presbyterian Church National Biennial General Assembly in Detroit on June 14-24, 2014.
  • 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 will include 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.


  • Active in anti-Israel political campaigns, including church divestment campaigns.
  • Sabeel director Naim Ateek 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 June 2017, 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 all interested 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 Campagn 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.
  • Along with CODEPINK, American Friends Service Committee-Denver, and Jewish Voice for Peace, among others, FOSNA staged a protest outside of RE/MAX’s annual shareholder meeting in Denver, demanding that RE/MAX stop conducting business in Israeli settlements.
  • On November 2, 2013, FOSNA sent letters to the CEOs of 14 major companies, urging them to boycott SodaStream products.

Rationalization of Terrorism

  • FOSNA was a sponsor of Bassem Tamimi’s 2015 speaking tour around the US. Tamimi was convicted in 2012 of encouraging Palestinian youth to throw stones at Israeli soldiers. During this tour, Tamimi spoke to a class of third graders about the suffering of the Palestinians. Following the event, the Superintendent of the school district stated that Tamimi’s remarks were “skewed, inflammatory.”
  • 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 Faceboook posts, Sabeel consistently referred to the “occupation of Palestine” as the most significant of the “root causes of the problem.”

Screenshot from Sabeel Facebook page,


  • Ateek 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: “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 (emphasis added) is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.”


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