The Boston Globe is the latest mainstream media source to be taken in by the CAMERA-David Project-Campus Watch propaganda machine. They’ve allowed Dexter Van Zile, CAMERA “Christian media analyst” (what exactly does this mean?) to accuse SABEEL of in effect hanging nooses around the necks of Jews via the group’s alleged anti-Israel positions.
First, a word about SABEEL: it is the leading Palestinian Christian anti-Occupation organization. Its leader, Naim Ateek, is a close friend and ally of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who had spoken controversially at several SABEEL national conferences. SABEEL stands for non-violent resistance to the Occupation and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To be candid, I would say that SABEEL does not embrace a two-state solution because it thinks this is the most moral position available. But rather it accepts this position because it seems the most viable and pragmatic given the circumstances (that neither Israel nor Israelis would accept any other resolution).
To get the true hysteria of Van Zile’s diatribe, read how he likens SABEEL’s views on Israel to the recent hanging noose incidents in Louisiana and at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College:
IF A church in Boston announced that it was renting space to a self-described peace group whose leader hung nooses from trees in former slave-holding states, the interfaith community would be outraged, the church would be condemned, and the wisdom of its pastor and governing council would be called into question, with good reason.
Any organization led by someone who would display an image with such a bloody and violent history would immediately be repudiated by people of good will. Virtually everyone knows that a noose hanging from a tree is a prelude to a lynching. Its display is a vile act intended to intimidate African-Americans and other minorities into submission. It is a vestige of the Old South that has been discarded by all but the irredeemably racist.
Now, go and read the entire column and tell me where he remotely proves that SABEEL holds such racist views of either Jews or Israel. In fact, you won’t find more than a few words actually quoted from SABEEL in the entire piece. So how does Van Zile have the audacity to make such a preposterous claim and how does the Globe justifying printing such meretricious nonsense?
Here is Van Zile’s second outrageous trope–SABEEL allegedly sees Israelis as “Christ-killers:”
the leader of the group in question – the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center – invoked the anti-Semitic trope of Jews as Christ-killers during the second intifada, when Palestinian suicide bombers were murdering citizens of Israel…
The portrayal of Jews as Christ-killers has contributed to untold violence and hostility toward the Jewish people, but for some reason, Old South Church is allowing Sabeel and Ateek, an Anglican priest from Jerusalem, the use of its worship space…
For example, his 2000 Christmas message portrayed Israeli officials as Herod, who, according to the Christian gospel, murdered all the infants of Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus.
Again, where is the evidence? Not here, certainly. Ateek did NOT “portray Israeli officials as Herod” nor did he claim they “murder infants in Bethlehem.” In truth, SABEEL is quoted (in Wikipedia, and again through the veil of Van Zile’s truncated quotations of what he claims as SABEEL-Ateek statements–I would be grateful if a reader could find the original SABEEL sources for these elided quotations) as likening the Occupation to a Palestinian crucifixion:
“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 …The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.” Similarly, in a February 2001 sermon, Ateek likened the occupation to the “stone placed on the entrance of Jesus’ tomb. … This boulder has shut in the Palestinians within and built structures of domination to keep them in. We have a name for this boulder. It is called the occupation.”
Thanks to Rick Charnes for finding the original source at the SABEEL site:
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. The number of innocent Palestinians and Israelis that have fallen victim to Israeli state policy is increasing.
Here in Palestine Jesus is again walking the via dolorosa. Jesus is the powerless Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint, the woman trying to get through to the hospital for treatment, the young man whose dignity is trampled, the young student who cannot get to the university to study, the unemployed father who needs to find bread to feed his family; the list is tragically getting longer, and Jesus is there in their midst suffering with them. He is with them when their homes are shelled by tanks and helicopter gunships. He is with them in their towns and villages, in their pains and sorrows.
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.
…Four things are clear today. Jerusalem still does not know what makes for peace; Jesus is weeping and his tears are mixed with many other people’s tears; the number of people who are carrying their crosses is multiplying phenomenally; and the women of Palestine as well as many Jewish women are weeping over the many killed and wounded innocents. This is the reality of life today.
In the midst of this hopeless and confusing situation, inundated with injustice and death, we refuse to give in to despair. We want to affirm the power of resurrection and life…The day will come, and we pray soon, when joy will replace grief, trust will remove fear, justice will triumph over oppression, and reconciliation will supplant alienation…We will, therefore, continue in our struggle against the evil structures that dominate and oppress. Our hope is in God. The resurrection is coming, and it will bring with it the promise of a new life and liberation for all the people of our land.
Nary a mention of “Christ-killers.”
Returning to Van Zile’s journalistic travesty, here again he does violence to the truth:
With these…images, Ateek has figuratively blamed Israel for the attempted murder of the infant Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus the prophet, and for blocking the resurrection of Christ the Savior
Notice he says “Ateek has FIGURATIVELY blamed Israel.” That word is important. He cannot claim that Ateek actually made such a claim because he didn’t. So he uses the vague and essentially meaningless term “figuratively.”
It is a characteristic tactic of the Frontpagemagazine-CAMPUS Watch-CAMERA crowd to take a truncated version of a statement you DID make and claim that you made a much larger, more damning statement–but which you haven’t made at all. In this case, they’ve INFERRED from Ateek’s statement that the Occupation is a crucifixion that Israelis must be Herod and the Roman crucifiers of Jesus. But there is a difference between inference and explicit reference. Neither Van Zile nor anyone else has ever quoted Ateek as saying that Israelis ARE Herod or Christ-killers. The message simply isn’t there. But that doesn’t stop the Van Ziles of the world in their sacred vocation of protecting Israel from the so-called demonizers like SABEEL.
Here is the clincher-whopper paragraph:
In the context of Christian-Jewish relations, language like this – which has preceded and justified the killing of Jews for nearly two millennia – is the equivalent of a noose hanging from a tree in the Old South. Its use during a time of violence can only serve to justify continued violence against Israeli civilians. Sadly, Ateek’s defenders have said that he is merely using the “language of the cross” to describe Palestinian suffering, but in fact, he is describing Israeli behavior.
So in effect, Ateek has exhorted Arabs to kill Jews because of “figurative” statements which he never actually made. It’s a beautiful sort of twisted, fantastical logic like something out of Goebbels, 1984 or Alice in Wonderland (take your pick). There is no ‘noose.’ There is no ‘tree.’ There is no ‘Old South.’ There is no ‘Christ-killer’ in SABEEL’s writings. There is only the fevered imagination of a poor sot who thinks he’s doing the Lord’s work when he’s really doing the devil’s.
There is a small problem with this method. If in your zeal to do right by Israel you do violence to truth and fact you have done Israel no service at all. In fact, you’ve harmed not only your own reputation, but Israel’s. Not to mention the harm you do to worthy individuals like Tutu and Ateek who, while controversial, have done nothing to warrant the smears mounted against them.
Thanks to reader Rick Charnes of the Boston Tikkun Community for alerting me to this story.