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January 05, 2009

Sabeel's Moral Compass Always Pointing at Israel

"In addition, Hamas should immediately end rocket fire into Israel."

That is the last line of a Dec. 31 press release issued by the Friends of Sabeel North America, an organization headquartered in Oregon that provides financial and logistical support to Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. The remainder of the press release calls on the world community to bring an end to Israel's attack on Gaza Strip and condemns Israel for its efforts to bring an end to the rocket attacks that have been terrorizing its citizens for the past several years.

FOSNA reports:

Sabeel in Jerusalem and its Friends in the U.S. promote nonviolent solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, recognize the great disparity of power and Israel's misuse of its massive military power against a people long oppressed by its illegal military occupation. With the world's fourth most powerful military, Israel is guilty of excessive violence that far exceeds that of the occupied Palestinian people.

FOSNA's press release confirms what honest observers already know about Sabeel and its supporters. There is nothing Israel can do in defense of its citizens that Sabeel will not condemn and nothing that Palestinians can do that will bring prompt robust criticism from the organization. When it comes to condemning Israel, Sabeel and FOSNA's prophetic voice has a hair trigger, but when it comes to holding Palestinian leaders accountable for their actions, Sabeel and FOSNA's moral judgement is AWOL.

FOSNA's call for an end to Palestinian rocket attacks, which have been taking place on an almost daily basis since Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, comes as an afterthought, a tagline, an insulting "Oh, by the way ..." that demonstrates that Sabeel is not interested in peace, but Israel's unilateral disarmament.

FOSNA's press release is emblematic of the failure of Sabeel and its supporters to apply the principles of liberation theology in an honest manner to the Arab-Israeli conflict. One of the primary teachings of this theology is the need to "conscientize" or educate people about the causes of their suffering. On this score, Sabeel and FOSNA have failed miserably.

In particular, Sabeel and FOSNA have failed to address how Hamas's actions undermine the prospects of a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians. According to Israeli journalists Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael Oren Gaza is a test case. If Israel cannot achieve an end to the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, support for a two-state solution will evaporate and further withdrawals will come to an end.

Without the assurance that they will be allowed to protect their homes and families following withdrawal, Israelis will rightly perceive a two-state solution as an existential threat. They will continue to share the left-wing vision of coexistence with a peaceful Palestinian neighbor in theory, but in reality will heed the right's warnings of Jewish powerlessness.

Israel has been attacked from nearly every bit of territory from which it has withdrawn since the 1990s, and yet FOSNA still clings to the notion that the conflict is Israel's fault and is a consequence of Israeli abuse of power.

FOSNA and Sabeel have not engaged in an honest attempt to educate the Palestinians, or their supporters about the true causes of the suffering they have endured for the past several decades. Instead, they have pushed a blame Israel narrative that leads to a dead end of more recrimination and irresponsibility on the part of Palestinian leaders.

Between FOSNA's press release, and Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek's accusation that Israel is perpetrating a "slow and creeping genocide" against the Palestinians (whose population has quadrupled over the past 60 years), Sabeel and its supporters have revealed themselves to be propagandists who either excuse or affirm Palestinian violence against Israel.

So what else is new? Soon after the beginning of the Second Intifada, Rev. Ateek fueled the flames of hostility by issuing two statements – one in English and another in Arabic – that placed the blame for the eruption of the violence solely on Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount despite the fact that Palestinian leaders had been preparing for the uprising months before Sharon’s visit.

In English, he stated “it was right for our Palestinian Muslim brothers and sisters to stand up in the defense of their holiest place al-Haram al-Sharif, when it was being threatened and desecrated."

And in Arabic, Ateek wrote “We salute our Palestinian Muslim Brethren for their defense of their holiest place.�?

A true peacemaker would work to calm the flames of hostility during times of conflict. Rev. Dr. Ateek did the exact opposite.

An organization truly intent on "liberating" the Palestinian people would acknowledge the role Hamas has played in causing such suffering in the Gaza Strip. FOSNA has worked to obscure this reality.

Posted by dvz at January 5, 2009 04:01 PM


True to form!! Did you hear about FOSNA's attempt this week to boycott Israeli teenage dancers?

Posted by: Mordechai at January 6, 2009 06:44 PM

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