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October 09, 2009

How Will Ateek Respond?

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Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center at Old South Church in Boston, October, 2007 (CAMERA)

Soon after the beginning of the Second Intifada in September 2000, Anglican Priest Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, issued statements in both English and Arabic that praised Palestinians for fighting against Israel after Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount.

In English, Ateek wrote "it was right for our Palestinian Muslim brothers and sisters to stand up in defense of their holiest place al-Haram al-Sharif, when it was being threatened and desecrated." In Arabic he wrote, "We salute our Palestinian Mulsim brethren for their defense of their holiest place." (In fact, Mecca is Islam's holiest place.)

The phrase, "standing up in defense of their holiest place," may seem like a pretty benign affirmation of nonviolent action, unless one takes into account the fact that several Israelis had been killed by Palestinians after Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. This was no non-violent protest.

In sum, Ateek affirmed Palestinian propaganda used to justify violent acts against Israelis. An odd choice for a man who calls himself a "peacemaker."

Now it looks like Ateek is faced with a similar scenario. Palestinian leaders are falsely accusing Israel of "besieging" the mosque. If history is any predictor, this is a prelude to increased violence.

What will Ateek do?

Will he affirm Palestinian propaganda and incitement?

Or will he speak truth to power and condemn leaders in the West Bank for lying about Israel?

Will he encourage the Palestinian people to remain calm?

Or will he remain silent?

If Naim Ateek truly is a man of peace, now is the time for him to step up and tell his Palestinian Muslim brothers and sisters to refrain from violence, not to riot, and to not throw stones at Israelis.

What will he and the other leaders in the Palestinian Christian community say in do in the days ahead?

Will they stand up and oppose the anti-Israel incitement, or will they remain silent, wait until the violence spirals out of control and then condemn Israel when it responds with force?

Naim Ateek has been portrayed as the "Desmond Tutu of Palestine."

We may soon find out in the days and weeks ahead whether he truly deserves this moniker or not.

Posted by dvz at October 9, 2009 11:55 PM

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