IN CIVILIZED circles it is considered boorish to speak of Jews as Christ-killers, or to use language evoking the venomous old teaching that Jews are forever cursed for the death of Jesus. Those circles apparently don’t include the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, an anti-Israel “peace” organization based in Jerusalem, or its founder, the Anglican cleric Naim Ateek.
Sabeel and Ateek are highly regarded on the hard-line Christian left, and regularly organize American conferences at which Israel is extravagantly denounced by numerous critics. So far this year, such conferences have been held in Cleveland, Berkeley, Calif., and Birmingham, Ala.; another begins Friday at Boston’s Old South Church.
Just as critics of the United States are not necessarily anti-American bigots, critics of Israel are not necessarily biased against Jews. But Sabeel and Ateek’s denunciations of Israel have included imagery explicitly linking the modern Jewish state to the terrible charge of deicide that for centuries fueled so much anti-Jewish hatred and bloodshed.
“It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him,” Ateek has written, envisioning “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.”
In a sermon titled “The Massacre of the Innocents” Ateek similarly condemned the “modern-day Herods” in Israel - a reference to the evil king who the New Testament says slaughtered the babies of Bethlehem in an attempt to murder the newborn Jesus. In another sermon, Ateek portrays Israelis as having “shut off the Palestinians in a tomb . . . similar to the stone placed on the entrance of Jesus’ tomb.”