For the past couple of weeks, the Boston-based pro-Israel media watchdog group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) has been riling up rabbis, congregants and any Jew with an e-mail address to pressure the All-Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena to cancel the appearance of a prominent Palestinian activist, the Rev. Naim Ateek.
Ateek, an Israeli Arab who lives in Jerusalem, is scheduled to speak at the liberal church Feb. 15-16. As founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center and its sister organization in the United States, Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), Ateek has championed the cause of nonviolent resistance to Israel in the West Bank. His writings are numerous and explicit: Ateek wants an end to occupation according to U.N. Resolution 242, and reconciliation between Israel and a Palestinian state.
“We want Israel to live in peace and security within its pre-1967 borders,” he said in a sermon at Boston’s Old South Church last year. “At the same time we want justice for the Palestinians in accordance with international law and the creation of a Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside the state of Israel. There is no other way.”
CAMERA and other Jewish organizations vehemently protested Ateek’s appearance in Boston and elsewhere. Their critique focuses less on his vision of a future settlement than on his language and methods. In his sermons and writings, Ateek uses imagery that portrays Palestinians as suffering under Israel as Jesus and the early Christians suffered—raising disturbing images of the ancient anti-Semitic canard of deicide. He has also championed comparisons of Israel to apartheid South Africa and has promoted divestment as a nonviolent tool to bring pressure upon Israel.
These are disturbing tactics and unsettling words. But, man, it sure beats Hamas. It beats Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the armed wing of Fatah by a mile. I’ll take a man who writes that the occupation is the equivalent of the stone blocking “Christ’s tomb” and that “The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily,” over a suicide bomber any day. This is an opponent you can debate, propogandize and educate.
This is the Palestinian resistance that, had it taken root in the Palestinian body politic 45 years ago instead of that cancer called Arafat, the history of that region would have been much different, much better.