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May 22, 2014

Palestinians Welcome Pope Francis To Bethlehem With Anti-Semitism

On Sunday, when Pope Francis celebrates mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, he may be confronted with billboards depicting Jesus being attacked by Israeli soldiers.jesus-palestinian-pope-israel

This not-so-subtle modern day version of the deicide is transparent classical anti-Semitism in the guise of criticism of Israel.  The posters are a product of The Palestinian Museum, which announced that at the request of the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Supreme Presidential Committee for Church Affairs, it had prepared special billboards to decorate Manger Square which “combine recent media photographs of the Palestinian landscape and its people with Western baroque paintings of biblical scenes.”

The posters, some of which depict Jesus suffering at the hands of Israeli soldiers, will highlight “the tension between the popular image of the Holy Land and Palestine’s ongoing history of suffering under occupation and oppression,”  according to the Museum.

Palestinian efforts to present themselves as the direct descendants of Jesus are nothing new.  Nor is the manipulative and anti-Semitic comparison of Palestinian suffering at the hands of Jews just as they claim Jews were responsible for suffering and death of Jesus.

The message carefully chosen by an official Palestinian body to publicly welcome Pope Francis demonstrates how deeply intermingled anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attitudes are in the Palestinian public sphere.

At the weekly meeting of Israel’s cabinet, Prime Minister Netanyahu decried Palestinian incitement, citing the ADL Global 100 Survey findings about the high level of anti-Semitic attitudes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

While the PA regularly complains that incitement is an Israeli-manufactured excuse, there is no denying that extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic messaging appears routinely in official Palestinian publications and institutions.

Earlier this week, the May 21st edition of the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, featured an op-ed by one of its frequent writers, Yahya Rabah, entitled “No One Believes Shylock,” featuring the denial of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, comparisons of Israel to the Nazis and other outrages.   Rabah writes:

“… Israel lives on a broad and extensive system of laws from the British Mandate, on illusionary Torah maps, as well as on hallucinations from the Babylonian captivity or from the Roman, the existence of neither has no single evidence. (It also lives) on practices borrowed from the Nazis, currently imitated by the Israelis against the Palestinian people, as clearly established by a number of intellectuals, authors and historians in Israel these days.”

The issue of Palestinian incitement, and the PA’s chronic failure to prepare the Palestinian public for peace with Israel was on ongoing concern cited by Israeli officials during the recent cycle of US-brokered peace negotiations.

And with these egregious examples appearing almost-daily, it is certain to continue to alarm all those committed to true Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.

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March 14, 2013

Universities In Michigan To Host Sabeel’s Naim Ateek

A week ago, we reported on our blog that university and academic department sponsorship of anti-Israel programs has risen dramatically in the last few years. In further evidence of this trend, two universities in Michigan plan to host Naim Ateek, the founder and director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, in the next few days.

On Saturday, March 16, Ateek is scheduled to speak on the “Requirements for a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel” at Western Michigan University. Two academic departments, the Institute of Government and Politics and the Department of Political Science are listed as sponsors. No student group appears to be involved in bringing Ateek to campus. Two days later, Ateek will speak at Grand Valley State University, a talk sponsored by the Middle East Studies and Religious Studies Programs of the university, as well as several student groups.

Sabeel, which has several chapters in the U.S., espouses what it calls “Palestinian liberation theology.” This “theology” reinterprets the Hebrew Bible in an attempt to bolster the legitimacy of the Palestinian position and disavow Zionism. In his frequent speaking appearances at Sabeel conferences and other gatherings, Ateek has said that claims that the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people is “bad theology.” He asserts that the establishment of Israel is a “relapse to the most primitive concepts of an exclusive, tribal God.” He also has accused Israel and its supporters of abandoning God, saying that Israel “has no fear” of God and that Israel has instead adopted “security” as a new God.

On several occasions in the past, Ateek has used Christian imagery to demonize Israel by comparing modern-day Palestinians to Jesus and their suffering to his crucifixion. He has referred to the Israeli occupation as the “original sin” that must cease before Palestinian violence will end. In a 2001 Easter message, Ateek explicitly said: “Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him…The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.”

More recently, Ateek has employed Holocaust-related language to condemn Israel, an oft-used rhetorical device for the anti-Israel movement. In a 2009 article in Cornerstone, Sabeel’s publication, Ateek viciously claimed that the murder of Jewish children during the Holocaust is “comparable to what the government of Israel has done to the people of Gaza today.” Other articles published in Cornerstone have similarly tried to exploit the horrors of the Holocaust by analogizing it to Israeli policy. In last spring’s edition, for example, there was a poem that included the following lines:  “But what O Israel/Have you become?/The Nazis made me fear­ful to be a Jew/but you [Israel] have made me ashamed…Time to con­front the dark­ness we have become/With the Holo­caust it is Never Forget/but with Deir Yassin it is Never Mind.”

Sabeel’s American counterpart, Friends of Sabeel-North America, organizes several anti-Israel conferences a year that feature speakers who accuse Israel of racism, oppression, and human rights violations. Speakers often promote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions efforts as punishment for what they see as Israel’s apartheid-like policies. Some speakers at Sabeel conferences have also described the pro-Israel lobby as excessively powerful and argue that Israeli interests control the U.S. government’s foreign policy. The group has been the driving force behind Christian divestment initiatives against Israel since 2004.

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