The efforts of the United Church of Christ to alienate Jews never cease to amaze me. The latest comes from Boston, where a likely candidate for the presidency of the denomination, the Rev. Nancy Taylor, and her congregation, Old South Church, are hosting a conference this weekend for Sabeel, the Palestinian Christian organization that likes to demonize Jews. Speakers will include such luminaries as friend-of-all-lefty-dictators-and-terrorists Noam Chomsky, Phyllis Bennis of the far-left Institute for Policy Studies, assorted leaders of the fellow-traveling US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard (whose admiration for Palestinian terrorists and hatred for Israel is legendary), as well as Desmond Tutu and Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts Thomas Shaw. These luminaries will be gathering under the conference title “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel: Issues of Justice and Equality” (catchy, eh?). More can be found here. CAMERA’s Dexter Van Zile paints the picture in the Boston Globe:
Instead of displaying a noose during a time of racial tension, the leader of the group in question – the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center – invoked the anti-Semitic trope of Jews as Christ-killers during the second intifada, when Palestinian suicide bombers were murdering citizens of Israel.
The portrayal of Jews as Christ-killers has contributed to untold violence and hostility toward the Jewish people, but for some reason, Old South Church is allowing Sabeel and Ateek, an Anglican priest from Jerusalem, the use of its worship space.
Ateek is well known for his rhetoric:
For example, his 2000 Christmas message portrayed Israeli officials as Herod, who, according to the Christian gospel, murdered all the infants of Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus. In his 2001 Easter message, Ateek wrote, “The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily” and that “Palestine has become the place of the skull.” And in February 2001, Ateek compared the Israeli occupation to the stone blocking Christ’s tomb.
With these three images, Ateek has figuratively blamed Israel for the attempted murder of the infant Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus the prophet, and for blocking the resurrection of Christ the Savior.
In the context of Christian-Jewish relations, language like this – which has preceded and justified the killing of Jews for nearly two millennia – is the equivalent of a noose hanging from a tree in the Old South. Its use during a time of violence can only serve to justify continued violence against Israeli civilians. Sadly, Ateek’s defenders have said that he is merely using the “language of the cross” to describe Palestinian suffering, but in fact, he is describing Israeli behavior.
Taken to its logical end, language like this suggests that the only solution to Palestinian suffering is Israel’s elimination, which Sabeel called for in a 2004 document that stated the organization’s “vision for the future” is “one-state for two nations and three religions.”
Can responsible people disagree about issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Of course. But in the same way that it would be considered racist and hateful to include Klansmen in a discussion of black-white relations in America, hosting the likes of Ateek and his friends winds up being a way of saying that Old South Church has no problem with anti-Semites and haters (especially when there is absolutely no effort to balance the program). And that goes for the UCC, which is identified by Rev. Taylor as a “partner” with Sabeel.
Taylor herself portrayed the purpose of this conference in a light that can only be called disingenuous when she told the Globe:
“We welcome the controversy because we are listening and learning,” she said. “We view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a critical and central issue of our time and we are committed to the way of nonviolent debate and diplomacy . . . rather than to the ways of bullets, terrorism, name-calling, or stereotypes.”
Riiiiiiight. That’s why she’s hosting a conference dedicated to the proposition that Israel–a nation that grants all rights of citizenship to Israeli Arabs, who thereby have more freedom than Arabs in almost any Arab-run country, including the Palestinian Authority and Gaza–is an apartheid state. Well, OK then.