TORONTO - To most Israelis and most of the world’s Jews, Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek wields a theological cudgel that threatens their very existence.
Ateek is the Anglican founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem and a leading exponent of campaigns of boycott, divestment and sanctions aimed at Israel. He has called the establishment of Israel in 1948 “a relapse to the most primitive concepts of an exclusive, tribal God.” He has accused the Israeli government of crucifying Palestinians in the occupied territories, writing that “the Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.” He has compared Israel to the Nazis and accused Israel of committing a Holocaust against Palestinians. He sent out a Christmas message that likened Israel to Herod and the occupation to the slaughter of the innocents.
Who better to comment on Sabeel than Mr.--or rather, Rabbi--Interfaithinesss himself, Baruch Frydman-Kohl? (You may recall him in his guise as the head of the Toronto board of Rabbis which condemned a talk in these parts by Pamela Geller). What say you, Baruch?When Canada’s former foreign affairs minister Jason Kenney went to Israel to accuse the Canadian ecumenical social justice coalition KAIROS of anti-Semitism in 2009 it was because KAIROS supports Sabeel. When the Canadian Jewish Congress suspended Christian-Jewish dialogue in 2005 it was because Anglican and United Church groups had participated in a Sabeel conference advocating sanctions against Israel.
How very, er, inclusive. Alas, Ateek seems to be stuck in that blame-the-Jooos-exclusively mode:“Sabeel has actually been very negative toward Israel,” Toronto Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl told The Catholic Register. “Its theology has not been a theology that has encouraged dialogue but a theology that has ignored Jewish history in the land of Israel. It’s a theology that paints Israelis as terrible oppressors. We’re all in this together. The Palestinians and the Israelis have each contributed to this. They have to get out of the blame-the-other mode and into how do we find ways to work together.”
Maybe Ateek should accompany Baruch and Co. on their next "Abe, Our Common Patriarch" visit to the Holy Land. It seems to do wonders for local pass-the-tasty-samosas types looking toAteek isn’t backing down. Using a Christmas message to accuse Israel of a Herod-like slaughter was the right thing to do at the time, he said.