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Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Even Episcopal Canons Vilified By Israeli Apologists

PREFACE: This open letter (excerpts will be printed below)has been written with input from Sabeel’s steering committee, area coordinators, and with the endorsement of our international patron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Below are excerpts from the letter written by the Reverend Canon Dr. Richard K. Toll in response to extensive and sometimes "distorted" and "twisted" internet coverage of Sabeel. The Reverend Canon Naim Ateek, founder of liberation theology has come under attack as an anti-Semite. It is difficult for Palestinians to see our revered figures vilified. It is also shameful that Palestinian Christians, the original stones,"who have carried the faith in the Holy Land for two millennia" have been forgotten by many US Christian denominations. Although I have been referred to as an Islamo-Fascist by the infamous Steven Plaut I am a Palstinian Christian. Ramallah, the town from which my father comes, before the expulsion of the refugees before and during 1948, was almost an entirely Christian village.

Today,Palestinian Christians worldwide comprise about fifteen percent of the Palestinian community.

First, some information about Father Ateek's organization, Sabeel.

"Sabeel is arabic for 'the way' and also 'a channel' or 'spring' of life-giving water, is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians which encourages women, men, and youth to discern what God is saying to them as their faith connects with the hard realities of their daily life: occupation, violence, discrimination and human rights violations.

"Sabeel strives to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns. It encourages individuals and groups from around the world to work for a just, comprehensive, and enduring peace informed by truth and empowered by prayer and action."

Canon Toll writes in AN OPEN LETTER FROM FRIENDS OF SABEEL TO OUR SUPPORTERS AND TO INTERNET MEDIA that "Canon Naim Ateek, an Episcopal priest, and many others who criticize the policies of the state of Israel, are falsely accused of being anti-Semitic." He attributes the attention, and I have seen virulent attacks on two Israel apologist blogs, because "Sabeel makes the point that churches and individuals need to look at their investments to determine if they support corporations profiting from occupation of the West Bank and Gaza."

Canon Toll writes about the attempts of the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado which published a list of accusations against Sabeel asking "co-sponsors" to withdraw their sponsorship.

"In Denver at our Sabeel conference in October, the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado published a letter of accusations against Sabeel mailed to 40 co-sponsors of the Sabeel conference, asking them to withdraw their co-sponsorship. To their credit, not one withdrew. It has been a fact that many supporters of the state of Israel think anyone who disagrees with them must be painted with a brush of anti-Semitism. This is especially true of Israel’s supporters in the United States. But by trying to silence people, supporters of Israel are only hurting the Jewish state and the Jewish people by allowing it to continue with policies that are increasingly seen by the peoples of the world to be in conflict with traditional Jewish values of justice."

Father Canon continues: "It is important that the only actions which Sabeel supports are non-violent, with the goal of ending the continuing illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Using economic leverage is a form of nonviolent resistance to the occupation."

It is a small measure of hope that none of the forty sponsors of the October Sabeel Conference in Denver pulled out.

"Sabeel uses the language of liberation theology. That theology speaks with words such as oppressed and oppressor; it speaks of suffering and crucifixion — biblical images that relate to the experience of brutality and the misuse of power. Those who do not want the state of Israel to be criticized deny these accusations and label liberation theology as anti-Semitic. They deny the violence of the occupation and all of its ugly ramifications—settlements, land confiscations, demolition of homes, state violence against civilians."

The Reverend Canon Dr. Richard Toll has written a beautiful letter in support of justice for Palestinians. Read it in its entirety here. If Jewish organizations attempt to silence and vilify an individual such as Reverend Canon Naim Ateek, as they vilified Hanan Ashrawi in Australia, both proponents of non violence and peace, both respected figures in our community, Americans will continue to be uninformed about the injustices in Palestine for there will be no one our oppressors deem suitable to carry our message.

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