Last weekend, Old South Church hosted a conference sponsored by North American Friends of Sabeel entitled “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel” and headlined by Episcopal Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Two days of nonstop bashing of Israel, portrayed as a colonialist oppressor. Palestinian national aspirations were celebrated; Jewish national aspirations were ignored, if not denigrated. The endless wars waged by Arabs seeking to wipe out the Jewish state were characterized as aggressive wars provoked by Israel. There was no mention of suicide bombings, except possibly to justify them as understandable expressions of rage. What distresses me is the acquiescence of church leaders in this simplistic script. Even though liberal church leaders ordinarily bend over backward not to offend groups within the community, it is somehow acceptable to offend Jews.
Sabeel, which styles itself as an ecumenical liberation theology movement, promotes a retrograde anti-Jewish theology of supersession that has long since been repudiated by mainstream Christian denominations. After centuries of anti-Semitism, much of it spawned by church leaders, modern-day Christians have a particular obligation to help make the world a safer place for Jews. It is arrogant and condescending for American Christians to become partisans in this geopolitical struggle without at least acknowledging its complexities. More inflammatory rhetoric is the last thing we need.