Last week I posted an article about an upcoming conference entitled “Justice: The Path to Peace in Palestine/Israel,” sponsored by the organization Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA). The conference is scheduled to take place this Friday and Saturday in Albuquerque, New Mexico and will feature workshops as well as a number of speakers, each offering their perspectives on how to achieve peace in the bloody and decades-old Palestine-Israel conflict. The speakers will include Palestinians, Israelis, as well as Americans.
Any hope, no matter how slim, of bringing about a resolution to this crisis is worth pursuing, but for a while now the conference has been under attack by local Jews in New Mexico—and on Friday things became especially strident with the publication in the Albuquerque Journal of an op-ed piece entitled “FOSNA Philosophy Just Anti-Semitism.” The piece is co-authored by Sam Sokolove, executive director of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, and Todd Goldblum, chair of the Israel Action Network-New Mexico, and their animosity toward Sabeel—an ecumenical group founded some ten years ago by Palestinian Christians—is markedly manifest throughout.
Perhaps there should be an “anti-defamation league” having the goal of exposing Jews who attempt to “defame” Gentiles with the anti-Semite label. Not only do Sokolove and Goldblum accuse Sabeel of “spreading vicious propaganda to assault Israel’s legitimacy,” but they also venture into such ticklish topics as the crucifixion of Christ, conveying the notion that the organization’s goals include laying “the ugly deicide charge against all the Jewish people” and may even seek to portray the Zionist state as “a country of Christ killers.”
No documentation is supplied to support these insinuations; they’re simply thrown in there. We also are informed that “Sabeel conferences are notorious for featuring speakers who vilify Israel,” although the authors don’t say when or if they ever attended a Sabeel conference in the past, or what led them to crystalize these conclusions.
Of course some countries on this earth very much merit “vilification,” and in my view Israel is one of them. Illegal settlements, bulldozing of homes, use of white phosphorous and other chemical weapons against a civilian population, and the shooting of Palestinian children—such as Abir Aramin, Iman al-Hams, Ahmed Samouni, and countless others (for a partial list of Palestinian children killed by Israelis go here )—are among only a few of the sins Israel will one day account for, at least if there is a God of justice in this world.
But achieving peace and an end to the occupation of Palestinian land seems to be FOSA’s only, or at least primary, goal—farmore so at any rate than simply “vilifying” Israel. For instance the organizers of this conference did not include a workshop on Israeli involvement in 9/11, although perhaps they should have. Why do I mention it? Because defense and intelligence officials and others are coming forward now in ever greater numbers and speaking out on 9/11, people such as Michael Scheuer, who has called the official 9/11 Commission report “a whitewash and a lie from top to bottom,” and Alan Sabrosky, who says it is “100 percent certain that 9/11 was a Mossad operation.”
As Keven Barrett relates in a recent article, some officials are now even leaking insider information. “The two biggest recent leaks,” says Barrett, “are revelations by CIA asset Susan Lindauer that the CIA had detailed foreknowledge of 9/11 and attributed the controlled demolitions of the three NYC skyscrapers to ‘those goddamned Israelis’; and the assertion by Gwenyth Todd, who worked beside Richard Clarke on the National Security Council, that Clarke (who was publicly fired from an earlier job for being an Israeli spy) is the top suspect as hands-on controller of 9/11 from the US end.”
All we can do is wait and see how all this plays out. Sabrosky, for his own part, has predicted that, “If Americans ever know that Israel did this, they are going to scrub them off the earth.” The words have a foreboding resonance to be sure, but New Mexico’s discomposed Jewish Federation might take consolation. What we hear from Sabeel—whom Sokolove and Goldblum accuse of being “one-sided,” “inflammatory,” and “destructive” by nature—does not even approach this level of animus. The group is calling for a two-state solution, with a sovereign and independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and with East Jerusalem as its capital, living in peaceful coexistence with Israel—which is precisely what has been mandated in UN resolutions and has even been the position of previous US presidents. So what is it that has Sokolove and Goldblum so hot and bothered?
Well, maybe it’s this:
Israel must admit that it has committed an injustice against the Palestinian people and must accept responsibility for that. This means that reparation must be paid to all Palestinians who have suffered as a result of the conflict since 1948 whether they are Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians living on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or Palestinians living in the Diaspora. The road to healing and reconciliation passes through repentance, forgiveness and redress.
Or perhaps this:
“The people of the region–Palestinians and Israelis–both need and deserve a lasting peace, and security. With peace and security in place, bonds of acceptance and friendship can grow. It is no service to either community to promote a peace which flouts international law, ignores justice, and ultimately cannot endure since this will lead to continued bitterness and violence.”
Could be this:
“Since Israel acquired by force 77% of the land of Palestine in 1948, approximately 20% more than the United Nations had allotted, and established its state there, it is moral and right for Israel to return the whole of the areas captured in 1967, i.e. the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to the millions of Palestinians who need their own small sovereign state.”
“Once the principles of an acceptable justice are applied, a peace treaty must be drawn up between the two states of Palestine and Israel guaranteeing the full sovereignty and territorial integrity of each including recognized borders, water rights, and other resources.”
Certainly this no doubt:
Jerusalem’s sovereignty must be shared by the two states of Palestine and Israel. The city must remain open for Palestinians, Israelis, and all. East Jerusalem can be the capital of Palestine while West Jerusalem can be the capital of Israel. Any agreement must protect the sanctity of the holy places and guarantee the rights of the three religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism on an equal basis. All illegal confiscation of land or expansion of areas by Israel within the walled city of Jerusalem since 1967 must be reversed.
All of the above are taken from the Jerusalem Sabeel Document: Principles for a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel, adopted in May of 2006. I challenge Sokolove and Goldblum to point to anything in the entire document that can be construed as “anti-Semitic.” They can’t. No one can. Because there’s nothing anti-Semitic about it. The document even acknowledges “the sufferings and injustices committed against Jews by the West, especially those inflicted in the holocaust,” a codicil which I, personally, would have omitted, but the Palestinian Christians of Sabeel evidently thought it was important to include. So it’s in there. The document also includes a quote from 1 Peter 3:11: “Seek peace and pursue it.”
“Sabeel affirms its commitment to make the gospel relevant ecumenically and spiritually in the lives of the local indigenous Church. Our faith teaches that following in the footsteps of Christ means standing for the oppressed, working for justice, and seeking peace-building opportunities, and it challenges us to empower local Christians. Since a strong civil society and a healthy community are the best supports for a vulnerable population, Sabeel strives to empower the Palestinian community as a whole and to develop the internal strengths needed for participation in building a better world for all
“Only by working for a just and durable peace can we provide a sense of security and create ample opportunities for growth and prosperity in an atmosphere void of violence and strife. Although remaining political and organizational obstacles hinder the full implementation of programs, Sabeel continues to develop creative means to surmount these challenges. We seek both to be a refuge for dialogue and to pursue ways of finding answers to ongoing theological questions about the sanctity of life, justice, and peace.”
I’ll confess something here: for a while I was strongly—and I do mean strongly—considering attending the Sabeel conference myself, but in the end decided against it—largely because Sabeel’s positions on Israel tend to be a little too conciliatory for my own personal taste. In my view, Israel has basically forfeited its right to exist. This is something I stated in an article I wrote last month after an Israeli court issued its verdict in the Rachel Corrie case. As I put it:
The creation of a Palestinian state—not just in the West Bank and Gaza, but allof Palestine—is the only way forward at this point. The Jewish state’s belligerence has repulsed people around the planet. Continuing to tolerate its disregard for international law will lead to disaster. With the Rachel Corrie verdict the candle flame of its “legitimacy” has finally burned out; Israel has no right to exist.
But this is not the position of Sabeel. Rather than denigrate and “vilify” the interfaith organization, Sokolove and Goldblum should be thankful that relatively moderate groups are still willing to sit down and have a reasonable discussion with them on the issues. Israel has stockpiled nuclear weapons, refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, committed war crimes and atrocities, spied against the US, and waged interminable wars throughout the entire 64 years of its miserable existence. In addition, its lobbyists in America have corrupted not only our Congress but virtually our entire federal government. How would the aforementioned God of justice view such a record? Why, he would of course thoroughly approve! Or at least that’s what Sokolove and Goldblum seem to believe. “Sabeel,” they inform us, “promotes the idea that Zionism is based on a false reading of the Bible and that it stands for injustice and in opposition to God.” Why, what further proof do we need of Sabeel’s ‘anti-Semitism’ than that!? After all, how on earth could Zionists be doing anything other than God’s will?
As I said above, far too many people still tremble in fear when some Zionist or other takes a notion to start cudgeling people with the ‘anti-Semite’ label, and all too often Christians are among the most weak-kneed in this respect. And apparently Jews in New Mexico have been doing a lot of cudgel-swinging lately, particularly at local Christians. In their op-ed piece, Sokolove and Goldblum mention two Christian organizations which “distanced themselves” from the conference, apparently as a result, and they even go so far as to name them: the New Mexico Conference of Churches and the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. John.
A September 15 report in the Albuquerque Journal delves into this issue further, informing us that the Cathedral Church of St. John had originally been the site chosen for the conference, and that FOSA organizers had even paid $1,000 to secure rights to hold the event there. However, following a meeting with a local rabbi, what did church leaders do? Pulled out of the deal and refunded the payment, the story says.
Christians who cave into pressure like this are a sad lot. Had Jesus been this cowardly, there would have been no Christian faith to follow.