A virulent global campaign by a powerful Christian lobby is trying to influence the Church and use it to delegitimize Israel. The lobbying group is the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, with Nobel Prize Laureate and retired Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu as its patron.
Tutu not only agreed to serve as Sabeel's patron but also to "assist the Palestinian Christian organization in its outreach and development work with Christian Churches around the world."
On its website, Sabeel refers to Israel in terms such as "oppressor," "occupier," "immoral", a violator of Palestinian human rights and its founder, Naim Ateek, refers to Israel's "crucifixion" of Palestinians:
"It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified.... The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily."
As a principal agent of the Sabeel lobby, Desmond Tutu's words of indictment reference Israel as the "oppressor."
Tutu knows hate first-hand from South African apartheid, but acutely damages his stature and credibility by unjustly exploiting the tragedy inflicted by the South African regime. He does this in a defamatory propaganda message permeating the Christian Church under liberation theology. He stated outright in an article: "I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed." Meanwhile, Israel allows Arabs and Muslims full human rights in all areas of life, including as full members of Israel's Parliament, the Knesset.
Liberation theology is a radical movement that originally developed in South America before making its way to South Africa. The movement was apparently created in response to poverty and ill-treatment of ordinary people. It was caricatured in the phrase, "If Jesus Christ were on Earth today, he would be a Marxist revolutionary."
Liberation theology subsequently became influential in the Churches under South African apartheid. Black theologians, to answer the faith questions of the poor and oppressed, confronted the theology of the Christian status quo, which tended to align with the prevailing institutions of power. Hence, in 1985, the Kairos document was developed, which offered a necessary alternative to biblical and theological models. In essence, the Kairos document focused on the message of liberation theology by encouraging the reading and interpreting of the bible through the eyes of the poor.
To the theologians, the Kairos document was a challenge to the church to rise up against apartheid. The theologians deemed it to be "the moment of grace and opportunity, the favorable time in which God issues a challenge to decisive action." They continued: "If this opportunity is missed, and allowed to pass by, the loss for the Church, for the Gospel and for all the people of South Africa will be immeasurable."
What was once crafted as a just challenge to the Church in 1985 thus became warped into propaganda in 2009, when a new document, the Kairos Palestine , was written. Although based on the same "faith questions of the poor and oppressed" under the South African apartheid regime, this time the Palestinians were presented as the equivalently oppressed.
While Tutu et al discuss Israel the "oppressor," Israel's surrounding enemies seek to obliterate it in accordance with their genocidal charter. Given the silence of Tutu et al on that subject, apparently an agenda of genocide is not seen by them as an injustice.
Continuing to misuse South African black suffering as a launch pad, Tutu has also been forceful in his push for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. He states that BDS helped to achieve South African democracy and that BDS will work toward ending "Israel's decades long occupation of Palestinian territory and the unfair and prejudicial treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them" -- despite the fact that Jews have lived in the area for nearly 4,000 years.
Tutu also states: "I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces... their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government."
The troublesome truth, however, is that there is no apartheid in Israel. Black South African Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, founder and president of the African Christian Democratic Party and member of the South African parliament since 1994, indicates that under apartheid South Africa, blacks could not vote or hold high government positions; the races were strictly segregated at sports arenas, schools, hospitals, public transportation, public washrooms, benches in waiting rooms; and blacks had inferior medical care, hospitals, and education; they were forced to live in separate residential enclaves. Blacks also carried IDs to show their place of residence at all times, or they faced the penalty of being beaten or thrown in jail. In other words, blacks were criminalized for being black and severely restricted by state laws. Further, marriage was also outlawed between different races.
To brand Israel as an apartheid state, when none of these restrictions exist, is not only defamatory propaganda, but, according to Meshoe, trivializes the real suffering of blacks under apartheid. Meshoe has visited Israel many times, and says that he has never seen any evidence of apartheid. In his reference to the purely defensive so-called "apartheid" wall, Meshoe accurately calls it the "security" barrier. "It is the responsibility of every government to assure the safety of its citizens," he says.
While Sabeel states as its mission support of the "oppressed" Palestinians of the "indigenous Church," it never highlights the oppression and abuses of Palestinians by their own leadership, or the leadership of other countries hosting them such as Jordan or Lebanon. Tutu also disregards the abuses by Hamas, which uses its Palestinian citizens as human shields in its wars to obliterate Israel.
As the patron of Sabeel Center, Tutu also disregards the countless Christians being slaughtered in Muslim states; that black slaves are still being held in Muslim states such as Mauritania; the forcible taking of "infidel" slaves and sex slaves by Boko Haram and ISIS; the racist genocide in Darfur and the 10 million Muslims slaughtered by other Muslims since 1948.
Clockwise from top right: Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu; Anti-semitic writer Max Blumenthal addresses the Friends of Sabeel North America 2014 conference; A Friends of Sabeel North America activist in Portland, Oregon stands in front of a Target store, demanding the boycott of SodaStream, an Israeli company.
Critics of Sabeel suggest that it actually seems to be a political organization promoting anti-Israel propaganda in Christian churches globally, while driving Church policy toward destroying Israel through BDS.
Sabeel also states that, "for many years the Palestinians rejected the establishment of the state of Israel because it was founded on the denial and violation of Palestinian rights." Historically, however, it is the Jews -- then Romans, then Christians, then Arabs then later the Turks -- who lived on that land during nearly 4,000 years. Historically, it has always been the Arabs who rejected all Jewish rights, including, in the last century, their rejection of the UN partition plan. On the day of Israel's founding in 1948, a group of Arab armies invaded Israel. The Palestinians also refused to make even a counter-offer to generous plans set forth by Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, both of which offered 97% of everything the Palestinians were demanding.
According to a brief by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, face-to-face surveys found that most Palestinians in east Jerusalem would prefer to become citizens of Israel rather than citizens of a new Palestinian state.
One must ask, then, why is it that Desmond Tutu, Sabeel and the anti-Semitic churches that support BDS are so tolerant of the persecution of Christians, global Islamist terrorism, the perpetual threat of Israel's obliteration and the fact that Muslims have driven Christians out of Bethlehem, the very place of Jesus's birth?
Bethlehem's Christians accounted for over 85% of the population in 1948, and the number dwindled since then, to 12% in 2006. The disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza have for years been administered by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and by an elected Hamas. Under these regimes, Christian Arabs have been victims of human rights abuses, including beatings, torture, kidnappings, forced marriages, sexual harassment, intimidation, land thefts, firebombing of churches, denial of employment and economic boycotts.
In addition, PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas has declared about a future Palestinian state: "In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli -- civilian or soldier -- on our lands." And a declaration like that is not considered apartheid?
Friends of Sabeel conferences continue to take place several times annually in major North American cities, where calls for BDS are sounded, and where "overcoming Christian Zionism in a quest for Justice" in "seeking the peace of Jerusalem" is a major theme. These calumnies and misrepresentations of Israel have nothing to do with peace and even less to do with justice. They are even more unacceptable coming from church groups or a man of the cloth.