Seeking “peace” by waging war has been the modus operandi of the Palestinian-Arabs and their supporters all along.
They have fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, committed shootings, stonings and bombings, and incited hatred and violence among the Palestinian-Arab population. Outside the region, they seek to defame and delegitimize Israel and punish Israel economically.
A conference taking place in Philadelphia on March 28 and 29 by supporters of the Palestinian-Arabs looks to perpetuate this onslaught. Friends of Sabeel North America, known as FOSNA, is staging “The Role of the US in Israel-Palestine: Current Realities and Creative Responses” at the American Friends Service Committee headquarters in Center City. Friends of Sabeel is a support arm of Sabeel, a radical Christian Palestinian-Arab group based in Jerusalem.
Sabeel is a stew of Christian liberation theology and replacement theology, using religion to advance a political agenda. In this case, its aim is an end to the Israel we know and love, which is a vital ally to America.
Rather than seek ways to coexist or to build up a normal Palestinian-Arab society, the group has assembled a roster of Israel haters and antagonists to present discussions and workshops geared toward attacking and eroding support for Israel.
Based on a conference schedule posted on its website, the gathering will encourage the termination of American military aid to Israel; recast “the Israel-Palestine conflict as a civil rights struggle, with parallels to South Africa and the American South;” seek to increase anti-Israel activities on campuses; and promote the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, known as BDS.
Conference sponsors include: Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, American Friends Service Committee (the Quakers), the Catholic Peace Fellowship, the Philadelphia Coalition for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Jews for a Just Peace, and the Peacemaking Committee of the Presbytery of Philadelphia.
To the Jewish community, the lack of a consistent position within Christianity regarding Israel can be confusing. Some groups are fervently pro-Israel, including Friends of Israel, founded in 1938; Christians United for Israel, founded about a decade ago; and smaller groups such as Delaware’s Olive Tree Ministries. The Quakers and some of the national “Main Line” Protestant denominations have been opponents.
When the state of Israel declared its independence in 1948, many Palestinian-Christian clergymen abandoned the Hebrew Bible because they believed it was too Zionist. They replaced the Israelites with Palestinians in the narrative. For example, instead of adhering to the biblical context of the Exodus, they supplant that with an interpretation of the Palestinian-Arabs going to the Knesset, saying: “Let my people go!”
“Palestinian Liberation Theology” takes interpretive liberties with the biblical accounts and prophecies of the Hebrew Bible in order to mold it to specific political and theological agendas. It maintains that certain Torah passages are outdated and irrelevant, claiming they reveal a primitive way of understanding G-d’s revelation to man. A majority of these “irrelevant” sections often involve G-d’s promise to give or return the Jewish people to their land.
“Palestinian Liberation Theology” is still considered fringe within mainstream Christianity. Its proponents wish to advance the cause of the Palestinian Christians, who desire to create a Palestinian state. The impetus for the movement stems from “Replacement Theology,” a faulty method of biblical interpretation that claims the church has replaced the role of Israel in the Bible. Those that hold to “Replacement Theology” include some Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans and Methodists.
Sabeel and Friends of Sabeel also distort history, international law and the situation on the ground. They cast Israelis as “oppressors” and responsible for every “injustice” that allegedly afflicts Palestinian-Arabs. Everyone else is apparently blameless. Moreover, there is no mention of Arabs’ repeated rejections of their own state if it means living alongside a Jewish state.
To Sabeel, history begins in 1948, and thus it claims Israel exists on “78 percent of historic Palestine leading to the displacement of most of its Palestinian inhabitants.” Ironically, the group fails to acknowledge that Jordan was created from the eastern 78 percent of the territory that the League of Nations had set aside for a Jewish homeland.
The Jewish community can play an influential role in this internal Christian matter. Activities such as the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Interfaith Mission to Israel offer Christian clergy an opportunity to see and hear Israel for themselves.
The Zionist Organization of America is one of several groups that interact with Christians on an organizational and individual level, maintaining important contacts at the grassroots level.
As the peace process ramps up and the deadline set by America to reach a “framework” agreement approaches, we who support Israel must reinforce American support for an Israel that is strong, secure and thriving.
Steve Feldman is executive director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Greater Philadelphia District. Christopher J. Katulka is church ministries representative and director of ORIGINS for the Friends of Israel.