Because criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism

by Richard on March 19, 2012

In the Huffington Post, Dr Naim Ateek responds to claims of anti-semitism

When I discuss the question of tribalism vs. universalism, I am talking about the lively debate within the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament to Christians). There was a dynamic debate in these Scriptures that moved religious thought from exclusivity to inclusivity, and this phenomenon pre-dated the coming of Jesus Christ by several hundred years. It was not a Christian vs. Jewish construction.

I point out the genius of the Hebrew prophets in understanding God as an inclusive God. These prophets see God as the God who cares not only about the Israelites, but also about other people and other lands. You can find this inclusiveness in the Psalms: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” In this view, no matter where one lives, one is still in the presence of God.

It is important to point out that Judaism, as it developed, was not superseded by the Christian faith but continued as a living and valid faith worthy of our full respect. Today, this faith is distorted by the exclusivist reading of extremist settlers who say, “We are interested in divine rights and not in human rights.” They are selectively reading certain biblical texts that give Jewish people a higher and prior claim to the land and negate the rights of the Palestinians. Such a theology does not lend itself to peace. We choose biblical texts that promote peace for all, and many of these are found in the Hebrew Bible.

Dr Ateek is the founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


Ric 03.20.12 at 12:24 am

This you post on the day of the cold-blooded murder of Jonathan Sandler, his sons Aryeh aged four and Gavriel aged five, and Miriam Monsonego aged seven, in Toulouse?


Kim 03.20.12 at 7:25 am

That’s awful. It is also posted within the week of a report in the Independent (14/3/12) about an “‘alarming’ rise in violence against Palestinians and their property” in the West Bank, and “‘the impunity’ of acts that force Palestinians away from their land near the setlements. Citing recent UN figures showing that the number of settler attacks in 2011 had tripled to 411 from 2009, [European] diplomats also highlight the fact that more than 90% of the complaints filed with the Israeli police end without indictment.” The report also laments the fact that eight settlers were killed in three attacks by Palestinians in 2011.

There is no monopoly on outrage here. Nor does Ateek’s measured, irenic, and biblically accurate post play that transparently rhetorical game.


Richard 03.20.12 at 9:31 am

When I read your comment first thing this morning, Ric, my thoughts were:
1. I planned this post before the murders in Toulouse took place, it just took me a while to publish
2. I hadn’t heard about the murders until this morning’s news
3. The murderer has also killed 3 French soldiers of North African descent and injured one of Caribbean origin (according to the BBC). I wonder if you’re trawling the blogosphere for stories critical of the French military today? Or Islam?
That’s what I would have said, but I don’t need to. As ever, Kim has put it better than I would.


Kim 03.20.12 at 9:44 am

According to this morning’s Telegraph: “President Nicolas Sarkozy said the killings [of the Jewish children] and those of the soldiers, one of Caribbean and two of Muslim origin, in two attacks last week, appeared to be motivated by racism.”

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