Sabeel: a Palestinian Christian view

Sabeel: a Palestinian Christian view

Although I agree that it’s troubling in spots, I don’t share the negative take of our friend, Werner Cohn, on the You Tube video produced by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian group. There are serious factual problems and unrealistic aspects, but much if not most of it is reasonable.

The video’s most egregious flaw is in not even mentioning the 1948 war, when the creation of 750,000 Palestinian refugees was a direct result of the Palestinian leadership’s effort to destroy the Yishuv in late ’47 and early ’48. It also fails in not saying anything specific about the waves of terrorist attacks that Israel has faced over the years.

But I see manifestations of moderation as well. Although they look at the causes and history of the conflict in a biased and one-sided way, Sabeel’s actual ideas are not bad: They call for non-violence and a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine; and even while advocating that all Israeli settlements be given up, they suggest that Jewish settlers should have the right to remain there as Palestinian citizens. They also want the settlements’ infrastructure to remain in place to serve returning Palestinian refugees. Their idea of a “confederation” of two sovereign states is unrealistic for now, but something like that could evolve one day after a long period of peace.

While I agree with them that Jewish settlements (all or most) are illegal and an obstacle to peace, I see a swap of territories that would allow many settlements to be annexed to Israel as a far more practical and likely outcome than for Israel to simply surrender all settlements. But I do see the need for Israel to leave more settlements than most Israelis are willing to envision at this point; for example, I think it would be difficult for a Palestinian state to be viable on the West Bank if Israel annexes Ariel and Maale Adumim.

I also see a need for both sides to acknowledge or at least learn of the tragic political errors, harsh measures and crimes that they have committed against each other. But I don’t see Sabeel as truly “fringe” or extremist.

The following addresses Jews who appeared in the Sabeel video: 500 Israeli women of Machsom Watch (represented in this video by one of their number) do very commendable work in monitoring IDF behavior at 25 checkpoints. Anti-housing demolitions activist (and anti-Zionist ideologue) Jeff Halper is hardly featured at all and what he says here (as opposed to elsewhere) is rather innocuous.

It’s interesting to see the theologian Marc Ellis speak; I’ve heard of him, but only barely. He employs a kind of Jewish “liberation theology” that rhetorically sides with the forces of “social justice” over those of “power,” as represented by the “Constantinian” Jewish establishment. I see him as shallow and extremely one-sided in the way he looks at a complex and multi-dimensional conflict.

By | 2008-07-21T04:04:00-04:00 July 21st, 2008|Blog|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Werner Cohn July 21, 2008 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Ralph, your views on Sabeel differ from mine only slightly with regard to substance, but a great deal with regard to the style of the organization — their emphases, their customary blaming of Israel for everything, their lack of good faith, as I see it. I am glad that you furnished a link to their video, so people can judge for themselves. This video of theirs, in my view, is the most effective argument against them.

    Marc Ellis, poor soul, has no good faith at all, as far as I can see. Again, the best refutation of what he claims is is his own presentation-of-self on his websites. He boasts and brags and prevaricates. I try to give as many links to his sites as I can, hoping people will see what I see. Of course some people will look at his sites and then admire him all the more. But those aren’t people who are susceptible to reason anyway.

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