Author’s Note: While appearing at the Kadima House in Seattle Washington on July 18, 2009, Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek falsely accused CAMERA of stating that he (Ateek) is “worse than Hamas.” This accusation was reported in the JTNews.net on July 23, 2009. CAMERA responded in a letter to the editor published on Aug. 6, 2009. The full text of the letter is reprinted below.
Wedge between peacemakers
Contrary to Naim Ateek’s assertion, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, (CAMERA), does not believe that he is “worse than Hamas” (“A prophet for peace or a wedge between peacemakers?” July 24). Hamas has killed hundreds; Ateek has killed no one.
CAMERA does object, however, to Ateek’s false assertion (published in his most recent book) that Israel has perpetrated a “slow and creeping genocide” against the Palestinians, whose population has quadrupled since Israel’s creation. Ateek’s false allegation serves to justify violence against Israelis and contempt for Israel’s supporters in the U.S. It is not peacemaking.
CAMERA also objects to Ateek’s well-documented use of anti-Jewish polemic from the New Testament to portray modern Israel as an enemy of God. Adam Gregerman, Jewish scholar in-residence at the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore, Md., reports that Ateek “presents the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a metaphysical struggle on a cosmic level” and “mythologizes the conflict as a clash between ‘the powers of God,’ on the one hand, and the ‘destructive powers’ and ‘forces of darkness that undermine life itself,’ on the other.”
Gregerman continues: “So that his analogy is not misunderstood, he makes this explicit: On one side are the Christians, who, like Jesus, boldly ‘confront evil.’ On the other side are the Jews, who maintain ‘evil structures,’ support the ‘evil of racism,’ carry out the ‘evil of lies,’ and symbolize ‘the spiritual forces of evil.’” CAMERA also laments Ateek’s failure to address the role Muslim theology has played in prolonging the Arab-Israeli conflict. Muslim theology regarding the land and the Jewish people plays a significant, if not dominant, role in fomenting violence against Israel in the Middle East, but Ateek does not address these subjects in a meaningful way.
Ateek’s silence on this issue is odd given that he routinely invokes the teachings of the Hebrew prophets to critique what he regards as primitive Jewish understandings of God. For peace to come, Ateek asserts, extremist Jews must abandon this primitive theology in favor of justice. By way of comparison, Ateek has very little to say to Muslim extremists in the Middle East about their theological beliefs. Why the silence?
Dexter Van Zile
Christian Media Analyst CAMERA