Add another protest letter, from a Palestinian cleric, Reverend Naim Ateek. This one’s personal.
I first met Naim in Jerusalem in 1987 when I presented my Jewish theology of liberation. He asked me to read his manuscript on a Palestinian theology of liberation. After reading the first pages, I knew a new theological day was dawning. A Jewish and a Palestinian theology of liberation could make an impact for justice.
Naim’s book was published as the first Palestinian Uprising was in full swing. Soon after he founded Sabeel, a Christian liberation theology center, in Jerusalem. During the intifada years, Naim and I traveled the world speaking against Israeli militarism and justice for Palestinians.
Naim and I broke an important barrier. A Jewish and Palestinian theologian could work across faith and political boundaries. Jews and Palestinians could learn from one another and develop mutual respect. Together we nurture hope that one day Jews and Palestinians will be equal in the land.
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What Naim and I wanted hasn’t worked out politically. The religious arena is another story. Since 1987, the churches have made great headway. This summer church divestment season is testament to how far American church folks have grown in appreciation of Palestinian life. Now prophetic Jews stand by the side of divestment supporters in the churches. The barrier Naim and I crossed is barely recognizable today. Jewish-Palestinian solidarity is taken for granted.
Perhaps that’s why Naim was so disappointed when his own Episcopal Church denied the strong resolution brought before their general convention in June. Naim’s protest letter is strident and heartbreaking. It’s also instructive.
Naim begins with a topic he and I have discussed for decades, the interfaith ecumenical deal:
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