Georgetown Hosts Anti-Israel Palestinian Christians

Andrew Harrod | October 21, 2015

Why did Professor Yvonne Haddad call Naim Ateek and Jonathan Kuttab “two Palestinian Christians writing eloquently about Palestine?” Why – as she welcomed them to Georgetown University on Sept. 25 – did she say that she has been following these anti-Israel propagandists for years? The pair’s background and biases also appeared to not bother the “Christians in the Holy Land” event’s audience members, which included a Catholic priest and Haddad’s colleague, Jonathan Brown.

Although largely unstated at the panel, Ateek (an Anglican priest) and Kuttab (a University of Virginia Law School graduate) both have longstanding anti-Israel backgrounds. The pair was among the 1989 founders of the Sabeel Ecumenical Theology Liberation Center in Jerusalem, a Palestinian Christian organization noted for its anti-Semitism and condemnation of Israeli “apartheid.” With Kuttab’s approval, Ateek subsequently helped draft the 2009 Kairos Palestine document with its praise of terrorism and replacement theology.

Kuttab is also affiliated with the Palestinian lawyers’ organization Al Haq, as well as with Bethlehem Bible College. A BBC graduating thesis once quoted the anti-Semitic hoax “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and Kuttab’s fellow BBC board member, Hind Khoury, recently personally exposited her propaganda to this author. Like Kuttab’s 2003 apologetics for the “supreme sacrifice” of suicide bombers attacking “military” targets, Khoury in 2015 described Palestinian suicide bombers as “martyrs.”

Saying that he believed the United Nations was “wrong to begin with” on the its 1947 Palestine partition plan, Ateek added that, for the Sabeel center, “the one-state solution is the ideal solution.” Kuttab called the root of Israel’s evil “the basic premises that Israel is and was intended to be a Jewish state … rather than a state for Jews and Arabs.” He compared Zionists’ calling for a Jewish state with the Islamic State’s demanding an Islamic state, and attributed similar atrocities to both movements. He also credited Israel’s creation solely to the “evil of the Holocaust and the history of anti-Semitism in the West – not in the Arab world.”

Kuttab said that he believed nonviolence is the only effective method in reaching Palestinian goals, and Ateek agreed, saying, “We have given up on the people who call for violence, obviously.” His fellow speaker described the “existential threat to the state of Israel” in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions measures as an “explicitly nonviolent movement,” and not as economic warfare. “There are even people within Hamas who are talking about nonviolent popular resistance,” he said, providing a similar argument to his past defense of the public relations “training in non-violence” given to Hamas by an American taxpayer-funded Palestinian organization.

The Hamas terrorists themselves drew little concern from the panelists, who both said that they supported Hamas’ political union with the Palestinian Authority. “Hamas has to come out of the cold; has to become part of the political process,” Kuttab said, and added (in a reflection of his past statements) that he was “against the de-legitimization and demonization of Hamas” in the United States.

That acceptance of Hamas exemplified the panelists’ portrayal of ecumenical Palestinian national unity. Kuttab recited Egyptian liberalism’s slogan that “religion belongs to God, but the homeland belongs to all of us,” and Ateek agreed that “on the issue of Palestine, we are very much united.” Despite the common thought among many Americans and Israelis, Kuttab said that in the Holy Land, “the battle is not between Judaism or the Judeo-Christian world and Islam, but is political.”

He noted that Jesus Christ’s distinction between Caesar and God “resonated very much with Christians, particularly in the Middle East; those who were leaders in Arab nationalism – a very secular movement.” As an example, he mentioned Palestinian Christian-turned Marxist George Habash, an enemy of Israel who pioneered airline hijacking as the founding leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization with which Kuttab has several personal affiliations.

But the speakers could not deny the historic reality of Islamic oppression of Christians among the Palestinians and throughout the Middle East, following the seventh-century Islamic conquest of the region. Ateek acknowledged that Christians went from being a majority in fourth-century Palestine, to numbering a mere 15 percent of the Palestinian population in 1948, to today totaling less than 2 percent of the populace. He said that an increasingly oppressive, dominant Muslim minority gradually became the majority in the region – and today, Palestinian Christians and Muslims are “alienated to a large extent from each other.”

After the panel, Kuttab conceded that Islamic provisions in the Palestinian Authority’s Basic Law – such as a “broad reference to sharia” – are “not terribly great, but are tolerable.” He agreed that Palestinian law is “largely what Jordanian law was – something that Palestinian Christians feel fairly comfortable with,” and acknowledged the dwindling number of Jordanian Christians throughout the Middle East in recent decades, but had no rationale for Israel’s uniquely growing Christian population.

Kuttab could not explain why the 2015 World Watch List of the globe’s 50 worst country persecutors of Christians included every Middle Eastern country except for Israel, but dismissed the list – which includes Jordan (No. 30) and the Palestinian territories (No. 26) – as a demonstration of “the bias of that organization. Nothing else.” By contrast, he used Lebanon as an illustration for minority protection, even though Hassan Nasrallah – the leader of the terrorist group Hezbollah – described war-torn, foreign-dominated Lebanon as a “country that cannot be ruled by majority. You must respect all the groups.”

As Middle Eastern Christians with little criticism of their Muslim neighbors, the choice of Ateek and Kuttab as speakers was not unusual for their host, Georgetown’s Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. ACMCU notoriously invited (later rescinded) an Egyptian Christian panelist with a neo-Nazi background who was almost alone among his community in supporting Egypt’s overthrown Muslim Brotherhood government. ACMCU recently hosted another rarity, a Syrian Christian who seeks the fall of Bashir Assad’s dictatorship, now besieged along with Syria’s Christians by various jihadist groups.

These pan-Arab Christians in ACMCU’s non-alphabetic Muslim-Christian interaction continue often fear-induced dhimmi traditions of concealing Islamic repression and allying with Muslims against their enemies such as Israel’s Jews. Contrary to Georgetown’s Jesuit traditions, the relationship of such Christians to scholarship is slight.