3rd Day Report Of the Sabeel 8th Int. Conference

26 February 2011

Bethlehem, West Bank — “Empires have always used religion and theology to their advantage,” Naim Ateek told the Eighth International Sabeel Conference. “Israel is an integral part of American empire; in its hegemony over Palestinians it acts and governs as empire.” Ateek is the founder and director of Sabeel, the ecumenical liberation theology center based in Jerusalem.

Participants heard from Afif Safieh, who has served as Palestinian Ambassador in three world capitals: London, Washington, and until 2009, Moscow. More than 300 participants are attending the event in Bethlehem, 23-28 February, 2011.

“The United States acted as empire last week with its veto in the U.N. Security Council, overpowering the votes of 14 other nations,” Ateek said. The veto defeated a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, contrary to U.S. policy stating that settlements are illegal.”

Ateek told the conference that “Israel has adopted a new god, one named Betahone, meaning security. This god is nourished continually by the American empire with the most up-to-date military technology.” Israel’s export of arms is fourth in the world, he said.

“The God that I have seen in Jesus Christ not the god of armies, not the violent god found in certain biblical texts,” Ateek said. “It is the vulnerable God of love in Jesus Christ who was nailed to the cross. God is not the god of empire but the nonviolent God who is found the refugee camps, suffering with the families while the Israeli army carries out its incursions,” he said.

Safieh spoke of “an `Israeli America’ where the administration adopts the regional strategy of Israel and integrates it in their global approach.” He said, “ I believe in the power and existence and the reality of the Israeli lobby in Washington, and it is this particular lobby that has confiscated American foreign policy in the Middle East so that to us the remaining superpower looks like a sub-contractor in the Israeli strategy.”

“This is what we witnessed last week in American sabotage and torpedoing of a [U.N.] resolution that was deliberately worded with their own proclaimed position from 1967 until now, which is astounding,” Safieh said.