Before we even get started on the piece itself, Dr. Wagner is, according to his own micro-bio, "National Program Director, Friends of Sabeel-North America." What is Sabeel? According to its Wiki page, it's "a Christian liberation theology organization" that aims to "promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns." Translation: It's a Palestinian propaganda organization disguised as theology. And what a theology it pushes.
Sabeel is an explicitly anti-Zionist group. It calls for a one state solution:
"Indeed, the ideal and best solution has always been to envisage ultimately a bi-national state in Palestine-Israel where people are free and equal, living under a constitutional democracy that protects and guarantees all their rights, responsibilities, and duties without racism or discrimination. One state for two nations and three religions"It considers Israel to be an apartheid state and supports BDS. Remember that it supports BDS as we move forward.
So now that we know how much Sabeel hates Israel, let's check out Wagner's article.
Wagner leads off by acknowledging the Innocence of Muslim riots (take notes, Daoud Kuttab), which might lead one to think he's going to speak out against the bullying of the Coptic Christians that led to the creation of the video. But instead, he posts a definition of bullying (boring) and then starts talking about the favorite subject of every Palestinian supporter, himself. More specifically, his organization:
"In recent weeks, Albuquerque, N.M., has been a focus of interfaith bullying, a matter that has flown under the radar for too long. It's time to bring the salient issues into the light and limit their potential damage to the community. The problems started in the spring of 2012 when Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA) announced it would hold a conference in Albuquerque on September 28-29, 2012. FOSNA is the North American support organization for Sabeel-Jerusalem, the voice of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. FOSNA has conducted 35 conferences in major cities across North America in the past ten years. Sadly, the proposed Albuquerque conference was denounced by the Jewish Federation of Albuquerque and a few local rabbis who began to spread false rumors claiming Sabeel/FOSNA was an anti-Semitic movement that advocated violence and the destruction of Israel. Church officials were asked to boycott the conference lest they offend Jewish sensibilities, notwithstanding the fact that several of the Albuquerque FOSNA committee members are Jewish."Are the rumors that Sabeel is anti-Semitic "false" as Wagner claims? Let's see. We know they are anti-Zionist, and to be anti-Zionist means being anti-Semitic because you deny Jewish rights to statehood but allow everyone else a state, which is double standards. I highly doubt that Sabeel has stood up and declared that any other group of people should be deprived of their national sovereign rights of self-determination besides the Jewish people. But beyond that, the founder of Sabeel, Rev. Naim Ateek, uses the deicide libel to push his hatred of Israel:
"In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around Him....The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily."Ateek also describes Israelis as "demonic and immoral", which I think we can all agree goes beyond "legitimate criticism." Sabeel pushes the belief of Replacement Theology, a theology intended to rewrite the Bible so that Jesus wasn't Jewish, Jews were always oppressors and God is clearly on the side of the Palestinians. If you keep looking, there's a lot more.
So the Jewish Federation didn't want these kind of hateful bigots holding a conference in their town of Albuquerque and spoke out against it. What happened? According to Wagner:
"When the local FOSNA committee asked the New Mexico Conference of Churches to co-sponsor the conference, the Federation stepped up its pressure and the request was rejected. Then the Federation and a local rabbi pressured the Episcopal Cathedral (that had already agreed to host the conference) and the offer was rescinded."The Israel haters suffered another loss. This is very recent, so what was their reaction? Get Dr. Wagner to write an essay about how poor and oppressed they are, of course! Let's allow Wagner to keep going for a little bit:
"Some Albuquerque clergy have come under similar pressure, such as Msgr. Richard Olona, a respected Roman Catholic priest with a long history of interfaith and ecumenical relations in Albuquerque...[Wagner describes Olona's politics using the usual weasel words]...He was not bullied into reversing his position by the Federation's intimidating rhetoric and upheld the need for free speech and the conference. The Msgr. described for me the multiple phone calls and intimidating tactics that can only be described as bullying tactics. He recalled how similar pressure was used against his community as well as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and African Americans in their quest for freedom and civil rights."What exactly did the Federation do? Wagner doesn't say beyond "phone calls". Even Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada when forced to come up with examples of Zionist "bullying" could only come up with...letters!
"It has come to my attention that the Jewish Federation of New Mexico and Hillel at the University of New Mexico are actively trying to censor my lecture at the University of New Mexico next month by writing to departments and professors who may co-sponsor it as they co-sponsor countless other educational events on campus."Oh no! Not writing to departments! AAAAAIIIIIEEEEE! They also called the BDS movement what it is, anti-Semitic.
Check out this absolutely priceless ending to Wagner's piece:
We encourage the greater Albuquerque community to come and hear Rev. Ateek and others address these important issues. We also encourage the faith communities of Albuquerque to work toward transcending hate speech and bullying tactics. These divisions should not be allowed to continue. Instead, let us work to transform difficult conversations and potentially divisive issues into vehicles that honor free speech and the dignity of every person as an equal child of God. Let's stop the bullying now -- everywhere.Wagner whines about "phone calls" and letters written to stop the Sabeel conference and then demands free speech. But Sabeel (and Wagner, presumably) supports BDS. So what does BDS do to accomplish their goals?
BDS "cyber-bullied" the Irish folk group Dervish into canceling their trip to Israel. The shouting down of Michael Oren at UC Irvine is the most famous example of the kind of discourse BDS calls for, and there were similar occurrences at Hampshire and UC Davis. There were occasions where student government representatives were brought to tears because BDS advocates went after them so hard. BDS contributes to, if not is responsible for, the climate of hostility present at UC Berkeley that was so bad it caused two students to sue the school. BDS uses intimidation and bullying all the time to achieve its goals. Let's not forget their behavior at such places as the the Edinburgh Dance Festival and the Globe Theater. And what are its goals?
For one, stopping Israeli academics and artists from speaking. This is exemplified when the BDS movement disrupted the Israeli Orchestra in London. They call for every Israeli academic, regardless of political leaning, to be blocked from speaking.
So, I ask you, where is Dr. Wagner's dedication to free speech and dignity when his organization allies itself with people that have no interest in granting it to Israelis? How can any person, much less a reverend, be so insanely hypocritical?
This essay is a perfect example of the kind of personality that supports the Palestinians: A personality that can spend day and night seeking to take away Jewish rights and statehood, ally with anti-Semites and brownshirts, and when Jews fight back against his rhetoric, sit down and write an essay for the Huffington Post about how he's being bullied.