InterVarsity Press' new book promotes two Muslim organizations, one with ties to Palestinian terrorism, one with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood
Tricia Miller, Ph.D. and Dexter Van Zile
Dear Christian Leaders,
A couple of months ago, the Christian Leadership Network (CLN) of CAMERA’s Partnership of Christians and Jews asked you to contact Christianity Today about an article that unfairly characterized Israel’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the West Bank as a “crackdown.” As it turns out, the United Nations has lauded Israel and the Palestinian Authority for their joint response to COVID-19.
Your response to our request was gratifying, as dozens of you wrote letters that expressed your concern about this issue. Christianity Today has yet to weigh in with subsequent articles about COVID-19 in the Holy Land, but the editors at the magazine now know CLN members will be paying attention to subsequent stories about the issue.
Sadly, we need to ask for your help again in relation to a problem with InterVarsity Press (IVP), which is even more compelling than the biased article at Christianity Today.
InterVarsity Press describes itself as “the book publishing division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, a movement of students and faculty active on campus at hundreds of universities, colleges and schools of nursing in the United States of America.” Unfortunately, this self-identified Christian publishing company has just published a book that promotes two Muslim organizations, one of which has ties to Palestinian terrorism and another of which has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that has promoted Islamic extremism and anti-Israel bias throughout the world including the United States.
IVP needs to hear from members of the public that associations with groups that promote false, defamatory claims about the Jewish state are intolerable and that future editions of the text need to be corrected.
The book in question is Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age by Mae Elise Cannon, a well-known progressive author who currently serves as executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace, an anti-Zionist activist organization supported mostly by liberal Protestant (“mainline”) churches in the United States. This book was published on May 26, 2020.
In her book, which promotes the ideology of “social justice,” Cannon promotes the work of a number of organizations and individuals that espouse various forms of replacement theology, as well as false, inflammatory, anti-Israel claims.
Here are the details.
Palestinian Christian Liberation Theology
One egregious distortion in Cannon’s text is found on page 229, where she instructs her readers about concerns people have raised about Palestinian Christian Liberation Theology (PCLT).
To establish her bona fides on this issue, Cannon cites The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus (Harper San Francisco, 2006) by scholar Amy-Jill Levine. In her book, Levine expresses concerns about the writings of Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, an Anglican Priest in Jerusalem who has, on repeated occasions, used anti-Judaic passages from the New Testament to portray Israel as a cosmological affront to God’s purposes in the Middle East.
In her discussion regarding Ateek’s writing, Levine states that “he erases Jesus’s Judaism” by declaring that Jesus effected a “paradigm shift” by promoting (in Ateek’s words) “a commitment to the poor, a commitment to the ministry of healing, a commitment to justice and liberation of the oppressed, a commitment to jubilee which involves economic justice for all.”
“In making this claim,” Levine writes, Ateek, “erases Jesus’s Judaism,” adding that “If concern for the poor originates with Jesus, then the church might […] jettison the entire ‘Old Testament.’”
In the same text, Levine writes, “Any writing that separates Jesus and his first followers from Jewish identity, associates these proto-Christians with the Palestinian population, and reserves the label ‘Jew’ for those who crucified Jesus and persecuted the church is not only historically untenable but theologically abhorrent.”
Levine’s concerns do not prevent Cannon from promoting Ateek’s work, however. Cannon tells her readers that it is “important to understand his perspective as a leading Palestinian Christian voice calling for liberation.”
She then quotes a passage from Ateek’s 2017 book A Palestinian Christian Theology of Liberation: The Bible, Justice, and the Palestinian Israeli (Orbis) as follows: “Jesus Christ was a Palestinian [Jew], as we are. He lived in the same land we live in.”
Note the brackets around the word “Jew.” That indicates it’s an insertion on Cannon’s part, which an investigation of Ateek’s text reveals it to be. Ateek actually wrote: “Jesus Christ was a Palestinian as we are.”
By taking the liberty of inserting the word “Jew” into the quote, Cannon attempted to obscure Ateek’s effort to strip Jesus of his Jewishness, which is one of Amy-Jill Levine’s primary complaints about Ateek’s writings.
This is a profoundly deceptive act on Cannon’s part. First, she cites Amy-Jill Levine’s book which documents how PCLT promotes antisemitism by stripping Jesus of his Jewishness. Second, Cannon includes a quote from Naim Ateek that does exactly that — strip Jesus of his Jewishness. And then, she alters the quote in a manner that obscures this fact from the reader.
Ateek’s attempt to strip Jesus of his Jewishness (which Cannon tries to obscure) is part of a larger strategy of detaching the Jewish people from the land of Israel. It is a form of supercessionism, which portrays Christians as having replaced the Jews as the people of God. The notion that the Jews have been replaced or rejected is a trope regularly invoked by theological antisemites, which helps explain why Cannon altered Ateek’s writing.
The upshot is that by inserting the word “Jew” into Ateek’s text, Cannon has fundamentally changed the meaning of what he actually wrote. With her change, she is making it look like Ateek called himself a Jew, which he is not.
This raises a question. Did the folks at InterVarsity Press subject Cannon’s book to any review, scrutiny, or editing? Did they not see what Cannon was doing?
Cannon promotes the work of Al-Haq, a Palestinian lawfare organization headquartered in Ramallah. Citing Al-Haq’s website, Cannon describes Al-Haq’s work as including “the documentation of human rights abuses, research, and studies on ‘interventions on breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law’ in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.”
What Cannon doesn’t convey is that Al-Haq, like a lot of other Palestinian “civil society” organizations, deploys legal challenges not to achieve rights for Palestinians, but to hinder the rights of Israeli Jews to exercise self-determination, denying them the right to life through lawless acts of terror. The use of democratic institutions to undermine democracies has been a well-worn strategy of anti-Zionist (and anti-American) groups for a long time.
Al-Haq’s leader, Shawan Jabarin, was described by the Israeli Supreme Court in 2007 as “a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” whose time was divided between leading “a human rights organization” and “as an operative in an organization [PFLP] which has no qualms regarding murder and attempted murder.”
In 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court reaffirmed its assessment of Jabarin, declaring that he was “among the senior activists of the Popular Front terrorist organization.”
Al-Haq’s ties to terrorist organizations were so serious and demonstrable that American Express, Mastercard, and Visa stopped allowing their credit cards to be used to donate money to it.
In 2017, Al-Haq’s leader, Jabarin, defended the Palestinian Authority’s “pay-to-slay” program, which rewards Palestinian terrorists who murder Israeli civilians with regular salaries depending on the seriousness of the crimes committed (the more serious the crime, the more people killed or injured, the longer the sentence – the higher the payments). If this pay-to-slay program were interrupted, Jabarin warned, “we are heading for a real crisis in Palestinian society and in due course toward an explosion.”
In other words, Jabarin threatened further violence to protect financial payments (underwritten by Western democracies) to terrorists.
Al-Haq is not the type of organization that should be promoted in a book published by IVP, the book publishing division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA.
IVP needs to be challenged for enabling Cannon to promote the work of Al-Haq to her readers.
Islamic Relief USA
Al-Haq is not the only organization promoted in Cannon’s book. She also encourages readers to “explore the work” of Islamic Relief USA, which she describes as “one of the major development agencies” responding to the “realities” of interracial and interethnic violence “in the Arab world.”
What Cannon does not tell her readers is that Islamic Relief USA’s parent organization, which is headquartered in London, has been designated as a terror-financing organization by the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Moreover, international banks including UBS and HSBC closed down Islamic Relief’s accounts and stopped processing donations to the organization.
According to the Middle East Forum (MEF), “Islamic Relief funds organizations closely linked to the terrorist organization, Hamas.” One key partner for Islamic Relief branches in Gaza is the Gaza Zakat Committee, also known as the Islamic Zakat Society (IZS). IZS works closely with the Hamas government.
Islamic Relief also maintains financial links with several terrorism-linked groups in the Middle East outside of Gaza, including the Charitable Society for Social Welfare, which was founded by Al-Qaeda terrorist and “Bin Laden loyalist” Abdul Majeed Al-Zindani. The organization has been investigated in England for hosting speakers who have engaged in hate speech.
Islamic Relief USA has also promoted hate speech in the U.S. According to MEF, “In 2009, IR-USA ran an event with Abdullah Hakim Quick, an extremist preacher who has claimed that AIDS is caused by the ‘filthy practices’ of homosexuals and that the Islamic position on homosexuality is ‘death.’ Quick has also spoken of the ‘filth of the Yahud [Jews].’”
To make matters worse, Khaled Lamada, the former chairman of Islamic Relief USA’s board of directors, has been named in a prominent Egyptian newspaper as an operative of the Muslim Brotherhood. Lamada, who is no longer chairman of the IR-USA’s board of directors but still a member, has, according to MEF, posted messages in Arabic “praising the ‘jihad' of the 'Mujahidin of Egypt’ for ‘causing the Jews many defeats.’ He has republished claims on Facebook that praise Hamas for inflicting a ‘huge defeat’ against the ‘Zionist entity.’”
As you can tell from the MEF report about Islamic Relief, this is just a small sample of the problems associated with Islamic Relief USA and its parent organization.
What is IVP doing publishing a book that encourages readers to “explore” the work of Islamic Relief USA without informing them of the organization’s ties to extremism and terror-financing?
Just because Mae Cannon cannot or will not provide her readers with this essential information does not mean IVP should publish a book that omits it.
With its failure to vet Mae Cannon’s book, InterVarsity Press is abetting the spread of falsehood and prejudice.
YOUR VOICE MATTERS - WHAT YOU CAN DO!
Send a letter by mail to: InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515.
When you write and tweet, please make the following points:
IVP was remiss in allowing Mae Cannon to manipulate the writings of Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek to obscure his replacement theology, in which he strips Jesus of his Jewishness and separates the Jewish people from the land of Israel.
Mae Cannon promoted anti-Israel propaganda groups Al-Haq and Islamic Relief USA to her readers. At the very least readers are entitled to more information about these organizations. Al Haq is closely associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Islamic Relief USA has ties to Islamist organizations.
Please forward this email to your Christian friends and ask them to make their voices heard.
Encourage your friends to sign up for the Christian Leadership Network (CLN) newsletter from CAMERA’s Partnership of Christians and Jews by contacting Tricia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you very much for your help in this urgent matter!
For the sake of Israel,
Tricia Miller and Dexter Van Zile
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