Is Palestinian Liberation Theology a Medium for Contemporary Antisemitism?

Jonathan Campbell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


The role of some sections of modern organised Christianity in encouraging negative attitudes towards Jews, Judaism and/or the State of Israel is an important aspect of contemporary resurgent antisemitism that merits more attention that it has generally received. Alongside the grass-roots anti-Israel activism found in many mainstream churches, as well as the more traditional antisemitism of radical Catholic groups, there is also the worrying phenomenon of the discourse of professional theologians, especially those engaged in Liberation Theology as it has developed in relation to Israel and the Palestinian territories in the past quarter century. Liberation Theology, a politicised theological outlook that originated in the 1950s and 1960s among Roman Catholic clergy seeking to address systemic poverty and injustice in South America, subsequently came to be adopted and adapted by a wider range of religious thinkers in relation to other issues in both the first and developing worlds (e.g. racism, feminism, and lesbian and gay equality). In particular, from the late 1980s onwards, there developed a Palestinian Liberation Theology shaped in large measure by Christian theologians holding academic posts and/or senior clerical positions in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Europe, and North America. This paper seeks to critique the phenomenon of Palestinian Liberation Theology and its influence, using as a springboard a recent collection of essays linked to an academic conference at a British university: Theologies of Liberation in Palestine-Israel: Indigenous, Contextual, and Postcolonial Perspectives, edited by Nur Masalha and Lisa Isherwood (Cambridge: 2014). That book contains chapters by several contributors who have become prominent in their various overlapping fields and who share a common passion for ending what is characterised in black-and-white terms as Israel’s brutal oppression of the Palestinians: Naim Ateek, Mary Grey, Nur Masalha, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and others. However, both the broad thrust of much of the Palestinian Liberation Theology advocated by these authors, as well as a lot of the detailed arguments employed, offers to the reader a highly problematic discourse about the largest Jewish community in the world (i.e. Israel). Hence, the twofold aim of this paper is: (i) to look at the relationship between such Palestinian Liberation Theology and current expressions of secular anti-Zionism and (ii) to consider what is theologically distinct about Palestinian Liberation Theology, as expressed by these contributors, particularly regarding its possible relationship to long-standing negative Christian traditions about Jews and Judaism. It may then be possible to determine whether Palestinian Liberation Theology acts – in whole or in part, intentionally or unintentionally – as a medium for a Christian version of contemporary antisemitism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Second Bristol-Sheffield Hallam Colloquium on Contemporary Antisemtisim
Publication statusIn preparation - 2019
EventSecond Bristol-Sheffield Hallam Colloquium on Contemproary Antisemitism - Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Sep 201615 Sep 2016


ConferenceSecond Bristol-Sheffield Hallam Colloquium on Contemproary Antisemitism
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'Is Palestinian Liberation Theology a Medium for Contemporary Antisemitism?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this