Naim Stifan ATEEK. A Palestinian Theology of Liberation: The Bible, Justice, and the Palestine-Israel Conflict. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017, pp. 172. $20.00 pb. ISBN 978-1-62698-260-4. Reviewed by Marie CONN, Chestnut Hill College. Philadelphia, PA 19118.


In this slim volume, Naim Ateek, an ethnic Arab Palestinian and an Anglican Priest, has presented the fruits of a long theological career. He also traces the very complex history of the Palestian-Israeli conflict. Ateek ends the introductory chapter of his new book with a clear statement of its purpose: “The intention of this book is to provide an understanding of Palestinian liberation theology that will challenge readers to active participation in the work of justice, peace, and reconciliation” (7). The rest of the book fleshes out his dual purpose of making readers aware of the injustices endured by the Palestinians and of moving those readers to action on the Palestinians’ behalf.

There are ten chapters, the first four historical, the next four theological, and the final two describing some of the actions taking place in the present and inviting readers to join those efforts in whatever way they feel they can.

Ateek reviews briefly Liberation Theology—those who shaped it a few decades ago preferred “gospel-centered theology”—as it emerged in places like Latin America and among black South Africans. He notes that these movements all share the goal of freedom with justice. He goes to observe that “Within this global liberation movement, Palestinian liberation theology was born when faith confronted the injustice of the conquest of Palestinian land by the government of Israel and its oppression of the Palestinian people” (11).

The history of Palestine and the Palestinians, and their questionable, sometimes illegal treatment by the Israelis, is long and complex. So, while the historical chapters are not overly long, they are dense, filled with dates and various UN mandates, as well as population statistics and geographical descriptions.

The theological/biblical chapters focus primarily on Jesus, even suggesting in his chapter on the Old Testament that it must be examined through the lens of Jesus’ emphasis on love. I found the exegeses of Ezekiel and Jonah as examples of tribal exclusivity (Ezekiel) and universal inclusivity (Jonah) engaging, particularly since I usually describe Jonah to my students as the “anti-prophet:” God calls and Jonah runs away; the Ninevites are converted with just a few words while the classical prophets knew no such success; Jonah, after that success, is angry that the Ninevites will be saved. Ateek’s emphasis is on Jonah’s apparent conviction that God is the God of all peoples and not just of the Israelites.

There is much more that could be said. I will conclude that I agree with Walter Brueggemann, who, in his Foreword, noted that “This important book will be a great learning among us to which Western Christians of every ilk should pay attention” (xix).