by Robert Harris (October 2012)
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel recently submitted material to an Irish parliamentary committee leading to a recommendation that imports from Jewish West Bank settlements be boycotted. This is a damaging development that may eventually lead to the banning of settlement imports within the European Union.
The EAPPI was founded and continues to be funded by the World Council of Churches (WCC), a large organisation which is a major supporter of demonising boycott campaigns against Israel. The one-sided nature of the WCC’s forceful attacks on Israel, whilst simultaneously ignoring or obfuscating on major issues relating to Israel’s foes, is stark.
The WCC treated Yassir “father of terrorism” Arafat as a true hero of the Palestinian people who apparently even had the interests of Israel at heart! They also support the Palestinian ‘right-of-return’, which would of course destroy Israel itself.
Many commentators have come to the conclusion that the WCC is an anti-Semitic institution such is its obsession with Jewish wrongdoing, whilst being too afraid to even say “boo” to Muslim extremists, many of whom oppress Christians. The WCC could not even muster a vague criticism of the intensive violence in Syria.
The EAPPI is very much a member of the WCC family. It is a highly active pro-Palestinian organisation that brings ‘internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation’ for three or four months, and ‘accompany Palestinians and Israelis in their non-violent actions and to carry out concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation’. Heady firebrand stuff designed to spread prejudicial views on Israel to Christians the world over!
The WCC doesn’t have any equivalent “accompaniment” program to make a “concerted advocacy” for much oppressed Christians in any part of the Islamic world! Natan Sharansky’s 3D test – demonization, double-standards, and delegitimization – comes to mind.
The extent to which the EAPPI twist the truth of the conflict was revealed when a group of its members toured Sderot. They were unimpressed with the consequences of near-daily Gazan rocket fire. “It’s not Hamas’s fault,” the tour guide was advised!
As we passed by Sderot homes with newly built bomb-shelters outside, and stood in Sderot’s ‘rocket-proof’ playground complete with concrete caterpillars that children run into when the siren blares, the aggressive questioning continued. […]
I understood that I was speaking to average everyday people who have been presented with a very one-sided view of the Arab-Israeli conflict-so one-sided that it was difficult for most of them to recognize Israel’s right to exist and defend, even when standing right in the heart of a city targeted by unrelenting rocket terror.
Like many pro-Palestinian Christian groups, EAPPI shrouds itself in dovish words of peace. However, the group promotes an extremist stance. It strongly supports BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaigning against Israel, which many see as code for destroying the State via advocacy for a one-state (AKA Rwandan) solution. An EAPPI publication called ‘Chain Reaction’ has endorsed illegal acts against Israel, such as destroying Israeli websites, and sit-ins to disrupt Israeli embassies.
Have the EAPPI’s activities made them unpopular with the Christian mainstream? Seemingly not! The group was endorsed by the Church of England’s General Synod this year, prompting a strong response from the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which made reference to intimidation and expressions of anti-Semitism at the General Synod:
Unsurprisingly its [EAPPI’s] graduates return with simplistic and radical perspectives, giving talks against Israel which do nothing to promote an understanding of the situation in the Middle East, much less promote a peaceful and viable solution to its problems. Members of Jewish communities across the country have suffered harassment and abuse at EAPPI meetings and yet Synod has completely dismissed their experiences.
The Jewish community does not need lessons from the Anglican Church in justice and peace, themes which originated in our tradition. Moreover, to hear the debate at Synod littered with references to ‘powerful lobbies’, the money expended by the Jewish community, ‘Jewish sounding names’ and the actions of the community ‘bringing shame on the memory of victims of the Holocaust’, is deeply offensive and raises serious questions about the motivation of those behind this motion.
Kairos Palestine, and the revisiting of Christian anti-Semitism
It can be argued that the increasing hostility of some Christian organisations toward Israel, and Jewish people more broadly, is an attempt to drive a wedge into a traditional and relatively vocal area of support for the Jewish State. The Kairos Palestine document, a text issued by a group of Palestinian Christians in December 2009, is an exemplar of this phenomenon, and some insight into EAPPI’s motivations can be found in their advocacy of this text.
The Kairos Palestine Document was developed and widely promoted by the WCC through another sister organisation called the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF), and the text follows similarly problematic documents, namely Bern Perspectives (2008) and the Amman Call (2007).
In essence the Kairos Palestine document reworks long standing anti-Semitic themes that have been used by Christian Arabs to defame Israel. The text doesn’t mention the historic ties between the Jewish people and Israel, and it denies their biblical links as well. It asserts that Israel was created in sin due to post-Holocaust colonial guilt.
According to NGO Monitor, which quotes the document in question:
Kairos Palestine rationalizes, justifies and trivializes terrorism, calling it “legal resistance” stating (in section 1.4) “Some (Palestinian) political parties followed the way of armed resistance. Israel used this as a pretext to accuse the Palestinians of being terrorists and was able to distort the real nature of the conflict, presenting it as an Israeli war against terror, rather than an Israeli occupation faced by Palestinian legal resistance aiming at ending it.”
The Kairos Palestine text has also been strongly criticised because it resurrects replacement theology, which was a cornerstone of anti-Semitism within the Christian faith for a very long time. This theology is responsible for much of the persecution visited on Jews for over a millennia. Replacement theology or supersessionism replaces mention of the Jews in the Bible, and the promises made to them by God, with that of Christians. Jews (as an analogue of the Israeli nation) become pariahs, rejects of history as having rejected the Son of God. The theology also objects to Israel’s recreation since the divine biblical promise has been transferred to the Christian Church itself, thereby becoming the new Nation of God.
The common refrain that anti-Zionism does not equate with anti-Semitism is nominally true. However, it is used by Palestinian apologists to exonerate all criticism of Israel, no matter how indicative of hate those expressions are. The anti-Semitism of today merely adds an element of refutability, a fashionable highly selective left-wing humanitarianism, to side-step the charge. However, intensely demonising zealotry and supersessionism, which define groups like EAPPI, betrays the malign intent to the sceptic.
Rob Harris contributes articles to several websites on contentious political issues (not to be confused with the popular English novelist (1957-) of the same name). He also blogs at eirael.blogspot.com and lives in Ireland.
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